The great goal to which the Bible points is that day when God’s people from every nation, tribe and tongue will be gathered around the throne of God and of the Lamb. The end to which all things are heading is the restoration of relationship. That gathering begins in this life when people who carry the message of the Gospel go and make disciples of all nations. Should we not then take the time to recover both the priority of relationships and the priority of evangelism in our own lives and in the communities to which we belong?
Of course no one is saying that this will be easy. In an age that offers more connectivity than any other time in history people are finding themselves disconnected from real relationships. In a time when tolerance is paramount, the challenges of sharing the gospel are ever on the rise. No doubt this is merely scratching the surface, but here are four challenges to evangelism that the African continent is currently facing.
1. Challenge: Political instability
Politics is not just political. It is spiritual too. We cannot dichotomize the sacred and secular. This approach cannot influence society. The only way to change the way politics is done is through a Spirit-filled life. This is the same as in business. If one separates business from one’s spiritual life it means the latter can have no influence or bearing on how business is conducted. When a country boasts a high percentage of Christians why are their politics still marred with malpractice, regionalism, nepotism, tribalism, and corruption?
the church should revisit the theology and history of the church-state relationship, identifying the most effective alignment that will make the church a true change agent for holistic societal transformation
The church must see itself as God does: an intervening factor for reconciliation and effective conflict resolution, shaped by the gospel message (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Matthew 5:9). More critically, the church should revisit the theology and history of the church-state relationship, identifying the most effective alignment that will make the church a true change agent for holistic societal transformation.
Political turmoil also shows that the political agendas of our nations are not entirely controlled by our political leaders. There is so much western influence on our politics, shamelessly insisting on alien practices such as advanced human rights. Our governments are pressured to compromise on issues that previously would not have been considered: progressive liberal sexuality, abortion on demand, reproductive health information offered at a troublingly young age, etc. The West does not necessarily know best. Where possible we must explore avenues for a greater Christian influence on politics.
2. Challenge: Social and economic factors
Poverty in Africa, particularly southern Africa is high. Our evangelistic thrust should incorporate these realities, making our ministry more holistic. This is accomplished by combining the preaching of the gospel with ministering to the personal needs of those affected — a combination of proclaiming God’s love and demonstrating it ourselves. This also calls for the effective preaching that can inspire and motivate people into vocation and entrepreneurship. We need to understand the fundamental causes of poverty in the region and identify means to address them. The church can help people to become productive and lead self-sustaining livelihoods.
3. Challenge: Information and technology
We need to reclaim the role of our Christian parentage and improve the effectiveness of our pulpits in order to reshape and influence our youth through biblical truth and God’s life-changing gospel
Our generation has access to more information than any before us, possibly even all of them combined. This is largely because of the internet, social media and television. Young people are engaging more with social media than they are engaging with their parents or leaders, face-to-face. This means that the critical source of information for our young people is no longer parental or pulpit guidance, but the countless scores of opinions online mediated through their gadgets. We are losing our children to a world without morals and without hope. We need to reclaim the role of our Christian parentage and improve the effectiveness of our pulpits in order to reshape and influence our youth through biblical truth and God’s life-changing gospel.
4. Challenge: The growth of Islam
Throughout the continent, where they are not already the majority, Muslims are penetrating politics, business, sports, education and philanthropic work. They are making themselves more and more visible to the media and through public engagement. Muslims are seeking to be included in the affairs of their respective nations. The Muslims are targeting women and children and they are appealing to the poor of our society. We should look ahead and protect the space we occupy, but more importantly we must make inroads for effective witness to Muslims. The Christian message of love should drive our ministry into the Muslim world, as much as it need shape our reception of Muslims to our regions. Facing this challenge, along with those mentioned above, cannot be done in our own strength. Therefore we must turn to our sovereign God in prayer.
The Christian message of love should drive our ministry into the Muslim world, as much as it need shape our reception of Muslims to our regions. Facing this challenge, along with those mentioned above, cannot be done in our own strength. Therefore we must turn to our sovereign God in prayer
Without prayer there can be no effective Christian witness or ministry at all. If we truly believed that the earth and all that is in it belongs to our God a few things would happen (Psalm 24:1; 1 Corinthians 10:26). Firstly, we would bring our concerns and challenges before him in prayer. Secondly, we would be less anxious about shifting cultural and religious sands on our continent. Lastly, our ministries would seek to the fame of his name, wherever we are.
This article is adapted from a talk given at the Global Evangelists Forum, hosted by the RZIM Africa Trust earlier this year.