Evaluation and Planning Report Church of Christ Mission to the Aja


June 31, 1998


Azove, Benin





This could be viewed as the first Church Growth Study of the work of a team of missionaries of the Churches of Christ working among the Aja people of Benin and Togo. The team is only a vessel. Its power and message comes from the Lord of the Universe. The Holy Spirit of God empowers it, but not it alone. He is at work in Aja Christians. So, a better way to look at this document is that it is a report of what God is doing in the church planting movement through the Churches of Christ in Aja. The team is committed to the following vision and guiding principles and values.


Team Vision Statement


Our team is called by God to plant and mature indigenous churches, founded on His will, among the Aja. We want to be used by God to initiate a movement sustained by Him through equipped Aja leadership.


Guiding Principles and Values




• the redemption of the Aja is God's mission, not ours.

• the Holy Spirit lives in Aja Christians; therefore, they must be honored as children of God, with all rights and responsibilities.

• clear commandments and directives of God are the basis of our teaching.

• redemption from sin is more important than freedom from all other forms of bondage.




• we work in ways that allow Aja people to see that God works through them, and not only through missionaries and foreign money.

• we use the Aja language in teaching, preaching, and worship.

• dynamic church growth is the result of planting many congregations.

• contextualization

• non-institutional


Team Work


• team work brings varied gifts and support

• missionaries are evangelists and teachers, not bishops or overseers of local congregations.

• "iron sharpens, iron. In the same way, one man sharpens another." --- each team member works according to an agreed upon team plan.

• members are accountable to each other for holiness, spiritual development, and adherence to agreed upon etiquette and procedure.


There are six hundred thousand Aja people living in Benin (450,000) and Togo (150,000). All of the "Gbe" speaking groups in West Africa have come out of the Aja. More than ninety percent of the Aja are followers of their own form of African Traditional Religion.


Team and Arrival Dates


May, 1996

Greg and Melanie Bailey

(Jessica, Faith, Hope)

Austin Avenue Church of Christ

Brownwood, Texas

September, 1997

Richard and Cyndi Chowning

Homewood Church of Christ

Birmingham, Alabama

September, 1998

Murphy and Christine Crowson


Homewood Church of Christ

Birmingham, Alabama

September, 1998

David and Heather Hicks

Kingston Church of Christ

Kingston, Tennessee

September, 1998

Jim Kennel Southeastern

Church of Christ

Indianapolis, Indiana

January, 1999

Randy and Kelly Vaughn

Richland Hills Church of Christ

Fort Worth, Texas




By Richard Chowning


The Long and short-range goals are evaluated in order to praise the Lord for what he has done, recognize the corrections needed in strategy and methodology, and to ascertain an accurate perception of what the Lord has done. From this clearer vantagepoint, we can set challenging, realistic goals and objectives.


Each January the church planting team of missionaries intends to write a church growth report that will contain an evaluation of the previous twelve months of the life of the movement. A listing of the goals and objectives for the next twelve months will also appear in the report. We envision Aja Christians working on planning and evaluation in their own, culturally appropriate ways, by the next goal setting session.


The new congregation and preaching points are an answer to prayer. The team has been praying for the salvation of the Aja for almost three years. However, we firmly believe that it is also the answer to the cry of many Aja people who called out to the creator of the universe for some way to get out from under the humanly unbearable load they are bearing.


Long Range Goals


I.   Church Planting


a. In 1998, we will set a 10-year goal for the number of members and churches.  

The EPEG congregation in Kissidougou had fifty people in attendence the Sunday Eric and James met with them. The leaders in this congregation had conducted a church growth study in 1994. They found that there were a total of 125,000 people in Kissi area. In in Kissidougou prefect there are 83,000 Kissi and ten percent are Christian. Kissidougou town center has 18,000 people 8.5% of whom are Christian.


We will set this goal after more members of the team arrive. In December, after ten months of church planting among the Aja, the team should be able to set a challenging and realistic goal.


b. By December of 1998, there will be four churches among the Aja.


It seems that the goals we originally set will be surpassed. One congregation was planted in the second trimester of the year. The current preaching points should yield more than three congregations by the end of the year.


II.  Congregational Maturation


a. A system of congregational maturation will be implemented, with the beginning of the first congregation.


Now that a congregation has been established, it is time to begin to determine what tools, teachings, and practices need to be acquired by a congregation in its maturation process. Every mission situation is different. The maturation process used in Kipsigis or Sukuma peoples of East Africa does not totally fit the Aja environment. The Aja have specific temptations, which must be faced in their maturation. They have some very good social qualities and uniquely evil ones, as well. These social and relationship ills need to be identified. Habits of spiritual nurture need to take root, which will help purge these ills from the Christian community and empower them to transform entire villages.


The Aja Christian community needs to expand its worldview to comprehend the rights and responsibilities of citizens of God's Kingdom. They need to grow in communion with Him. This process may take several years, particularly for this first generation of believers. The foreign missionaries cannot design a curriculum to accomplish this. In order to be of real benefit to these congregations, the process must be born from a dialogue between the Aja Christians and the Lord. Missionaries can only facilitate the dialogue.


A cursory study of the first generation of churches, chronicled in the New Testament, reveals their struggle to mature. Although several years had passed since they were planted, fornication, idolatry, jealousy, and pagan rituals had still not yet been purged from these churches. They were still not fully mature, but the process had begun. It is likely that the churches in later generations had more of a complete understanding and practice of citizenship in the Kingdom. The first generation most likely worked on the immediate, most obvious maturation needs. They did not have much experience in Kingdom community. People surrounded them who still acted and believed in ways that the Christians were attempting to abandon. This non-Christian world was often hostile to them.


These same forces and circumstances will challenge first generation Aja Christians in their struggle to mature. The learning and spiritual growth curve is extremely steep for these pioneers in the faith. They will stumble on the road to maturity. Spiritual development will take place in the heat of battle, if the Kingdom is to expand rapidly during this first generation. Institutionalized training or any prolonged retrenchment will stall the expansion of movement. Paul's faith was refined while he planted churches. His rested in prison cells and recuperated from beatings in beds far away from those who first taught him. While chained in a prison cell, Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesian church. In it, he summarized the maturation process with the metaphor of putting on battle armor. This armor is beginning to be forged in the Aja Christian community.


b. The problem of syncretism will be dealt with.


A prerequisite for this goal is knowledge of the culture and worldview of the Aja people. The team of missionaries is in the initial stages of acquiring this knowledge. The Aja people live in it, but they do not know enough about God's kingdom to understand where all the temptations and clashes will appear. However, the blending of beliefs and practices of the Aja's traditional religion with God's divine order results in an unacceptable product: syncretism.


During the evangelistic lessons, various aspects of the clash between Aja traditional religion and the Kingdom have been discussed. These messages have revealed only the more obvious, broad themes such as making sacrifice to the gods, use of witchcraft and membership in covens. The necessity of giving full allegiance to creator God has been stressed often. At the river, before one is baptized, he is asked, "do you testify that that you will serve God and not serve the gods?" "Do you testify that you will no longer take part in the things of the gods?" Only those who answer affirmatively would be baptized.


The maturation process, worked out in dialogue with the Aja Christians, will deal in more depth with purity, holiness, and allegiance. An edification and discipline routine will be established in the Christian community.


III.  The Churches are to be Indigenous


a. The Aja language will be used in all worship services and other activities of the churches.


All preaching, teaching, singing, praying, and all other activities of both the church and the preaching points are done in Ajagbe. The missionaries did not start to preach until they were able to do so in Ajagbe. This is different from all other churches among the Aja. Some other churches use at least scriptures in either French or the language of a neighboring ethnic group.


b. There will be an Aja songbook started by 1999.


This has already begun. A collection of eleven Aja hymns has already be circulated in the churches and preaching points. Several more songs have been given to the missionaries. New Christians have written some of them. When the songbook becomes larger, it could be printed and sold.


c. Evangelistic styles will be reproducible by nationals.


It is not clear what we meant by "styles." However, Aja Christians should be involved in all facets of evangelism. The Aja Christians must be able to easily assimilate or adapt the way the missionaries are evangelizing. The missionaries are presenting the first model.


The primary audience for the message has been groups of Aja people in village settings. These oral presentations consist of Biblical stories and scripture as well as culturally relevant stories and illustrations.


Illustrations and texts are often distributed at the meetings. The handouts are printed on the missionaries' desktop printers. The lack of scriptures being available in the language of the Aja has led the missionaries to get the translated passages into the hands of the listeners. The literacy rate is extremely low, less than fifteen percent. Some people have begun to seek out ways to read so that they can read some of these texts.


The illustrations are meant to be reminders of the lessons and tools to help them teach the lessons to others.


To make these handouts available to Aja evangelists, they could be reproduced. The missionaries could begin to compile the texts and other material into pamphlets or booklets, which could be sold. Or, the Aja evangelists could photocopy them. Photocopies cost twenty francs per page (about three cents), which is very expensive if they were to copy very many. They can be reproduced cheaper in bulk. There is also the possibility of recording oral presentations on cassette tapes and allowing them to be freely reproduced.


d. Culture will be studied using the African Culture Outline.


See the short-term goal "culture studies" later in this report. When the rest of the team arrives, the amount of archived cultural information will rapidly mount up for use by the entire team.


IV.  Establishment of a Movement


a. The church will grow at an average annual growth rate of 15% or more each year.


In December, we should be able to see if we are on track with this goal.


b. There will be a plurality of Christians, from each congregation, evangelizing.


The movement seems to be already developing the expectation that those who hear the evangelistic message are to take it to other villages. Members of the Koyohoué congregation are assisting in evangelistic meetings at Hugbamè, Kadahoué, and Dandjihoué[1]. People from the Kaitèmè preaching point are helping at Djoumahou and Avédjin. These men are getting valuable experience. This should enable them, in the near future, to evangelize without a missionary being present.


V.   God will Sustain the Movement


a. The movement will continue, without foreign influence or aid, because of it dependence on God.


Foreign influence is significant in the movement at this time. Aja are, however, becoming increasingly involved in the work. Most of the contacts for preaching points came from Aja Christians or from those who regularly attend evangelistic meetings. There is a desire to share the message in other villages.


Baptism, the rite of passage into the Kingdom, must occur within walking distance of the villages, if it is to take place frequently. It is a challenge to find appropriate places for baptism. There are very few rivers near villages. Reliance upon the missionary's vehicle to take people to a baptism, places too much emphasis on the foreigners. This situation needs to be avoided.


At present, foreign influence is not a major barrier to the growth of the movement. But, this must be constantly evaluated.



Short Term Goals

To be achieved by June 30, 1998


The Baileys and Chownings set the short-range goals because they were the only members of the team on the field. These goals were set in February, after Greg and Richard decided that they had progressed far enough in Aja language study to begin to preach. The first preaching point, at Koyohoué was initiated on 27th of February this year.


I. One congregation:


This goal has been accomplished with the planting of the congregation at Koyohoué. The first people were born again on May 10, 1998. There are now nineteen members.


II. Three preaching points

This goal was surpassed. There are now six preaching points.


Hougbamè 6/2/98

Kadahoué 5/27/98

Kaitèmè 5/24/98

Djoumahou 5/23/98

Dandjihoué 4/16/98

Avédjin 4/15/98


III. Culture Studies


All of the scheduled culture studies were completed, however the second set of studies was not completed on time. The studies were:

Spiritual Beings - Richard Chowning

Sin - Greg Bailey

Story Telling - Cyndi Chowning

Sacrifice - Greg Bailey

Spiritual Forces - Richard Chowning


IV. Lessons


In April, it was decided that as lessons are developed, they would be shared with the members who were on the field. This has been done. However, the diverse styles of written preparation and delivery of these lessons has made it, at times, a challenge to pass on the entire content and manner of delivery. To facilitate a more beneficial sharing of lessons, the team members have had several formal and informal opportunities to discuss their lessons.


V. Team Record Keeping


A mission team as large as this one needs to have some formal means of keeping a record of discussions and decisions they make in their meetings. The members of the team on the field feel that they did not do a good job of keeping records up to the latter part of May. At that time, they began assigning a person to take notes. These notes are now being sent to the rest of the team in Canada.

A web-based archive of team information is almost completed.


VI. Bible Translation


There was no goal for Bible translation. Nevertheless, the translation of Biblical text into the Aja language consumed a major portion of the team's time. Appropriate texts had to be translated for every evangelistic message and maturation study. So far, only scriptures used in lessons are being translated.


It has become evident that it will be several years before the first portions of the Bible (one gospel at a time) will be available from SIL (Wycliffe Bible Translators). The SIL project consists only of the translation of the New Testament. The team will be involved in translation for the foreseeable future.


More scriptures or Biblical content needs to be available in the villages. This includes written texts, but serious consideration is being given to cassette recordings of texts, stories and lessons.


All of the translation has been done as team members work with their language informant. There have been several joint translation meetings to select names for the books of the Bible. Future meetings will deal with key Biblical terms and further polishing of translated texts.



By Greg Bailey


Having evaluated our efforts in God's work among the Aja during the past four months, we now look to the future. We acknowledge that the work is His and that we are simply tools to be used by Him. In planning for future work, and in setting goals, we seek His guidance, so that we might have direction in our efforts. The goals that we have set forth are not intended to limit what God might do through us. In fact it is our prayer that God will far exceed our expectations as He did during this last work period. The goals are rather to encourage us to view God's work among the Aja as He views it, and to provide a basis for future evaluations of our efforts, with a continual desire for ourselves, our team, and our work to reflect His nature and bring Him glory.


These goals are to be completed by December 31, 1998. The goals are team oriented, but in many instances include the role that specific team members seek to play in carrying out the team goal.


I. Church Planting


A.  We will seek to plant 6 new churches, bringing the total number of churches of Christ among the Aja to 7.

1.  Richard will try to plant 3 churches.

2.  Greg will try to plant 3 churches.

B.  We want to establish 3 additional preaching points.

C.  We hope to have 101 total members by December 31, 1998. This includes 29 members at Koyohoué and 72 in new churches.

D.  In discussing contacts, we have said that we want to utilize all existing relationships, as well as be open to new ones, rather than relying on a few people. We plan to evaluate our contacts and how they were obtained at our next planning and evaluation meeting, which will take place sometime around December 31, 1998.


II. Church Maturation


A.  For now we will adopt as our working model the four stages of church maturation that were used among the Kipsigis people of Kenya. This may need to be changed later.

B.  By the end of September, we will have another meeting to work on church maturation and leadership training.

C.  Koyohoué will be an established church, moving into the independent stage.

D.  In Koyohoué, there will be local leaders able to plan worship, pray, lead singing, and give a lesson.

E.   Richard will report at our team meetings every two weeks on the maturation of the Koyohoué church so that we may evaluate their progress and make further plans for their maturation and the maturation of other churches.


III. Leadership Training


A.  Two men from Koyohoué will be involved in evangelizing other villages

B.  At our December 31st meeting, we will plan an Aja wide leadership meeting.


IV. Bible Translation


A.  Translation meetings

1.  We will meet once per month for 4 hours.

2.  We will finish the names of the books of the Bible.

3.  We will finish the Key Terms.

4.  We will add an additional person besides the Chownings, Greg, Joseph, and Hilaire.

B.  We will continue to share the translations that we work on individually at least every 2 weeks.

C.  Greg will send at least one update on what we are doing to Terry and Nancy Sullivan.


V. Culture Studies


A.  Richard will do two culture studies before Dec. 31, which will be due:

1.  September 31, 1998

2.  December 31, 1998

B.  Greg will do one culture study, which will be due December 31, 1998.


VI. Sharing Lessons




We will share copies of the lessons that we have prepared in Ajagbe at least every month.


VII. Helping Teammates Settle In


A.  Greg will write and ask them what expectations they have for us and what type of involvement they would like from us.

B.  Vehicles

1.  We will try to find out how long it will take someone to get a new vehicle once they have ordered it.

a.  Greg will talk to Toyota.

b.  Richard will talk to Mitsubishi.

2.  We will present the "problem" of vehicle availability to our teammates, as well as suggest some possible solutions.

a.  loaning vehicles to teammates

b.  renting a vehicle

c.  purchasing a vehicle by phone

C.  Housing - We will provide temporary housing to our teammates until they are ready to move into their own homes.


1.  They Baileys will keep the Crowsons and Jim Kennel. They will also keep the Vaughns when they come.

2.  The Chownings will keep the Hicks.

D.  We will have a "Reorientation Meeting" for the entire team as the new teammates arrive.

1.  We will propose two possible dates to the new arrivals, and leave the possibility open for another choice at their suggestion.

a.  Sunday afternoon, September 20, 1998.

b.  Thursday morning, September 24, 1998.

2.  Greg will write the "third wave" of teammates to ask for their suggestions on possible topics to put on the agenda. Some possibilities include:

a.  information and resource sharing

b.  language learning

c.  work areas

d.  how the Baileys and Chownings have worked


VIII. Team Relations


A.  We will have team meetings once per week.

B.  We will have men and women's prayer time once per week.

C.  We will have a devotional once per week.

D.  We will have some activity planned just for fun once per month.


IX. Cooperation With Other Teams


We will strive to have at least one "working retreat" with the members of the Fon and Togo teams before December 31, 1998.


X. Interns


We will try to decide, before October 31, 1998, whether or not we will have interns for the summer of 1999.