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Meet Steve Maina

The New CMS General Secretary

30 March 2009

steve_maina.jpgWho is Steve Maina?

I grew up in Kenya, and have lived and worked in Nairobi for the last 18 years. I received a call to serve the Lord at the age of 14 years, when I was in high school. My father was an Anglican minister for over 50 years and now, at 76, he is retired.
I am a 4th generation minister in the Anglican Church. My great grandfather received the gospel from CMS missionaries at the beginning of last century and he planted many churches in Kenya, as did my grandfather (also an Anglican minister) after him.

CMS missionaries and the Anglican Church have greatly influenced Kenya. We have a huge heritage of mission. And so, for me, coming to New Zealand as the general secretary of CMS feels like I am making a return on the investment that has been given to Kenya by CMS and Anglican missions over the many years that they have served in our country.


Yes It Is Worth It!

I have been serving as the general secretary of Church Army Africa for the last 5 years and have been responsible for mobilising churches for mission across Africa. I was looking after 13 countries in Eastern and Central Africa working with primates and bishops to mobilise the church for mission.

As I have travelled across Africa I have been amazed at just how vibrant the church in Africa is and how excited they are about serving the Lord. I can stand up on any pulpit in Africa and call for young people to respond to God’s call to mission and I will always get a response. I will always get people saying, “I am willing to go anywhere that God sends me.” Unfortunately the Church in Africa has not always known how to use these opportunities in terms of global mission.
In coming to New Zealand I feel that my role will be to share with the New Zealand churches some of the excitement I have about seeing God at work in Africa – to help them see that God is still at work in Africa and that the mission work that has been done in Africa and Asia and South America over so many decades has actually paid off. New Zealand churches have been responsible for mission work and giving money towards mission work for many years and people ask “ Is it worth it? “ and I’ve come here to say, “Yes it is worth it! I’ve seen the fruit of that work.”

God is at work and now we are working together. Mission is no longer a one-way street – it is not an issue of ‘this is a mission field’ and ‘this is a sending base’. Mission is from everywhere to everywhere. We serve God together. I am hoping that I can help the New Zealand church to see how it can partner with churches overseas and globally to do mission together.


The Best Use of Resources

I am hoping I can bring a perspective on the needs of overseas mission – on what will be the most strategic ways to engage with the overseas Church that will make for significant kingdom value. I want to help to establish what works and what doesn’t work and where money is useful and where it is not very useful (because it creates a dependence).
So I hope I can help the Church in New Zealand to make an impact with their financial resources in mission in such a way that they will be used more meaningfully to bear much more fruit and be more strategic, rather than pouring money into a project that will always be dependant on support from the Church in New Zealand. Sometimes, of course, there will be a need to go on supporting ministries because they will never be able to support themselves, but I have an understanding of what works in Africa, and of how even poor people can begin to support themselves just by being helped to get started. So I hope that that perspective will be useful in helping the resources from New Zealand to be well used.


Different Perspectives of God

One of my passions is to be able to see multicultural churches planted across the globe. Another is to see multicultural teams of missionaries sent to God’s world together – because people always have a different perspective of God based on their experience of God, based on where they have been serving the Lord and their experiences of the Gospel.

Many people in Africa who have grown up in the Christian faith have done so in a context of sacrifice and suffering. They have a different perspective of God to those who have grown up in a context where there is so much material wealth around them. I hope that I can help people in the churches here to see God’s world in a new way and to see the resources that we in Africa have to offer.

One of those is the sense of community that we have in Africa compared to the whole individualistic emphasis in New Zealand. In Africa when people pray to God a lot of the prayers that are made are communal prayers rather than individual prayers. I have found that a lot of the songs that are sung in New Zealand are quite individualistic – I want God to bless me – there is an individual focus. But in Africa we want God to bless us and we pray for us more than we pray for me.

Another difference is the way we visit one another. I can drop in on people anytime in Africa, anytime. I can drop in for a cup of tea, or for a meal, without actually making an appointment. I would not do that here! It is a perspective that we have in Africa, an outlook, of seeking to live together.

If, as a minister, I am leading a service in Africa on Sunday I am likely to ask if there is anyone who hasn’t had breakfast. That is unlikely to be a question it would be necessary to ask in New Zealand.

So in Africa people are conscious of the needs of others around them and seek to support those who may not have as much, because they are aware that there are many people living with very little.

Another difference: for many people within Africa as they pray the Lord’s Prayer 'give us this day our daily bread' they are literally asking the Lord to provide, because they do not know where their next meal will come from. They have no insurance, no social welfare and right now with the famine we have been experiencing in East Africa there is no other way to get food than asking the Lord to provide.

But in New Zealand people know where their food will come from, so when they make the Lord’s Prayer it is different. The thing about Africa is that the prayer to God is real; the Africans are really depending on God. Whereas here when people pray, I find it is more to do with their comfort levels. But the prayers of Africans are really for things that are ‘make or break’, for very important things, for things that if you do not have, you will not survive.

When, as in New Zealand, you are surrounded by people who have a lot more than you, your prayers tend to be about increasing your comfort levels, about ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, but in Africa – where you are surrounded by people who have a lot less than you – you are likely to be more grateful to God for the little he has given you! And your prayers are likely to be for the people who do not have as much as you do.

Those are some of the differences that I see as an African coming to New Zealand.


Challenging the New Zealand Church

I want to challenge the church in New Zealand to see that although the numbers may not be huge in their churches they have a lot of resources – they have so much to offer to the Lord. To challenge them to give up whatever they have towards God’s work and his service and his kingdom.

But then I would also like to challenge the Church in New Zealand by commending a new way of understanding God’s world. For a long time it has been ‘We have this wealth and we would like to help the poor in the world’. I would like them to recognise that even though the people in Africa and Asia and other two-thirds world countries are very poor – they have something to offer!

New Zealanders need to begin to see that whilst they are wealthy in terms of monetary wealth, they may also be poor spiritually. Others who have come from different parts of the world may be richer spiritually and may have things to teach New Zealanders. Will you be prepared to learn from those people who have come from a different part of the world who may have a different sort of resource to offer you?

I have been invited to speak at many places across New Zealand and as I share my story and I share my faith, I hope that that will come across – that even as an African, I have something to offer, I have a perspective of God that is different – and I hope I can enrich the Church here in New Zealand.

Another important point I want to make is this: I am hoping that the Church in New Zealand will not continue to think that by themselves they can fulfil the great commission. We are all members of the body of Christ, and I hope that the Church in New Zealand will recognise that, yes, this is a role they can play, but the Church in Africa, the Church in Asia, the Church in South America, the Church worldwide, they all have a part to play as well. And I hope that I can bring into perspective what that means – to function as the body of Christ.


The Future of Global Missions

The future of global missions is multinational and multicultural. I see a lot more partnerships – mission organisations that two decades ago used to do things by themselves will work together for the common good of God’s kingdom. I see a lot less emphasis on denominations as we move into the future.

One of my great priorities over the next 3 years as General Secretary of CMS is to mobilise a new generation of young people into mission. My focus is those in their 20s and 30s. I sense that there has been a gap over the years in terms of getting younger people excited about mission. I’d like to explore what it means for us to be able to attract young people and excite them about mission.

Part of the problem could be the models that we have used in mission. Finding new models will be important. But part of it is that younger people are not as committed to denominations as the previous generations were. And so I see the future of mission as asking how can we work together with others – those we have traditionally not worked with before? We have the same ethos, the same vision, so how can we work together with them to fulfil the great commission?
This idea of new partnerships is not just about other denominations, or other agencies, but it will also extend to churches of all races.

So you would send a team overseas comprising a Kiwi, someone from Asia, someone from Latin America and someone from England. And as they all work together in another context of mission, they would begin to discover what it means for them to add value to the task with their different perspectives of mission. In the past we have sent individuals out to do mission, but I’d like to see teams of people working together in God’s mission.

The future of mission is in the recognition of the fact that more missionaries are now coming from Africa, Asia and South America than from the whole western world put together! We need to be able to conceive of a future where western society will begin to receive missionaries from countries such as these, from the two-thirds world.


Learning to Receive

NZCMS has made a significant step towards receiving by appointing me as an African to the position of general secretary! It shows that we are living in a new world. And that the church here has accepted that is already very positive. We can receive from people who come short term to challenge us (like speakers at conferences for example). But more importantly we need to have the right information, because information leads to conviction and conviction leads to transformation.

I sense (and I’ve only been here for a few weeks) that the information that New Zealand receives from the rest of the world is very, very scanty. There is not much news unless it is bad news! New Zealand is an island – people here don’t know what is going on in other countries, what they are doing and what positive things are happening. Part of receiving is getting the right information. There are some wonderful things happening in parts of Africa and Asia and the Middle East. Getting the right information helps people engage meaningfully, it informs people’s prayers.

We need to be convinced that the people in the 2/3rds world have something to offer us. When we read the scripture we see that in the body of Christ the parts that seem weaker are indispensable. God can use someone who seems weaker than us. They may not speak our language, they may not understand things from our perspective, but they still have something to offer because they have an understanding of God that is different from ours. We need to be convinced of this.

And that leads to transformation. Transformation means that we need to look at our models, at our structure, at our priorities. We need to begin to see how we can allow other people from other parts of the world to be able to share with us. I have challenged those who go out overseas, for example, to not just go and hang out with their mission partners, with the expats – it is very easy in that situation to look for a comfort zone – but there is value in surrounding yourself with people who are different from you, to see what they have to offer you.


Another View of Mission

Traditionally we have sent people out to go and preach to the unreached people groups in the world, but now we find that there are many migrants coming to New Zealand from those very places to which we send missionaries! We need to recognise that as a new shift in mission.

We need to be able to engage our migrant populations. We don’t have to go to India to speak to the Indians or to China to minister to the Chinese, they are here in New Zealand, we are eating their food we are interacting with them – they are our neighbours.

We don’t always have to ‘go out’ into the world – the world has come to us. We need to open our eyes to see ways in which we can form relationships with these people. As we reach out to them with the gospel, not only will they in turn be a Christian influence when they go back to visit their own countries, but they will also add flavour to the Church here in New Zealand.

Learn to reach out to those in your neighbourhood who are different from you. Teach yourself to receive from those of a different culture by inviting your Asian friend for a meal for instance, or for coffee or a BBQ. Get to learn something about them that will help you appreciate people from other cultures, other places in the world.

I challenge the New Zealand Church not to move away from the biblical foundations that formed it. Faithful obedience to God’s word and the centrality of Jesus in our lives must be foundational to any mission activity. I appreciate the work of AMB and hope that the Anglican Church in New Zealand will continue to take mission seriously.


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