Kent grew up on the north shore of Sydney and went to the local Presbyterian church. He jokes about the mono-culture of his environment, “The biggest crisis we ever had was the odd Methodist.” He would eventually face a very different world.
In his early twenties Kent came to faith in Christ and attended a local Pentecostal church in a different part of town. Pentecostals were the riff-raff in those early days, but many other churches closer to home seemed liberal, which then meant they often denied the scripture. When Kent met his wife to be, Ruth, they both knew the Lord had put them together for a purpose that had something to do with missions.
After just two years of marriage they found themselves in southern Nigeria, with their three-month old daughter, and no support. It was both a scary and a very exciting time. Benson Idahosa, a man God used to bring massive change in Africa, took Kent & Ruth as his children in faith. They served there for 20 years, helping to train 8,000 pastors for church planting in Africa and around the world.
Kent’s theological journey began to shift over the years. He still has his heart and roots in Pentecostalism, but he grew dissatisfied with its lack of connection with the wider church heritage. When Kent’s family relocated to England for high school education for the older ones and specialist health care for the youngest of the 5 children, Kent was immersed in Reformed faith, which he liked due to the earnest self-sacrifice of its early leaders.
However, it also seemed to Kent that the current Reformed movement has its limitations. It appears sometimes to serve the interests of the middle class, not really embracing the culture of the early church and its, “No Jew, no Greek – no rich, no poor – no male nor female – no resident, no immigrant” ethos. And it looked as though some its traditions in the scriptures weren’t really in line with how its first authors may have thought. That is, Paul, one of Kent’s favourites, may have been writing much more about this wider community of faith, than about our self-focused, individual faith.
This began to make Kent recognise more about his home culture, especially its roots in Western individualism, which is possibly best seen in the statement of René Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” In Africa, a proverb says, “I am because of you.” That is, our personal identity can only be found in community. This began to come into focus for Kent as violent religious crises hit their new mission region. He saw then how community was key to the expression of Christ in the gospel.
Kent & Ruth had begun a new work in northern Nigeria, along with a team of friends whom they had known and trained over many years. This team has lived through huge challenges and very faithfully given they whole lives (some literally) and families, towards serving the world around them in the likeness of Christ. It has been a wonderful journey of change and growth for us all.
During the last 12 years, Kent has moved in a more Anabaptist direction. We can’t simply characterise Christian movements, but one issue we can glean here is that the Anabaptists in general rejected the nationalism that was seen in both Catholic and Protestant movements of their day. Instead, they held that we must follow Christ, who called us to love our enemies and to serve others, no matter their religious, ethnic or national membership. This brought the teachings of Christ, especially in his Sermon on the Mount, to a central place in Kent’s faith.
The Anabaptists hold the scripture in the highest respect, as authoritative, but they also determine to interpret the whole of scripture though whom God revealed himself to be in Jesus Christ, especially in his final passion and resurrection to new creation. This meant obeying Christ, in his life example and teachings, as central to what it means to be a believer/ a follower of Jesus, a Christian.
This would also transform the way Kent shared the gospel. As God could only become known to us through what Jesus did in the cross and resurrection, so God can only become known to our neighbours by our own reconciling suffering. That is, it wouldn’t be through “taking a stand” against others that faith would succeed, but by washing their feet. God isn’t revealed on Sinai, but on Calvary. Christ and the meaning of his cross could only become known as we forgive and serve others who sought to harm us. The gospel had to be lived to be shown.
So, we try to be as eclectic in our faith as possible, drawing on all traditions of the church, honouring the scripture, seeking to obey it through the person of Christ, in our love for one another, as we look to the continued fulfilment of God’s promises. His kingdom-of-God promises emerge in a new, forgiving, serving community: not just among those who believe, but among all our neighbours, in the whole community, where the cross, the free love and embrace of God, should be standing in our lives, in the presence of all.
Over the years Kent, Ruth and their team have seen the gospel take root and grow in regions of massive terrorism and persecution that have endured for many years. They have seen the gospel take over communities and bring peace and real change in lives and cultures. They have seen genuine relationships grow with people of other faiths, that have provided brand new soil in all our hearts for the coming of Christ. They have seen the hearts of thousands of people turn from hatred to see newly the love of Jesus Christ.
Kent started out with studies in business and Ruth in microbiology. They both attended bible college in their first year of marriage and later Kent earned a master’s degree from Wales University (where Kent also served as a part-time tutor in a branch college), a Doctor of Ministry degree from Oral Roberts University and was given a Professorship in New Testament from the University of Jos. Kent and Ruth have both been bible teachers for 33 years, and Ruth also has taught chemistry and biology at A level for many years in the UK. Their main learning comes from reading and discussing the scriptures and related authors together, in the light and context of many experiences they have passed through in mission and peace-making, in some of the most challenging parts of the world.
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