Monday, July 11, 2016

The Road Not Taken

Recently, Dr. Phil Walker, the founder and president of International Christian Ministries, wrote the following message as it relates to the Church in Africa and beyond, and the relevance of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders ministry.  I would like to share his message with you today, as it may be good to hear another voice on this topic then only mine.  Please read the important call to action regarding Ghana at the end of this post!

The Road Not Taken
This is the title of a famous poem by Robert Frost. It also represents a concern I have about the future of the Church in Africa. When ICM began 30 years ago in Kenya the focus was on discipleship. The goal was to come alongside Christians leaders and teach them how to be effective disciplers in and through their churches. Over time this discipleship emphasis found expression in two delivery models, the Africa Theological Seminary and the Christian Leadership Institute, providing invaluable teaching for leaders to develop a Biblical foundation for discipleship, tools for discipleship and skills for leading the local church.

But something is missing.

As I travel the continent teaching, sharing and watching, I have come to the conclusion that far too many churches in Africa (and beyond) are taking a dead end approach to church development that hinders their impact.

Jesus came at just the right time to offer the world a way back to God. His message of reconciliation was preached through signs and wonders as well as words and deeds. The ultimate deed was his death on the cross for our sins, which made reconciliation possible.  Fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament, Jesus paved the way for a "nation of priests" commissioned to go into the whole world and make disciples of every people. This nation is more commonly known as the Church, the called out ones. The Church is a nation of ambassadors commissioned with the message of reconciliation. As the Church, they gather in their various communities to worship, partake of the sacraments, and be equipped as effective disciples that come in to grow, so they can go out ambassadors to the world.

The emphasis was not on the local gathering but on the effective witness of every believer in their sphere of influence. It would appear that this model of coming in order to go is not emphasized enough. The road most traveled appears to be one that places the greatest emphasis on the gathering of believers.

Come to Get

When there is a shift to church as building there is a danger that it will become more akin to a social club than to a center for equipping people for the work of the ministry. Consider the following examples: 
·   In a recent interview with a growing church in Africa, the leaders proudly revealed they had 40 programs in which members could participate on a weekly basis. Programs are not wrong or bad, but people have limited time. Where is the "going" into the community?
·   In West Africa, I turned on the TV and watched a few minutes of casting out of demons and flailing of bodies and limbs as people were healed...miracles are good, but we should do them where Jesus did them: in the marketplace.
·   Riding around any major city in Africa you will see signs for “miracle services/crusades” on nearly every street corner. The call is, "come to get" something God has for you. These events are not wrong, but very incomplete. God's call is to take his message and healing power into every corner of the marketplace.

I want to be clear: I do not oppose the miraculous. But we need to travel carefully along the road to ensure miracles do not replace transformation. Instead of transformation that comes from intentional discipleship, some pastors believe that a show of God’s miracle power is the key to unlocking church growth.
There are two consequences of this “Come and Get a Blessing” model: the laity views itself as ‘consumers,’ and pastors begin to view themselves as prophet/priests. The result is the local church becomes an entertainment hub, where the focal point is "priests and prophets" who are intermediaries delivering God's miracle to the members.


Come to Go

The "Come to Go" church is committed to serving the congregation by equipping them to live for Jesus seven days a week. While the “Come and Get a Blessing” model is very prevalent, we can be encouraged that there are pastors and local churches who have not succumbed to the temptation to travel the road of a church as entertainment. These churches still offer programs, but they are geared toward equipping members to live for Jesus in all aspects of their lives – their marriages, families and work. In these churches, pastors see themselves as servant-leaders, committed to equipping their members to “go” into the community and be God’s blessing, light and leaven. There is a need for greater emphasis on discipling every member of every congregation.

Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML)
In 2013 ICM launched a pilot project called, “Discipling Marketplace Leaders.” There are many organizations working with Christians to help them become better business people. But none of these groups are doing so in direct conjunction with the local church. After two years of studying the synergy between the local church and their business people, the pilot project demonstrated that through the local church’s discipling, business people increased their spiritual and financial bottom lines. Through DML, pastors gain a better understanding of how to effectively disciple business people. It also helps business people understand the call as ministers to their communities by running their businesses as unto the Lord. The results are pastors commissioning business people to be ministers through their daily interaction within their communities. As a result, churches grow, giving increases, and members become more committed.

Frost ends his poem like this:
I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. (

It is time to take the road less traveled, it is the one Jesus took, and we are to follow.

Thank you, Dr. Walker, for these thoughtful and challenging words.

ICM has now begun the process of rolling out DML in Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, and Nigeria. We are looking at 2017 as a breakout year where we reach a tipping point in the movement. We need your help! We are looking for business people and pastors who want to team up with us to make the DML movement possible in many more countries. We are also in need of help in meeting the financial challenges of taking this message to the nations.  We are specifically looking for help as it relates to the work starting in the Northern Region of Ghana.  This is predominantly Muslim area and the Church is working hard to maintain its ground and grow.  This ministry would be of great assistance to the Church there.  We need $15,000 for the first year of work, to hire staff and navigate the vast terrain of the Northern Ghana region.  Or, to put it another way, we need twelve people to commit to $100/month for one year to help cover this cost.  If you would like to financially assist with this work, please give through the envelope enclosed from CRWM, or through their website at (go to missionaries and find my name), or you can go directly to ICM at and include ‘20065’in the comment line.

Thank you for your faithful prayers, encouragement and support in partnering with the DML ministry!