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A surprise way of rescuing churches in Rwanda

Pastors in Rwanda have been able to save their churches from being shut down by showing the government their Preliminary Theological Certificates from Moore Theological College in Sydney, the CEO of African Enterprise, Stephen Mbogo, says.

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As African Enterprise (AE) prepares to roll out wide-scale PTC training across the African continent, Mbogo says a trial of the training has already reaped dividends in pastoring the huge number of new believers in Africa’s Bible-believing churches.

“We’ve saved quite a number of churches because one of the conditions [put on churches] by the government in Rwanda is to say ‘for you to pastor a church you must be theologically trained.'”

In March, the Rwandan government closed down about 700 churches for failing to comply with government regulations.

“Not only can it help the situation in Rwanda, the rolling out of PTC, but in the real sense [through] the training already carried out, I can say, we’ve saved quite a number of churches because one of the conditions [put on churches] by the government in Rwanda is to say ‘for you to pastor a church you must be theologically trained, you must show the evidence that you’ve gone through a credible institution,’ so all the people that had the Moore PTC/African Enterprise certificate, those churches, so to say, were saved,” he said during an interview with Eternity last month.

“Of course, there were other conditions also to meet, but that certificate meant so much that recently we had some of the certificates that were here [in Sydney] to be sent out and they were saying ‘send them over quickly so that we can redeem or help these churches from being closed.’”

“Part of our goal is to train those ministers so that as the new believers come into their churches, they will be able to give them sound doctrine, biblical teaching.”

Mbogo was speaking after finishing a three-week tour of Australia, visiting churches and supporters to tell them of the great gospel harvest being reaped through African Enterprise, which was set up in 1962 by Michael Cassidy, who was inspired by the example of American evangelist Billy Graham.

AE shared the gospel with 1,138,000 people across the continent of Africa last year, with 98,005 making commitments to follow Christ. The challenge now is ensuring African ministers are theologically trained so that they can help these new believers grow into mature Christians.

“They do have the passion, the energy and they are leading but they are not theologically trained,” Mbogo says.

“Part of our goal is to train those ministers so that as the new believers come into their churches, they will be able to give them sound doctrine, biblical teaching. That’s one of the major challenges and tasks that we face in view of many new believers.”

Thanks to a partnership with Moore College in Sydney and the George Whitfield College (GWC) in South Africa, AE has begun training African ministers in PTC either before a mission takes place or after the mission. Ministers and former students of Moore College are visiting parts of Africa to help carry out the training.

“It’s been like a prototype case study, to help us, so that now we are at a point where we do feel we need to roll this out in a big way all the way from South Africa, where we do have offices, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia, all the way to South Sudan and west Africa.”

As well as holding huge rallies in cities, AE is also stepping up its community evangelism as a response to the difficult situation in Rwanda.

“We are having a mission in Rwanda, in Kigali, in the month of June. Most of the pastors or a good number of pastors that we are working with, pastors that we had already trained for the mission, their churches were locked or shut down, so we’ve had to rethink how do we carry out this mission,” he says.

“So part of what we are doing, which was always part of our strategy but now we are seeking to beef it up even much more, is to focus more on government offices. We’ll be having ministries into government offices, departments, school, universities, hospitals, prisons, so that where we can no longer minister in the churches, we are now kind of taking the church into the marketplace in a much more aggressive way.

“We really ask for prayer so that as we carry out this mission in June that the church, which in many ways is feeling overwhelmed by this situation – the closure of churches in Rwanda – that the Lord encourages them to know that even when the church is pushed down, it still rises up again.”

Mbogo says the key to this “stratified evangelism” is to make the gospel relevant for each individual.

“From seeing political leaders coming to Christ to those who feel they are the least as they are coming to Christ – the big fish, the small fish – they all belong to Jesus…”

“So in some of the cities we’ve had as many as 300 meetings, as many as even 2000 meetings, ranging from what we call the big fish – because even the sharks need the gospel …  all the way to what we call night hunting, where we go into the streets at night, because how will the prostitutes hear the gospel unless someone goes where they are when they are there?

“But also it takes lots of prayer and we usually say you don’t go alone, so we go together, collectively, praying, and also really doing it in an unthreatening way. We’ll be sharing, not in an open stadium or church, but in a conversation way and we have seen prostitutes give their lives to Jesus. We’ve had to take them back to their homes at night, at 2am, and now we are rehabilitating some of them in Malawi, Nairobi and in Accra, Ghana; we’re seeing them as opposed to selling their bodies, they’re now able to feed their children.

“From seeing political leaders coming to Christ to those who feel they are the least as they are coming to Christ – the big fish, the small fish – they all belong to Jesus, the same gospel changing their life, so it’s been a joy seeing this, not just in Rwanda but all across Africa in our other missions.”

Mbogo gives an example of a “big fish” in South Sudan, of a cabinet minister who rededicated his life to Christ after a national prayer breakfast in parliament.

“We were speaking about Jesus, the servant leader – and saying ‘As leaders you are leading your country but who is leading you? You may be just leading through what we call the big man syndrome – you are served, you don’t expect to serve’ – which is very common in Africa and across the world.

“This politician came and said ‘You know, when I was small, as an Anglican, I knew Jesus, but I lost him in the bush when I went through the struggle for freedom,’ he said, ‘but as you spoke today, you guys, I heard the call of Jesus in my life and I feel I’m going to receive Jesus into my life.’ He was baptised publicly on television and other politicians came …

“When a politician comes to Christ he brings other political leaders … Wounded leaders wound nations and that’s happening all across Africa. And therefore, [we] need really not to neglect our leaders, to both pray and to find ways and means of deliberately, appropriately reaching out to them.”

Zimbabwe is another troubled nation where AE is aggressively targeting the political leadership.

“In fact, we do have Bibles already printed with the national colours of Zimbabwe that are being presented to the President, the Vice-President, the Speaker of parliament, and other top leaders as a way of opening, warming up their hearts for a major leadership invasion through God’s grace we are planning in Harare, and it’s something I would really ask our friends in Australia and around the world to pray for us.”

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