Africa is considered by many to be the new home of Christian faithfulness, surpassing Europe and North America. Can African Christian leaders confidently report that Christian values and beliefs are integrated into our cultural response to HIV and AIDS, poverty, corruption and education? This question is asked because the spread of Christianity in Western culture was characterized by advances in theology, philosophy, science, the arts, and education. Christianity contributed to the progress of humanity in all of these areas. Author John Ortberg speaks to the impact of Christianity on Western civilization, “Eventually Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale and virtually the entire Western system of education and scholarship would rise because of his followers.”
As Christianity in Sub Saharan Africa grows can we show signs of comparable influence? Are poverty, HIV and AIDS, corruption, unemployment and injustice being reduced because of the presence of the church? Is the promise made to Joshua coming to pass in our nations? “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful”. In truth, Africa is experiencing unprecedented revival, leading to massive numerical growth in Christianity. But can we clearly see how this expansion is contributing to our cultural and economic transformation as was the case in Western civilization?
The combination of free markets, democracy and Christianity has not transformed the lives of the impoverished majority, improved our educational systems, developed visionary leadership or changed our mindsets. For the church in Africa to sustain the growth of the church it must start planting churches in the hearts of people.
As a church we have three biblical mandates: the creation mandate, the great commission and the great commandment. In the creation mandate we are to create good things for ourselves and others, being good stewards of all things. This includes wealth creation. As the church we ought to remind Christians that wealth creation is a God-given gift (Deut. 8:18). The second and third mandates include loving God and loving your neighbor. Here, the resourced church in Africa ought to disciple Christian doctors, lawyers, business people and politicians in how to use their gifts and skills to empower Christians in impoverished communities. For example, the church can challenge professionals to tithe their time to train Christians living in under resourced communities with business skills, political skills and training in health related matters. Can you imagine what a great witness to the love of God these professionals can be to these communities?
The church and theological colleges in Africa need to re-discover our biblical mandates and re-imagine their implications for the church, mission and transformation of our nations. Numerical growth without improvement to our economic and physical wellbeing of the majority of our people may mean our disciple making is flawed. What do you think?