Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The church in Uganda and Africa is in transition

Written by: on June 1, 2015

CTWhile reading Len Hjalmarson’s article “Broken Futures-Adaptive Challenge and the Church in Transition” I was led to reflect on my travel to Uganda where I’ll be interacting with leaders who are eager to contribute to early childhood education and how the church in Uganda can apply an imaginative and restorative leadership to keep the totality of the gospel of Jesus Christ central in education. Of course many issues come to mind from the sociocultural, political, theological and economic which I would like to explicate some more here, but time would not permit.

However, what is pertinent to the discussion as it relates to Len’s article is that the life of the church in Uganda and across Africa continues to be in transition. The shifts in Global Christianity in the 21 century are having profound implications globally. Noticeably so because over the last century the “mecca” and forces behind a burgeoning Christian presence have relocated from Europe to the developing world.  Jenkins writes, “… Center of gravity of Christianity in the world has shifted inexorably away from Europe, southward, to Africa and Latin America, and eastward, toward Asia.”[1] For many observers and students of Church history and the history of Christianity, a necessary follow up inquiry would be to the effect of, “when did Christianity’s Center of gravity become specific to geopolitical spheres, namely global North and global South? Is Jenkins’s analysis of the transitions in global Christianity also implicating God and Christians into the game of thrones and favoritism? Scripture clearly notes that “God does not show favoritism”[2], so that’s settled.  History on the other hand, points reveals a time when Europe established its identity with Christendom and the idea of a large church-state at its core, thus the Church of England.

It was during the expansion of the European empire that a country like Uganda was colonized and declared a British protectorate. Along with such political transitions for the West to the South also came the transition of church culture. A good example is that one of the largest denominations in Uganda is the Church of Uganda established during the colonial time based of the template of the Church of England. Albeit, since the 1960s when Uganda along with many African countries acquired their national independence from their imperial rulers, the church landscape has continuously evolved due to a number of factors.  I have been a part of the leadership of a number of church plants, massive Christian outreaches and continue to participate in other initiatives in Uganda. As I read Len’s article and reflected on the transitional state of the church in Uganda, I resonated with the quote:

Culture roils and churns in the collision of the old with the new. At the dawn of the third Christian millennium, continuity battles with discontinuity: the emergent dance with what is passing away. Leaders of spiritual enterprises, like many of the adherents of the faith, have oars in both currents. The Challenges involves getting as many through the rapids as possible, knowing some will never make it. [3]

So what exactly does the transition look like for the Church in Uganda? It looks like “continuity battles with discontinuity”. Generally, Church for the most part used to model Christendom’ ways, yet today’s globalization has also allowed Ugandan churches and Christians have access to TBN’s televangelists, both short and long terms missionary realities, western evangelical financial sources and theologies. With such factors and more, many pastors find themselves catch up in the business of the Church’s big ABCs. Attendance, Buildings, Cash. But perhaps the transitional nature of churches in Africa might stay unstable for a while, or might the leading evangelical churches in America help to alleviate the situation? It is true that more evangelical forces of transition keep vying for the market share of churches in Africa. Indeed the waves of transition flow like might waters towards churches in Africa. A recent example is Pastor Rick Warren’s ambition for an “All-Africa Purpose Driven Church Leadership Conference” as part of his global P.E.A.C.E. Plan. Will the church in Africa now swing West towards a “Purpose Driven Church and P.E.A.C.E Plan” from California. That remains to be seen.

Len adds, “We live in transitional times, and transition is a place of liminality, of instability and contradictions.”

[1]   Philip, Jenkins. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 1.

[2] Romans 2:11

[3] Reggie McNeal, A work of Heart (Jossey-Bass, 2000) quoted by Len

About the Author

Michael Badriaki

4 responses to “The church in Uganda and Africa is in transition”

  1. Julie Dodge says:

    You pose some great thoughts, Michael. As always. I might wonder if the church in Uganda might be able to form its own style of leadership in light of the continual change? What would it take for the local church to shape its own course, based on its own cultural and leadership paradigms? You know these answers far better than I. I think that part of the solution is being willing to step into our own fear and anxiety, and set a course toward God based on faith. Even if we aren’t sure exactly where that will take us.

  2. Deve Persad says:

    Michael, just like Julie has asked above, I also wonder about your own thoughts on the future of the church in Uganda? It seems from your descriptions above that there has been a dependence or at least an openness to western influence on their leadership models and practice. What are the obstacles which prevent Ugandan leaders from looking for solutions shaped by their own culture – understanding that it is impacted by western thought?

  3. John Woodward says:

    Michael, I too would love to chime in with Julie and Deve. As I began to read your post (as always, wonderfully insightful concerning the African and Ugandan situation), I kept wondering if the ideas within these articles (especially on charordic leadership, leadership as community, liminal space, etc.) might provide a helpful way forward in this time of transition for the African Church. I often wonder in my own church culture, if we are not just as much smitten (or ruled?) by evangelical “church growth” culture, which seems to detract from creative and contextual church development in my own neighborhood. Can some of these ideas of living with uncertainty and community leadership and creativity be a source of hope for the church in Africa? Or would these ideas be merely more Western imports into an already saturated culture? I am curious as well how you see the future of the church especially in Uganda.

    As always, thank you for broadening my thinking and understanding.

  4. Michael,

    It was sad to me to read that the Church in Uganda has been influenced by TBN TV evangelists. I could scream! If that is the model for ministry, then the church in Uganda is in big trouble. I was also troubled by the mention of Rick Warren. What does he know about Africa and about Uganda? How sad that Warren’s celebrity status has clouded his vision. There has to be a better way than these models! Please tell me that there are better options. Sorry to sound so negative.

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