Thursday, May 9, 2019

Is Africa Old News?

Is Africa's moment over? As missionaries raising support to return to the field full-time, we have the privilege of contacting American churches by the dozens every week.  We've become accustomed to all sorts of pastoral Christian lingo about why they are not interested in hearing about the ministry in Togo (and, lest we sound cavalier, we empathize with how difficult and sometimes disheartening it must be to feel a constant tension between a mission-minded heart and a budget that just doesn't seem to want to stretch one penny further).

Perhaps the most perplexing response we've received with some regularity, though, is that most African countries (Togo included) are fully evangelized and that their church only desires to hear from and partner with missions to new fields of unreached people groups.  While it's easy to understand the honorable intentions behind such a statement, the mission-minded American Christian church is perhaps short-sighted in such thinking.

In April, the Pew Research Center released a report showing that, by 2060, six of the top ten countries with the largest Christian populations will be on the African continent.  This is probably not surprising news to most who are even marginally engaged with national and international trends.  The rise of secularism in the historically Christian West seems to permeate the news daily.  The increasing representation of African and even Asian Christianity likewise occasional makes news, including earlier this year, when their allegiance to historic Christian orthodoxy blunted the advance of theological liberalism in the mainline protestant United Methodist Church conference.

This news serves as both an encouragement and a warning.  Our African brothers and sisters in Christ are poised to become, numerically speaking, a bulwark against insidious, creeping religious relativism.  Now, more than perhaps ever, the work being done by national leaders in conjunction with international missionaries is of first importance, as African Christians ready to take on an increasingly influential seat at the global Christian table.  Despite impressive numerical growth, though, African Christianity, including right here in Togo, is still spiritually immature and needs careful mentoring, discipleship, and theological training.

Christianity on the African continent is easily tossed about by the winds of syncretism.  Syncretism is especially a problem in a drop-and-dash model of missionary engagement, where the emphasis is on conversion numbers amongst unreached people groups, rather than the slower, more relational and less glamorous work of creating, maintaining, and replicating systems of discipleship and advanced pastoral training.  The other major threat to African Christianity comes from false teachers, especially proponents of prosperity gospel, which unscrupulously rides in on the backs of the work of previous orthodox missionaries who laid the groundwork for belief in Jesus, only for those beliefs to be hijacked and heretically corrupted in the name of personal gain, prosperity, and happiness.

Is Africa's moment over?  No, far from it!  In fact, it hasn't even arrived yet.  What that moment will look like and whether or not it will be to the advancement or detriment of historical, biblical Christianity, remains to be seen.  That, my friends, depends on the work being done, right this very moment, by nationals and foreign missionaries, throughout Africa, including Togo.


Emilio Fernandez said...

Good morning, how are you?

My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago, I started a collection of Postcards addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 postcard from each country and territory in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

For all this I would ask you one small favor:
Would you be so kind as to send me a postcard by traditional mail from Togo? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a postcard from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Togo in order to complete my collection. a postcard for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that country with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of mail from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

Emilio Fernandez Esteban
Calle Valencia, 39
28903 Getafe (Madrid)

I invite you to visit my blog, there you can see the pictures of all the postcards that I have received from all the corners of our planet.

Finally, I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

Yours Sincerely

Emilio Fernandez