The year I turned 40 is the same year that Africa became the continent with the most Christians in the world. Wanting both momentous occasions to mean something beyond a year and a number, I had been musing over the idea of an ‘African Centre for Global Mission Mobilization’ for serious research and intellectual power to be brought to bear on this African phenomenon which is undoubtedly the work of God’s Spirit.
In fact, in the first quarter of 2018 I even initiated discussions with Steve Shadrach’s Centre for Mission Mobilization about the possibility of partnering to pull off an ‘African Centre for Global Mission Mobilization’ in Ghana. At that time, I was still President of International Student Ministries Canada and incidentally had my entire Senior Leadership Team visiting Ghana from Canada. In the presence of my ISMC team, friends and family from near and far, during my fortieth birthday dinner on 16th March 2018 at the Fiesta Royale Hotel in Accra, Ghana we actually formally launched the idea (or should I say effort?). I had no clue how it was going to pan out but I sensed it was not just a good idea; it was a God idea.
THE BRAZIL BENEDICTION
Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Ebenezer Aryee, a Ghanaian health worker domiciled in the United Kingdom and serving on the board of Pioneers Pioneers UK, had also been independently pondering over the prospect of an ‘Africa Centre for Mission Mobilization and Research’ since about 2017 and mooted the idea to Pioneers UK as well. Incidentally, Eben and I first met in person at the Global Mobilization Network’s conference in Dubai that same year but had no such discussions.
Come 2019, at the next biennial Global Mobilization Network’s conference in Sao Paolo (Brazil) in December 2019, both of us found out that we had a similar vision from the Lord and decided to explore what a possible convergence and synergy could result in for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God. Incidentally, that is the same conference at which upon hearing Dr. T.V. Thomas’s stirring exhortation about “radical collaboration” for the sake of the global Church finishing the task Jesus Christ left us, I agreed to co-author Africa to the Rest with Sam Ngugi, although I had started the book the year prior and was more than half-way, or so I thought.
SUPERSONIC SPEED SINCE SAO PALO
Since that time in Sao Paolo, many other African men and women from all over the continent, and in the diaspora, ranging from mission practitioners to academics, have been consulted and/or roped in. After an initial year of various research, discussions and SWOT analysis by this array of consultants, it became so overwhelmingly clear that not only was the African Centre for Mission Mobilization & Research (ACMMR) an idea whose time had come, but also that it was an urgent one for that matter. An interim board was set up by Send Africa Network, itself a new pan-African mission agency that Eben and a couple of others were in the process of founding and roped me in. The ACMMR interim board comprised Dr. Harvey Kwiyani (Malawi/UK), Prof. Philip Antwi-Agyei (Ghana), Dr. Lazarus Phiri (Zambia), Dr. Andrew Mkwaila (Malawi), Dr. Esther Mombo (Kenya), Dr. Joshua Bogunjoku (Nigeria/USA), Madam Angéle Kalouche Biao (Benin) and Rev. Ebenezer Aryee (Ghana/UK). I had the honour of chairing it.
The centre was outdoored, online, at Send Africa’s first summit, online, in 2021. This interim board, among others, determined that Ghana might be the most suitable place to physically site the ACMMR, with possible satellites across the continent. After physically scouting a number of possible places and holding various bilateral talks, the Akrofi-Christaller Centre for Theology Mission and Culture (ACI) was finally settled on as the most germane.
SEND AFRICA NETWORK SUMMIT 2022
At the November 2022 Send Africa Summit in Accra, Ghana, a hybrid summit, among the several dignitaries present was Dr. Rudolph Gaisie, director of the Centre for the Study of Early African Christianity (CESEAC) at ACI (the significance of him being there would soon become apparent). A fundraising event was held for the ACMMR and a permanent board commissioned comprising: Dr. Harvey Kwiyani (Malawi/UK), Rev. Dr. Solomon Aryeetey (Ghana), Mr. Alan Webster (South Africa), Dr. Lazarus Phiri (Zambia), Rev. Daniel Hyde Appiah (Ghana), Ps. Kassum Balboné (Burkina Faso), Mr. Sam Ngugi (Kenya), Rev. Ebenezer Aryee (Ghana/UK), Madam Angéle Kalouche Biao (Benin) and Dr. Yaw Perbi (Ghana/Canada). A delegation from the new board and some delegates from the Send Africa Summit paid a courtesy call on the Registrar of ACI, Mr. Ben Asiedu, at the Akropong premises. Dr. Rudolph Gaisie took the group on a tour of the facilities, while sharing some of the vital history of the institute.
Rev. Dr. Solomon Aryeetey, medical doctor and founder of Pioneers Africa, was elected as the substantive board chair, at the board’s inaugural meeting, online, in December 2022. Dr. Lazarus Phiri, immediate pst Vice Chancellor of the Evangelical University in Zambia was selected as his vice, while Mr. Alan Webster of Wycliffe South Africa serves as the secretary.
LESSON LOOMING LARGE
There is no end to what God can do with humans who are willing to listen to His instructions and collaborate with His people. Usually, you know a vision is of God when it is far bigger than you and you know you firstly, you’ve got to depend on him and secondly, that you need others to rally around it. Once when I was struggling with taking up the offer to be ISMC president because I preferred to focus on building ‘my own baby’ The HuD Group as the founder and Global CEO, the Holy Spirit brought to mind the instructive words of a mentor of mine, who for years had been Dr. John C. Maxwell’s Senior Vice President at his leadership organization called EQUIIP in Atlanta. He had said to me: “For a long time, the Kingdom of God has not advanced the way it should because of egos and logos.” Ouch.
Imagine that the powerful Africa to the Rest making its rounds around the world would not have happened the same way without my co-author’s unique perspective, experience and network from East Africa. Today, we have a group of scholars from five or six countries collaborating to turn the book into a resource course for tertiary students. At the start of August 2023, Operation Mobilization’s ship ministry, Logos Hope, reached out to stock the ship with 500 copies of Africa to the Rest to be distributed across the continent, from Mombasa to Seychelles, and beyond. What if my ego and logo had gotten in the way.
As I type this, plans are far advanced to organize the formal signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ACMMR and the Centre for the Study of Early African Christianity (CESEAC) at ACI, with an inaugural lecture on the serene premises. Neither Eben or myself even have our faces on ACMMR posters or our names as chair, or even vice chair or executive director. I dare say most of the people pushing the vision today don’t even know this back story I’ve just shared here!
And that is the beauty of making the only ‘ego’ that matters be the glory of God and the only ‘logo’ that is of prime concern, the cross of Jesus Christ! The aim of the centre is knowledge-based total mobilization of the most numerically Christian continent this century for the mission of God..
Indeed, if it is true that one would chase a thousand and two will put ten thousand to flight, then imagine what is exponentially possible with convergence and synergy. See what unity of purpose devoid of egos and logos could result in for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God. So you see, there is no limit on God-sized visions; but for our egos and logos.
We first met on a table near the Table Mountain; I hope we meet again, in eternity, at a wedding table on a holy mountain.
In an emerging leader-affirming move, typical of The Lausanne Movement, my 32-year old self was appointed a table head at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa. Imagine that. This was a gathering of the crème de la crème of Christian leaders from around the world, even described by some as “the most representative gathering of Christian leaders in the 2,000 year history of the Christian movement” (Christianity Today).
Each table had about half a dozen members. One of mine was Tim Keller. At the time, I had no clue who he was and quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered. Everyone was somebody. He wasn’t always at the table and even when he was there, he wasn’t quite there.
The Congress was over and everyone received their beautiful certificates of participation. Tim wasn’t there. Again. Apparently he had left back to the United States earlier. So I decided to travel back to Canada with his certificate, do an internet search of his whereabouts and mail his certificate to him in the States.
THAT is when I found out to my shock what a tall figure of a man this was! I eventually did get to speak with a staff and mail his memento to the right address (I would hope) in New York City. Rev. Dr. Tim Keller, founder and lifelong pastor of the 5,000-member Redeemer Presbyterian Church, was über brilliant and very deep—in head and heart. So deep that he had decided not to write any book till he was in his fifties. “Writing a book in your 50s will go twice as fast and be twice as good as if you try the same book in your 30s. It’s just good stewardship to wait,” he told The Gospel Coalition, which he was co-founder and Vice President of.
The other dimension I admired most about Keller was how ambidextrous he was in elucidating the gospel and engaging the culture, simultaneously! Stupendous! That, to me, was epitomized in his invitation to speak on his obviously Christian worldview book, ‘The Meaning of Marriage,’ at Google in Silicon Valley. Check out his presentation and responses to their questions and comments. Dr. Keller mentored many, near and far, in-person, in spirit and via media. Those around the world who were directly mentored through his Redeemer City to City should count themselves fortunate, blessed. I just spotted on Facebook a touching tribute from a pastor friend of mine from Brazil who recently planted a church in Rome, inspired and equipped by Rev. Keller.
As a latter day follower of Tim on Twitter, I admired the way he vulnerably yet resolvedly faced his imminent death, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer since 2020, a sequel to his 2002 thyroid cancer battle. All the while incarnationally demonstrating ‘The Meaning of Marriage’ through the dynamics with his wife of nearly 50 years, Kathy Kristy. Tim transitioned into glory on Friday the nineteenth (of May), 2023.
Dr. Tim Keller’s influence on the church and the world for Christ is deep and wide. I hope we share a table, again, at the grand, imminent marriage feast of the Lamb in eternity. Till then, Rest in Peace, champ! #Maranatha!
17When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. … 20After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13)
THE PRESENCE FROM EGYPT
God will not necessarily lead you through the shortest routes in 2022 but the best routes, according to His good, pleasing and perfect will. God was Israel’s captain as they exited Egypt to possess the Promised Land. A captain is a commanding officer of a ship, someone in command or a leader of a group (like a football team). This captainship is clearly captured in phrases like “God did not lead them…” (v. 17); “So God led the people…” (v. 18); “By day the LORD went ahead of them… to guide them” (v. 21); “…in front of the people” (v. 22).
And they were many, an estimated 2 million of them! It is no wonder they are described as a host (like stars or a vast army). A host is “a multitude or great number of persons or things.” God was the General, Guard & GPS of this ginormous group, host!
THE PRESENCE IN ENGLAND
It is this amazing story in Exodus 13 that captured the imagination of Charles Wesley (1707-1777), the brother of the founder of Methodism (John Wesley) to pen those words in 1762 (the original words are in bold, my brief commentary is in italics):
Captain of Israel’s host, and Guide
Of all who seek the land above,
The same God who was Captain of the Israelites exiting Egypt to the Promised Land called Canaan is the Guide of those of us who eventually want to exit Earth to the Promised Land above we call Heaven;
He can be the General of those of us exiting 2021 and wanting to enter the Promised Land called 2022. For he is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
The cloud of Thy protecting love;
The shadow, cloud, pillar of fire—these are all metaphors of THE PRESENCE.
Will you abide (John 15) in THE PRESENCE for intimacy (love), protection, provision, piloting (guidance), production (fruitfulness)…
Our strength, Thy grace, our rule, Thy Word;
Jesus Himself says, “my grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in your weakness in 2022” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
What laws or constitution or playbook will you live by in 2022? How about the Basic Information Before Leaving Earth (Bible), which itself is already saturated with THE PRESENCE?
Our end, the glory of the Lord.
Is God’s glory the purpose and end goal of your life or your own idea of what is cool and successful? God’s own glory is God’s mission!
It is no greatness if it brings God no glory!
A WORD ABOUT GOD’S GLORY IN UNEXPECTED PLACES & WAYS
God’s glory can show up in ways and places that are strange to the human mind. Think about it: one day in John 9, “As [Jesus] went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God [or the glory of God] might be displayed in him.” But blindness?!
How about when Jesus says to Peter (John 21), “Very truly I tell you [Jesus says to Peter], when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” A death that glorifies God? Come on! JUST FOLLOW THE PRESENCE.
THE PRESENCE is powerful; even in the valley of the shadow of death, according to twenty-third Psalm, I fear no evil for you are with me (THE PRESENCE). In Genesis 39, “…while Joseph was there in the prison, 21the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” THE PRESENCE in prison; glory through prison. Unstoppable God; unboundable PRESENCE!
BACK TO EXODUS
We’re told in the ninth chapter of the book of Numbers that:
17Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. 18At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. 21Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. 22Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23At the Lord’s command [captain of the host!] they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.
The second verse of Wesley’s hymn continues…
By Thine unerring Spirit led,
We shall not in the desert stray
THE PRESENCE makes no mistakes—He is the omniscient (all-knowing) One to steer us aright from missing our way yet if we sin and stubbornly deviate He also is the gracious omniponent (all-powerful) One to, like a GPD does, re-route us, even if it takes 40 years in the wilderness! Re-calculating… Re-calculating…
We shan’t be lost in 2022, amen!
Just move when God moves; stop when He does; stay when he stays.
We shall not full direction need
It was reprinted in A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists (1780), where John Wesley altered this line 3 of verse 2 from, ‘The light of man’s direction need’ to ‘We shall not full direction need’.
Nor miss our providential way;
Just as He gives us our daily bread, let us look to Him for daily direction. There is no grace for tomorrow; only today. We don’t need the full direction! Sometimes we don’t even need direction in our heads or hearts; he just orders our steps, like Simeon!
As far from danger as from fear,
While Love, almighty Love, is near.
God is Love, and the Bible says “perfect love drives out fear.” Fear and God cannot co-exist. In 2022, God will keep us far from danger just as He will keep us far from fear, as long as THE PRESENCE is near!
Hallelujah! Finally, in Part 3, we’ll end with Moses’ craving of THE PRESENCE and why we should too–abiding angels and promised properties, even flowing milk and honey, just won’t do. I share five practical tips on maximizing THE PRESENCE.
From One Legendary Leader in the Evening to Another One in the Morning–a Tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I was emailed this incredible tribute by a mentor of mine in the Lausanne Movement, Dr. Michael Cassidy, to his late friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that I just had to share as a student of leadership. What impresses you most? May many Cassidies and Tutus be raised in our generation!
Tribute to Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Founder, African Enterprise
Honorary Chair, The Lausanne Movement
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of South Africa’s greatest ever luminaries, both ecclesiastical & national, has gone to be with His Lord. People from every race, sector & background will mourn his passing, because he was a man for all who stood without fear or favour for the human rights of all.
Perhaps it is as an almost unequalled African champion for human rights that he will be most fondly & universally remembered. And it was for this that he justly became a Nobel Laureate.
In South Africa his immensely courageous fight against Apartheid earned him the fearsome opprobrium of the National Party Government, the settled hostility of most whites, but the thankful adoration of all people of colour, as well as more liberal whites. In fact, from the church, his voice during those dread years, was by far the most audible, & his persona by far the most visible. This audibility & visibility constituted a true achievement of note & contributed powerfully to the final fall of Apartheid.
As far as we were concerned in African Enterprise, Desmond was a friend to our work & contributed powerfully to conferences we organized or helped organize such as SACLA (South African Christian Leadership Assembly), the NIR (National Initiative for Reconciliation), & The Rustenburg Conference which represented the whole church spectrum & spoke to the whole range of political leadership from far left to far right.
At a personal level I also counted Desmond a good friend. He commended numbers of my books, including my recent Memoirs, & wrote the Foreword to my book The Politics of Love. We also shared in significant ministry together in African Enterprise’s city-wide mission to Kigali, Rwanda, a year after the genocide. That was very moving. I especially remember ministering with him in terrifying cells of pitifully jammed together prisoners. And then being with him as he collapsed in tears in one church filled with skeletal remains of murdered victims. There I saw his profound compassion poured out. Even as we tried to hold him up. Such shared moments one can never forget, culminating in our sharing the evangelistic preaching to a packed stadium in our final service.
And all this Desmond could do in spite of the fact that we had strong theological differences on certain issues such as Universalism & Gay Marriage. But he never allowed those to damage our friendship. And neither did I.
Thankfully in our recently produced documentary, The Threatened Miracle of South Africa’s Democracy, Desmond features strongly, both during the Apartheid years, but even afterwards when he severely scolded the ANC of Zuma’s time saying, “I’m warning you; I’m WARNING you; you are a disgrace!” No one else had that truly prophetic courage, credibility & ability to speak to all sides, all the time, AND be heard!
Yes, we will miss him… “the Arch”, as he was affectionately known, even by the media. But his legacy of prophetic witness will live on wherever South Africa’s story is told, & wherever racial justice & the Human Rights struggle are in purview.
To his dear, always supportive wife Leah, to his family, to his ministry colleagues, especially in the Anglican Church, we in African Enterprise world-wide extend our deepest sympathies, & assurances of heart-felt prayers at this time.
Dear Desmond — Beloved Arch — thank you for blessing us with your life. Au revoir. We will see you in the Morning.
Founder of African Enterprise
I’m very excited to begin my doctorate in global leadership this week. Having been a student of leadership for the last 25 years plus and acquired a Master’s degree in it a few years ago, I’ve felt it’s time to do the whole nine yards, not so much for the title (after all I’m already a doctor) but to go deeper and be even better-seasoned in my darling subject (or is it object?).
In going this doctorate route, I opted for a seminary environment because faith matters immensely to me, and indeed to the majority people in the world. The increased secularization of a formerly mainly ‘Christian’ Europe and certain sections of American society seems like an overwhelming flood to many only because it is a sharp deviation from the not-so-distant past when there was hardly any division between church and state; but also because the West disproportionately fills the media space. Only last week the German national broadcaster shared that a recent poll showed “most Germans find religion unimportant.” Yet the fact remains that the majority of the world has and practices a faith of sorts. In 2025, 90% of the world will be religious, my friends who run Operation World say; and by 2050, at least 87% of the world will still be religious, according to Pew Research.
The mid-twentieth-century secularization theory—that an increase in modernity means a decrease in religion— has been largely debunked by the likes of Berger (2014). According to Todd Johnson, who I just exchanged emails with, an astute associate professor of Global Christianity and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, “Despite increased modernity the world has in fact become more religious; 80.8% of the global population self-identified with a religion in 1970, rising to 88.1% in 2010 and with a projected increase to 91.5% by 2050,” higher than Pew’s projected 87% cited in the previous paragraph! Even the ‘unaffiliated’ doesn’t mean they aren’t religious; it often means they choose not to be identified with any ‘institutionalized’ religion. Just as humans have a physical, social and mental components that cannot be denied, so is there a spiritual capacity that we cannot run away from. French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal put it succinctly, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator,” and in his experience and exposure, “by God the creator made know through Jesus Christ.”
By the way, I use the world ‘religion’ generally (and maybe even generously) because as an insider of the Christian faith I wouldn’t call Christianity a religion per se. Religion connotes man in search of God while in the Christian faith it is actually God in search of man. Not only that, religion tends to paint a picture of rigorous rules and rituals while true Christianity is more of a relationship with the Divine than a set of rituals or rules per se. That being said, for the purpose of this article faith, spirituality, divine relationship and religion are all being treated as ‘religion.’
FAITH AND WORK, FAITH @ WORK
Without God, and my faith in Him, I do not have a reason for being, a raison d’être. Neither do I have sustainable passion for my doings because all of it feels like, in the words of the wisest and wealthiest monarch ever, “vanity of vanity, it’s all vanity.” I have observed with grave concern the increasing divorce of faith from the work space, treating it like the plague or some highly contagious disease. Even on work-centric social media like LinkedIn, one cannot help but get the feeling that the mention of God in posts ‘spoils the atmosphere,’ which is riddled with human achievements, of brain and brawn (mainly the former), simply singing of how great we are.
But statistically, 90% and over of the people on LinkedIn are religious. There are myriads like me who know we wouldn’t be as excellent professionally but for our faith. Meanwhile, all who have an active religious affiliation yet act at work as if they have no faith are walking on the dangerous ground of inauthenticity. It is not integrous to want to, or have to, hide such an important part of one’s life as spirituality or faith in a space that easily takes up a third to half of our waking hours: work!
This week, a Muslim mate of mine from medical school, now a neurosurgeon, posted on our year group’s WhatsApp platform a screenshot of a heartfelt social media post someone had made about Dr. Aba Folson, one of our Christian colleagues who is now a cardiologist. This person who made the post, a nurse, starts by saying, “I have been blessed in my journey in the Nursing/Healthcare space to be working with amazing, highly religious health workers. One of such awesome ladies is Dr Aba Folson. She is a Cardiologist.”
She goes on to describe “her humility, assertiveness, excellence and brilliance” and how Aba has “broken protocols to help save my very critically ill patients.” The protocols she speaks of, I believe, were put in place to save patients in the first place, but there are situations where one has to do the unusual and even unconventional at great risk, which separates humans from machines and even artificial intelligence. The wisdom and courage to make such calls, Dr. Folson will say, I know for sure, comes from above. The writer of the text seems to be enamoured by the fact that Aba is “an astute Christian and sings in the choir.”
ALL WE NEED IS RESPECT
I still remember zooming down the corridor between the ER and the blood bank to fetch blood for a critically ill child. This was during my days as a medical officer at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra. We usually had junior staff who would do that but no, this young doctor run in his white coat. The child’s mother gathered the energy to attempt to run alongside me. Barely catching up and hardly catching her breath she managed to say these words, which I shall never forget, “Doctor, doctor I can tell you are a Christian.” She must’ve known that for a Christ-follower the Pauline admonition about work is clear and strong: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
What is needed, indeed all that is needed, is for respectful co-existence in a pluralistic workplace, which is a microcosm of a really pluralistic world. The fight for diversity and inclusion in the workplace must not, and indeed cannot, be limited to ethnicity, age, gender, (dis)ability and such alone but faith as well. The majority of us wouldn’t be present at work with purpose and perform with passion and excellence without it, and none of us will be authentic in the workplace pretending we didn’t have it.
Faith works. Let your religion work at work—faith, love and hope at work. Your faith should make you a better professional; not worse. If your faith doesn’t make you better at work—which is all about service to humankind made in the image and likeness of God—it’s not worth following. Change it. Let’s see faith at work working, doing good works that bring God glory and bring about the good society—that’s the way it ought to be.
Right after I posted this blog, I came across a photo and headline on LinkedIn that said, “South African doctor: Professor “Mashudu Tshifularo” just became the first surgeon on earth to successfully perform surgery [with 3D technology] to cure deafness. He is also a pastor.” Ahem. Point nailed!
Recently I received an email (partly screenshot above) announcing my nomination to receive an honorary doctorate degree. It is is possible that I would have felt more flattered and been more tempted to go after this fake degree from these fictitious institutions had I not already been a “Dr.” (medical). Coming from a family in which my grandfather was an emeritus professor and where my mother and father-in-law are PhDs in history and economics respectively, these titles don’t exactly faze us. Yet those who offer them know they are toying with very powerful human emotions, motivations and identity issues at the core of our being and have made a good business of it. As my best friend said when I forwarded the said email to him, “this has nothing to do with you; it has everything to do with business.”
Some however, including many Christian leaders, have taken the bait and gotten decorated with very dubious degrees and titles. Recently, there was a huge brouhaha over a popular Ghanaian musician based in London who was alleged to have amassed three degrees, including a PhD, within four months! Perhaps if he had even shut up, none of this would’ve become an issue of investigation and castigation setting social media abuzz but he was flaunting it and ‘praising God’ for the fake feat. The desire to flaunt it itself reveals the very identity and emotional challenges he might have that perhaps led to him to go for those inauthentic accolades in the first place.
The above picture of Sonnie, whose giftedness is unquestionable but his academic credentials are, was uploaded by himself on social media touting his feat. I have met Sonnie. He is a fine young man and anointed. But I can also tell you he is far from perfect; just like you and me. Speaking of Sonnie and musicology, incidentally, my grandfather was a celebrated ethnomusicologist. His work earned him many accolades including several honorary doctorates but he never used the title “Dr.” because although he had done enough original research work to deserve ten doctorates he never really formally pursued a PhD per se. Interestingly, he shot straight from ‘mister’ to ‘professor’ and was ’emeritus professor’ for the last three decades or so of his life.
This degree brouhaha touches on at least three issues: identity, purpose and authenticity.
There was once a programme organized by a friend of mine. The MC got on stage and introduced a certain pastor to come up and offer a prayer. He inadvertently introduced him, with no malice, as Mr. XYZ. XYZ comes up, grabs the mic and makes a correction, “I’m not Mister, I’m Pastor.” That wasn’t all; it gets worse. Later he clears his throat and amends his correction saying something like, “In fact, I’m not Pastor, I am Reverend.” Ahem. Wow! What a shock, what a shame.
But lest I come across as holier than thou, remember I told you that the people offering fake degrees know exactly what they are massaging in us: the ego. I can tell you that as a medical doctor myself there are many times when people address me in speech or in writing as ‘Mr.’ and I have a natural gut reaction to get offended, said in my head something like “do you know who you’re talking to?” and yearned to correct them. There’s a part of me that even justifies it thus: “mehn, but you earned it.” That, my friend, is not the authentic self.
We need not, and indeed should not, root our identity in external things like what we wear, how much we earn, what degrees or title(s) we have acquired. Anything that man can give you, man can take away. Let’s not root our identity in any such thing. And you would think that supposed men and women of God would know better and root their identity in nothing less than Christ himself.
You may have ‘more degrees than a thermometer’ and still not accomplish your God-given purpose. There are some without degrees at all and yet have made much more impact in the world than those with many letters behind their names. Your purpose in life determines the vehicles and tools you need to use. It’s strange to make the acquisition of vehicles and tools our primary objective when one hasn’t first sat down to evaluate if that is what they need to get done the job they came on earth to accomplish. It’s about dreams, not diplomas and degrees.
Did you read about the recent brouhaha over the apparent insistence of Jill Biden, wife of the current U.S. president, to be called “Dr” ? It’s really been going on for at least a decade now: “Hi, I’m Jill. Jill Biden. But please, call me Dr. Biden.” The December 2020 op-ed by Joseph Epstein in the Wall Street Journal implored Jill Biden to “think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic.” Personally, I think the essence of what Epstein was trying to say became lost in what became an embroilment in sexism. The real question should be: does being ‘Dr.’ make Jill a better educator (that she’s been for decades) or not? Everything else is secondary; even tertiary.
This degree saga leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to authentic leadership. It speaks to the core of authenticity. Authentic leaders have:
- nothing to prove–a matter of humility (not try to project self worth)
- nothing to hide–a question of integrity (no playing of games but totally transparent)
- nothing to lose–a matter of simplicity (not strive for social image or popularity).
As you might have noticed, humility, integrity and simplicity as an acronym spell HIS. This is particularly instructive to Christian leaders. Those of us at the Third Lausanne Congress on world Evangelization in Cape Town in 2010 were passionately exhorted by theologian Chris Wright to be God’s saints, Christ’s people, HIS people of humility, integrity and simplicity.
NOT SO WITH YOU
Again, especially for Christian leaders, the primary power base of an authentic (wo)man of God is spiritual power—not positional or personal power. Others may go that route but Jesus was very clear to his followers who would be leaders: “not so with you.” In May 2020, I wrote quite extensively on that here. We need to lead different. This issue just won’t go away until Christians really chose to be H.I.S. people.
In light of the recent brouhaha about fake degrees, Friends, BE WARNED. Don’t allow your ego to be stroked and stoked, making your false self acquiesce to receiving fake degrees from fictitious institutions. If you want a degree, go to school and study for one! In any case, one doesn’t necessarily need a degree to succeed in life! Hopefully your going for a diploma or degree would only be because you have observed It will a good vehicle or tool towards your dream. Again, the thing is: You can have ‘more degrees than a thermometer’ and still not fulfill your God-given purpose in life.
I have a mentor who likes to say, “the thing about titles is that if you’re good you don’t need them; if you’re not they won’t help you.” Heaven help us!
There is no talk of Black History without faith, especially the Christian faith. PBS recently released a fascinating Henry Louis Gates Jr. documentary on the Black Church. What some dubious people tried to oppress and suppress black people with became the very thing that liberated us and is now giving us a global leading edge.
Africa is the most Christian continent in the world today. The year 2018 was the first in history where there were more Christians in Africa than on any other continent in the entire world! (Johnson 2018) THIS IS A BIG DEAL!—this is a one-thousand year record held by Europe that has been broken by Africa in our lifetime. That makes me super excited about Black History Month this year because history is being made right now. As you read this, a number of continental Africans and those of African descent in the diaspora have synergized to birth a new network known as Send Africa to promote further faith formation among ‘unreached people groups’ around the world.
At the formal launch of this Send Africa Network online on February 24-25 during this 2021 Black History Month, my Kenyan friend, Sam Ngugi, and I will be launching a ground-breaking book entitled Africa to the Rest to celebrate this huge feat of Africa becoming a leading global force of faith to the rest of the world. This book is to “celebrate this momentous occasion in world history that has been inadequately highlighted by mainstream missions and missions. It traces some of God’s goodness to Africa in the Bible and throughout history until now to make clear that Africa and Africans have been central to God’s missional purposes; not an afterthought.” You may register for the Send Africa Summit here.
CAPTURED & DISTORTED HISTORY
Of course Africa features in the Bible from start to finish. There were actually two black guys (among the five) that played hands on the apostle Paul and commissioned him on his missionary journeys (Acts 13). Africa is the cradle of monasteries and ecumenicsm. The term Trinity came from Tertullian the Tunisian. St. Augustine was from Algeria, and not a European as we were made to believe growing up in Africa.
As Sam and I state in our book, “People consider Christianity as the white man’s religion to oppress the African due to the last 500 years of Euro-American missionary activity mixed with colonialism without realizing that the first 500 years A.D., Africa was so synonymous with Christianity that one of the most common terms for Christians in Arabic sources is afariqa–indicating a significant degree to which “Christian” and “African” were synonymous concepts (Merrills 2004, 303).”
In fact, the subtitle of our book is “from mission field to mission force (again)“ because Africa(ns) as a mission force first impacted Europe with the Gospel! That notion that Africa first evangelized Europe is the essence of Thomas Oden’s book titled How Africa Shaped the European Mind. “My core hypothesis,” Oden himself says, “is that much intellectual history flowed south to north: from Mumidia to Sicily to France and Italy. It flowed from the Nile to the Euphrates and the Danube. It flowed from Pelusium to Gaza to Cappadocia. …There is ample evidence available that the seeds of African orthodoxy have been lifted by high winds to distant northern climes. Only much later have they returned to Africa in a Western guise.”
Only a century ago, at a world missionary conference in Edinburgh, not only was there no continental African there as a delegate, we were described as “heathen” in need of being saved. Today there are more Anglicans in Kenya than in England. At the time, the continent had 9 million Christians while Europe was home to 406 million. Today, Africa has over 630 million Christians, a clear 30 million more than Latin America in second place with Europe in third place with 571 million Christians. And it’s not a nine-day wonder, for by 2050 (Deo volente), there will likely be more Christians in Africa (1.25 billion) than in the next two continents combined! (Johnson 2018)
It is good to know that Africa leads the world in something. There are churches that began in Africa and are in 198 countries now. The largest congregations in Europe are pastored by Africans, like Sunday Adelaja’s in Kieve, Ukraine. The most multinational congregation in the world—108 nationalities—was founded by and pastored by my good friend and mentor in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Sam Owusu. I could give you a list of about 10 global mission organizations–including the Navigators, SIM, Langham Partners and SIL–currently led by Africans!
Why is all this important? For many reasons but three will suffice for now. First, black people have been part and parcel, even central, to the purpose and mission of God unlike others have tried to make us think. We are equally made in the image and likeness of God as anyone else. We ought to rejoice and while not bragging about ourselves, ‘make our boast in the LORD.’
Secondly, the Christian faith is authentically African. As one scholar put it, Christianity is a beggar looking for clothes in whatever culture it goes into. The fact that it was captured by Europeans and Americans and tailored as a tool of oppression of blacks in slavery, colonialism etc. is simply not right (not the authentic Christian faith) and doesn’t make the faith the preserve of the white man either.
Finally, the business world and other sectors in Africa that are trying to make a mark on the world stage could learn a thing or two from the African Church that leads the world in faith today, hands down.
THE FUTURE HAS COME
I come from a long and rich family history of black (hi)story tellers. My grandfather was an emeritus professor of ethnomusicology and my mother is a professor of history with a specialization in the slave trade. I feel privileged to take my turn to tell stories of African leadership, and in this particular case, leadership in faith, church and missiology.
The assassinated Congolese nationalist leader, luminary and first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, must be smiling in his grave that the day he prophesied is here: “The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations… Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity.” The day has come!
For those of no faith and saying to themselves “who cares if Africa is the most Christian continent?” because we’re yet to see it tell on our socioeconomic indicators or the millennium development goals, just you wait. Works soon follow faith. Unless it’s not true faith; because faith without works is dead.
Johnson, Todd M., Gina A. Zurlo, Albert W. Hickman, and Peter F. Crossing. “Christianity 2018: More African Christians and Counting Martyrs.” International Bulletin of Mission Research 42, no. 1 (January 2018): 20. doi:10.1177/2396939317739833.
Merrills, A. (Ed.). (2004). Vandals, Romans and Berbers: New Perspectives on Late Antique North Africa (1st ed.). Routledge, 303. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315235127
Oden, Thomas. 2007. How Africa Shaped the European Mind, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p.71.
Perbi, Yaw & Sam Ngugi. 2021. Africa to the Rest: from mission field to mission force (again). Forthcoming. Xulon Press.
As you already might know I am the Global CEO of The HuD Group, a faith-based leader development organization that originated from Ghana but now has presence in over 20 countries of the world, on all six continents.
For the last four years, every November we have hosted a HuD CEOs Confab. In 2016 we had two separate CEO gatherings in Accra, Ghana and Montreal, Canada. This was followed by the 2017 Confab in Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt. In 2018 we were in Dubai. Last year, 2019, we met in Abidjan and Bouake, in the Francophone West African nation of La Cote d’Ivoire. In 2020 we had planned a special Confab with our spouses and were supposed to be in Israel but here we are, thanks to COVID-19!
Today was Day 1 of our annual Confab. We met on Zoom. The blessing of that though is that nearly EVERYONE was able to show up (with most spouses present) because there was no hustle getting time off regular work, no financial or ticketing challenges and above all no visa headaches!
Thanks to modern technology, amidst a global pandemic we joined the call from eastern and western Canada, USA, Nepal, Switzerland, Uganda, Ghana, Mexico, Germany, The Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Guatemala, Somalia and Australia. A few of us should join from Nigeria, Liberia, Pakistan and Colombia in the coming days, DV.
Our theme is “LEADING OUT OF THE STRENGTH OF OUR MARRIAGES: The Place of Fulfilling Emotional Needs” and we have an AMAZING Canadian couple to lead us into that.
THE KRAEMER ICING ON THE CAKE
Gerry and Kathy both grew up in Western Canada where they committed their lives to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord during their adolescent years. Immediately after marrying in 1981, God called them in a clear and dramatic fashion to serve Him in the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. Ever since, they have been in full-time Christian ministry together, including five years with Campus Crusade for Christ (evangelism and discipleship), 22 years of pastoral ministry and six years as the chaplain of the Montreal Alouettes professional football team.
In 2007, “the gates of hell” unleashed a serious of attacks on the Kraemer’s marriage and they plummeted to the brink of divorce. In the summer of 2008, during a week of intensive counselling with Larry & Lorrie Russell at the SHM Retreat Center in Ontario, Canada, God completely healed, restored and transformed their marriage. Upon returning home, they immediately began to share the amazing story of the miracle of the “resurrection of their marriage” to individuals and groups in their entourage…and God used their story to touch, encourage and heal marriages around them.
The opportunities continued to increase so dramatically that they resigned from their pastoral position in the fall of 2010 in order to dedicate themselves to a full-time ministry of speaking (prevention) and counselling (crisis intervention) to help couples. Today, they speak and teach together at conferences, Bible Camps, retreats, banquets and Bible Schools in both English and French, sharing with thousands of people the tools that can help them experience a healthy and flourishing marriage. Their honesty, practicality and humor make them easy to listen to and the wisdom of their teaching is hard to forget.
Gerry and Kathy reside in Terrebonne, Quebec and they are the parents of three young adults: Timothy, Jessica and Rebecca. In their spare time they enjoy golf, tennis, traveling and spoiling their grandchildren both in Canada and the USA!
Wow! What a big blessing amidst the Covid curse. Oh! And today happens to be U.S. Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving!
By Kwamena Bello