"The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (NT) proclaims,witnesses and shares the Good
News of God's Grace in Jesus Christ."
“God is good” “all the time” - “All the time” “God is good” - this is how a speaker greets the congregation, and the congregation responds - not once, but a few times.
The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) with its six million members is one of the fastest growing Lutheran Churches in Africa.
During our week long exposure we got a glance at how the Church is operating.
On the Sunday we were divided into groups that visited various congregations in Addis Ababa.
I attended a service in a young congregation, eleven months old. About 500 worshippers attended the service, held in a brand new steel construction shed. Most worshippers were between 20 and 40 years of age. After the service we had time to meet with the elders to hear from them about their congregation and how it came about.
Later on the president (Bishop)Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idossa, gave us more info.
Church planting is the initiative of a local congregation.
“The purpose of the congregation is to spread the gospel, to reach out, not to stay within itself” explains Dr Idossa. The Church does not regulate this, and assumes that the congregations will do it. Only during the last phase, the official recognition of a congregation, does the Church become involved. Up to then the congregation is under the guidance of the mother congregation.
Normally it starts off with members living in an area without a congregation. They meet for prayer fellowship in a house. When this grows, they start looking for a suitable venue, normally a house that they eventually buy. A suitable house has enough space on the plot to allow for the erection of a hall later on.
The congregation that we visited had raised the funds (equivalent of 50.000 $) to purchase the house, and then another 40 000 $ to erect a hall large enough to allow for expansion of the congregation.
Each congregation has to be self-sustaining and in a position to support the larger church before it can become independent.
A major challenge is that the church currently has 3000 ordained pastors, but 8000 congregations, and growing.
Thus the church makes extensive use of evangelists and pastors that have received intensive two year training. Such pastors have to have worked in a congregation for two or three years before they can be ordained. They then also receive ongoing training and are encouraged to continue their studies towards a BA or MA degree.
Thus, the bottom line is not: Which structure do we follow, or which criteria does the Church expect to be fulfilled before we start, but: Spread the gospel, start new congregations. Older congregations guard over and guide the process. Once you are mature enough, you can be recognised as a fully fledged congregation that in turn can then plant new congregations.
I was not the only one attending such new congregations. As the various participants returned, I heard of similar observations. It is indeed wonderful to see how the Church is active.
During the week we also visited two projects of the Church: A school for mentally challenged Children - one of a few that the Church runs, and a centre for the rehabilitation of sex workers. Although in these cases there is significant funding from overseas partners, the work itself is run by the local church or congregation. The rehabilitation centre is on the church premises, and includes a school for the children of these women.
It was good to see how the Church does not run away from the city, and even less isolates itself, but seems to really go into the city and is a visible Church.
We can learn much from them!
Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7
Darum nehmt einander an, wie auch Christus euch angenommen hat zur Ehre Gottes. Römer 15:7
Julle moet mekaar aanvaar, soos Christus julle ook aanvaar het. Dan sal al die mense vir God prys.
You should look upon us as ministers of Christ, as trustees of the secrets of God. And it is a prime requisite in a trustee that he should prove worthy of his trust.
1 Corinthians 4:2
We are trustees of the Good News, not owners who can deal with it as is convenient. That means that we must allow it to speak to ourselves first, both in judging us, in channeling his grace to us and in transforming our lives. Only then can we speak about it as true ministers.