I have been in countless car parks outside church buildings over the years, but I won’t quickly forget my recent visit to COCIN Headquarter’s Church car park in Jos, Nigeria. In this car park lies the remains of the car driven by a suicide bomber on 26th February 2012. Tragically 4 worshippers died but the vast majority of the 1000–strong crowd at the 7am service survived. The twisted wreck stands as a reminder of the quiet determination of the believers we met to go on loving, living and telling the gospel regardless of the cost.
I was there with Dr Sid Garland as part of a week of meetings to introduce the Christianity Explored Course to pastors and leaders of three large denominations: Anglican, Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) and Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA).
Sid has a tremendous network of colleagues and contacts arising from his decades of service in Nigeria with Mission Africa. He set up the meetings, which were designed to help the church leaders get familiar with Christianity Explored and to grasp the theological underpinning for it. The meetings went well and initial signs are that the uptake from each of the 3 groups has been encouraging. Ben Kwashi (Anglican Archbishop) hand–picked key leaders and sent them to the seminar. Later, in a meeting with him, he expressed his personal enthusiasm for the Christianity Explored course and requested access to any undistributed materials. “This was just getting very exciting!” was the observation of COCIN General Secretary as he emerged from one of the discussion groups. An ECWA pastor endorsed the resources with this comment:
Christianity Explored will help us to answer the prosperity preachers because it shows us a Jesus who did not come to be served but to serve and to suffer and to die for others.
As is true of all gospel work, the seed has been sown, and for now we need to wait prayerfully to see what the initial harvest will look like. We are praying that the Christianity Explored course may be useful in this context as people interact with the text of Mark’s Gospel and see who Jesus is, why He came into the world, and what it means to be His follower.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”
Our partnership with ACTS is central to growing the usage of Christianity Explored in Nigeria. The commitment of ACTS to produce and distribute solidly evangelical books at an affordable price for pastors in Nigeria and Kenya makes it among the most strategic ministries operational today. The network and services provided by ACTS will help to stimulate a growing awareness and use of Christianity Explored.
Christianity Explored is being used in around 90 countries, but the message of Mark’s Gospel is best understood by those to whom the cost of following the Lord Jesus is clear. The church in Nigeria is learning that cost. We arrived in Abuja the morning after the first of two terrorist bomb attacks. Christian believers and particularly their leaders are under severe pressure these days. They know well the words of the Lord Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). Our hope is that the Christianity Explored course can help them ground others in this reality.
Craig Dyer serves as Training Director for Christianity Explored Ministries. He trains church leaders in how to encourage evangelism in the local church. www.christianityexplored.org