It is not unusual for a Kenyan diocese to have a diocesan officer responsible for mission, evangelism and church planting. One such Director of Mission speaks of his vision and his personal experience.
The outreach program of this diocese aims at strengthening Christians into a hopeful, living relationship with God through Jesus. We preach and heal in order to seek a loving, caring and just society that is able to grow in faith and live life in its fullness.
We cannot carry out this program as it is supposed to be, however, without the ministry of lay people. So our goal is to recruit evangelists, lay readers, and church elders, and then to equip them, so that they in turn can train others to reach God’s people with good news. In fact, the coming of the Wycliffe students to help with our training has been a blessing to us, and, to judge from the evangelists’ comments, they see this kind of training as a great need. They wish we could have this training continue, to prepare them better to spread the good news.
One thing I understand to be different from Canada is the role of confirmation in our church’s life. With us, part of the work of evangelists is to visit congregations in order to discover those who were baptized as infants but may not have been in church since, and who are now approaching the age of twelve. Then the evangelist will talk with their parents, and bring the young person back to the church before the priest. Then they will teach them catechism, a period of teaching in which they learn to understand themselves and to know who Jesus is. Once he or she understands what is being taught, they will be given a chance to stand before the congregation and testify to their faith. Then they will be recommended for confirmation.
Let me end with a story. When I was vicar of a parish, I had a team of evangelists. We were going round making pastoral visits to the congregation, house to house. We came to one house where the man had never heard the gospel. He had been baptized as an adult during what we call a mass baptism, but after that he went away. He thought that once you are baptized, that’s enough. When we were going round with the team, we took time to share with him and to teach him the faith. Then he surprised us. He said, “I have never heard of this. I thought that you just had to be baptized, and then you can inherit God’s kingdom.” He had been baptized, but the way he was living was quite opposite from the way of a Christian.
So we taught him and he was so happy to commit his life to Jesus Christ. From that time on, he was very committed in the church. He left the kind of life he was living and his attitude was changed. He and his wife had been quarrelling with each other all the time, but he changed. To me that was quite practical! Husband and wife started a new life together as Christians. He was confirmed, and his wife testified, “You have been a blessing to us, especially to our house.” To me, that was really evangelism.