African Pentecostalism, a recipe for global church growth

July 11, 2012
by VMC Staff

On Saturday, May 19, 28 followers of Jesus from both Calvary and Eastern District congregations gathered in Williamsburg Mennonite Church to discuss what is a disciple and how do we make them? Two persons from international cultures and communities—Phil Detweiler who served with Mennonite Missions Network for 21 years in Africa and Skip Tobin who served in Asia for 20 years with Eastern Mennonite Missions and VMMissions helped us struggle with this question.

Phil began as the African Church does its business – singing before proceeding. We sang a new song to the tune of “Were You There?” substituting “Wonder” for “Tremble” in the refrain. The verses pointed to the Kingdom: Were you there when the wind began to blow? When the sinners cried for grace? When the church was born again? When the soldiers found God’s peace? When the saints stood strong and brave? When the hallelujahs rang?

Unlike Pentecostalism in North America, which is largely driven by nationalism (a departure from its early Christological beliefs and commitments), African Pentecostalism is driven by the Kingdom of God with Jesus Christ as its energy, power and motivation for congregational, personal and evangelical life.

What does the combination of African Pentecostalism and Anabaptism or the post-Christendom kingdom look like?

Some descriptive identities of this strange but powerful kingdom of God in the world are: a singing kingdom in a variety of styles, with or without instrumental accompaniment; a praying kingdom; a joyful kingdom in worship and in daily living, even in suffering; a non-violent and peaceable (shalom) kingdom; a scripture committed kingdom; a reconciling kingdom; a Spirit-empowered kingdom; a generous Kingdom; a Purposeful Planning kingdom; both a spiritual dynamic and social active kingdom; a kingdom that does not ask, “what would Jesus do?” but rather, “what did Jesus do?”

African Pentecostalism/Anabaptism is clear on this question. This is a kingdom-growing combination finding expression in Mennonite communities in North America and in some other-than-Mennonite faith communities as well, gaining strength in the continents of the world.

The world community is restless, we were told by both Phil and Skip. The Holy Spirit is saying to the church in the world, “Get on board.” Jesus is the solution for the restlessness in the church and for the restless world in which the kingdom of God is present. The question is no longer, were we there? But, rather, are we there and filled with wonder?