As we wrap up mission in Uganda, here are a few things I have learned from our experience. The church in Africa has many lessons to teach us, both through failure and success.
A worshipping church is a confessing community. We think of the church as a place an individual attends. Many Africans think of church as a building where people worship. Thier worship is exuberant and communal. Consider the familiar song: “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Africans sing this song, but make one important change—“WE will rejoice and be glad in it.” They lead off in worship as a community; they rejoice as a people, not a collection of individuals. This is a great reminder that worship is a communal activity. God doesn’t save individuals; he saves the Church.
Just because we change our pronouns, doesn’t mean we changed our ecclesiology. Although there is a general communal emphasis in African culture. Kinship systems are extened families, not nuclear. More people are crammed onto buses and taxis. Shared meals in big gatherings. These things are great. However, true community is Christ-centered. All of these activities can happen without Jesus at the center. What Africa needs is the same thing the U.S. needs, gospel-centered community. People in relationship based on bold love, not undying need for social acceptance. The community in all of our churches hinges, not on how much we share but on what we share. To share food and finances is one thing, but to share the gospel is quite another. Communities that place Jesus in the middle are willing to confront one another in love, to tell the truth despite the consequences, to suffer together while pointing, not to the sufferings, but to the suffering Servant.