Golden Threads in God’s African Enterprise Tapestry
A Devotional Reflection on Self-identity: Who and What We Are: As spoken by Founder, Michael Cassidy, on 5 November 2013 at the African Enterprise International Council Meeting.
KEY SCRIPTURES FROM STUDENT DAYS:
“Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…” (Revelation 3:20).
This was the main Scripture which spoke to me at the time of my conversion. Maybe the major verse I took away from my student days and my first years as a convinced Christian. And this was particularly driven home to me when Billy Graham came to preach at Cambridge only weeks after my conversion. I saw and experienced evangelism for the first time in my life. And I had a new and instant hero. He remains that still to this day.
And of course this verse talks about the necessity of response to Christ, of repentance, faith, conversion, and new birth. My response at this point on 23 October 1955 shaped the rest of my life and later brought its truths into the bloodstream of African Enterprise when it was formed. Our work would be all about repentance, faith, commitment, conversion, new birth, and earnest discipleship.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This verse I discovered like a mighty meteor entering my soul the Sunday after my conversion. It speaks of the glorious consequences of new birth and Christian discovery. Virtually overnight I wanted everyone in the world to make this same discovery. That is still what we all want in African Enterprise. It is basic and foundational to who we are. We want everyone everywhere to know this transforming power of Jesus Christ. And it comes about through evangelism, people hearing the Gospel, and responding to it. This is why we exist. It is our Raison-d’Être.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness that the man/woman of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Not long after my conversion, as noted, Billy Graham came to Cambridge for a University Mission. The London Times exploded with wild and controversial comments about a so-called fundamentalist coming into the sacred halls of British academia. And overnight England was abuzz with controversial reflections and debate about the nature of the Bible. I also became caught up in this.
A key volume which rescued me from bewilderment and lostness on this issue was James Packer’s Fundamentalism and the Word of God. Intellectually that set me up to believe in the full inspiration and authority of the Bible. But the spiritual happening came later when the Holy Spirit in what felt like a supernatural inner word to my heart seemed to speak to me directly and convince me for all time that the Bible is indeed the fully inspired and fully reliable Word of God.
It was with this conviction that I later went to Fuller, and it was this conviction as the Founder of African Enterprise, that I brought into this ministry as a basic pillar of conviction and a central tenet of belief. From the start African Enterprise gave the Bible the central place of authority in all matters of faith and morals. Later, the Lausanne Covenant would theologically enshrine and define this and we brought it into our organisational life as our constitutionally established statement of faith. And everyone coming into this ministry, whether team or board members, would need to subscribe to this.
“Bring the full tithes into the store house, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing” (Malachi 3:10).
This was a very key principle taught to me very soon after my conversion. I embraced it as a fundamental life conviction and have operated the tithing principle and known its promised blessings from within weeks of my conversion up till now. And as African Enterprise was born in due time, all the early team members embraced this principle, practised it in their giving, not only to their churches, but to African Enterprise itself. The idea of any team or board members not giving part of their tithes to the African Enterprise ministry was inconceivable. And we believed that as we were generous in these terms with our own finances, and as we taught this principle in our ministry, so African Enterprise itself would by God’s blessings become a significant beneficiary of other people’s tithing. Then finances would never be a debilitating or destructive issue.
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Up until the day of my conversion, I had never witnessed to the Person of Jesus Christ. But from then on I did. And African Enterprise when it was finally born embraced this principle also that when the Holy Spirit is really working in and through us, we will be motivated to witness to Christ, first in the place where we are (Jerusalem), secondly in the area round about (Judea), thirdly amongst those with whom we would normally have no dealings (Samaria), and then to the end of the world. The work of witness became for us what we would exist to carry out with the help of and in the power of the Spirit.
KEY SCRIPTURES IN OUR FORMATIVE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY DAYS:
“And with you in all the work will be every willing man/woman who has skill for any kind of service” (1 Chronicles 28:21).
As African Enterprise was birthed at Fuller Theological Seminary in January 1961 when we had our very first Board Meeting, and as the little team began to come together, this was a verse the Lord strongly imprinted on our minds and hearts. Whatever the skill or work requirements were, we would have the necessary people given us equipped with the skills we would need. As we claimed this Scripture again and again over the years, we saw it working out in a remarkable way. I believe we need to claim it again at this point in the ministry’s life.
“No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment, you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication is from me, says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17).
In the early years the Lord gave us this Scripture again and again, and all across the years ever since. It doesn’t say that no weapon will be formed, which means that we need to anticipate such weapons being formed, but that they will never prosper. They will abort and come to an end and critical tongues will be silenced and condemned, not by verbal refutation from us, but by virtue of the integrity of the ministry we exercise. In other words, our ministry will be our reply. When we were still at Fuller Theological Seminary we took note of the fact that Billy Graham never replied to destructive critics, although he was willing humbly and creatively to engage with constructive ones. And we learnt from Billy and from this passage that vindication of ourselves is not our task, but the Lord’s. We can leave it to Him. And we sought to bring this into our modus operandi in African Enterprise as we moved out into the future.
“Ask of me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession” (Psalm 2:8).
At Fuller Theological Seminary we learnt and were inspired by the fact that Dawson Trotman, Founder of the Navigators, prayed for and claimed assorted nations and cities around the world for the Navigator Ministry. We decided to follow suit. We began praying for every nation of Africa and for one key African city per day on each day of the month. Thirty one days in the month. So thirty one cities of Africa were daily prayed for each month. In the South African team this has historically been kept up, and I know that numbers of the Support Boards put out prayer diaries identifying a key city each day to pray for. I believe we need to do this more systematically, even now, and with more faith. And more intentional planning.
“Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).
This was always the greeting Dr Charles Fuller brought to me as I passed him week after week in the corridors of the Fuller Theological Seminary. “Preach the Word, Mike, preach the Word.” That was his passion. And he wanted it to be the passion of Fuller Seminary. And of every believer everywhere. And of African Enterprise.
I personally believe that African Enterprise is at heart a ministry of preaching and a team (teams) of preachers. Someone once said: “If God has called you to preach, do not stoop to be a king.” And we register that the very first thing said about our Lord in His public ministry is that: “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God.” Says Paul to Timothy, as noted above: “Preach the Word… Do the work of an evangelist. Fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2, 5). Says the Apostle to the Corinthians: “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). While I know there are many other ways of spreading the Gospel, and African Enterprise must use them all, nevertheless I believe that preaching must remain primary.
“Do not be afraid but speak and do not hold your peace; for I am with you and no one will set on you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10).
While travelling round Africa in 1961 with Ed Gregory, this Scripture was given us in a little rondavel in Lagos, Nigeria, during a torrential, tropical cloud burst! It was a confirming word coming to us in the power of the Spirit that cities and the leadership circles within them were to be the focus of the African Enterprise ministry. And so strong was the word that we could ask the Lord where the first ministries into such cities were to be, and included in His reply was “Pietermaritzburg”. And I wrote it in the margin of my Bible. African Enterprise would be an urban ministry. And because on that tour our main focus of contact, and fruitful contact it was, was leadership (including senior politicians, heads of state, and even royalty, as in Ethiopia), a leadership focus entered our lexicon of major purposes for the African Enterprise ministry.
KEY SCRIPTURES EN ROUTE BACK TO SOUTH AFRICA, END OF 1964:
“Always be ready to give a reason (Gk apologia) for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
On our way back to South Africa at the end of 1964, some of us stopped at L’Abri in Switzerland to visit our long standing friend, Francis Schaeffer. During those days as we sat under Francis’ remarkable teaching in apologetics, we became convinced that the Lord was speaking to us that apologetics and the defence of the faith, not just its proclamation, were to be an integral part of our African Enterprise ministry.
This has been true in our many University Missions over the years and I believe it is a dimension that needs rediscovering in our work at this time, especially because of the ever mounting challenges of every type to the faith from every quarter. It is interesting that as we build the new Ministry Associate team in South Africa we are including several specialists in apologetics, not just in terms of tackling traditional western neo-paganism, but some of the other challenges from African Traditional Religion.
“Take heed lest you forget the Lord your God, by not keeping His commandments… Lest when you have eaten and are full… and your silver and gold is multiplied… beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth… And if you forget the Lord your God… I solemnly warn you this day that you will perish” (Deuteronomy 8:11-13, 17-19).
Cutting a long story short, we had fearsome difficulties in 1964 for the early team getting the necessary visas to enter South Africa. In the midst of this crisis the Lord said to us through this chapter that He was indeed “bringing (us) into this good land” (v 7). And that we would materially flourish and be blessed and used here. But if we got proud, or self-sufficient, or thought we ourselves had secured our material well-being, and we forgot Him, then we would be fearsomely judged.
So this became a very key chapter in the life of the early African Enterprise ministry and I think its principles remain true even now.
OTHER KEY SCRIPTURES RECEIVED OVER THE YEARS:
There were many key Scripture verses and they became very important principles to us but I simply give a few to you in summary and telegramatic form:
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
When Festo Kivengere and I first traveled together across the United States in 1970/71 this verse was deeply imprinted on our hearts and minds and became under God and in the power of His Spirit our theme song and our fundamental message, not only for that journey but for endless others around Africa and across the world. African Enterprise was to be a ministry of reconciliation, which meant that our own relationships needed to be right as a prerequisite of ministering reconciliation to others. That’s why one of our key slogans became: “African Enterprise is a testimony before it is a ministry.” This principle needs embracing now more than ever as we face what the Lord has for us in the future.
“If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).
This was a major golden thread of truth brought into the ministry by Festo Kivengere, John Wilson and all our East African colleagues. It was the truth that constituted the wellspring and inner secret of the East African Revival. This truth relates obviously in a deep way with 2 Corinthians 5:18 above and the relational imperatives there. Thus right now the work will only flourish and go ahead as our relationships with one another are all right and in the light.
“Behold, I have set before you an open door which no one is able to shut” (Revelation 3:8).
This verse was given me/us four times from different people when I was in a particular personal crisis in 1980 about my appropriateness as a white man from apartheid South Africa preaching in the great cities of independent Africa. We decided to claim this Scripture as it was so dramatically given to us, and hold on to it through thick and thin for the future of the ministry. Brothers and sisters, Africa and its cities are our parish and the doors into all of them are by God’s decree, and according to His will, open if we are willing to go through them.
“The Lord said to Abraham… ‘Lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you’ve seen I will give to you and to your descendants forever… Arise, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I will give it to you” (Genesis 13:14, 17).
Throughout the 1980s God gave us this Scripture again and again and promised us that North, South, East and West, all of Africa was ours if we would but arise and walk! This is still valid for us right now.
“Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building the Church” (1 Corinthians 14:12).
The ministry has always been eager to see the Holy Spirit work amongst us and through us, even with manifestations, but the Lord said there was a condition attached to this, namely that we should “strive to excel in building the Church.” We were not just to be good at it, we were to excel at it. And when African Enterprise can no longer excel in this God-given task, then we will not see the manifestations of the Spirit which we long to witness.
“Make love your aim and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
When Renewal came in different parts of Africa, and around the world, African Enterprise followed a bridge-building road between conventional Evangelicals, who stressed love and the fruit of the Spirit, and Pentecostals and Charismatics who stressed the gifts. In African Enterprise we saw that it is not either love or gifts, but love and gifts. This brought a healing ministry in many communities and helped churches come together to be ready for the inter-denominational citywide evangelism we were promoting everywhere.