Last week I attended the Fearless Leadership Summer 2011, put on by Mavuno Church, one of the Nairobi Chapel family of churches. It was great, and I got to meet a number of pastors and other church leaders as well as learn about reaching the next generation church (the theme for the conference). The senior pastor of Mavuno, Muriithi Wanjau, spoke about the four generations of Kenyans since the early 20th century, and how the missionary movement and the East African Revival have so strongly shaped Kenyan Christianity that most churches are still operating on their framework, and are thus largely unintelligible to the current generation of youth, who compose the majority of Kenya’s population.
The best part of the conference for me was the testimony of Prashan De Visser, a leader in reconciliation in Sri Lanka. I was completely unaware of the fact that Sri Lanka had been in a civil war for the last 28 years, apparently one of the most devastating civil wars of all time. Prashan talked about he decided to go into politics and advocate for reconciliation, which seemed basically impossible. Christianity apparently has a very poor reputation in Sri Lanka, and a Christian going for public office and talking about peace wouldn’t get much of an audience. He described how he was in the US, got an internship working in Washington D.C. with all 50 senators, and flew to the airport with only $60 and without any other arrangements. Someone came to the airport to pick him up, said that God told me you were coming in, gave him a place to stay, and then offered him a train pass so he could commute to work. He got invited to the National Prayer breakfast, and met some of the major figures who had been involved in the peace process in Sri Lanka. He felt so much pressure to share his vision of reconciliation in Sri Lanka that he shared with all those at the breakfast, and ended up with a lot of support.
He also told how in Sri Lanka he was invited to a talk show that was trying to discredit him and his ministry, but he was fervent in his belief in the power of the gospel for change, and by the end of the show they actually offered him the show to run from then on! Almost out of money, this was the job he had been looking for to support himself, and also gave a great venue to spread the news of his ministry. He described how they brought hundreds of youth into this meeting hall for a conference, and these were men that was sworn to kill each other, in the fight against opposing ethnic groups, and by the end they were hugging each other in tears, promising they would never resort to violence again. Overall, it was one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever heard. Here’s his ministry’s website:
Hearing about the story of Mzizi, the small group workbook that forms the structure for Plug-in, a 12 week discipleship course that I went through in 2009, and the main reason I eventually came to Nairobi Chapel, was also interesting. Basically the pastor was tired of discipleship as it was usually done, and more or less in an effort to get some people off his back made up a program that would cost money, require them to read and do work before coming, arrive on time, and do other activities as well. Getting people not to sign up didn’t work, and the program caught on, and is now being used at all the Nairobi Chapel churches, and even some outside of Kenya. He then realized that people are willing to undergo discipleship that has a cost, and discipleship that doesn’t cost anything doesn’t end up really being discipleship at all.
I thought through a lot of things after this conference, and I really desire to have a more concrete vision that is long term. From the time I was about 12 I’ve had pretty much everything in my life mapped out up to this point, and from here the charting is much sketchier…at this point I wanted to become a theologian. That’s a bit trickier than it sounds, and I’m working on the logistics of that at the moment. One of my problems when I’m playing chess is that I don’t usually have a long term strategy, one that requires 30 moves to achieve, and I react to the moves as they come and see what I can come up with. I’d like a more long-term strategy that will take me years to accomplish, that requires a lot of work and effort on my part…so I’m praying that will be made more clear.