African Christian Perspectives through African Eyes

“Last week I had another great occasion to once again participate in the Jubilee Centre’s organized workshop focusing on being relevant to our local context in our preaching. It was stimulating and insightful!” says Pastor Grace Chifulo of Bread of Life Church in NKwanzi Community in Ndola. The workshop that was conducted from Wednesday the 21 of August to Friday the 23rd was led by Rev. Joe Kapolyo, a Zambian heading a multicultural Baptist church in London who demonstrated how to work with the biblical material within the Zambian cultural context including use of Zambian proverbs, traditional stories and the parables of Jesus. A time was also provided for the forty church leaders from the JC network churches and others to break into various ‘tribal’ groups to discuss how their worldview, cultural values, proverbs and traditional stories informed their reading of the Scriptures and influenced their preaching.

Pastor Peter Mwakalombe the Church Mobilization Manager at Jubilee Centre stated that, “The workshop was captivating in that the teachings were contextual; they captured the Zambian way of life- re-telling of biblical stories using Zambian proverbs, stories that are familiar.” Pastor Chris Chanda the Care and Compassion Coordinator added, “I have resolved to be using the African/Zambian stories appropriately to communicate the gospel, because the examples he gave were relevant and connected with our way of life and made the gospel more alive”.

clip_image002Photo: Pastor Kamwimba making a contribution

The workshop contents captured lessons on the following, theology in context, Zambian culture, parables of Jesus, history of interpretation and group work. Rev Kapolyo shared his own journey of discovery. He shared about his conversion to Christianity and his second conversion in which he talked about how God helped him to begin to interpret scripture from the African perspective, using imagery, stories, and parables from the African context. He stated that previously his preaching was filled with examples and imagery drawn from the western theological perspectives because all the theology books he read, the theological dictionaries he consulted are written from the western perspective. He previously used other people (western) theological concepts and understanding to preach the word of God. He cited an example saying one day when preparing a sermon he found it difficult when he went through a Christian Dictionary and found that it does not include spiritual (spirit) possession. This troubled him because he looked at how many pastors are dealing with spirit possession and yet the Christian international dictionary of Pastoral Theology and Ethics has excluded this subject. He got concerned in that this issue is real for Africans but on the other hand, it is thought to be superstitious nonsense to western culture. He argued that the Zambian church and indeed African church need to change its approach to preaching/teaching and use its spiritual and cultural framework to preach the gospel.

Pastor David Ng`ona, the chairman of the Chifubu network also had this to say about the workshop, “I have been blessed, we are grateful to Jubilee Centre for taking into consideration the teaching of Zambian culture to our churches. We rarely inculcate our culture in the word of God as we minister. But now we have been helped to appreciate the role our parables, proverbs could play in communicating the gospel clearly to our people”.

At the conclusion of the conference Pastor Lawrence Temfwe the Executive Director of Jubilee Centre encouraged the church leaders to further discuss how they can use the skills acquired to develop methods of storytelling and of using Zambian proverbs in their teaching and preaching of the word of God. He implored them to use their mentoring sessions in how they can use local arts and comedy to bring life to their preaching. Pastor Temfwe also asked Rev. Kapolyo to convey Jubilee Centre’s gratitude to the Langham Partnership of UK for the donation of a book entitled The Human Condition (written by Joe Kapolyo) to each of the 40 participants.