I don’t need to have been to every African city to tell you that street preaching is rampant. Evangelistic desire is evident. Passion too. Jesus must be preached, to all corners of the world, surely? So who cares, as long as Jesus is preached? So we’re told. But bad methods can ruin a good message.
It is my humble opinion, and suggestion of this post, that we need to rethink our evangelistic efforts in Africa. Something isn’t quite right. How can Africa have one of the fastest growing Christian populations, yet at the same time rank as one of the most corrupt continents in the world? Preaching that proclaims Christ can be heard in the streets, for sure. But are we seeing his lordship and kingdom expand?
We need to rethink our evangelistic efforts in Africa. Something isn’t quite right.
Below I share some modest suggestions and reflections, largely based on my ministry experience in Kampala. I hope they will help African Christians and churches prayerfully evaluate how to best reach African cities and beyond for Christ.
1. We Need More Disciples, Not Just More Churches
Praise the Lord for the churches in our big cities. We’re not short of local churches and church buildings. Yet Uganda still suffers from easy-believism, cults, and the prosperity gospel. There are far more churches than healthy ones. As my friend Joseph puts it: we always think the world is ‘out there,’ but there is more world in the church than we’d like to imagine. So, starting at home may help. After all, as we will see below, true discipleship is a form of evangelism. Being evangelistic doesn’t exclude a commitment to maturity.
2. Partner Western Missionaries In Organic Ministry
Christian missionary presence is abundant in African cities. Again, praise the Lord. But this missionary presence hasn’t always found local churches to partner. On the other hand, these missionary efforts haven’t always prioritised the local church. Unfortunately the result of this has been missionaries partnering with humanitarian efforts.
There are far more churches than healthy ones.
Now, I’m not saying that solving water, education, and other social crises aren’t invaluable and much needed contributions from the West. However, by partnering with healthy local churches missionaries will find better guides to our widespread and various problems. So local churches and missionaries that respectively desire to keep the gospel primary must seek each other out. So, dear western missionary, consider devoting your energy to what God is doing. Don’t deter it. Support it.
3. Build Community Not Branding
Many Ugandan churches I know (especially those that hire bullion vans after their Sunday offertory) are tempted to “live by sight.” So they hire marketing staff, endlessly change their logo and vision statements, promote a youth event online, and so on. Sure, there is some good in employing technology and at least consider marketing. But let’s not forget that Paul refused to exchange the foolishness of the gospel for finesse (1 Corinthians 2:1).
Paul refused to exchange the foolishness of the gospel for finesse.
The gospel may make use of platforms, but platforms and technique shouldn’t make use of it. We don’t need to enhance the Spirit’s power. Like someone has said, ‘What you win them with, you will keep them with.’ If they come for the lights, branding, and fun, you will have to keep them with those. If they come through the word, they are born again, and God will keep them that way (1 Peter 1:23).
We walk (and organise ministry) by faith, not by sight (1 Corinthians 5:7). Megachurches can divert event budgets to invest into more discipleship, church planting, and training.
4. Identify The Local Idols
It used to be witchcraft, but today most urban people you meet in the cities are worshipping money, chasing careers, watching porn, and paying bribes to grease the wheels of business. So witchcraft may have taken a backseat, but idolatry hasn’t. Like Paul among the Greeks, we need to do the hard work of identifying the latest idols in our cities in order to compellingly communicate the gospel message. Evangelistic preaching doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
5. Take Theological Formation Seriously
We have grown accustomed to the idea that you can evangelise and then leave the rest to some discipleship teacher or maturity pastor. But with so many unsaved, nominal Christians in our pews, churches are ripe for internal evangelism and meaningful discipleship.
Churches shouldn’t be afraid of teaching and preaching robust doctrine.
I recall hearing about “justification,” “sanctification,” and “assurance of salvation” for the first time in a local church, even though I had been in multiple churches before. Nothing ever exposed my paganism like understanding those theological ideas. So, churches shouldn’t be afraid of teaching and preaching robust doctrine. Sound doctrine will never only be superficial. The great commission includes “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded” (Matthew 28:19).
6. Apply The Gospel To Both Work And Service
We could all use a better theology of work. For much of our Sunday beliefs collapse under the pressures of mid-week workaholism and career laddering. God gives full-time ministry workers to equip the church for ministry (Ephesians 4:11). Therefore pastors must channel their efforts into training their flock, not merely feeding them. Raise expectations. Highlight the significance of volunteerism, gifts, and service, on which most churches run. Evangelistic efforts shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the leaders.
Much of our Sunday beliefs collapse under the pressures of workaholism and career laddering.
More and more Christians in my city need skills that God can use to reach unbelievers and build local church bodies. With rampant unemployment, the formally unemployed need to find ways to redeem their time. On the other hand, for those who’re employed, our integrity should speak about the Lord we serve. There is no point, for example in attending frequent lunch hour fellowships when you are always the last to hand in your monthly reports.
Speaking of which, we need to appreciate and respect secular people and their work, rather than rubbish it as “worldly.” This is another bridge for evangelistic conversations. It’s been wisely said, ‘People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’
7. Our Ministry And Evangelism Begins At Home
The AIDS scourge of the 1990s left many Africans orphaned. Now we have all grown up and are experimenting with what we rarely saw: homebuilding and parenting. Unless Christ is first demonstrated in the liturgy at home, most church efforts will fall flat. Bible literacy needs to be facilitated by dads.
Single and divorced parents, as well as orphans, must be invited into church homes and accommodated. Busy parents need to rearrange priorities to cultivate the home, discipline their children and practice hospitality. Unmarrieds need models of grace-empowered sexual purity and holiness. So do the marrieds. Let’s minister at home first, a lot starts there.
That’s it friends, feel free to add to the list.