A Vision for Ministry Among the Kwong

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Purpose Statement

Our purpose is to work with Kwong Christians and churches in such a way as to assure the long-term viability of the Kwong church.

 We do this in four ways:

  • We seek to establish a gospel tradition among the Kwong that is Biblical, appealing, coherent, and vernacular.

  • We seek to establish a tradition of transmitting the gospel tradition to future generations.

  • We seek to rid the Kwong church of traditions disfavorable to the continuation of the gospel tradition.

  • We seek to broaden the penetration of Kwong society with the gospel tradition.


...to work with Kwong Christians and churches:

This part of our purpose statement acknowledges the reality that there are Kwong Christians organized in churches, and affirms our intention to collaborate in the closest possible way with them in everything we do. This affirmation simply validates what we as a field already stated in our 1998 vision statement - that we do “all in partnership with the existing national church”.


...to assure the long-term viability of the church:

This is the crux of our purpose statement. It assumes that there is already a church in existence, but that its future and durability is an open question - indeed the question. This is an African reality whose significance is not comparable to many of TEAM’s other fields. Planting churches in Africa is easy. Planting enduring churches in Africa is altogether another story. The combined threats of syncretism, Islam, materialism among the young, AIDS, and oil exploration, not to speak of a culture opposed in almost every detail to the ideals of the Gospel mean that the sustainability of any church is truly tenuous. One need only hear the appeals of national church leaders for the re-evangelization of formerly “Christian” areas of Chad to find empirical justification for the inherent pessimism of this statement.


... We do this in four ways:

The four ways we specify here will sound a little funny at first reading with their repeated references to a “gospel tradition.” Let us explain. It has been our observation that traditions are the only things that endure in Africa. Buildings fall into ruin, projects and programs go bankrupt, seminars (an African favorite) are soon forgotten, books are eaten by termites, and people die. But traditions continue from generation to generation - a blessing or curse to their keepers. So when we speak of the long-term viability of anything in Africa, we are speaking automatically of traditions. The church is no exception in this respect, and it is for this reason that we cast our ministry among the Kwong in terms of developing what we call a “gospel tradition”.


What we mean by a “gospel tradition” is more than gospel theology. It is a body of teaching expressed in characteristic vocabulary which is joined to a set of characteristic attitudes, practices, and a body-politic. Taken together, these elements form what we are calling a “gospel tradition.” An historical example would be the Puritanism - which meant something much more than just Puritan doctrine. It was a whole mindset and attitude, together with unique customs and practices. It is therefore in view of developing just such a gospel tradition unique to the Kwong that we express the 4 means by which we hope to help assure the long-term viability of the church. They are, respectively:


  1. The establishment of a gospel tradition with the following characteristics:

    1. it is Biblical - A Biblical tradition is no more durable than a non-biblical one, but if it is to be a “gospel” tradition, then it must find it’s substance in the Scriptures.

                                                            i.       This validates our efforts to translate the Scriptures

                                                            ii.      This validates our persistent efforts to teach the Scriptures - both in discipleship classes, and in preaching.

    1. it is appealing - the gospel is, and should be “good news.” An appealing tradition will more likely endure than a discouraging one, such as the legalism which dominates much of the Chadian church today.

                                                            i.   This affirms our efforts in setting before people (among other things less perhaps appealing - e.g. sin) the beauty and glory of God, the poignancy of the atonement, the power of the Spirit over sin in this age, and the glories to be revealed in the age to come.

    1. it is internally coherent.  By virtue of their chronological arrangement, The Firm Foundations and Kingdom of God materials offer an internal coherence that traditional believe-and-receive expressions of the gospel lack. Such coherence is essential to an enduring gospel tradition in Africa.

                                                              i.      This suggests that we are on the right track with the Kingdom of God series.

    1. it employs the full power of the language and culture. Such a gospel tradition is cherished by its keepers, and is articulated with the maximum of clarity and poignancy. Such a cherished, clear, poignant tradition is more likely to endure than one expressed using the least common denominator of the language.

                                                              i.      This validates our continuing efforts to develop a vernacular theology.

                                                             ii.      This suggests that if we spent more time on linguistic research it would be time well-spent.

                                                            iii.      This suggests that we should reinforce our program of personal language development

  1. The establishment of a tradition of transmission of the gospel tradition to future generations.
    This statement assumes the obvious: that we as missionaries can only inculcate one generation with the gospel tradition - the one alive during the 20 or 30 years of our ministry. It further assumes, presumptuously perhaps, that we succeed in the effort. What we affirm here is that leaving to chance the transmission of this tradition to succeeding generations is an unacceptable gamble. We are obliged, if we want to assure the long-term viability of the Kwong church, to develop with Kwong Christians a tradition of transmitting the gospel to their children and young people in both family and ecclesiastical contexts. Failure to do so is to see our efforts in this generation potentially come to naught in the next. We have done nothing in this regard to date.

                                                            i.    This suggests we should develop a tradition of parents teaching their children - something where we show them what to, or have something at the church in the evenings with parents and kids.

                                                           ii.    It might also suggest that we get involved in the Sunday School program - something which already has the status of a “tradition” but which is bereft of any structure or materials.

                                                          iii.    It might also suggest some kind of confirmation class or youth group. Such a program must be able to function with no money - a fault of the JEA program already in Chad.

  1. Ridding of the Kwong church of traditions disfavorable to the continuation of the gospel tradition. 
    There are societal values endemic in the church which, notwithstanding an appealing, coherent, Biblical gospel tradition to the contrary, threaten the long-term viability of the Kwong church. Among these are: a preoccupation with the dead to the detriment of the living; an unwillingness to think which metastasizes into the inability to do so; the systematic educational deprivation of young girls resulting in an appalling dullness to the gospel in grown women; the almost total capitulation of the church in matters of discipline to cultural norms; and a complete breakdown of traditional sexual values - and this in an age where AIDS renders the whole notion of transmitting the gospel tradition to the next generation a moot point. There simply won’t be a next generation. The depth and perniciousness of these traditions suggest that it will require persistent teaching over many years to reverse them and replace them with traditions conducive to long-term viability of the Kwong church. 

                                                          i.     This suggests to us that we need to be here in Kwong land a very long time, if we want to see some of these deadly traditions reversed. We are beginning to think in terms of staying in Kwongland until we retire.

                                                          ii.   It also suggests that we will need much more ecclesiastic authority than has been given us to effect such changes.

                                                          iii.  It suggests that we should be using print and radio media to propagate right thinking about many of these issues which hithertofore we have ignored - eg AIDS.

                                                          iv.   It suggests that we should start a school to teach young women to think.

                                                           v.   It suggests that maybe the only way to develop within the church a tradition of thinking is to begin with small children and “raise” them to adulthood, effectively establishing for them and their progeny a new tradition of intellectual and moral possibilities and expectations.

                                                          vi.    It validates our efforts at starting a literacy program among the women.

  1. Broadening the penetration of Kwong society by the gospel tradition
    In a situation such as that of the Kwong where Christians are a miniscule proportion of the total population, the prognosis for the long-term viability of the church is not good. The prognosis would be more positive in an individualistic I’m ok-you’re-ok society, such as in the West, but not in Africa where the power of traditional society to enforce conformity to itself defies belief. It may also be possible in a situation where the church is “born of fire” and a small, persecuted minority holds to a radical faith, such as was the case in southern Chad in the early 70’s, or behind the Iron Curtain. Unfortunately, no such radial faith characterizes the Kwong or, indeed, any southern tribe in Chad today. The surest guarantee of viability from this standpoint, therefore, is the conversion of a “critical mass” of believers who are able by virtue of their numbers to resist the tendency of the society around them to swallow them up.

                                                            i.    This suggests to us that we need to be proactively involved in evangelism (as always, together with Kwong Christians - see above). We may not regard ourselves as only “church developers”.

                                                           ii.   This validates our practice of preaching  publicly in village squares and to village chiefs whenever the opportunity has presented itself.

                                                          iii.    It suggests we need to consciously develop both a modus-operandi and a message for going house-to-house with the gospel tradition. 

                                                          iv.     It suggests that a worthy, if arbitrary, goal is to see a church among the Kwong numbered in multiples of 1000. The Kwong church now numbers about 500.

Final Word

In all this, we can easily anticipate the sanctimonious retort of someone along the lines of  “don’t you think God can assure the long-term viability of the Kwong church?” Surely, he can. But trusting him to do so, and presuming on him to do so are two quite different things. Failure to use every means within our grasp to assure the long-term viability of the church is presumption, not trust, just as failure to preach the gospel to this generation on the grounds that God will make himself known is a presumption which God has never indulged. There is no essential difference between trusting and working for today and trusting and working for tomorrow. Except this: trusting and working for tomorrow, makes the trusting and working for today worth it all.

  A couple quotes from Mark's newsletters of years past express this passion:

My objective is to inculcate attitudes, passions, emotions, motivations, and priorities that befit someone who has been drawn into fellowship with his or her Creator and Savior. My presupposition is that a Bible study [or translation] that does not constrain us to either cover our heads in abject humiliation, or overflow with wonder, or shut our mouths in honor, or fall to our knees in thanksgiving is at least a partial, if not complete, failure. (FWMVI August 97)
My desire is to gently pry the curled, faded, black-and-white print of Christianity from my Kwong friends’ hands, and then usher them into the OmniMax theater of the splendor of God’s Kingdom and tell them “Look up! Look around!” I want to set the vast sweep of God’s design for history so vividly and comprehensively before their eyes that being (or becoming) a Christian becomes the most compelling, sensible thing to do. I want the depths of love and sacrifice worked out in that design to be so soaked in technicolor hues that a passion befitting it would consume them. (FWMVI May 98)


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