06 Building Agency

Boys praying at the first Global Day of Prayer in Cape Town. For two decades Christians all over the world have
gathered on Pentecost Sunday for a day of repentance and prayer. Credit: Diane Vermooten/Media Village

1.1 Consecrating ourselves to God
Prayer and repentance
Before crossing the Jordan, Joshua called on the people to “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you”. After 40 years of wandering in circles the impending moment of radical obedience and extreme action required a new level of repentance and holiness.

As younger Africans prepare to lead us to cross to the metaphorical Promised Land, individuals and institutions have to very deliberately examine every idea and action to determine whether they are of God for this season or whether we are still living from past ideas or sinful thoughts. Our consecration to our calling must be anchored in personal prayer and holiness and allied with corporate prayer movements that can mobilise prayer against key giants and in support of initiatives.

1.2 Gathering intelligence
When the Israelites scouted out the Promised Land, the first thing Moses did was send in 12 spies to gain information. Similarly, Nehemiah’s first action when arriving in Jerusalem was to inspect the city walls to get information about their state. In King David’s time the sons of Issachar were known as men who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do”.

Governments, militaries and corporates all have highly developed structures to gain good information, yet this is something in which the church has very little formal capacity. Traditionally, the church has relied on living in proximity to the poor in order to understand the needs of the most vulnerable. This is important and a significant part of developing the church’s prophetic voice. However, in order to impact broader society in an integrated way the church needs to understand societal trends, future thinking, key institutions and political shifts.

We can do this by a) developing desk- and field-based research capacity, using existing capacity within civil society and by developing grassroots research capacity to empower communities to collect their own data; b) developing networks of strategically placed leaders within key institutions who are able to collect information to discern trends in their sector or field of expertise; and c) sharing key information in regular discernment spaces at community, institutional, city, national and continental levels and within different sectors.

Ultimately, the most important aspect of gathering intelligence is using it in the process of discerning God’s voice. Leaders who are already listening to God in prayer and through reading the scriptures, can then include this information in their discernment process.

Ps Suwedi leads a home-based fellowship in Mdera, Malawi. Discipled in home-based evangelism the members of the fellowship each share their faith, in their homes, with neighbours. With God they have overcome fear in order to lead and bless their community. Credit: African Enterprise

1.3 Connecting relationships and building peace
Movements are ecosystems of individuals and organisations with similar values working in alignment, despite their diversity, for a particular outcome. We have already shown how the church is ideally suited to play a key role in anchoring and catalysing important relationships at all levels. Achieving peaceful collaboration requires deliberate effort to ensure that the church lives out its values through restored and whole relationships. But we will also need to grow our technical skills by building networking and peacebuilding capacity. This can range from using tools such as social network analysis to map and understand our networks, to training people in mediation, diplomacy and peacebuilding. These skills are needed to bring peace in fragile states and to help the ongoing African integration process. We examine peacebuilding in more detail in shift 7, on pg. 52 of this report.

1.4 New organisational wineskins for new wine
Africa needs strong institutions to ensure that visions and policies are actually implemented. Institutions, unlike individuals, are able to ensure that core movement values and skills are sustained over a period of time. Institutions that successfully transition to engage in a contemporary environment drive economic growth. This is crucial for Africa as we lack a range of efficient institutions that can share power. In contrast, institutions that don’t transition are often a barrier to change, extracting from, rather than serving, society.

Extractive institutions need to be disrupted to be realigned as new wineskins according to new movement values and a new external environment, using tools of accountability (see pg. 34). If they fail to realign they may need to die and be replaced by new institutions to hold the new wine the Spirit is bringing to an Abundant Africa.

This is also true for the church. God will challenge us to organise ourselves differently for the new ways we must serve a changing external environment. Churches have traditionally shown excellence in organising at national, regional and global levels through councils of churches, evangelical alliances and allied movement structures such as the Lausanne Movement. These collectives are brilliant at building networks and speaking prophetically into key moments. But to be ready for new wine they need a major injection of resources, and some redesign, to ensure that they can translate their relational and theological capital into real organising power and support grassroots movements to deliver real change on the ground.

At a grassroots level, tools like Church and Community Mobilisation (CCM) and self-help groups are being used by churches and empowered communities to set their own agendas and organise themselves to act at a local level. A movement’s greatest power comes from organising at a grassroots level, and the success of these tools and the structures they birth show that communities are starting to lead. However, many local churches are still struggling to reach out and serve the communities outside of their congregations.

Churches readily disciple people, but we rarely consider a deliberate focus on discipling organisations/institutions and the complex systems that form between them. When an institution has enough good people open to change and the Spirit of God, they can play a significant role in instilling good values in the institution and guiding its institutional culture. Keystone institutions are institutions that play a unique and crucial role in the way the broader system functions and they are especially important for discipleship.

New digital technologies, alongside the massive adoption of cellphone technology in Africa, mean that many institutions can be redesigned to be more inclusive and less restricted by geography. It is now possible for a movement to develop a digital backbone that will provide systems support for collaboration and communication between institutions in ways previously thought impossible.

Emissions rise from the towers of the SASOL plant in Secunda, South Africa, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases from a single site. Activists are focusing on lobbying SASOL as a keystone institution that could shift the whole industry if it changed or shut down. Credit: Waldo Swiegers

1.5 Resourcing
The vision to create an Abundant Africa will require resources, both human and financial, on a scale far greater than anything we have seen on the continent before. We need to let go of the manna of wandering in the desert and embrace the more settled sowing and reaping of the Promised Land. God can shift our economy and allow us to be more self-sufficient as we operate in an economy of life.

The first step will be to destroy the idols of empire that we often worship. The Israelites created and worshipped the golden calf made from the plundered wealth of the Egyptian empire as one of their first acts after liberation. They were still in slavery to the economic system of their past. Some in our liberation generation captured or aspired to systems of wealth derived from the old oppressive state and extractive markets. We cannot look backwards to captivity to find the resources to build anew. In particular, we need to tackle some forms of prosperity theology that encourage this, with finances extracted from poor congregants for the luxury of elite pastors. This is the church equivalent of an extractive colonial economy and won’t bring freedom.

We need organising systems for collaborative fundraising. A family that eats together stays together. There is an increase in donors looking to give funding to coalitions of organisations that are able to achieve larger objectives than they would be able to if they operated alone.

Resources need to be managed as much as possible at a local level. Centralised funds provide opportunities for corruption and place decision-making power in the hands of a small elite unaware of local conditions. Instead we need an ecosystem of locally controlled funds that can work together while giving decision-making power to local leadership and accountability to local communities.

Churches in particular need to rethink how they grow their faith in terms of the size and source of the budgets they manage. We pray big dreams for Africa but fail to prepare the resources needed to execute those dreams. In order to create an Abundant Africa our vision needs to grow from thousands and millions of dollars, to billions and trillions of dollars. This increased vision cannot rely on donations and won’t be spent on the church but rather on mission. This will require innovation, excellent governance and extreme levels of courage.