Analyze why the African church is growing phenomenally, and the implications of the demographic shift. (Sect. 40)
Why the African Church is Growing Phenomenally
- 40.2.1. Aggressive evangelism/witnessing:African Christians (ordained and lay) seize every opportunity to share the gospel with their neighbors:individual
- witnessing, cell groups, open air meetings, denominational missionary
- associations etc. The irrationale: “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them… (Romans 10:14-15).
40.2.2. Christianity meets the needs of the African people
126.96.36.199. African approach to religion is holistic and pragmatic.For the African, religion fulfills spiritual, intellectual and physical needs. It is viewedfunctionally, as a means of attaining an abundant life – good health, wealth, power etc.Christianity is immensely popular because it is deemed to fulfill these functions. Of course theAfrican has a deep sense of the sacred as a supernatural and transcendent reality. However, onthe whole he/she views Christianity in very functional terms.
188.8.131.52. In addition, many African Churches have established institutions that seek to minister thewhole person. Examples: Christian Community Services supplement government services by providing primary healthcare, clean water, vocational training for the youth etc. Revolving funds provide loans to people who wish to start small scale businesses. Orphanages: a more recent development.
40.2.3. Prophetic ministry: meant to hold African leaders to accountIn a continent where freedom of expression is severely curtailed, the clergy are widely perceived asdistinct champions of the voiceless. A good example is Desmond Tutu in Apartheid South Africa.
40.3. Implications of this Demographic Shift
40.3.1. Christianity can no longer be identified with Western culture.It is now a universal or global faith with a global character. Each community brings its special anddistinctive contribution to the body of Christ.
40.3.2. As the center of gravity of Christianity shifts southwards, the churches of the south will have thepower and will to shape the theological direction of world Christianity.
40.3.3. Increasingly, the theological and ecclesiastical agenda of the universal church will not be set in theWest but in the global South.In fact this has already begun to happen. In the last Lambeth Conference (a ten yearly gathering ofAnglican bishops), southern agenda found its way into the debate. Issues of international debt andpolygamy were discussed at length while Western agenda was thoroughly scrutinized, and evenquestioned.
Doubtless the West will have influence for a while, at least: the Western churches havelarger bank accounts and more institutional resources.
But the Western influence is beginning to wane.There will probably come a day when Western students wishing to do doctoral research will find it necessary and helpful to learn African languages and study in African institutions. And that day mightnot be far off!