Change and Growth

The concern shown in these projects for education, health and training correctly reflects a deep concern to build changed lives, and a changed society.  This change can only come about through the complete gospel.  As Bishop Kwashi said in his 1993 Synod Charge, “All our philosophies will come to nothing unless and until we accept the true gospel that is able to produce lasting results and the change that will last into eternity.”

As in his first Charge, so in the second, and again in that of 1994 under the theme “Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never failing stream”, the Bishop spoke out firmly against the ills of our church, our society and our nation.  His criticism, however, is never purely negative: he strongly believes in the power of the gospel to bring about constructive change.  The gospel, and only the gospel, can set men and women free from the fears and the powers of darkness which had held them in chains; the gospel can set men and women free – free to serve Christ.  Therefore throughout his episcopate Bishop Kwashi has continued to give pride of place to evangelism – and it is safe to predict that this will continue to be so for the rest of his life!  He sees evangelism as the “backbone” of the re-making of Jos Diocese.  With this backbone firmly in place all other developments can safely flow out from it in their various directions, but if the backbone is not there, if the foundation is not Jesus Christ, then the whole structure is bound to fall.  He emphasised this again in his 1993 Charge:

“I believe in evangelism. I believe in the command of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 28:19-20.  I believe in the outworking of that command through the work of the Holy Spirit and in the vital witness to the gospel of the quality of the life we live. …  May I point out again that the command is not from me, neither do I seek to gain anything by asking you to do evangelism.  I am simply reminding you of your responsibility to obey the command of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The growth has been particularly striking in Jos town.  In January 1992 there were six Anglican churches.  Three years later there are sixteen churches, five industrial outreach centres and work is in progress towards the establishment of yet more. The year 1995 has been designated as a year of mission, and “Top Priority”, with its clear proclamation that “Number One on our agenda must be MISSION” is not just the name of a strategy paper, it is a manner of work and a way of life.  The Mission Week (January 22-29) has brought in reports of very many people giving their lives to Christ, and also of how many Church members, having seen the effectiveness of evangelism, are now keen to continue in this way.  To God be the Glory!

No-one looking at Jos Diocese as it was in 1991, and at Jos Diocese as it is in 1995 can fail to see the difference.  However, the question may well be asked as to how it is that such transformation is being effected. That it is the work of God cannot be disputed.

Jesus said, “For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves?  Is it not the one who sits at table?  But I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

“I am amongst you as one who serves” are words upon which Bishop Kwashi has pondered long.  They do not fit in with the traditional pattern of the bishopric, accompanied as it is by status, grandeur, heirachy and a potentially dictatorial authority.  Yet the greatest example of Christian leadership remains that of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ had a clear vision and goal: “The time is fulfiled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).  He spoke “as one with authority”, though his worldly and academic qualifications were nil.  He gave birth to an organisation which has changed the lives of millions and altered the fate of nations, yet he he trained only a handful of local people, most of whom had minimal schooling and experience.   His way led through service, suffering and the cross, and it is in that way that he calls others to follow.  Yet others have followed, and in the following they have discovered freedom in his service, love in his presence, and the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is in this way that Bishop Kwashi seeks to follow, and it is in this way that he seeks to draw others to follow with him.  His is therefore a leadership which is inspired by Christ and rooted in the gospel.  His aim is not to build his own empire, or to put himself on a pedestal, but to serve his Master, and to draw others to know, love and serve Him too.

Like his Master, Bishop Kwashi sees this as an urgent task: there is no time to lose.  He is open and approachable, but his pastors know that the one thing which will incur his wrath is if the work of God is spoiled, and to waste the privilege of twenty minutes in the pulpit is most serious.  One of his pastors commented:  “His style of leadership is simple.  You can see him generally as often as you would.  He does not ostracise himself by the power and pomp of the bishopric.  He would rather be Kwashi than be a bishop to drive away a friend or foe at his door.  Yet he is not a weakling.  He is not ignorant of the traditions under which he was brought up.  He often warns his clergy that he knows his rights and powers as a bishop, and that no one should tempt him to invoke and use such.”

He may often joke about the way in which the Book of Common Prayer refers to the Bishop as being “most learned”, but in actual fact his work is always based upon thorough research (like that of Nehemiah).  He will not be rushed into decisions, but once he has prayed over a matter until he feels clear what the will of God is, then it is in vain that anyone at all tries to influence him or make him change his mind.

The leadership style of Bishop Kwashi carries authenticity and authority because he has a clear vision and a clear goal.  His conviction lends fire to his mission: he believes in what has to be done.  It has been said that “leadership is first of all not something one does but something one is”, and furthermore it has been argued that the strongest leaders are those who have received a strong affirmation of their own personhood, in a way which frees them not only to lead a cause but also to serve others.  Bishop Kwashi knows that he is first and foremost a child of God, and an evangelist who has been called by God.  The experiences of life, the difficulties as well as the joys, have served simply to confirm his conviction and his faith.  Motivation is generally contagious, and the Bishop uses every possible means and opportunity to teach, inspire and encourage his pastors and leaders, so that they in turn will inspire and lead others.

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught crowds of people, but he concentrated his efforts on a small group of twelve who were later to go out and teach others.  This is the pattern Bishop Kwashi has adopted.  He preaches at every opportunity, but he concentrates his efforts upon his pastors and leaders.  Opportunities for training are expected to be used to the full, and the opportunities now offered are far more than in previous years.  In addition, those pastors who are in or near Jos are invited to meet every Monday morning at Bishop’s court after the Holy communion service in the Chapel of Grace.  This is a regular time when the week’s activities in every church can be reviewed and prayed about.  It also provides an opportunity for a seminar, usually led by the Bishop.  It is expected that when these pastors are posted out of Jos, they will similarly gather their fellow workers together on a regular basis, and teach them and pray with them.

Needless to say, the basis of the Bishop’s teaching is the Bible.  However, this is not taught as a purely academic subject, but rather as a way of living.  The Word of God is to be lived, and it is this word, not human ideas, which is to be sown in the hearts of others.  Pastors are encouraged to serve with humility, not looking for material rewards, and to work with diligence, being loyal first and foremost to God, then to the Church, and finally to the Bishop.  Servants of God are precisely that – servants, or tools in the hands of Our Lord.  No-one is indispensable, and no person can save himself, let alone anyone else.  God’s servants are to be channels through whom God can work, and that means that those who serve Christ must first of all deal with themselves, both for their own sakes, and also so that the “glass” through which others would see God may be cleaner and more transparent.

Learning never finishes, and the Bishop uses every opportunity to guide and teach his people, both in formal and informal situations, in seminars, in conversations, when playing squash or basketball with the youth, or when chatting with the many people who call at Bishop’s court.  He himself is also keen to increase his own experience and understanding, and even since becoming Bishop he has gladly made use of various openings offered for short courses, whether in Nigeria, or in Singapore, U.S.A. or U.K.

Effective learning requires the best possible communication.  To this end, Easter Day 1992 saw the first edition of the Diocesan Newspaper, “New Times”, and since then various other publications have followed including the leaflet “Four Steps to Spiritual Growth”, the six-monthly Cycle of Prayer, a Baptism preparation booklet, and a growing number of larger books and guidelines.

Bishop Kwashi’s approach believes that in Nigeria as elsewhere in the world, traditional attitudes, values and expectations are to be retained if they are of value, but anything which in any way contradicts the gospel of Christ, or is in danger of itself becoming an “idol” is to be firmly rejected.  Hence, for example, the Bishop’s attitude to hierarchy.  Respect for God-given authority is right and proper, but self-centred seeking after status and position in the eyes of the world is not acceptable as it does not conform with the standards of Christ.

Similarly, there is no distinction made in Jos Diocese between those pastors who are “full-time” and those who are ordained but who gain their salary through doing another full-time job (“non-stipendiary pastors”).  Indeed, the commitment and dedication shown by those in the latter group is often an inspiration to those pastors who have no other employment!  One pastor who is also on the staff of the University commented:  “What you find as one serious setback in many a diocese in Nigeria today is the jealousy, envy, irritation, anguish and rejection which characterises the relationships between so-called “full-timers” and the “part-timers”.  One reason why the Church of Jesus is not growing in many dioceses is that we have left the substance (the gospel) to chase shadows (worldly honours, positions, power etc.).  When the shepherds are at war with each other, the sheep are bound to scatter.  For Bishop Kwashi whether you are full-time or non-stipendiary is of no importance.  There is work to be done and it must be done with all our being.  It must be done with every sacrifice it calls for. It must be done while it is yet day because night is fast approaching when men shall no longer be able to work.  God’s days of opportunity are here, for dedicated service, not ego-bloating; for preaching and teaching God’s flock, not for fulfilling selfish personal ambitions.  Titles are good but can become a real hindrance.  What matters is not titles but doing the work of God.  Titles are made by men and are conferred upon men by men. There is one title that matters ultimately: a faithful servant of Christ.”

What is crucial in all this, is of course the selection of those who are to be ordained.  Bishop Kwashi’s approach to this is that these people must be “fished out” one by one.  Our Lord Jesus Christ did not make a public appeal for people to apply for twelve possible vacancies!  One by one he called the disciples, and then after much prayer he selected the twelve.  Following this pattern, it is of little use merely to announce that application forms for theological colleges are available.  The people have to be looked for, called, and then secondly they must be trained well.

Some of the ordinands from Jos Diocese continue to go to the theological colleges at Wusasa, Ibadan and Akure, but an increasing number are now trained at the Christian Institute in Jos.  Training them on the spot ensures not only that they stay in Jos Diocese after the completion of their course, but also that their progress and development can be more closely monitored, and that they receive the type of training which the situation here requires.

The number of pastors working in Jos Diocese is growing, but so is the number of churches.   Supply can never meet demand!  There is a huge task ahead; the work is urgent and crucial.

The time spent as Bishop has in no way lessened the burning fire of Bishop Kwashi’s zeal for this work and for evangelism.  After a visit to do mission in U.K. in 1994, he reflected:

“The gospel is inclusive, but it is also exclusive, and by the time I had read the biography of John Wesley, I said Yes, the gospel preached by John Wesley was not all inclusive.  It was either you take Jesus Christ or you leave him and you go to hell.  So why is modern Europe now so “advanced” as to become confused as far as the gospel is concerned!  We in Africa need this truth proclaimed very mightily especially because we suffer a double disadvantage.  We don’t have all the wealth and goodies of life, and there are all kinds of civil and political upheavals.  So we need the gospel more than anybody else.  At least if we lose here on earth, we shouldn’t lose in heaven!  So there is a sense in which biographies of people such as Wesley and Festus Kivengere are confirming that the top priority of life is the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the mission that I should believe it and everyday learn to share it with other people because we are heading for destruction and time is not on our side.”

It was after the Bishop returned from England that the Mission Week, together with what is increasingly being known as “Mission 95” was planned, and the “Top Priority” paper was circulated.  As part of this on-going drive the Bishop now plans to make random and unannounced visits anywhere in the diocese.  He says:

“During these visits, I am going to look out for four key things.  Firstly, I am going to ask the pastor, `What is your evangelistic programme; what are you doing; who is in charge of it?’  Secondly, `What is your Sunday School programme or young church programme; what are you doing about children; who is in charge of it; is the person truly born again; is he a committed Christian; is he committed to that particular ministry?’  Thirdly I am going to look at the Bible Study programme, at what materials are being used, what the aims are, and who is leading it.  Fourthly I shall ask, `Where and how do you do your prayer meeting(s) as a church?’  These four elements are part of the revelations I had while I was in U.K. to help our pastors to be effective instruments in the hands of God.  If we allow the Holy Spirit into these four areas, the church will be a living church and we hope to have every church become a centre of evangelism.”

Bishop Kwashi was quotes in a publication as saying, “The first point is to repeat what St.Paul said to the Roman Christians as he rounded up his letter: that now is our salvation closer than when we first believed;  now is the time to cast off the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light; the day is at hand and the night is far spent.  Believe me, there is no more time to make enemies; there is no more time to look at the things of this world.  The time is too short.  The instability of the world dictates the pace now and the sooner we turn to God the better.  The uncertainties around us are far more than the certainties.  In fact, there seems to be nothing now that is certain any more.  So the better now we turn to God, the better for us and for our children.  This demands a deliberate act on our side to remove all the works of darkness and turn to Jesus, the light of the world.  Rejecting Jesus means to continue in darkness and believe me the days of doom are closer than anyone can ever imagine.  Eternal doom awaits anyone who rejects the Lord Jesus.  I urge that no-one would allow himself to go into the New Year the same old person inside.”

The story can only be told as far as it has so far been unfolded – but the story is only just beginning.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38).  No Christian can ever sit back and say that the work is done.  The Bishop is looking forward to his retirement so that he can forget administration and concentrate on local evangelism!

What has so far been achieved in Jos Diocese under Bishop Kwashi’s leadership is just a beginning, just a stage on the journey.  The journey continues; the way ahead must be followed; the hills and the valleys, the corners and the straight roads are as yet unknown to us, but the vision remains and the goal is clear.  Men and women everywhere must be set free, free to serve Our Lord Jesus Christ, who himself commanded all people everywhere:

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Number of Churches and Pastors

Year                                         91        92        93        94        95

Archdeaconries                       5          5          6          7          8

Chapelry                                  1          1          1          1          1

Parishes                                  8          8          18        18        29

Churches (with pastor)           17        17        23        31        42

Churches (no pastor)             57        57        78        79        78

Total No of Churches total     74        74        101      110      120

Pastors in parishes                 19        22        29        43        55

Pastors (in Sec. Schools & Colleges)  2          2          2          3          7

Total No of Pastors                 21        24        31        46        62

Growth of churches in 3 years in Jos Town

1992:   St.Luke’s Cathedral

St.Timothy’s, Nasarawa

Anglican Church, Tudun Wada

New Covenant Anglican Church

St.Paul’s Church

St.Piran’s Church

 

1995:   St.Luke’s Cathedral

Calvary Anglican Church, Tudun Wada

Ebenezer Chapel, Farin Gada    )

Shemshack Outreach                 )

Tobi Workshop, Farin Gada       )  outreach

Ehindero Printing Press             )   centres

Ande Hospital                            )

St.Timothy’s, Nasarawa

 

Jos Central Archdeaconry

St.Paul’s, Jos

St.Mary’s, Kabong

St.Andrew’s, Anglo-Jos

Holy Trinity, Rikos

St.James’, Seventh Mile

St.Mark’s, Miango

St.Michael’s, Katako

Church of the Ascension, U/Rogo

Jos South Archdeaconry

St.Piran’s, Jos

St.Bartholomew’s. Miango Road

Chapelries/Special Parishes

New Covenant Anglican Church

Chapel on the Rock, St.John’s College

Trinity Chapel, Naraguta

 

 

 

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