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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Contextual Ministry

Written by: on June 10, 2019

I am amazed by this fascinating book where Ian S. Markham and Joshua Daniel summarizing the writings of Martyn Percy. The writing of Martyn Percy is seriously engaging and how they weave through my African Quaker theology. It reminds me that when the early Quaker missionaries arrived in Kenya to establish the first Quaker church in Kenya, they came expecting to establish a Quaker church with Quaker traditions as was known in the USA. But they found that the context under which the Kenya people were could not absorb the traditional Quaker worship as was known to be silent worshipping or sit in waiting for the spirit to minister. They realized that Africans would connect and find their Spiritual satisfaction through the noise (singing and drum biting). Since the missionaries had come to Kenya to establish a Christian church through the Quakers, they went on to establish the churches under a contextualized ministry.

The Quaker church that was established in Kenya is of its unique character that different from the original Quakerism. This happened so that the church would be accepted in the African context. Interestingly, Percy did his research in the impact, theology, and practices emerging from John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard churches. John Wimber was a Quaker, but when he exercised the full power of the Holy Spirit in ministry, he was told to get out of the Quaker church, which led him to establish the Vineyard Churches. Percy focuses on the use of music in the church worship and essential it is. “… To ignore the theological impact of music is surely a mistake. The melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic dimensions of music are all value-laden. Music imprints its hard logical meaning no matter how hard this is to articulate.”[1]

The Quaker church in Kenya was established on a contextual theologian of the three early missionaries. It was very dramatic that their dynamic approach to evangelism was more socially progressively positioned where women were encouraged to pastoral ministry against the cultural practices. Just as the book describes the describes context as problem and predicament, the early missionaries found themselves in a severe problem in the manner the church was introduced in Kenya. The idea of context, along with the comparative method, is also central to ontology, and have been at the background of discipline’s sense of epistemological and ethical grounding, alongside its exploration of the ontologies of different worlds.[2] The church was established on purely Africa context, and despite the challenges, the missionaries had with the sending body in the USA and recalling some of them back and replacing with others; the situation did not change at all.

One of the interesting things was in 1927 during the prayer conferences the missionaries did round the region in western Kenya led to the pouring of the Holy Spirit to the people who started speaking in tongues and the church was not ready on how to deal with at all. This created confusion in the church, and some people we expelled from the church who later formed another church called The Holy Spirit Church. This was a problem brought due to the contextualization of Quakerism in Kenya. As it is written in the book that the Anglican sentiment says, “ as a church, we tend to cook issues slowly” and to refer positively to the “rich time” of the church.[3] This is a true reflection of the current Quaker church in Kenya which is very good in talking about its prosperous past and not striving to sustain or making other good times to be emulated by the generation coming as they talk about their good history. We are known as the historic peace churches, which promoted peace, but now there is ward among themselves than ever before, but still talk about peace as their value. Therefore, Markham and Daniel have written issues facing the churches including the Quaker churches in Kenya

 

[1] (Markham Ian S. & Daniel Joshau 2018, Loc 302 Kindle Edition)

[2] (Markham Ian S. & Daniel Joshau 2018, Loc 847 Kindle Edition)

[3] (Markham Ian S. & Daniel Joshau 2018)

About the Author

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John Muhanji

I am the Director Africa Ministries Office of Friends United Meeting. I coordinate all Quaker activities and programs in the Quaker churches and school mostly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The focus of my work is more on leadership development and church planting in the region especially in Tanzania.. Am married with three children all grown up now. I love playing golf as my exercise hobby. I also love reading.

3 responses to “Contextual Ministry”

  1. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hi John. Great making the connection with John Wimber. I hadn’t thought of that but you are correct in making the observation. I do wonder if much of the schism we endure these days is because of the shrinking world we live in. The complex flow of ideas, access to varying views of the world and the shift of people groups, has made the need for contextualisation more important than ever. Adaptability is now a requirement for ministry in what were once settled cultural communities, but not anymore. German Harry is doing his thesis on adaptability in ministry so I guess your observations would be helpful to him and likewise his insights in adaptability would be useful in your training of others in ministry. Sorry for the mistakes, I am writing this from my phone.

    • John Muhanji says:

      Thank you, Digby, for your input. It’s true we are sometimes comfortable in our collapsing churches but we never realize that we are living in the past while we are in the present and need to adapt to cultural changes through generations.

  2. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    John,
    Very interesting insights coming from the historic formation of Quakerism in Kenya. Of course, John Wimber was a tremendous Quaker evangelist until he experienced a Holy Spirit baptism in a home meeting and began moving in Holy Spirit power expressions. Of course, his subsequent passage through Calvary Chapel had the same outcome. Someone said, “All truth is context dependent.” I wish I could remember the source so I could cite this correctly. This is why all leadership must be adaptive to the local context. What I loved about Percy is that he apparently is one of those rare scholars who is amazingly multi-disciplined as well as locally connected. Thanks so much for your post and sharing your perspective.

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