Letter from the Church Council

Is Arusha Community Church a missional church?

As a church elder and ‘apologist for our church’, I have been asked this from prospective members. While I celebrate our make-up and interdenominational focus, it is not so clear to me if we as a body are being obedient to Christ’s calling to the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19, 20. I think it might be important for us as members to look at a few definitions:

According to Wikipedia, a “Missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the church’s true and authentic organizing principle is mission. When the church is in mission, it is the true church. The missional church is based on the idea that God is at work in the world, and that as Christians go out into the world, God has gone before and is already at work through the Holy Spirit. It involves discerning the work of the Spirit in the lives of people. If we are in partnership with God, we are a missional church.

So does ACC qualify as missional? For example, is ACC engaged directly in reaching the unreached in Tanzania? A strict self-assessment might find us wanting. According to the JoshuaProject.org, an “unreached people group” is an ethnic group which lacks enough followers of Christ and resources to evangelize their own people; that is, they lack
at least 1% of believers. According to the Joshuaproject.org database, there are 29 such groups in Tanzania out of 157 groups listed, among whom more than 20 are indigenous, with a total population of 6.5m in this country of 65.5m or 10% of the population. If we examine ACC programs, they are clearly focused on nurture of its members, and even supporting outreach to youth through external evangelistic events which, if closely examined, are focused primarily on reached ethnic groups. If we accept these definitions, ACC is not a missional church. It does not support any missionaries financially nor any unreached group, but supports in-reach to its members and outreach to reached groups.

Would it be possible for ACC to become a missional church? At a recent Council retreat, the church leadership discussed how it might be possible, and the benefits it would bring, not only to those working among the unreached, but to ourselves as a body. Over the next three months, we will be exploring through our contacts within ACC how we could support an unreached group in Tanzania, perhaps by supporting a young Tanzanian missionary couple called to reach the Alagwa who are 99% Muslim, on recommendation from African Inland Missionaries who worship with us. We may be inviting the couple to visit us, and to learn about the people they are serving. We may be hearing some teaching from preachers on what it is to be “a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world”. We may be encouraged to take the Kairos Course during the last weekend in August and first weekend of September here at ACC which gives this perspective on world mission, strategies which work, and getting an historical understanding.

ACC Council wants to fulfill its spiritual leadership role by enhancing our members’ awareness of mission and obedience as a body to the furtherance of the gospel. It may stretch us financially, but only as much as we are willing to be stretched. It may pose a challenge to some in our body who oppose ‘proselytizing’ or giving support to one denomination over another. The AIM is itself made up of missionaries from diverse Christian denominations and so is like ACC, interdenominational in scope. Are you willing to discover with us what becoming missional means for our church?

Erwin Kinsey, ACC Council Elder