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The Gospel and Africa’s Expansion, Part 2

From the series The Gospel and Africa's Expansion

Pastors are some of the most overworked, undervalued people throughout the Christian world. So, what can the rest of the church do to help and support their leaders? In this message, Andrew Accardy and Patrick Kuchio from the Living on the Edge International Team will tell us how. Learn what pastors in Africa are struggling with and what this ministry is doing to support them with resources, pastoral care, and some much-needed encouragement.

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Message Transcript

ANDREW: Thanks, Dave. So today we're talking about the important role that pastors play in building a healthy church and why it matters to all of us. And we're joined by Patrick Kuchio, who is the Africa director for Living on the Edge. As we mentioned yesterday, he's an experienced youth pastor, church planter, and provided church leadership throughout the continent of Africa. Hey Patrick, it's great to have you back.

PATRICK: Oh, thanks, Andrew. It's good to be back and looking forward, excited about today's conversation.

ANDREW: Yesterday we talked about the importance of a pastor being healthy, that is spiritually healthy. You know, we talked about you cannot give what you don't possess. Another phrase that we typically like to use is the pastor must become who he wants their people to be. So it's very important for the health of the church, for the pastor to be spiritually healthy. And so we're gonna talk a little bit today about what Living on the Edge is doing to help pastors be healthy, but let's start off first with Africa will be one of the most strategic locations for Christianity in the next decades. Why is that?

PATRICK: Well, Andrew, Africa is a very strategic continent for many reasons. If you look at the numbers, the current population of Africa is at 1.1 billion. Estimated by 2050, that population will have grown to 2.4 billion people. So put otherwise one in every four human beings on the planet by the year 2050 will be African. A cheeky way of putting it is that the future is African.

Anyway, if you look at the numbers of Christians, we are about 718 million Christians right now on the continent of Africa. That number is growing. And by 2050, it will be at 1.1 billion, 1.1 billion Christians on the continent of Africa. Whereas Christianity might be declining in the global West. In the global South and particularly in Africa, it is rising. It is rising.

Then when you look at the average or median age, the median age of Africa is currently 19 years old. The US's current median age is 39 years old, Brazil is 32, Asia is 31, Europe is 44, Africa holds a bright future for influencing not just geopolitics, but for influencing matters faith, because the youth culture is definitely being, will be the dominant culture. And most of these young people are going to be a resident in Africa.

ANDREW: You mentioned that the Christian population is quite large by percentage and it's just going to continue to grow. So it really begs the question though, What type of Christians are there right now in Africa?

PATRICK: Andrew that is one of the greatest questions I've had in a long time. I am persuaded, Andrew, that Africa is one of the most evangelized continents on the globe. There are millions and millions of people who have been won to the faith.

But you wonder, where are they? Where is their impact? Where is their influence?

So in answering your question, what type of Christians do we currently have on the continent, I would simply say, un-discipled they lack depth and discipleship. So I'm equally persuaded that the future of Africa is in discipling, in conserving the harvest, because the gospel has been preached extensively in Africa. But we need more disciples than decisions, because we have too many decisions but very few disciples on the continent of Africa.

ANDREW: You know, the late theologian J .I. Packer is famous for saying that the church is a thousand miles wide and a half inch thick, meaning a lot of people have come to Christ, but it's not very deep in their maturity.

PATRICK: Yeah

ANDREW: And that would see, he said that about the United States, but that's certainly, it sounds like also represents Africa.

PATRICK: It sure does.

ANDREW: Let's go back to that phrase again, the church rises and falls on the spiritual leadership of the pastor and the strength of its disciples. And so pastor needs to be personally spiritually healthy. And they need to have a process for developing their people. So the people become stronger disciples. One of the things that I'm really encouraged about is some of the things that we've been able to do at Living on the Edge. As a matter of fact, when we first met, it was around an election in Kenya.

PATRICK: Yes.

ANDREW: And so Living on the Edge partnered with an organization called the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya by bringing a message called the Art of Survival to Pastors, which essentially is, don't give up persevere, keep going. But you did more than that and you brought churches together and in a certain way helped disciple those pastors and they discipled their people. You just tell us about that story.

PATRICK: Sure. It was very exciting to participate in this training. We travel from city to city. We made about 41 different stops across the country where we would meet with an average of 220 pastors per session. And we basically would walk them through this resilience building program, the Art of Survival and the message of hope. And we challenged the participants to actually go and teach the same message in their congregations and to find other 10 people that they would share the same message with.

We had an amazing experience just traveling across the entire country. By the time we were done, we had reached thousands and thousands of pastors, cumulatively of our a period of about nine to ten months, we had reached over 40,000 pastors and this message of the Art of Survival had been preached in hundreds of churches and congregations.

ANDREW: And at the same time, you are encouraging pastors how to engage in a political environment.

PATRICK: Absolutely, Andrew. That was another interesting and very exciting piece to the story. Our election cycle happens after every five years. So after every five years, Kenya would experience lots of election-related violence. Right before our last election, which happened two years ago, we sat down as a church and began to ask ourselves, how can we stem this tide? How can we change the narrative?

So we organized for a conference and we brought together pastors and we had a consultative gathering.  And the galvanizing question at this summit was, who sets the political agenda in a country? We did realize that the church had a critical role in shaping the politics and the governance of any country.

So we decided as a church, we reached across denominations, across persuasions and we decided to take a common stand and say we will set the agenda for the political narrative in our country. It will be void of violence, it will be void of tribal bigotry, it will be void of any such practices that we had experienced in the past. And for the very first time in many years Kenyans went to the polls, united. We voted and there was no violence reported across the entire country.

Other than just having the conversation, we developed a discipleship material that we used during the election period and was taught, it was used as a small group discussion. It was taught from the pulpits. We developed a series just challenging the church to find our place as custodians, as, peacemakers basically just investigating and interrogating what is the role of the church in matters governance and that indeed Andrew is a story that can actually turn out into a movie or fill up books.

ANDREW: Yeah, well, it's an amazing story that in a country that had seen violence in its elections and you weren't telling people who to vote for, you were just saying this is what the biblical standard is. These are the biblical ethics that we should be following and just encouraging pastors to: Let's keep this in mind as we go to this political season. Let's be Christians who live like Christians. As we say here at Living on the Edge, you know, one of the things that is so encouraging to me about that is Chip will talk about the three characteristics of a healthy church.

And the first one is, is that lost people are regularly coming to Christ. So in a healthy church, people are always coming to Christ. It's just routine. And found people or believers are growing to maturity. That’s discipleship.

And the last one is, is the church is meeting some of the deepest needs in the community. And that's what happened here. It was a collection of thousands of churches that came together and said, one of the deepest needs in our community, in this case our nation, is no violence. Biblical ethics. And that's the power of biblical training in this regard. You can cast a vision for where you would like the church to go.

PATRICK: It's interesting that whereas the season of politics was always a very delicate season that would end up splitting some churches right down the middle, this time. The season of politics was not as dicey and as delicate as it was. People were not overly sensitive. There was no trouble rhetoric, people were very civil. And so we demonstrated to ourselves that it is actually possible for the church to set an example to the rest of the country.

ANDREW: You know, certainly in the United States, we were in an election season and violence is a very real thing right now. It's a very real topic of conversation. I hope we can learn some things from Africa. You know, after we started off in Kenya, then it just kind of took off around Africa and we found ourselves in Malawi, Uganda, and then Ethiopia. I mean Ethiopia is not exactly a location that's known for peace and stability either. So can you tell us just a little bit of what's happened in some of these countries?

PATRICK: Uganda was amazing. We got together about 60 leaders at the capital city called Kampala. We spent some time training them. This was done in partnership with an amazing Christian organization that is very intentional about matters discipleship. The Pastors Discipleship Network is the name of the organization. Having trained these 60, we took the multiplication approach, we challenge them to go out across the country and train other pastors and share the same message. And it's interesting to see that after about seven months, they are reporting 35,141 pastors trained in seven months.

ANDREW: That's just amazing to me.

PATRICK: Yes, and the positive messages that are coming back, I was almost giving up. I had given up. But this message was timely and I'm back to the ministry. I am back to serving God's people.

You talk about Ethiopia. Ethiopia is known to be a very fragile country with lots of civil strife, prolonged hostilities between tribes. When we got to Ethiopia with the message of the Art of Survival, this message of hope, the pastors were so grateful. Because they just come from one of the worst civil wars where hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost. Many had been displaced. And when we share this message, the leadership in Ethiopia said, this is a message that Ethiopia needs to heal its wounds. And so it took off. And it's amazing to see over 20,000 pastors have already been equipped within a very short time.

But there was one particular leader who I became friends with and I realized that. The message of the art of survival was not just relevant for the congregation, but it was relevant to him as a person. He and his wife were blessed with 10 children three passed away and are left at seven and one of the seven suffers autism.

I did not know that he had been struggling until this time. Here he is leading a denomination with 11 million members in Ethiopia. But he was about to give up on account of his personal struggle of caring for his autistic son.

But when he encountered and heard the message of the Art of Survival, he came through the training. Something turned in his heart and in his mind. And he decided that though he had developed some bitterness against God, and was about to throw in the towel, he turned around completely and said, I will not give up. There are many who are looking up to me. If I walked away from the ministry on account of my son's illness, what would it be said of me?

ANDREW: Wow

PATRICK: And so he held on. He still doesn't have access to the best support system or medical care for his autistic son, but his attitude has changed. He is leading with so much joy, knowing that God has his back and that he can choose his attitude in the midst of this very challenging situation. He can constantly experience wisdom from God, supernatural wisdom, but he can also look at his own personal circumstances through God's perspective.

And what capped it all for me, Andrew, was to see the effect one man's story has had on an entire denomination, about 11 million people, because they're seeing they are leader withstood this temptation to quit. So they too are hanging in there.

ANDREW: Wow. That's just amazing to me. You know, you mentioned pastors in Africa are, simple lives, but they're resilient and, but they still need encouragement. When a pastor checks out, that doesn't help their people.

And so the opportunity for Living on the Edge by providing the ‘Art of Survival’ is to say, don't give up. God's right there with you. Here's the theology that we all need to embrace. The Holy Spirit's willing to give you wisdom have a great attitude in it, even though it's challenging. And it's just amazing to see tens of thousands of pastors in Africa respond in almost the same way every time. You know, I'm in it. I'm going for it.

And now, doors are opening in West Africa as well.

PATRICK: Oh you could say that again. It's been said that you are not doing anything in Africa if you don't have a presence in West Africa. It's a joke, but it is true. West Africa is a populous part of Africa. It accounts for a significant portion of the entire population of the continent of Africa. So it's interesting just to see how God has opened the door for us to go into West Africa.

God has opened the door for us to train 36,000 pastors in Ghana, 32,400 pastors in Togo in West Africa, 22,500 pastors in Burkina Faso. And Burkina Faso is another fragile country. They've experienced lots of terrorist incidences, that people fleeing from the north just for safety. But the pastors have said, please come. The church needs to be encouraged. The country needs to be encouraged. Then another 36,000 pastors in Cote d 'Ivoire. Ivory Coast.

Amazing doors that God has opened and the pastors are saying, we need this training and we want to participate. Not just as recipients, but those who want to contribute to the cost of training. And that has really warmed my heart as the Africa director.

ANDREW: It's amazing the doors that God is opening for Living on the Edge all around the world, but especially on the continent of Africa. It's just incredible to think that we just started all this training since COVID just a few years ago, and it's very possible. That over 200,000 pastors in Africa will have received this Art of Survival training since the pandemic. It's just an amazing thing that God is doing.

So if you've been a financial supporter of Living on the Edge for the last couple of years, these real-life stories are your legacy. You're making a difference. You're partnering with us and you're making a difference.

And if you haven't given before, now is a great time to partner with us for the first time. Since the beginning of June and all the way through July 9th, a small group of donors have pledged to match every dollar that you give. So let me just ask you to consider giving to Living on the Edge to help us support pastors all over the globe by giving them some much needed training and encouragement. Dave will tell you how you can be part of the mid-year match in just a minute.

But let me just pray as we close, Lord thank you for Patrick. Thank you for the opportunity for Living on the Edge to serve in Africa. Thank you for the great fruitfulness. Thank you for the changed lives that we’ve seen. And thank you for these partners. People who’ve supported us financially and through their prayers. God would you do in even greater thing in Africa. We pray this in Jesus name.