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In global terms, church is booming

In sub-Saharan Africa, the answer to the question “Are we growing?” is a resounding “yes.”
The Kipsigis are one example. In 1986, when American missionaries were packing for home, this tribe in western Kenya had about 100 Churches of Christ. That number has since tripled, though no missionaries have lived among the Kipsigis for 15 years.
“Indeed we have seen God in this part of Africa being faithful to his servants,” said David Kikwai, a leader of the church in Kericho, Kenya.
Wendell Broom has dedicated more than half a century to the African continent. In 2002 Broom and fellow missionary Mark Berryman reported 14,669 congregations in Africa with a combined membership of 1,077,121 — more than double the number they reported in 1989.
But counting church members in Africa accurately is “an almost impossible task,” said Ken Bolden, a former missionary to Kenya, now serving as director of Louisiana-based World Radio Gospel Broadcasts. “What we had in 1990 were educated guesses — and that’s what we have today.”
Counting church members also is difficult in India, a land of 1.1 billion souls — nearly four times the U.S. population. Ron and Karen Clayton have kept detailed records of congregations and baptisms during their 29 years of ministry in India.
The couple has listed 48,880 Churches of Christ in India with a combined membership of 1,139,562. The information is far from complete, Karen Clayton said, and the numbers change daily.
“We are not alone when we say we believe that there are more than 2 million living, faithful Christians in India,” she said. “The church here is booming with growth.”
Adding numbers from the rest of the world, including Central and South America and Asia, it’s likely that two-thirds — maybe even three-fourths — of the membership of Churches of Christ lives outside the United States, said Philip Slate, a former missionary and church scholar in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
At the same time, U.S. churches possess 90 percent or more of the church’s combined financial resources, Slate said. This disparity raises challenging questions for U.S. churches supporting work overseas, he added.
It could be some time before churches around the world gain the financial stability of their U.S. counterparts, Karen Clayton said. But as congregations planted by missionaries mature and appoint elders, many become interested in spreading the gospel outside their communities. As a result, “it won’t be long before missionaries from India and Africa will be going to the U.S.A. to help evangelize it,” she said.
In Moshi, Tanzania, church members are preparing for that day. Brothers Charles and Ken Ngoje are training church leaders in a variety of Bible subjects, including church history, through an extension program of the Nairobi Great Commission School.
The Ngojes, who grew up in Kenya, hope to help Tanzanian churches appoint elders and, eventually, send missionaries.
American missionaries, including Ken Bolden, trained the brothers’ parents. Ken Ngoje is named after Bolden, who founded the extension program in Kenya. Charles Ngoje served as the program’s director until he moved to Moshi in 2004.
“The first missionaries trained and brought our parents to the Lord,” Charles Ngoje said. “Then they discovered in them leadership traits. … Now it is our turn to train and equip others.”

Filed under: Are We Growing

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