by John Eigege
In 2011 my wife Chichi and I, two Nigerian immigrants, received a call from God and New Life Christian Reformed Church to move to Houston and explore full-time ministry. Through Christian Reformed Home Missions, we would explore the possibility of planting a new church.
As Chichi and I explored our passions, our gifting, and the needs in our city, we sensed God calling us towards the inner city and the college campus. In this setting of density and diversity, we would serve young professionals and retired seniors, university students and the working poor. As we continued to learn about ministry, two major movements in the church began to shape our thinking and our practice—movements that are separated by two unique missions agencies, but have potential to become even more powerful when combined.
The first movement is called Missional Church. It asks “What does it mean for the church to be missional?” Is it enough for the church to only have paid staff who are sent to be ambassadors of Christ in our world? Or is the idea of being “called and sent by God” one to be embraced by all who confess Jesus Christ as Lord? For the missional church, mission is its life-blood, not just one of many programs it runs. The Missional Church brings the Gospel to life wherever in society that may be.
Christian Reformed Home Missions has really shaped and challenged us as church planters to be missional in all we do. Through Home Missions, we established a missional community that gathered around rhythms of scripture study, prayer, community service, and celebration, with the hope that this would eventually develop into a worshipping community.
The second movement is called Transformational Networks. These are diverse communities of service and learning that train people in an integral, biblical worldview. They train and network people to impact their communities with the whole gospel. They ask two basic questions in their approach: What does the good news of Jesus look like here and now? How can we effectively work together to make that vision a reality?
I have been inspired by the work of Transformational Networks that Christian Reformed World Missions establishes in urban centers around the world. From the Nehemiah Center in Nicaragua to the Daniel Center in Nigeria, missionaries are successfully mobilizing gospel networks for the transformation of their cities and societies.
As I surveyed our neighborhood, I knew it needed a missional movement of Christians, but was a traditional church plant the only way to catalyze that movement? I knew the idea of Transformational Networks could radically transform the neighborhood, but could the Christian Reformed Church implement them locally? I was inspired by the idea of a Missional Church as part of a Transformational Network, a model that would allow both influences to fully flourish.
As I searched for congruence in my ministry experience, leaders of both Home Missions and World Missions were already knee deep in conversations about uniting both agencies. The world is at North America's doorstep. What kind of posture should the North American church take, so that it gives witness to the reconciliation that God gives all in Jesus Christ? Can both agencies learn from each other, and apply our collective best practices, no matter the location, to see the gospel of Christ fully expressed in our world?
As I searched for congruence in our neighborhood, many other like-minded leaders from different Christian traditions searched for the same thing. Nine months ago, we started getting together to pray for one another and for the transformation of our neighborhood; a place filled with both brokenness and hope.
Out of our joint prayer , and a collective brainstorming session, our group started to identify some needs for transformation. In order to continue transforming our neighborhood, we felt a strong need for someone who could network and resource our organizations full time.
We are early in our church planting journey. But as I think of the needs of our community that will breathe lasting transformation, is this a call to morph my role in the community into a catalyst for transformation?
Home Missions and World Missions are early in the journey to unify as well. I wonder at the enormous, vital task in front of them. And I am uplifted to know that our denominational leaders are seeking God’s will above all.
The prospect of establishing Transformational Networks in North America, in our own neighborhood, excites me. The vision of our churches and organizations working together for common good inspires me. The hope of the missional community that currently meets in my house joining this bigger network of transformation, hence multiplying our impact, energizes me. I pray for discernment and courage – both for myself and Chichi and for my denominational leadership – to follow God in mission.
Whenever decisions for big changes loom on the horizons of our lives, it is easy for anxiety and fear to creep in. As my family and denominational leadership discern next steps for following God in worldwide mission, God encourages us with these words from the book of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (1:9 NIV).