Umoja (Unity) Vision, God, the Western Church & Africa

30 Apr

Warning, this post may be controversial! Have some grace and think about this please. Warning, spoiler alert, I will preach about this!

My heart and desire when at home, as many of you know, is for unity. The Africans call it Umoja. We need each other. We need to work together. Too many people are just doing their own thing, fulfilling their own vision, which is exactly that, their own vision which is disconnected from the true vision that is revelation from God. Visions from God connect to each other and work together. Visions of man often exalt themselves. We need vision (revelation) because God has the resources and the answers to the problems of this world. But much of the world is drowning in the aftermath of a tsumani of competing man made visions.

Maybe no where gives a truer picture of this that Kibera, the 1.5 square miles of slum in Narobi, Kenya. After initially being overwhelmed before my trip I have been totally surprised at what I found there. God gave us huge favor and connections in the slums. If you search for images of Kibera online you won't find much, you don't take cameras there – it's not polite to make it an attraction. We were probably able to capture the most amazing sets of photo's and interviews with people that there are. God led us to meet exactly the kinds of people we prayed to meet. Anyway, to my point … I've discovered that it is estimated that there is one organisation working in Kibera for every 12-15 people who live there! Yet, there appears to be so little progress on the major issues touching those who live there. So few of these organisations work together. Huge resources are available yet the problem remains. So many visions. Many visions may be deemed successful in the eyes of the project leader. They may say “My vision is successful!” Yet the problem remains. This is true in Kibera, and it is true in the west too, and particularly in western christianity, who may well have had a hand in exporting this problem. Much of the thinking has come from businesses and the writings of successful businessmen. But business is based on competing and beating the others in your market. Scripture tells us to serve one another, to love one another, to think of others as better than ourselves.

We need vision, but God breathed vision, and we need to seek Him for the ways for what he has given us to connect to what He gives others. When the problem is soved by him working through our unity, He gets the glory, often otherwise we or our ministries get glory. It's interesting that we often hear people say “we give the glory to God” which maybe shows we have taken glory which we feel we need to distribute. When we work in unity, He just has the glory, He is glorified. I firmly believe that the problems of Kibera, Saint John, indeed the world can be resolved by Jesus. He is looking for people who will listen to Him, and work with Him. He too wants to work in unity.

An example from Kibera. One the eve of our visit to the slum, a few of our team were praying together. We felt God lead us to pray for the connection for people in Kibera who had the skills to help communicate and tell their story. This was a shift for us because we had wanted to tell the story. Then when we were in the slum we got seemingly off track. We missed a connection with a family we needed to meet. While walking up a hill I felt a prompting to talk to a group of three young men. As we talked to one, gradually through the converstion it emerged that he had training in graphics, and was interested in media. Later, that he played guitar, and finally lol he was a worship leader. Almost my Kiberan twin! We exchanged contact info. Maybe this was God opening some of his strategy to us. We often ask the questions as to what God wants us to do, but maybe a better question is who is he connecting us to, who is he building us with, for his purposes.

The very next people who bumped into us turned out to be community leaders in a part of the slum. We talked with them and prayed for them. When we finished, low and behold we “””” coincidentally “””” bumped into the lady we had failed to rendevouz. — We have a part to play, but it is better when we allow Him to take control. He has the ways and means. Is this level of leading too trivial? Scripture urges us to pray without ceasing, this means constant conversation with Jesus. This is learned by practice. When the Africans pray they seem to have so much more to say than us, and I believe this is because they have practiced this conversation.

Now moving on, or maybe not. This whole “vision” problem is becomes an ugly monster when it hangs out with another western export; the prosperity so called gospel. This teaching is very popular on tv here. What can it look like? You come into a village in complete poverty only to discover that the nicest building in the village by far is the church. In some cases a mosque might come in a close second. The church will not be used for anything other than a worship service. In this culture, the sign that God is with us, rather than the works of the kingdom, is a great facility and nice cars for the ministry leaders. This is the definition of success. Kind of like the west. You've made it when you have a nice car and a nice house. This can lead to what I'll call skimming. Don't get me wrong, some money needs to go to administration but …. We sponsor a child, the money is distributed for a uniform, classes (if payment is necessary), food for the kids at school and sometimes an allowance for the family. Yet there are cases where some money get skimmed for the ministry, and sadly sometimes double sponsorship for a child, where the childs situation is used to raise money for the ministry, maybe a better car for the leader. I don't mean to discourage you if you give, and believe me, God is very present with these people. He works with us dispite our error — Grace. These are all things though which work outside of his direct leading and his saving work in the world. Accountability work is so important.

It is important for the western church to understand the impact this erroneous theology has. The answer I believe is not to attack those who practice and preach it, but to draw close in relationship to them, see where we can work together and talk openly about our differences. In relationship the truth can be reveled by the Holy Spirit. But then again, I can sometimes be too much of an idealist.

The white man can be held in great honor in some parts of Africa, hence the influence that some of our exports have. I feel deeply, and with the question of personal response, what will it take for us to repent? To live, walk and speak a different message in this neighborhood? To teach the church here not to follow our fallen ways? To model the life of Jesus, and to demonstrate his kingdom with great power? To use our influence in the right way.

There is nothing wrong with us being blessed materially, yes by God, in this life. I don't feel guilty for my home, car, my money or anything else. But the origin of God people is a covenant that we are blessed in order that we can bless others. Much is required where much is received. We have to invest what God has given us in heaven to see multiplication, not for us, but of the work that Jesus is doing in the world.

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