A pastor’s heart, a church’s response
By AfriGO Team
His father belonged to the Baha’i faith and practiced divination. He claimed to heal people and tried to groom his son to follow in his steps. Unfortunately he was unable to save himself from the sickness that took his life.
“After my father’s death, I noticed another power that was above what my father practiced. I desired to know God, and in 1998 I gave my life to Jesus and was baptized.” Today that son is Pastor Rurangwa Muziga Meshack, and he is serving with his congregation and fellow pastors to take the good news of Jesus’ salvation across borders.
Pastor Meshack leads missions at the Good Shepherd Church in Nairobi, Kenya. “Our church was founded by missionaries, and the biblical mission mandate drives our motives. Every leader who takes over continues from where others left. Our church is mission-minded.”
The church is part of the Africa Gospel Church denomination, and traces its roots to 1932—the result of work done by missionaries from the World Gospel Mission. It started as a Bible study, and thereafter it was established with the purpose of reaching people who were located around the church. A beneficiary of the church himself, Pastor Meshack was taken on as a ministry intern after he arrived in Kenya as a refugee from DR Congo. Eventually he was licensed into full-time ministry and appointed the missions pastor.
Missions is the central activity of the Good Shepherd Church. From their base in Kenya, they have planted churches in Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern DR Congo. Their next church plant is slated for South Sudan. Every group in the church is involved in different aspects of missions—praying, giving financially, training, and participating in local and international mission trips.
“As John Maxwell said, ‘all things rise and fall on leadership’”, Pastor Meshack observes. “The pastor influences the church in mission through leading by example. As a pastor I train the congregation to be faithful to the Great Commission the Lord has given to His Church. I don’t only preach or teach about missions; I am also involved in going and giving. Missions cannot be done by the pastor alone. Members play a big role by praying, giving and encouraging the pastoral team.”
Good Shepherd’s mission focus is ingrained in their key strategies: evangelizing the unsaved, establishing churches, edifying believers, equipping leaders, and exercising compassion. “Nothing is done outside the church’s plan or purpose. Missions is not just a church department or activity; it is what the church exists for, and so we are committed to it,” Pastor Meshack says.
Prayer and training
Everything starts with prayer. The church depends on God for the vision and the desire to be involved in missions. They meet every last Friday of the month to pray for everything they do, which includes missions. Their intercessory team also meets every Saturday for that purpose. In prayer, they ask God to help them identify the right person to send out for missions, and also show them which country or field to go to. They also raise funds by prayer, asking God to send givers and make people willing to support.
Every year, October is dedicated as a missions month. The church invites different speakers to share specific topics about missions and encourage people to give to missionaries and to go on missions. Members are trained to have a Great Commission mindset wherever they are. They are taught and encouraged to share the gospel at work, by creating friendships, giving to those in need and praying for those who are troubled.
Pastor Meshack shares John’s story: “When the church did a training on effective disciple-making, John attended and later secured an internship opportunity at a bank. He introduced the idea of a Bible study and prayer sessions every day before work. When he was granted the permission, everyone became interested in joining. John later testified that many of his backslidden colleagues resumed reading their Bibles and attending church. Today, they have secured one of the conference rooms to be a prayer, worship and Bible study room. John was motivated by what the church was doing. Our major focus is to help church members to follow in Jesus’ steps by training them to make disciples.”
Mobilization and equipping
The church supports those who are willing to join missions by equipping them with what it takes to respond to God’s call and serve in missions. They teach members about the culture of the people, how to communicate with them, their dress code and beliefs. The church organizes short- and long-term mission trips locally and internationally. Members sign up to go themselves or to support those who are willing to go but do not have the funds. International trips are done quarterly or based on their plan for the year as a church. Every year, the church budgets for missions and contributes part of the normal offering for that purpose. The church also has three mission fields with missionaries whom they support financially and with regular visits.
A Pastor’s encouragement
For a congregation of about 600 members, doing missions is not easy. Pastor Meshack shares some challenges: “Over the years the biggest challenge has been financial. We run all our ministries with our own resources without depending on outside support. Another challenge is that the congregation is mostly migrants who keep relocating. It is hard to have volunteers and members who are permanent and can be fully engaged in the work of the church. These challenges affect the fact that we are unable to send more missionaries, although we would love to do that.”
Nevertheless, he offers advice and encouragement: “When God calls you into ministry, He goes with you and helps you. This has led me to trust God, but when someone wants to respond to God’s call to missions, it is important to be prepared for the hardship and the joys that come with it. One should however not fear or doubt when things get tough—that is part of our calling in mission. I have learnt to use the resources that are available to do what I can at that particular time, rather than doing nothing. Our ministry works by faith; it is not that we are really able to sustain ourselves in what we are doing, but God provides in His own way.”
“For a church to be seriously involved in mission, it has to start from the heart of the pastor. As a pastor, I have influenced my church by preaching and going myself, and also by calling and encouraging those who have the call to go. Sometimes a church can be involved in so many things and yet lose the heart for missions. When the pastor knows the reason why the Church exists, missions will become the priority of his church.”