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The Gospel and Africa’s Expansion, Part 1

From the series The Gospel and Africa's Expansion

Many Christians today think of Africa as a morally dark and godless place that is in desperate need of the light of the Gospel. In this message, however, we’ll learn why that depiction is actually no longer true. Join us as two members of the Living on the Edge International team - Andrew Accardy and Patrick Kuchio – reveal the unbelievable growth of Christianity throughout Africa. Learn what life is like for pastors in Africa and why the spiritual health of church leaders is paramount to the stability of any church.

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Message Transcript

ANDREW: Thanks, Dave. Great to be with you today. You know, I think many of our listeners don't know that Living on the Edge has a ministry that spans the globe. Literally, we're in 20 countries around the world. And one of the areas where God seems to be opening a lot of doors is in Africa. And so we're joined today by Patrick Kuchio, who is our Africa director at Living on the Edge to talk about the life of pastors in Africa and why that's important to all of us. Patrick, welcome. Glad you're with us today.

PATRICK: Thank you very much, Andrew. It's an honor to be with you today.

ANDREW: You know my mother's 90 years old and she has been supporting ministries in Africa around the world for most of her life, but she has this image in her mind about what Africa is today that was really based in the 1950s I think. And there's been a lot of financial support that's come into Africa from the West. What impact did that have in Africa?

PATRICK: Africa will forever remain grateful to the West for taking the risk, encountering malaria, encountering the man-eating lions of the Savo, just to bring the Gospel message. Missionaries of yesteryears were very intentional about preaching the Gospel, proclaiming the Gospel, and also demonstrating the Gospel.

So most missionaries came preaching the gospel, but they set up schools, they set up hospitals, they provided water, boreholes. So they were able to challenge our religious paradigms because most Africans were very religious and still are very religious. It's just that we were looking for God in the wrong places. We looked for God in rivers. We looked for God on mountains. We looked for God on trees. We never found God. But it took the courage and the love of missionaries who came to share the Gospel message with Africa. But along with that, a lot of financial resources have been invested in the continent of Africa. There is a switch that is happening.

Africa was known to be the dark continent, but thank God that the Gospel has illuminated the continent. Africa is no longer the dark continent when you think of the 718 million Christians currently on the continent. But I've seen a shift in this regard, Andrew. Africa is no longer just the mission center that it used to be. Africa has become a mission force. Africa is now sending out missionaries all over the world. We are seeing churches in Africa actually supporting the work in Europe, the work in the West.

The church that I came from, that I was raised in, has been endured by God. When we're planting a church in the US, It was fully funded from Africa. There was no donor money coming in from the West or from anywhere else. We simply felt God called us to plant a church right in the heart of Washington, D.C. We obeyed, God provided, the church is thriving.

So there's a shift from being a mission field to a mission force from this recipient to a giver. And it's exciting to be on the front seat to see God at work, challenging, touching different individuals, congregations, business leaders who are very keen to see revival happen in the global West.

ANDREW: You've been a pastor now for quite some time. What are some things that we should know about the life of a pastor in Africa?

PATRICK: One thing you find true about the life of a pastor in Africa is that it's a simple life.

ANDREW: Hmm.

PATRICK: We are used to simplicity. In this sense, if you need to go from point A to point B with respect to transportation, if the bus is not available, if the Uber is not available, if it's not train by or tram, you simply walk to your destination. So it's commonplace to find people walking. You'll find pastors walking for miles and miles just to go preach the gospel and walk back home. If it begins to rain, they'll take shelter maybe under a tree or by some neighbor somewhere. So... life is not complicated, it is not complex. The life of a pastor in Africa is a simple life, the average pastor. But you also find that the average pastor in Africa is predisposed to trust God.

ANDREW: Hmm.

PATRICK: It's interesting, I was thinking about this the other day, Andrew, and you see when you grow up trusting God for almost everything, you wake up, yes you are connected to the electric grid, but you're not too sure when you wake up there will be power. So you go to bed praying, God keep the power on. You're not too sure there will be water flowing through your pipe. So you have to trust God for water. You have to trust God for transportation. You're not too sure the bus will make it. So you're not too sure you'll make it in time for your meeting.

A number of pastors in Africa are extremely prayerful because prayer for most of us in Africa is our greatest fallback. When you look at the challenges your average pastor runs into or deals with on a daily basis challenges of sicknesses or in access to medical care, poverty, the inability just to pay for your own children's education, the inability to meet your own needs. So you find people who have been raised in this environment, they have learned to lean on God.

So, prayer is something that we love to do because it's like the circumstances around us have shaped our view of  God. And so, we know that unless we turn to God, we are done for. But you'll also find that pastors in Africa are very resilient people.

ANDREW: Mm-Hmm.

PATRICK: They're not just simple in their lifestyle. They're not just dependent on God or trusting God. But you find that pastors in Africa are very resilient people.

ANDREW: Mm-Hmm. You've worked with many, many pastors around the continent of Africa. So what did you learn then about pastoral ministry in that stage of your ministry life?

PATRICK: One of it was that a congregation will always take after the pastor. Maybe put differently, that a church will either stand or fall on the spiritual leadership of its pastor and the strength of the disciples.

ANDREW: Why is that so important?

PATRICK: I believe that it's important to have healthy pastors because we can only reproduce after our own kind. It's almost impossible for a mango tree to produce oranges. Jesus was very categorical when he said, you will only produce after your own kind. To have a healthy pastor is likely to lead to a healthy church. And to have an unhealthy pastor is very, very likely bound to lead to a very unhealthy congregation.

So there's a very strong correlation between the health of the leader and the health of the congregation. They two cannot be divorced whatsoever. A proliferation of wrong doctrine is a challenge we struggle with in Africa. The vast majority of pastors in Africa lack formal theological training. I'm very, very fortunate to be among the few, who God helped to find their way to Bible school and they got some theological instruction.

But there are pastors who don't have the privilege of formal education. They take the Bible and they go off and that you find a number of false teachings where people would mix culture and Christianity. So there are times you find the two intertwined in a way that doesn't necessarily please God.

But it takes training, it takes learning, it takes instruction to distinguish and differentiate the two. Not many are able to do so.

ANDREW: You know, I'm always interested in learning a little bit more about people's backgrounds. You actually started off at youth ministry many, many, many, many years ago. Why don't you just give us a little bit of background on how you got started in ministry.

PATRICK: Wow, that's interesting, Andrew. I never intended to be a minister in the first place, but there was this Canadian missionary who led our church and he kind of saw the calling in my life, which I had never seen. I was determined to make money and my idea of making money was go be an accountant, which I did, trained, get a job, which I did. But then God began to stir my heart and when I went to see the pastor, he told me, that sounds like a call to the ministry. He explained to me what a call was. And so I asked him, what should I do pastor with this call?

He tells me, you need to go train in Bible school. So I resigned my job, went to Bible school and after graduating, I found myself in youth ministry, I think because I was the youngest on the team, not because I had specialized training in youth ministry or had a call. I felt like I'd been thrown into the deep end because I was not very keen about taking spiritual care of a young people.

But I stumbled across a book written by Doug Fields on the purpose driven youth ministry. That was my lifeline. It turned around my approach to youth ministry and indeed. We ended up having a very vibrant youth ministry in Nairobi that touched many, many, many, many congregations. And actually people would come from far and wide just to see us doing youth ministry. We had about a thousand five hundred

ANDREW: Wow

PATRICK: young people in our youth group and you can imagine but those numbers grew from about three hundred and fifty over six years to a thousand five hundred when I began to implement the principles I learned from Doug Fields.

ANDREW: So what were some of the things that you learned as you're starting off in your pastoral career from youth ministry?

PATRICK: Great question, Andrew. I learned a lot. The first one I would say is um learning is always multi-directional. It's never one way. You get to learn from the people you lead and you get to learn from the person who leads you.

So I'll tell you a very short story here. So one Sunday, I got up and I taught in youth group at the youth church. And I thought the message was sound delivered with passion, very compelling. The response was amazing. But at the end of the service, one of the ushers in the youth church tells me, hey, there's a young girl who would like to speak to you. I said, oh, sure, not a problem. So when I was done with the altar ministry, I walked up to this maybe 17 year old, maybe five foot two young lady and say, so how can I help you?

And she goes like, well, pastor, I didn't like something you said during your preaching. I was like, uh oh, she goes like, you see, when you said, I don't care what you may be going through. When you use that phrase over and over again, pastor, it conveys that you don't actually care yet. You are a shepherd. You're supposed to be caring. What if you used a different phrase? I asked which one she goes like, what have you said? I may not know what you're going through, but add what you want to add.

Would you believe it, Andrew? That was the last time I ever used that phrase. I don't care what you are going through. And I learned it from a 17 -year -old young girl in youth ministry.

So my take home there was that you could learn from young people that you're leading. You could learn from peers. You could learn from mentors you could learn from, children you could learn from, anybody. So learning is multi-directional.

But I also learned ministry is relational. Ministry is relational and never transactional. So I put value more on relationships than transactions. So I knew that I was there to relate to these young people because I didn't have much training. But I realized that relationships was a currency that I leveraged on to influence and to actually build a model youth ministry in Nairobi. Relationships.

ANDREW: So, you know, that phrase, I don't care what you're going through, that's probably one we need to learn as parents, not to say. So, you know, there is application here, even in youth ministry, to our lives as parents. And, you know, there's some humility in thinking even as a parent, I can learn from the kids that I'm around to help me be a better person, a better communicator. You move from being a youth pastor, then you became a church planter. You literally started many churches. How did that happen?

PATRICK: It's interesting, uh for many years I had been approached by the leadership to consider leading a congregation. And for some reason, I would always push back and say, I'm not interested, not now, let me pray about, let me think it over.

Until one time, A mentor of mine, he said, Patrick, you are very passionate about matters youth ministry, but it appears that key decisions regarding youth ministry are made outside your presence. So he said, it might be useful for you to strategically find yourself where decisions are being made. He used a very interesting example. He said, when you are not at the table you are likely part of the menu.

ANDREW: (Laughter) That’s a great line.

PATRICK: I know, right? So I was like, OK. So the next time the leadership asked if I could take on a responsibility of being a lead pastor, senior pastor, I said, sure. So I took on this responsibility and led a congregation for four and a half years, grew from 250 people to about 2,500 people by the time I was leaving in four and a half years.

Then I took on a new congregation within the same denomination, served there for about 18 months. Then I was asked to be the head of missions or the director of missions. And that's when I began my church planting journey.

And by God's grace, Andrew, it was exciting to see 20 churches planted. These are mega churches across the country. One in the US, one in Far East Asia, in East Timor, one in Namibia, and one in Europe, in Bucharest, Romania. That was very fulfilling for me.

ANDREW: You know, as we were talking about youth ministry and planting churches, I was just thinking about global youth culture and a lot of places around the world, Africa, US, Europe, South America, because of technology, big brands, if you will, music, it's becoming really similar all around the world. And it's creating some interesting challenges now. At Living on the Edge, we talk about reaching the next generation. As you think about this emerging global youth culture, what do you think are some of the greatest challenges and opportunities that we face?

PATRICK: Like you rightly said, the trends, fashions, tastes and likes are almost the same across board. Some of the key social media influences in the West are the same key social influences in the global South.

What I found very challenging and I think is global is the issue of identity. The question of identity is one that our young people are wrestling with and they're wondering who will be candid enough, bold and courageous enough to help them resolve questions around their identity.

But I also found something very interesting is the desire to see justice done and served by young people is a need that is shared globally. The young people in Africa who are very passionate about seeing matters justice. The issue of advocacy is one that young people globally resonate with, they would love to see justice, they would love to see the innocent being acquitted and the guilty being held accountable and not vice versa.

ANDREW: Yeah, it certainly brings Micah 6-8 into view there with the younger generation.

PATRICK: Absolutely.

ANDREW:  I think it's really encouraging, at least it is to me, you know, for people who've been faithful supporters who've been concerned about Africa for decades. And now Africa really is becoming a spiritual force. you know, in Christianity, and it's starting to lead the way. We're going to talk about that in our next program about why Africa is so strategic.

But, one of the reasons we're talking about Africa today is we really believe that when we invest in the kingdom in Africa, it has a big impact, not only on that continent, but around the world. As a matter of fact, this month, a small group of donors have come together and said, whatever the radio audience gives, so in your mind, you could perhaps think gives towards Africa, we'll match it. So every dollar that is given, we match by another dollar. So Dave, could you just tell us a little bit more about uh this month's match?