|Africa's Future Church: Part II|
In 1910, the year of the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, Africa’s Christian future not only looked bleak; it was virtually unrepresented. A century later, Africa hosted the 2010 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, a symbolic gesture pointing to an astounding fact: Today Sub-Saharan Africa is a heartland of global Christianity. AIM asked three PhD candidates at Africa International University in Kenya to share their perspective on the future of the African Church.
By Abram Kidd
The future of the Church in Africa, to me, seems bright. I believe this for four reasons.
First, I believe that the Church belongs to Christ and He wants it to grow. Paul wrote of the Lord’s work in the Philippian church that, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1:6). Sharing Paul’s confidence, this same Lord, who began a great multitude of churches in Africa, will continue to grow them.
Second, Bible translation has produced some remarkable cultural transformations in Africa and is likely to yield more. A Nigerian classmate of ours, Moses Owojaiye, says “I am a fourth generation leader in the Evangelical Church Winning All; and I can testify that the impact of Bible translation is great. The translation of the Bible into the Yoruba language has made Christianity take deep root in me. I, like many other Yoruba Christians, now comprehend, interpret and theologize Christianity with a Yoruba consciousness.”
Third, there is slow but steady progress in Christian leadership development. Theological education programs of all kinds as well as private Christian schools are having an impact on the Church, and Christian leaders are emerging on the political and economic scenes.
Fourth, missionary outreach continues on the continent, increasingly from African congregations and missionaries. For example, Tanzania’s Nassa Theological College hosted a missionary conference last year with over 30 participants. Increasingly, the African church is sending missionaries to other continents, and not just to plant churches in Western immigrant communities. For the above reasons, I am hopeful about the Church in Africa. Of all the challenges facing the Church, particularly in rural Africa, ‘dual allegiance’ is perhaps the largest.
Of all the challenges facing the Church, particularly in rural Africa, ‘dual allegiance’ is perhaps the largest. The health of a church may be gauged by how it handles this issue. Jesus said “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24) and yet many divide their allegiance for ‘spiritual insurance’ purposes or seek alternate sources of power in times of crisis. In rural areas, traditional religions and its practitioners remain a tempting crutch—even to Christians. Fear of witchcraft remains powerful. In the Mwanza region of Tanzania, for example, police reports from 2004-2009 indicate that an old woman is killed for this reason every three days. Sadly, some in the Church feel such actions are scripturally justified by verses such as, “Do not allow a sorceress to live” (Exod. 22:8).
In spite of these hurdles, many single-minded Christians and congregations are rising up in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus.
Abram, a missionary with AIM, has served at Nassa Theological College (NTC) and in churches in Northwestern Tanzania. He is studying Missions.