As an ordained minister in the Church of Uganda (a local church within the Anglican tradition), and especially as someone who spent two decades ministering through the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, I am often deeply troubled by what I see and experience of churches in Uganda, Africa, and beyond. When I reflect on the testimony of Scripture about Jesus’ vision for the community that bears his name and consider the lived reality of churches, both locally and globally, I can’t help but notice a worrisome dissonance.
The convictions we hold about the nature and purpose of the church inform how we engage with the Bible. They shape our understanding of what it teaches about God, the gospel of Christ, and its imperatives for living out our faith in the world.
In God’s Design for the Church: A Guide for African Pastors and Ministry Leaders, Conrad Mbewe explores the subject of Christian identity and community in light of Africa’s complex and rapidly changing social context. As Mbewe, a Baptist minister and scholar hailing from Lusaka, Zambia, explains in his introduction, the book aims “to apply biblical principles to what is obtaining in Africa so that we are drawn back to belief and practice that follows God’s design for the church.” His ultimate goal is equipping “those who lead the church” to “do so in accordance with God’s mind.”
I’ll admit that when I first saw the title of Mbewe’s book and looked through its table of contents, I thought he was making some awfully bold assumptions and ambitious claims. But I always appreciate the chance to learn from other African ministers, even those from outside my own tradition. I was eager ...1
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