The Rise Missions Conference is predicated on a simple premise: Southern Africa is no longer a mission field; it is now a mission force!
When Abby and I were invited to The Rise, we had no idea what to expect except that I (Doug) knew that I would be preaching once and teaching two seminars.
Our first indication of what our week would be like came when we were warmly welcomed into the home of Stephen and Kedibone Mmotlana. Nestled in a very nice section of Mabopane, their home offered a comfortable bedroom and a delightful family. We so enjoyed getting to know them and cherish the beautiful hand-crafted pillow covers they gifted us with to remember them by. Kedibone is a professional interior designer and the pillows are beautiful!
The Rise is sponsored by a single church, the Ark of God, in Mabopane, South Africa. It is led by Pastor Isaac Modise and his wife, Rachel, who work closely with the World Mission Center and Live School. Willie Crew, the retired leader of the World Mission Center (WMC), whom I had met before in the U.S., and Dr. John Scholtz, Chairman of the WMC board, were both outstanding speakers at the conference.
The Rise's passion for cooperative mission in Southern Africa was evident throughout the conference which brought delegates from four countries, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. The Malawi delegation was unable to come because of the devastating conditions there this year due to the ongoing drought.
My preaching and teaching focused on: 1) Our "Missionary God" (Genesis 3) who seeks, forgives, honors, loves and sends us; 2) Jesus' "Greatest Commission" (John 20) to do mission as he did and continues to do, focusing on his humiliation, incarnation, proclamation, demonstration, crucifixion and resurrection; and 3) "Transformational Mission" both within and outside the church which includes every Christian joining in with what the missionary God is doing by learning, praying, sending, going, welcoming and/or mobilizing.
Highlights of the conference included joyfully worshiping with Christians from other African nations and sitting under amazing and inspiring teaching with a decided emphasis on the Gospel of the Kingdom, meaning the Gospel applied to every area of life from our world view to family life, business, our use of money & power, our citizenship, etc. A major sub-emphasis, if you will, ran throughout the conference, and that was understanding and developing the church as an extended family, not as an institution!
The Gospel of the Kingdom was consistently contrasted with a "Gospel of Salvation" which has dominated the Southern Africa church, a truncated Gospel that offers salvation but does not demand a new way of thinking and living or even the renunciation of traditional worship practices such as ancestral worship. Amazingly, we discovered that the local Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran churches do not require their members to renounce ancestral worship, but allow them to continue to maintain and use their family altars while remaining members in good standing.
This watered down Gospel reminds me of the compromises many mainline churches have made in the U.S. over the last two to three decades, always trying to accommodate the culture instead of calling for its transformation by the Gospel.
In contrast to this, the Rise was a radical call to action, to serious discipleship and 100% allegiance to Jesus Christ. This was accentuated by a stirring commissioning service on the final night!
It was delightful to establish relationships with new friends like the Mmotlana family, Isaac & Rachel and Dr. John Scholtz. We also connected strongly with several pastors from Zimbabwe and Zambia, opening up possibilities for future training.
The longing for training by the delegates and their desire to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to all of Southern Africa and beyond stirred us deeply. Hearing the Gospel from a Southern African perspective forced us to examine our own understanding of the Gospel, and indeed of God himself. Once again, doing mission is transforming us more than those to whom the Lord has sent us. We are grateful!
By the way, both Abby and I have both been invited to teach at next year's conference, scheduled for June 30-July 4. We have joyfully accepted.
Please pray that the commitments that were made at The Rise will be put into action, for Isaac and Rachel as they lead The Rise movement into other Southern Africa countries, for Stephen and Kedibone and their family, for the World Mission Center & Live School, and for us as we continue our mission with a fresh perspective on the Gospel of the Kingdom!