I'm on a platform in a church in Uyo Nigeria with over 1200 church leaders at the International Pastors Conference. And would you believe it, the speaker is talking about Christian growth and the internet. 'African Christianity and the internet' is not an oxymoron. I ended up getting a laptop many years ago because I attended a conference in Africa and discovered that everybody else pulled out their laptops when I took out my note book! Now as I sneakily tap away on my laptop I'm surrounded by iPads. ...
This creeping professionalism is a mark of what's been happening in many corners of the African church for many years now. And so too is a kind of progressive faith which has been typified during this conference. The International Pastors Conference looks and feels like the extension of its founder, Dr Sylvanus Ukafia who leads the Insight Bible Church in Uyo. A medical doctor by training Ukafia has a down to earth grasp of integrated ministry which spills over into the programme of this 12th International Christian Conference. I can't say that I have ever attended a conference which has exposed urban senior leaders and rural foot soldiers to a menu of church growth, team leadership church planting, HIV/AIDS, community engagement and justice with free blood pressure tests and aerobics. John Maxwell's leadership material is as at home here as Nigerian idioms and in-jokes. It's all serious business; workbooks at the ready and the fastest IT team I have ever met who seem to flash your Bible text on screen as soon as you manage to mention chapter and verse. But it's been ages since I have laughed so much! It's one of the most eloquent combinations of laughter and learning I have experienced in a long time.
And it all seems to flow from the character and calibre of a leader who has a reputation for giving his money to missions than buying himself a new car. Twice within 3 hours I was told that he had to be tricked into receiving gifts he can't give away. And prominent on the platform are an array of people who have given themselves as missionaries in some of the most demanding places across Africa. Ukafia is a world class man who is happy in an area of Nigeria I never knew about till the invitation came.
It's been a happy 3 days but much more importantly it's been a hope-filled 3 days. If there is hope for Africa it probably looks like Uyo.
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