Today is the last time I am scheduled to preach at CCR during this season of ministry. On Monday, 4 June our family will leave Kigali believing God has called us to leave all that is familiar to become missionaries to the Great Lakes Diaspora in the United States. Today is the day that CCR Handover becomes official. I like Paul am hopeful for the future. We will meet again both in this life and in another. I will in the future preach at CCR and be with many of you through life transitions as we meet again. However, the season of CCR’s history in which I have functioned as her Senior Pastor has come to a close. These moments of transition are awkward and painful, but they are for a purpose.
Luke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gathered the history of the early church. He wrote an exceptional history. With his history he starts well with an introductory summary in Acts 1:8. Eugene Peterson translates the summary, “Timing is the Father's business. What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world (The Message.)" Sovereign God orders time so the Gospel can go forth. We are filled with the Holy Spirit when we come to faith. Our task is to take the Gospel to the ends of the world.
Luke’s history ends awkwardly. “Good” historical books conclude with a historic victory and then several “lessons learned.” Instead Luke closes with the master missionary Paul under house arrest in Rome. While under house arrest Paul boldly states, “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen! (Acts 28:28)” There is no closure.
We turn the page to Acts 29. Yet, there is no Acts 29.
My favorite theologians write that we leave in the age of Acts 29. Our task is to proclaim the good news of Jesus resurrection. As we proclaim lives are changed, disciples are made, churches start and thrive. We live in the awkward moments of Acts 29 as we wait for Jesus to return.
We are entering an Acts 29 season at CCR. Closing a chapter, but the story is not done.
If the Lord does not return in the next 100 years one will arise to write the history of CCR. If he is a good Bible student he will start with God’s eternal plans of adopting us as His children before creation. His next chapters will tell the history of Rwanda that made our current season possible. Then there will be a chapter about the first 5 years of CCR’s history with me as her Senior Pastor. Then other chapters will begin with others used by God. If the historian is honest the history will show human triumphs and failings. All the good that humanity does is by grace. God is the hero of the CCR story.
On Saturday 5 May 2012 CCR held her Annual General Meeting. We elected a new Board of Directors. This followed a long process. God works through all of our situations to give us wisdom. Eight months ago, Jana and I announced that we sensed God was calling us to leave Rwanda. A question in many of our minds was, “How will the succession go?”
Jana and I spent 2 weeks in Nairobi when Mugisha was having convulsions. At one point we were in Uchumi supermarket. We heard a familiar voice in the background say, “Do you remember me?” We turned and it was a very old friend, Mona Zikusooka. Jana and I had mentored Mona and her husband, Jacob for 6 months as they prepared to wed in 1998. They are some of our best memories. As Mugisha’s convulsions added stress we had a need to stay with some who were like family. We began living with Jacob, Mona, and their three daughters. During this time we received some wise counsel. Those we had previously mentored gave us great wisdom. Jacob had served as the Chairman of a church elders’ board as their Senior Pastor transitioned. It did not go well. Jacob’s counsel was that there needed to be a plan. I needed to lead it. It would require many individual meetings, small group meetings, leadership meetings, and eventually a plan owned by the entire church. We are now at this point.
In our CCR AGM we unanimously elected the following individuals to serve as our new CCR Board of Directors as our CCR Handover People:
Brett Shreck will serve as both our CCR Senior Pastor and Legal Representative. As such he will be the Vision Bearer for CCR. He will have the CCR Stamp and be the one accountable for CCR’s dealings with the Rwanda government. Brett believes and does the right things to be the CCR Vision Bearer. Former Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Angelina Muganza gave the original idea of CCR – An English based church with a good children’s and youth program. Brett has brought excellence and order to CCR’s Children’s ministry. I am confident he will do this in the entirety for CCR. Brett and Keli Shreck have embraced the CCR vision of Spoken For. We can build a network of families who can foster children who fall into vulnerable situations until they can either be re-united with their extended families or adopted.
Moses Mbabaali will serve as both CCR’s Youth Pastor and Deputy Legal Representative. In Brett’s absence Moses will carry the stamp and be the one accountable for CCR’s dealings with the Rwanda government. In Moses serving as CCR’s DLR we are making a conscious choice for CCR. We will embrace the youth. We will do all we can to empower their success. Among our leadership most of us conclude that Moses has the greatest raw spiritual gifts of Vision Bearing. He knows where we need to go and sees the steps we need to take to most give God glory. For instance, some of you may remember what the sound was like as CCR began 5 years ago. Our facility echoed. Our worship team was awful to the ear. Moses saw that we needed to make sacrificial investments in instruments, sound systems, and young hopeful musicians. We bought sound systems and instruments when we had no musicians. His vision bearing has produced the worship team we now have at CCR.
William Rusty Linden will serve as CCR’s Chief Executive Officer. He will be responsible for making sure things function with order. He will continue to have a lead role in CCR’s Community Groups and Worship Teams. I do not believe CCR would have been able to accomplish 2 worship services without Rusty’s leadership.
Our CCR Treasurer is UMUHIRE Anita. She is not with us today due to being sick with chicken pox. Some of you may not know Anita. If you do not know Anita please friend her on Facebook. I want you to know Anita. You will notice that Anita is young. In fact, she looks significantly younger than she is. Anita serves as the Head of Finance at Fina Bank. She also is someone who just seeks out opportunities to serve. You will notice her as a key participant with CCR ministries that are core to our vision such as Sunday Children’s Ministry and Spoken For. It is obvious that her responsibilities as Treasurer will be to manage CCR’s finances.
In the start of any endeavor the first days require the few gathered to the vision to do almost everything. Brett has been managing CCR’s finances. It is too much for us to expect him to lead our CCR vision and manage our financial resources. Anita will quickly take the role of managing our financial resources.
Our CCR Secretary is GAKIRE KABEHO Vivian. If you read through our CCR constitution you will not find the constitutional role of a Secretary. Yet, if you look through the documents we have given Rwandan government officials you will find the need for a Secretary. Thus we chose to elect a Secretary. For those who do not know Vivian please friend her on Face book. She has an MBA from Oklahoma Christian University and works in Rwanda’s Prime Minister’s Office. She has been an active participant at CCR. I believe that as she serves as the CCR Secretary she will be able to lighten the load of our pastoral leaders by keeping our documentation and records current.
Our CCR Constitution calls for two advisors on the Board of Directors. The two to be elected are Dr. NKUSI Emmanuel and NYAGAHURA Marguerite. I hope none of you have the misfortune to meet Dr. NKUSI in his professional expertise. May your family, friends, and you never need a neurosurgeon. If you do need a neurosurgeon Dr. NKUSI is one of two in Rwanda. He works very long hours serving our nation. Though he is quite busy I trust he will bring his wisdom to our CCR leadership. For almost all who live or labor in the 2020 Vision Estate we know NYAGAHURA Marguerite. She is the one we call when we have a problem and need advice. I believe she will also give great wisdom to our CCR leadership.
Brett Shreck, Moses Mbabaali, Rusty Linden, UMUHIRE Anita, GAKIRE KABEHO Vivian, Dr. NKUSI Emmanuel and NYAGAHURA Marguerite will serve CCR for two years as our Board of Directors.
Besides this board we will have an Audit Committee who will once per year review the finances of CCR. The Audit Committee is made up of BARIGYE Arthur Mugunga, NIWENKUNDA Catherine, and NSENGA Eron Asiimwe. BARIGYE Arthur Mugunga is trained in Business and is one of the executives for MacMillan book publishers in Rwanda. NIWENKUNDA Catherine has an MBA from the School of Finance and Banking and has served with USAID. NSENGA Eron Asiimwe is a businesswoman trained by Peace Through Business. I am confident in all three’s ability to hold CCR accountable to well document our finances.
As we came to a new Board of Directors for CCR we also came to a CCR Handover Action Plan. You will notice that the Action Plan is not in detail. However, it lays out seven broad areas that are key for CCR’s continued vision. This was intentional. First, we want to empower our CCR leadership to work out the details as they best see fit. Second, we kept ourselves to 7 points so this would be easy to remember and also reflect completeness as some theologians consider 7 a symbol of completion.
First, CCR will continue to have 2 English Sunday Worship Services in which the gospel is preached and facilitate community groups for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Jesus. As an English medium church CCR will continue to promote the learning of the English language.
Moses pointed out well that our constitution empowers future CCR church planting. I trust a day will come in which we will notice a cluster of 10 to 20 CCR families in a Kigali neighborhood. On that day we will birth a new church.
CCR currently is at an awkward numeric place. We bounce in the 300 to 350 range. Most who study patterns of human community and church growth say this is an unsustainable number. Either CCR will grow into the range of 500 to 1,000 or we’ll drift back to around 200. We must make uncomfortable choices today if we believe God has called us to grow. Thus we are choosing to continue to have 2 English worship services in our current facility plus community groups and promoting of the English language.
Our following points on our CCR Action Plan all concern CCR’s vision to build the leadership capacity of Rwanda’s youth.
Our second point in our Action Plan is that CCR will continue serving as facilitator for Presidential Scholarship programs through Oklahoma Christian University, the Hendrix Consortium, and other educational institutions. Our CCR staff plays a key role as helpful friends in bridging MINEDUC and these universities. We have helped over 300 of Rwanda’s brightest to study at universities in the USA. These students have excelled, and been exceptional Rwandan ambassadors. Part of the reason my family will be returning to the USA for a season is to pastorally serve these Rwandan students.
Our third and sixth Action Plan points relate to property. They are:
Number three is to begin exploratory conversations concerning the possibility of partnering in developing a new school in property adjoining the current 2020 Vision Estate.
And number six to begin exploratory conversations concerning the possibility of partnering in the developing a youth cultural and sports center near the current 2020 Vision Estate.
As you can see we intend to plan for growth. Rwanda has too few schools and too few places for our youth to discover all their abilities in community. The property to our west provides options for growth. A friend of mine who does not share my convictions about the resurrection pointed out that though we currently have fabulous facility we are not prepared for the population of our hill to increase by 8 fold.
When my family first lived in the 2020 Vision Estate we walked by our current facility and prayed, “God I cannot imagine that this property is available. The next time an estate is built can we be on the ground floor?”
Thankfully, the property was available. Yet, I am not convinced that God’s intent does not reflect our original prayer.
When CCR was first granted registration in May 2006 we were given instructions by MNALOC to develop property. When we asked where we were taken to the property to our west and told that it could become available with the expropriation exercise. We felt uncomfortable for a church to be involved in the expropriation exercise. Yet, now that the expropriation is finished the property has sat idle for nearly 3 years.
Kigali City Council has recently requested for stake holders in Kigali to participate in the Master plan. (See http://focus.rw/wp/2012/05/kigali-city-calls-for-input-on-master-plan/ and http://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/index.php?i=14985&a=53328.)
It is time for CCR to be a participant in the discussion. Brett Shreck before coming to Rwanda was a Real Estate broker. He has much more skill in this area than I. Also, during our early days only a few of us could speak for CCR. Now we have significantly grown. It is now a season for us as a corporate body to begin discussions on how CCR can partner with KCC and CSR to build schools and youth cultural and sports facilities.
Our fourth point in our CCR Action Plan is to continue sponsorship of students to attend secondary and university. In 2012 – 2013 CCR will sponsor up to 10 Female Students based upon need and academic success to attend FAWE School and if they qualify for a university scholarship facilitate their living expenses. We will also sponsor up to 10 students regardless of gender but based upon their academic success and participation at CCR will be sponsored to attend secondary school and university. This will necessitate an increase in our giving.
Our fifth point in our CCR Action Plan is to continue youth programs such as concerts, dramas, teaching moral values, and sports.
Finally, our seventh point in our CCR Action Plan is to continue in partnership with Rwanda’s Ministry of Gender and Family and National Child Commission the Spoken For program of fostering Orphans and Vulnerable Children in families until these children can either be re-united with their extended family or adopted. Our families can do this. We can be the first place that is called when a child falls into a vulnerable situation. This is representing that CCR is a bible based church. The most biblical response to OVC is adoption. Every child has a right to be in a loving family.
Before we held our AGM I repeatedly read both the Bible and our CCR Constitution. Our constitution allows for CCR to grow across the borders of Rwanda with a vote of 2/3 approval in our AGM. On Saturday, 5 May CCR chose in our AGM to commission our former senior pastor, Dave Jenkins and his family to become our missionaries to Great Lakes Diaspora in the United States of America. As such they will preach the Gospel; promote unity across ethnic, race, generational, and national barriers; and seek out partnerships to facilitate CCR’s future growth.
Thank you. Our family will go to the USA with your blessing and commissioning.
For our family we have spent 19 years in Africa’s Great Lakes. If you include Jana’s childhood it is 29 years. This is home. The only way we can conceptualize leaving is to go as missionaries.
In Christmas 2009 Jana and I discovered a ministry niche that gave us a similar passion as they day Angelina Muganza asked for someone to start an English speaking church with a good children’s program. We looked up old friends we had not seen in years from our Uganda days who lived in my home villages of Minnesota. We had lunch with two. We had dinner with another two. Dinner was classic for our region. By the time it was over we had 20 more people at home. My friends had produced 3 children, brought over a few relatives, and gathered their network. I asked how many other Ugandans lived in Minnesota and was shocked to find out it was 30,000. Then my friends disclosed that though they had a Kiganda name one was a Munyarwanda. The others were from Western Uganda and had relatives and friends in Kigali. Our region socially intersects frequently. As I visited with my old friends I found they had done well academically, professionally, and economically. Yet, they struggled to socially adjust to America. Also, while they were deeply spiritual people they had yet to find a church that was like home. Jana and I walked away sensing God would call us in the future to serve Great Lakes Diaspora for a season in the USA.
We have learned not to make overly detailed plans. God directs the details of our path. Yet, we move forward sensing His leading. It is our plan as we arrive in a few weeks in Chicago to do the basic tasks of missionaries. We will meet as many of your family and friends in the USA as possible. We will join or start fellowship groups. We will listen well to hopes. We will look for opportunities to serve. It is our hope that our season in the USA will be brief. It is our hope that not only will we help Great Lakes Diaspora thrive in the USA, but our presence will encourage them to return to our region with resources, ideas, and their very presence to build for our children’s future.
Now as I have finished the discussion of our CCR Handover People and Plan allow me to discuss five Handover Principles. The overarching theme is that God is the CCR Hero. Please do not make me or any other man the CCR Hero.
As we face the awkward Acts 29 transitions here are 5 enduring Handover Principles.
First, God’s people thrive when they are led by a vision bearing pastor.
God’s word says, “Moses said to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.’
So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him. Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him. He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.’
Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly (Numbers 27:15-22).”
Does this sound familiar? A community is experiencing a transition and a fear is that they will be left like sheep without a shepherd. History shows that sometimes this happens. Even some in a season of transition will use the awkward moments to manipulate a community for selfish purposes. The answer is that current leaders must equip and appoint new leaders. Then God will work through new leaders, and our community will be shepherded.
I am confident Brett is our new CCR Vision Bearing Pastor. I am also confident that our CCR youth have great leadership potential which will be nurtured. You are not left like sheep without a shepherd.
Second, God’s people thrive when they examine the teaching / preaching to confirm its truth. We must have a Vision Bearer to prosper. He must lead by teaching God’s word. We must examine the teaching.
As the master missionary, the apostle Paul reached the city of Berea Luke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11.)”
I hope this is not my pride, but you should be aware that I believe the best bible preaching that can be found within 1,000 miles of Kigali happens at CCR. We have an exceptionally gifted group of leaders who teach and preach here. You will hear different styles and types of illustrations. Yet I always hear men who have labored with God’s word to find the best possible application for our contemporary situation. You should expect this to continue and hold our leaders accountable to be good bible teachers.
One of my more delightful moments of the last year has been walking through our estate and being greeted with the phrase, “Pastor, can we talk?”
Yes, of course we can talk.
All of you have made me a better preacher. You have asked questions, found holes in my sermons, and helped our whole community become wiser. Please keep doing this.
Third God’s people thrive when they confidently submit to their leaders. An accountable leader can lead with joy.
God’s word says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you (Hebrews 13:17.)”
History shows that during times of leadership transition there are usually some who gather seeking an opportunity to manipulate. When the leadership is good it holds the course of vision. It is not easy to manipulate good leaders. Some will murmur about our new CCR leaders. Some will portray them as not as good as the previous. Yet God’s Word teaches that those who are called by God to lead a local church have spiritual authority. Their labor should be a joy. Their teaching and nurture of all of you should bring them the pleasures of earth. Yet, if there are some who murmur about them and even stir rebellion their joy will be fleeting. In such circumstances they will not nurture you as well as they can. Their time and energy is sapped.
Remember your leaders are accountable to God. Hold them accountable to teach God’s word. Then allow them to lead.
Fourth God’s people thrive when they financially support their church and leaders. If you have time read 1 Corinthians 9:1-23. It is a bit lengthy for our time.
The theme is repeated in 1Timothy 5:17-18. Paul writes, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
During the early days of a church plant finances require for the initial pastors to come with their own support. Many matters that should be properly the expenses of the church are paid from pastor’s pockets. Paul did this in his early church plants. It is just the cost of being a church planting pastor. However, as time goes on a church must mature in its giving, financial management, and pastoral support.
I should have given CCR more order than I did during my tenure as Senior Pastor. In the coming months you will hear our CCR Treasurer and other leaders explain our budget. You will hear a need to increase our giving. You will hear sermons and teaching whose point will be that we must give more. When this happens do not murmur about the “new regime,” and wish for my return. I endorse fully more Bible teaching on giving at CCR and the pragmatic expectation for CCR to have more financial resources. This is simply God’s teaching and plan for the church.
Fifth, God’s people thrive when they take each day’s opportunity to do good things. As Handover is completed you will notice different pastoral styles and priorities. Over the last few months I’ve tried to do less. Than at times I decided let me set one last example. You will notice some things I have done will not continue.
God’s word states in James 4:16-17, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
If you see something at CCR that has brought you joy and nurture that is not being continued it is your responsibility to continue doing it. If you see something that has brought others joy and nurture that is not being continued it is your responsibility to continue it.
Hold your pastors accountable for three things. Are they acting like your friends? Are they praying with and for you? Are they teaching God’s word? One of my favorite writers on pastoring, David Hansen writes that pastoring comes down to just these three practices – friendship, prayer, and bible teaching. The organizational order of the church that pastors give is just a reflection of these three holy habits.
After friendship, prayer, and teaching it is your corporate responsibility to nurture CCR.
I print a bulletin each week. I think it makes my sermon easier to understand and communicates clearly what is happening at CCR. Our pastors don’t need to print a weekly bulletin. If you want this to continue just be in touch with our pastors to let them know you would like to take this responsibility.
There are some traditions I’ve developed at CCR. There are some traditions that bring me so much joy I will endure the uncomfortable for a few hours to days.
I enjoy the look on little boy’s faces as they walk up the CCR steps on Palm Sunday. I enjoy when they realize that CCR is full of leaves and sticks, and they can play with them as an act of worship. For this earthly joy I spend a portion of my Saturday before Palm Sunday and early morning hours of Palm Sunday decorating. Next year, our pastors do not need to do this. I recommend if Palm Sunday brings you joy that a group of you gather the Saturday afternoon and decorate. We can do this in a better way if we do it as a community.
I also enjoy the look on mum’s faces when we give each one a rose on Mother’s Day. Our pastors do not need to do this next year. A small group of CCR men can easily buy flowers on Saturday and give them to children to distribute on Sunday.
You will see many more opportunities than this to do good. Our city is full of opportunities to build and bless.
I am confident in our new CCR leaders. I am confident in Action Plan. I am confident in all of you. Most of all I am confident “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6.)”
May God bless all of you.