Many of us still think of the United States as being the center of the spiritual universe. It's true that our country has been a major force in world missions for decades. But the gospel is spreading much faster today in the developing world, and the center of gravity for the church has long since moved to Asia, Africa and parts of Latin America.
It is past time for us to shed old, colonial mind-sets about missions and adopt a more global paradigm that involves partnership with our brothers and sisters in other nations. It is also time for us to swallow our pride and recognize that church leaders in the non-Western world have bigger congregations, more effective discipleship, more intense spiritual passion and more fervent prayer than many lackluster churches in America.
It's time we stopped being the teachers and considered learning from our foreign counterparts—who have much to share with us about miracles, ministry to the poor, church growth and social transformation.
We asked these leaders from Nigeria, Singapore, Indonesia, Israel, Russia and India to offer some honest advice to the American church.
Yinka Ojo, Pastor
Grace Family Church
There are five major things that church leaders in the Western world can learn from what God is doing in Africa:
1. Spirituality is more important than intellectualism. In my part of the world, the response to most issues comes from a spiritual point of view. This has been exploited by Satan, but when Africans turn to Christ we develop a keen sense of the relevance of the spiritual realm. Yet it seems the Western church looks only for logical solutions.
2. 'Felt needs' are a catalyst to seeking God. In our region there are many challenges caused by poverty, disease and lack of education. In the midst of these dire needs our people have an opportunity to truly walk by faith and trust God. Though basic health facilities, social welfare and other infrastructures are virtually nonexistent, thousands of believers rejoice exuberantly in growing churches. We have learned to allow our needs to draw us closer to God and walk in genuine faith.
3. Materialism is a trap. When riches increase, people tend to set their hearts on wealth. The potential for revival is enhanced in Africa because the temptation to idolize material prosperity is reduced. The materially prosperous Western church needs to follow the advice of Jesus to the rich young ruler ("Go and sell all you have") if it wants to enjoy revival.
4. The West relies too much on technology. The tendency to trust in technology may be hindering God from manifesting in raw power in the West. In Africa we do not place too much dependence on satellite television or the Internet to reach people. We have to preach to them face to face. Hence, miracles such as healing or raising the dead are employed by God to advance the gospel.
5. Regular prayer and fasting. Fasting can be challenging in the Western world, where shopping malls have such abundance of food! The temptation not to fast is more daunting than in my region. Also, though the typical pastor in the Western world prays 15 minutes a day according to some research, two to three hours daily is the norm for us here. This certainly is a major factor in the growth of the church in Nigeria.
Yinka and his wife, Deola, have planted three congregations in Lagos, but they have also been instrumental in starting churches in Ireland, England and other nations.
Indri Gautama, Apostle
Apostolic Generation Church
Apostolic Generation Church is a cell-based congregation I established in March 2003 with the goal of fulfilling the Great Commission through relational evangelism and leadership development. The church began with one "care cell" consisting of seven people. Today we have grown to a membership of 1,800 and we have 300 leaders.
Through these care cells we have been able to mobilize the church to build a facility for the training and equipping of Christ-like leaders. Our new church building includes 351 apartments for community living. My young congregation (mostly under age 30) pioneered the establishment of the property development project, and they are modeling biblical business values to a nation that has been plagued with corruption.
We are penetrating the marketplace with the gospel and the book of Acts is our model. Our mandate from God is that His church must reach the multitudes in their communities, cities and nations. As the salt and the light of the world, the church is the agent of global change.
I believe this has nothing to do with a church's size. In the Book of Acts the Lord added to the church more souls everyday. It is the Lord who adds, but it's the job of the church to nurture and disciple. The church must shift from the word "add" to the word "multiply." We must have a multiplying church, with multiplying structures and leadership.
The churches in the book of Acts were "multitude churches." A pastor must not pastor a building but the souls in his or her city. The vision of the church must be as big as God's heart for the entire area. This is the kingdom church.
It is also time for us to shift to the ministry of the saints. The Bible says Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry" (Eph. 4:11-12, NKJV). The fivefold ministry is responsible for training and equip every saint to be a minister. The church is not a building or a collection of individuals. It is an apostolic community called to spread the gospel to every level of society.
Indri began her ministry by doing evangelism in remote island areas of Indonesia. She is the first woman in her nation to start a network of churches.
David Mohan, Pastor
New Life Assembly of God
Truly the Lord is doing mighty things in our region and we are witnessing changes in the spiritual, political and economic climate of the nation. I am grateful to God for all the Western missionaries who have handed down a great spiritual heritage to us. The seeds they have sown with dedication and sacrifice have laid a good foundation for us to build upon. There are six major factors fueling revival in India today:
1. Prayer. I am convinced that the major reason for the revival we are witnessing here is the prayer movement that has developed in various places across the country. Churches that pray are the ones that grow.
We sponsor early morning prayer meetings. We have seasons of prayer for 40 days, 21 days, seven days and three days, during which people's lives are changed and transformed. We have 24-hour prayer chains in various places in the country to break the powers of darkness and to bring revival in our local churches.
2. Small groups grow leaders. These groups are the key for relationship building and maturing in Christ. Many house churches are being established where ordinary church members with potential leadership qualities are trained to be leaders to start these house churches and operate in their spiritual gifts.
3. Passionate faith. People here in India trust in God totally and depend on Him for every need rather than depending on their material strengths.
4. Family values. God is a God of families. In India the relatives in each family are closely knit. So when the head of the family comes to Christ, the family and the extended family quickly come to the Lord as well.
5. Flexibility to move with the Holy Spirit. Another important reason there is revival here is that we have moved from an event/program-based structure to a Spirit-led movement. We often miss God if we confine Him to events, programs and specific time schedules in our services. We must allow God to do what He wants to do.
6. Unity of leaders. When the leaders come together across denominational lines for prayer and evangelism, there is a powerful move of the Spirit. We sponsor national-level prayer meetings and evangelistic movements that have brought God's people together.
We can bring revival and a renewed spiritual surge in our churches only through persistent prayer, continuous dependence on the Holy Spirit and by releasing the people into ministry for deeper impact.
Besides pastoring his 30,000-member church in Chennai (Madras), David is the superintendent of the Assemblies of God in India.
Gospel Harvest Crusades
The main focus of the church should be on the unreached. What was important for the early church? They gathered every day, they went where people were and everyone was a witness.
If we build institutions, then we will have different priorities. If we build the kingdom of God by preaching the good news to all who have not heard it, then we do what Jesus taught us we should do. How should the church in America respond? I can only tell you what my team and I do:
1. We go to the unreached. Churches often focus only on the needs of members.
2. We do not establish a traditional church format. We don't just have services once or twice a week. Life is hard and Christians must minister to people every day. We train them to go to people's homes and minister to them where they are when there is need. Often our "Sunday morning service" is on Thursday night or Friday afternoon.
3. All the offerings go to meet village people's needs. It is very different from the megachurches of the United States where your budgets cover building payments, salaries and new sound equipment—and then what is left goes to missions. All our money goes to missions.
4. We rarely own buildings. Most of the time, our village churches gather in the homes. Most workers do not have salaries. Volunteers are the driving force. They do not even know about sound equipment.
5. Pastors call the whole village their church. They literally oversee every house and all who live there, even if they do not gather every Sunday in one place at one time.
6. We rely on miracles. The supernatural is a vital part of our work. Jesus is the only answer here because there is no help from doctors, and there are no medicines or hospitals close to the villages. We often see miracles of healing from last-stage cancers, blindness, alcoholism and other problems.
7. We are often tested. The commitment and maturity of village Christians is tested by persecution—often from ex-communists or local members of the Russian Orthodox Church.
8. Jesus is our example. During the three years of His earthly ministry, He showed us how His church is supposed to look. It is hard to say how many members He had in His church, where the meeting place was, how often the services took place or how the budget was distributed. He was so flexible. But we know Jesus trained disciples by taking them with Him every day.
One day He had a megachurch, but by the end of the day He had offended so many of the "church members" that most of them had left and He ended up with a home group. In other words, the church is where Jesus is. Where He is present there is life.
The church, not only in the West but in Russia also, should not forget its priorities and mission.
Natasha spends most of her time in the most remote areas of Siberia. Her goal is to plant churches in 35,000 Russian villages that currently have no gospel witness.
Dominic Yeo, Pastor
Trinity Christian Centre
Revivals are happening throughout Asia and the lost are getting saved. But there are four specific things that God is doing at my church in Singapore.
1. Engaging in the supernatural. We believe that coming to church is not an obligation or a Sunday outing. Coming to church is about having an active engagement with a living God. Thus church services are facilitated in a way that people encounter God's presence.
In that vibrant atmosphere even pre-believers are experiencing divine healing, deliverance, prophetic ministry and the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. They come face to face with the love, power and reality of God. Instead of being "seeker-sensitive," we preach boldly about God's power—and then we demonstrate it.
2. Becoming a spiritual parent. We believe that every believer can be a spiritual parent. Even children as young as 9 years old are being trained and commissioned as junior spiritual parents.
The spiritual parent becomes impregnated with a vision to see his lost family members and friends saved. Through a process of spiritual gestation, he intercedes for their salvation and eventually gives birth to spiritual babies.
But his parenthood responsibility does not end there. He nurtures them in the faith until the babies grow to become harvest warriors themselves. This results in a movement of spiritual parenting that perpetuates itself from one generation to another. Because of relationships, those who are saved are more easily assimilated into the local church.
3. Cultivating spiritual passion. We are intentional about imparting to our children and youth the value of having a passion for God. This includes loving God wholeheartedly and honoring God through worship, giving and serving.
Many of our church members are first-generation believers who have faced some measure of family persecution when they first received Christ. As a result of the persecution, many have cultivated a passion for God.
4. Commitment to God and the local church. We are unapologetic about calling people to live an uncompromising lifestyle and to make an impact for Christ in society. As they serve both physically and financially, they find their place in the corporate body.
Dominic provides church consultation to senior pastors from many nations. He is also a mentor and coach to the pastors and leaders at Trinity Christian Centre.
Henry Madava, Pastor
There is certainly a shift going on in the church today. I want to offer this advice to my American brethren:
1. We must trust the Holy Spirit's power. Though we need to use all facets of the media to advance the kingdom of God, our main source should remain the power of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, our media will simply highlight and loudly show our emptiness as far as the reality of God in us is concerned. Luke 4:14 tells us that Jesus "returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region" (NKJV). May that be said of us.
2. We must avoid hype. People don't trust some Christian preachers because there is so much hype surrounding them. By the time they came to preach in our churches, the expectation was so high—but what a disappointment they were! These preachers had lots of technology, but the video clips were "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
3. We must renounce celebrity Christianity. I think the desire to be a "star" rather than a man of God has engulfed too many leaders. Being popular will get you an audience, but the question remains: Do you have anything of substance worth listening to?
God loves to bless His people, especially His ministers. But Mathew 6:33 tells us that our first concern should be for His kingdom and His righteousness. If cars and money are signs of being saved, then Bill Gates doesn't need the gospel.
4. We must focus on spiritual passion. Fasting and prayer is vital. We must hunger for God and expect His supernatural hand to work with us. There is a danger we could become like the clouds without rain mentioned in Jude 12–"clouds without water carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots." We can ride on yesterday's wave, not realizing that we have lost our freshness and become disconnected from the power source. Henry is a native of Zimbabwe. Victory Church has grown to become the second-largest church in Ukraine, with 7,000 members.
Salim Munayer, Director
Musahala Ministry of Reconciliation
When you ask most people about the Holy Land they will most likely tell you about the current conflicts in the Middle East or their interpretation of Bible prophecies. They know the majority of the population is Jewish and Muslim. If you say the word "Palestinian," people usually think "Muslim." Few people know there is a vibrant growing church in Israel and the Palestinian areas.
Today the church in the Holy Land is 2 percent of the population. In addition to Messianic Jews and foreign Christians, the majority of Christians are Arab-Palestinians who have lived here for generations. The Palestinian church is experiencing a spiritual renewal and there is increased interest in the gospel among nonbelievers.
This renewal isn't without major challenges. Brother Andrew says the Palestinian church is the most misunderstood and neglected church by the international body of Christ. The church has declined from 20 percent of the population in 1948 to 2 percent of the population, mainly as a result of the ongoing conflict.
Although it is true that the situation for believers is difficult, with many facing discrimination or persecution for their faith, there are still many positive things happening.
Among the evangelical churches, new leadership has emerged with dedicated pastors and scholars trained at local seminaries and Bible colleges. They are responding to the needs of their congregations, planting new churches and developing theology specific to the conflict we live with. These issues include theology of the land, end-times theology, what it means to live as a Christian in a Jewish-Muslim context, and a Christian response to the rise of radical religious groups. Meanwhile, vibrant institutions and parachurch ministries are equipping believers for ministry and encouraging reconciliation between Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians and between the different faith communities.
We wish to extend to you an invitation to visit and learn of our unique spirituality that arises out of a legacy of the early church and a strength that comes from living in conflict. The Palestinian church also urgently needs your help. Some predict that in 20 years the Palestinian church will cease to exist in the Holy Land.
We need encouragement from the body of Christ to help us persevere in spite of the conflict, pastors and churches who will partner with us and help us reach out to our surrounding communities, and people who understand our situation and will press in and pray for us.
Salim also serves as the academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College. His ministry, Musahala, helps reconcile Arabs and Jews.