Last week’s conflicts in central Nigeria left more than 1,000 wounded and at least 100 dead. It was the worst fighting in the region since 2001 when 1,000 were killed in Plateau state capital. Yet in spite of the current unrest, some Christian ministries believe that there is an opportunity for a great future in Nigeria.
“I believe it is one of the most unique countries in the world today because it exists on this fault-line between Christianity and Islam, and because also, there’s a strong church in that nation who are really wanting to see God’s purposes accomplished,” commented Malcom MacGregor, International Director of Serving in Mission (SIM).
MacGregor says their teams keep close watch on the conditions. “It does mean that, as problems arise, our missionaries are in situations where they may get caught up in riots, they may be targeted in different ways because of why they’re there. Like any good organization in these situations, we obviously look at all these contingencies, and try to plan carefully for them.”
All SIM missionaries in Nigeria entered a new role of partnership with the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA) and are helping to train Nigerian leaders as well as aid in the task of reaching Nigerians with the Gospel. Throughout Nigeria, ECWA churches are growing rapidly, especially in the central regions where some churches have reported a 400% growth in the last 10-15 years. Even churches in regions with strong Islamic centers are steadily increasing in size.
Many churches have a strong missionary vision and are seeking to reach Muslims and other unreached groups. To meet spiritual necessities of an increasingly educated church body, translation of the scriptures into various local languages and more educated pastors and church leaders are being requested.
Currently, there are 5,000 congregations, combined for an estimated three million attendants. ECWA also runs eight seminaries/bible colleges and 15 theological training institutes. The missionary arm of ECWA, the Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS), is composed of over 1200 missionaries going to various unreached areas of Nigeria and other West African countries.