Globalized demographics on religion regard Rwanda as a Christianized nation with slightly over 94% of her current population of 12 million considered Christians. The colonial Christianization…in Rwanda…referred to as “The Tornado of the Holy Spirit” by the Roman Catholic Church followed King Mutara III’s conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1943 (p 88-90). As a result, Rwanda remained under the heavy influence of the Roman Catholic Church leaving very limited freedom for other religious players until the 1994 Tutsi Genocide. The genocide tested Christianity in Rwanda. Not only had the church failed to produce transformed disciples that could resist the genocide, but the image of the Rwandan church was further stained by the direct involvement of bishops, priests, nuns and other church leaders who either killed or betrayed their people. Either through omission or commission, the church missed the opportunity to display the splendor and the infinite worth of God to the nation. This was without doubt the most spiritually dark time in Rwandan history. When the Tutsi genocide happened in 1994, Christianity was only six years away from celebrating a century of the “successful” evangelization of Rwanda. But actually, the almost 100 years of evangelization of Rwanda was to conclude with the extermination of 1 million innocent lives in only 100 days by people who were supposed to be Christians. It appears that all that mission had produced was nothing short of nominal Christianity. This is what Dallas Willard would call the great omission of the great commission. A Nigerian Roman Catholic bishop lamented in a speech at a Vatican meeting, “In Africa, the blood of family, clan and tribe still flows thicker than the water of baptism.” The Rwandan genocide had proved his point.
The post genocide era saw the birth of many churches. However, they represented a wide array of theological persuasions and backgrounds. The absence of Bible schools to nurture the newly found churches in sound biblical doctrine and the influence of western TV evangelists who preach money and fame at any cost have only complicated the situation. Church leaders are being tempted to build their own kingdoms instead of the kingdom of God. This trend is not only in Rwanda but also in many other places throughout Africa. It is a kind of infant mortality for the young church dying spiritually before impacting the continent. A church leader in country with a history such as that of Rwanda needs to be distinct in character, more so when the political leadership has a high moral standing. Although churches have been and are still being planted they is a great need to intentionally grow leaders that have what it takes to disciple a wounded nation. Lack of a Christian leadership that is above reproach in the nation is potentially more dangerous and harmful to the Rwandan people than the acts of their predecessors. You have probably heard of the rampant statement that the church in Africa is miles wide and an inch deep. Even though I would be hesitate to embrace the outrageous stereotype, I could argue using Reese and Loane’s language that the missional tragedy of Rwanda has been “skimming the surface” Thinking in terms of masses instead of discipling individuals, we can not expect more than what we see today. Jesus worked with crowds but His ministry was personalized meeting different people at their various points of need. When it came to making disciples He narrowed down to twelve and only majored on three to lead the movement. In His short time of public ministry, Jesus invested His life in a few ordinary men and trusted them for the multiplication. The leadership challenge for the church globally today is seeking our own glory through numbers not for their soul’s sake. To use Rick Warren’s language, I believe that the greatest “Giant” ravaging the world is egocentric leadership and the remedy is raising leaders whose passion is to serve others for the glory of God not their own.
(Matthew 9:36-38) “ When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field”. Over the last 15 years, an evangelical movement has been developing in Rwanda. Two years ago, an evangelical Bible school was established. Only last month it became the first Rwandan theological school to qualify for the accreditation of ACTEA (Accrediting Council for Theological Education in Africa). The first Bible with study helps in the Kinyarwanda language was published 2012 with the help of Saddleback Church. The superficial nature of the Rwandan church, calls for an intentional strategy to grow spiritually healthy leaders that can plant and grow healthy churches to transform the nation. There is an urgent need to grow a gospel-centered movement for the glory God. Mark Shaw says that, “the greatest challenge facing African Christian leadership was the challenge not of the unreached but of the undiscipled.” However as a keen student of the African missional context, I would argue that the biggest challenge here is not so much one of discipleship as it is of the absence of the leaders with ability to make disciples that will in turn make disciples. If there is an acute need for transformed disciples, which I know is the case, it is because there is an incredible lack of authentic leaders to make them.
In 2005 when I moved to one of the suburbs of Kigali city to plant the first of our three church plants, my vision was to plant a church in each of the thirty districts of Rwanda within ten years. It will be ten years in December this year and I have only been able to plant two more churches. What was wrong with my vision? My vision lacked an implementation strategy. I falsely assumed that leaders will naturally be there any way. It has since become apparent to me that you can hardly succeed in church planting without a strategy to raise leaders. Yes the harvest was great but the laborers were few. I now realize that although I had a great vision, I had no intentional strategy to grow health leaders who would plant health churches. That is the anomaly I would love to correct by starting a church planting Residence. 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.