I am writing on the way home from a retreat with the Anglican Church of Kenya’s House of Bishops in Mombasa, Kenya. I was privileged to serve on a team organized by the Rev. Getachew Bezabih of Eleventh Hour Ministries in Kenya for the Bishops’ retreat. Nigerian Archbishop Ben Kwashi and his son the Rev. Canon Rinji Kwashi spoke during the retreat about the life and vocation of the Bishop and his family—with a focus on conversion, calling and consistency. Canon Bill Deiss of Anglican Relief and Development (ARDF) presented on “Powerful partnership” for mission and economic development, and I spoke on “the kind of Christian God wants to send into the world” (discipleship), “The kind of Church that produces disciples” (Acts 2:42-47), “The Crisis of False teaching in the Anglican Communion and how to resolve conflicts Biblically.”
It isn’t every day that you get to spend quality time with Christians from across the globe in their local setting. Here are a few of my preliminary reflections on my time with these godly leaders.
- There are no safe harbors from the encroaching aggressive secularism of the West: One can see the influence of Western cultural values almost everywhere. We are used to thinking of Africa as a place where Christianity is growing and flourishing even as Christianity in the west diminishes. This is still true in Africa, and in Kenya the Anglican Church still has a powerful voice and influence on the national life. But I heard concerns from many leaders about seeing some of the same things we have faced here in North America—declining and aging congregations, failure to reach a younger generation and undermining of the clarity and authority of the Bible in the Church. And this does not include the active persecution of Christians in places where theIslamization of the country is advancing.
- We need to invest in the next generation of leaders now: I was blessed to see over 100 children in Mombasa Memorial cathedral (where I preached on Sunday) come forward to share what they had learned during their Bible school week. Many of them had memorized scriptures and recited them perfectly. I was reminded in conversations with the Assisting Bishop of Mt. Kenya South that their Cathedral Youth Service on Sunday mornings continues to draw 800-1000 youth weekly through Gospel preaching, contemporary worship and liturgy. And I was blessed to hear the Rev. Canon Rinji Kwashi thoughts on the kind of spirit-filled, visionary leadership younger leaders can to bring to evangelism and mission—regardless of the cost they may face, and without any regard to the positions and perks that often characterize the institutional church.
- More than ever, we need to call upon the person and power of the Holy Spirit: As Archbishop Ben Kwashi shared, and as we were all able to agree in powerful prayer times, we cannot do the evangelism, mission and Kingdom ministry God is calling us to do by our own wits and gifts. It is simply impossible and fruitless to do so. We heard wonderful testimonies of how the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” leaders’ own limitations to accomplish great things for God and his Kingdom. There is much travel to be sure, and much faith needed. But where servant leaders humble themselves as Christ did (Phil. 2:5-11), there flows the rivers of living water of the Holy Spirit just as the rains flow to the lowest places.
I’m sure I will have more to share in the coming days. Please pray for Kenya and the challenges it faces after a long and bitter time of politics and divisions. Please pray for the leadership of the Anglican Church of Kenya as they seek to make every local congregation a colony of the Kingdom and a beacon of hope to the country. And please pray for their Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit and the Bishops as they seek to lead the Church according to the truth of God’s word.
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is President & CEO of the American Anglican Council.