Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Muraho (that is, hello). Amakuru (how are you?). Greetings from Rwanda.
Meet, Theophile Rugubira, the Rwanda director of Rwanda Challenge. Over these past few years as I have taught church leaders in Rwanda with Frank Reynolds, the U.S. director of RC, Theo has been a gracious host. He has a passion for the church of Jesus Christ in this small, east African country.
Theo was born in the Congo (DRC or Democratic Republic of the Congo). He has lived in France. He is fluent in the language of Rwanda (Kinyarwanda), as well as French and English. There are a few more languages in which Theo is also conversant. He is one of the interpreters we work with on these trips.
In conversations with Theophile, I have learned a little more about the church in Rwanda. The structure differs from what we are used to in the states. Because of past abuses by some missionaries as well as native evangelists there are certain regulations the churches need to follow.
One is that a church cannot just start and exist on its own. There must be a recognized body to which the church is accountable. Theo is the overseer of a group of churches called Harvest Christian Church. He functions as the bishop for these churches, representing them before the government. There are 65 churches in this fellowship.
Today Theo has left Kibuye where we are teaching to attend a national conference of these church bishops before the government in the capital, Kigali. The bishops are seeking clarification and input on some things the government is saying. Be in prayer for these church leaders, as well as the Rwandan government, as they work through these matters.
Another difference in Rwanda is how a church is planted. Theo and I were talking at his house Saturday evening and be spoke of a new church being started in one of the villages by Harvest Christian Church. I asked him how they planted churches here.
He said they would determine an area for starting a new church, then find someone who was willing to go there and lead this effort. The proper papers are filed for this church by Theo. Then the person planting the church would find a place to meet and tell people in town there was going to be a new church starting the next Sunday. By word of mouth others would learn of this. On Sunday, a good size group of people would be present to check out this new thing in their village. The next week the word of mouth of those who had attended led to more people coming.
I thought how different that is from the American culture. To plant a church in the United States requires many months of planning. Mass mailings are sent to people in the area. Sound boards, a drum set, guitars, ear buds so the musicians can hear each other, and lighting equipment is purchased so the stage can be set to appeal to this video and entertainment culture. Thousands of dollars are poured in before opening day.
I am often conflicted about the way churches are planted and sustained in the American culture. I realize that in some ways we are prisoners of our culture. To reach the culture we have to be aware of the ways of the culture. I fear, though, at times we can seek to become so culturally relevant that the most important thing, the message, is drowned out.
I don't know the answers to the questions I have. I do pray, though, for the continued work of church planting both at home in my native land as well as here in Rwanda and in places around the world. It is through the church that the manifold wisdom of God is made known
Jesu ashimway (Jesus be praised),
P.S. I brought the consistent rains we had been experiencing in eastern NC with me to Rwanda. Every day and night we have had rain. Sometimes it has been extremely heavy. Monsoon season has arrived a month early here.
P.P.S. If anyone is reading this who knows the Kinyarwanda language, please excuse my spelling of Kinyarwanda words. I am spelling them like I am hearing them.
© 2018 Gene Andrews. All rights reserved
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture from The Holy Bible: New International Version, 1984.