Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) has developed a congregational renewal program with the help of Robert Krouse, Nigeria mission coordinator for the Church of the Brethren General Board.
The program called Jesus Jubilee is a three-day event hosted by congregations on Friday through Sunday, with the aim of stimulating the church’s growth and maturity of Christian discipleship. The program emphasizes identifying obstacles to spiritual growth, identifying stages of development a disciple must go through on the way to maturity in Christ, and developing a dynamic personal and corporate prayer life in the faith community.
Nearly 10,000 people have participate in Jesus Jubilee, and many congregations have requested a visit from the congregational renewal team. A similar program is being developed for EYN’s pastors and evangelists. An outgrowth of the effort has been the development of the EYN Office of Pastoral Development with Anthony Ndamsai serving as coordinator.
Following is Krouse’s report of the beginnings of Jesus Jubilee:
“This project began as a field work assignment for Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) students. The students are required to do field work between the semester that ends in May and the next semester that begins in August. I had been meeting with EYN TCNN students every Tuesday for a time of prayer. Some EYN students who are concerned about EYN’s drift away from Brethren teachings and practice were part of the impetus that lead to this weekly prayer meeting.
“After several months of praying together, it seemed that God was calling us to go out to local congregations with a message of renewal. The idea of Jubilee came from Leviticus 25 where God calls the people of Israel to have a kind of spiritual house cleaning and renew their commitment to God and recommit themselves to the original covenant every 50 years. It seems that God understands our human tendency to forget who we are and how we are called to live.
“We decided that we could take the message of Jubilee to 10 congregations during the semester break, and we chose meeting places that were central in their districts and large enough so that members from other churches in the district could be invited to attend. A total of about 11,000 people attended the 10 weekends.
“Filibus Gwama, EYN president, attended the Jesus Jubilee weekend that took place at Hildi No. 1 church. I think he had only planned to come on Friday evening to show his support for what we were trying to do, but he ended up coming to all of the services. He said to me, `Everyone in EYN needs to receive this message. Our pastors and people have become weary from the hard lives they live, and God will use this ministry to refresh them.’
“We began to think and pray about how we could expend beyond our little team and develop a program that could be taken to every congregation in EYN. Another concern we heard was that many pastors in EYN needed to be renewed and refreshed. Following graduation from Kulp Bible College and TCNN, there are few continuing education opportunities for pastors. I’ve been a pastor for more than 30 years, and I know from personal experience that pastors need to continually have their tools sharpened and their spirits refreshed.”
Krouse said that 66 pastors attended a first pastoral development seminar in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Word spread and 258 pastors attended the second seminar held a month later. Since then, five seminars have been held in five different regions of EYN, giving every pastor an opportunity to attend. A second series of seminars is planned to run each month for five months, beginning in April and concluding in August.