As I now reflect back on the MANI 2016 Conference that took place in Addis Ababa from March 7-13, there are three themes in particular that are both encouraging and significant in terms of indicating the future of mission effort in Africa.
|With African Emerging Leaders at the MANI Pre-conference|
Theme #1 – Young Emerging Leaders. Beginning with a pre-conference and extending through special breakout sessions during MANI 2016, there was an emphasis on emerging leaders. MANI has always encouraged younger men and women under the age of forty who are involved in mission, but this time it was amazing to see both the quality and passion of this rising generation. I was privileged to be asked to give one of the keynote addresses at the pre-conference. Borrowing a metaphor from George Ayittey’s well known Ted Talk about the Hippo and Cheetah generation of African leadership, I suggested how leaders of tomorrow are going to need to think and behave differently than the previous generation in order to help the church truly respond to the incredible challenges Africa is facing. Judging from the enthusiastic response and the desire these young leaders have in being mentored in new ways to avoid past leadership failures, I think there is reason for great hope as we see the next generation of African church and mission leadership take charge.
Theme #2 – Go North! Without doubt the center of Evangelical Christianity in Africa is focused in the countries south of the Sahara Desert. But, with the recent increase in missionary Muslim influence coming south from North Africa, these sub-Saharan churches are realizing that much more needs to be done to reverse that trend by reaching northward with the Gospel of Christ. Fortunately, there were a few northern Africa countries represented at MANI 2016 by a single person Yet, they were enough to help inspire members of stronger church movements in the rest of the continent to commit to sending more indigenous mission workers to such places as Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. So, besides media broadcasts and other ministry efforts streaming southward to those countries from Europe, we should soon be seeing much more complementary mission effort coming northward from sub-Saharan Africa as well.
Theme #3 – An African Theology Foreign mission endeavor in Africa dates back to the mid 1800s. But because of the strong Western influence of those early missionaries, much of the theology of African churches still lacks some of the important contextualization that would make it more relevant to the African mindset. Instead, there is often a tendency toward syncretism or mixing of animistic African culture in with Christian beliefs. During the MANI 2016 conference we heard several outstanding presentations strongly challenging African leaders to grapple with the areas of theology that need to speak more forcefully about living out commitment to Christ in an African context. One of those talks highlighted five areas in the church must be more outspoken: 1-The value of the human individual, 2-The value of children, 3-The importance of the family, 4-Social Justice, and 5-Care for the environment.
Let’s pray that these three themes at the MANI conference are only the first signs of a great new movement that will truly propel Africa as a major global force in world missions during the next couple of decades.