Learning from the African Church’s extraordinary success

Learning from the African Church’s extraordinary success

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Why has religion in Africa blossomed fantastically, whereas Western Christianity declines? Here are 4 habits we must always be taught from our African brothers and sisters.

Much has been stated of the fast progress of Christianity in Africa in only a century. There are many statistics that illustrate the highly effective change. For instance, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity reported that in 2018, Africa had extra Christians than every other continent (631 million) for the primary time. While in 1900 there have been 9.6m Christians, by the yr 2000 there have been 384m, in keeping with the Center for the research of Global Christianity.

Of course, Africa was one of many very first houses of the religion in its earliest days. One of our biggest theologians, Saint Augustine of Hippo, got here from early Christian Africa, in addition to different vital Church fathers. However these areas had largely been subjugated by Islamic conquests by the flip of the twentieth Century, aside from Ethiopia, and resilient minorities such because the Egypt-based Coptic Orthodox church. People in different African areas largely adopted indigenous spiritualities. Christian missionary work led to a rare unfold throughout the continent that’s comparatively current.

Perhaps an important statistic is that the expansion isn’t just folks labelling themselves Christian – there’s a big distinction within the stage of dedication, too. A 2018 research by Pew Research Center discovered that Africans are among the many most dedicated Christians on the earth (the least being European). Africans pray extra continuously, attend spiritual providers extra commonly and think about faith extra vital of their lives than Christians elsewhere. “At least 4 out of 5 Christians in Nigeria, Liberia, Senegal, Cameroon and Chad pray day by day, the survey discovered… in each African nation surveyed, greater than 60% of Christians say they attend church no less than weekly,” Pew’s report stated.

Recently I interviewed Nigerian-born Pastor Agu Irukwu, who leads one of many largest church buildings within the UK, Jesus House for All Nations. He grew up and got here to religion in his homeland, however has ministered in London for a few years, so has perception into the variations in church tradition. He provided some recommendations.


“If there’s one factor I might commend to any Christian, it could be to develop a robust prayer life,” stated Pastor Agu. “There can also be lots to be taught from the creating elements of the world the place church buildings are rising, not simply Africa. A dedication to prayer and the idea that God does reply prayer – that’s deeply embedded in [African] Church tradition.”

Just a few years in the past, I attended the weekend retreat of my multicultural church at the moment at a big Christian centre. We shared the massive area with a black majority church. I’ve a vivid reminiscence of traipsing right down to breakfast at about 8.30am together with my bleary-eyed fellow church members, to be put to disgrace as we handed by the small room that housed our black majority church brothers and sisters. They had been enthusiastically praying collectively in a small room, passionately interceding as a bunch, and had been onerous at it for the reason that early hours, once we had been all nonetheless quick asleep.


In African tradition, fasting is seen as crucial, not simply throughout Lent. “You cannot run away from the encouragement that the Bible provides us to quick, which hardly exists in numerous Western church buildings,” stated Pastor Agu. If there’s a drawback or God is being sought, African church buildings will quick. For instance, an ecumenical initiative for unity in Nigeria final yr was supported by 40 days of fasting.

“Biblically understood, fasting companions an ​intensification of prayer,” writes Oyewole Akande, a deacon at Sovereign Grace Bible Church, in Nigeria, for The Gospel Coalition Africa. “It is the choice to put aside a time period to give attention to bringing a selected situation earlier than God in prayer. ​It is eradicating each distraction, together with the required pleasures of consuming and ingesting, to hunt the face of God with a selected petition.

“Many of us are too comfy inside this fallen world, feeling no robust compulsion to disconnect from it. Thus we wrestle with the notion that our personal discomfort may convey in regards to the will of God.”

Faith and positivity

Another advantage that I typically witness in African Christians is a optimistic, optimistic outlook, linked to a religion that God can rework any tough state of affairs for the higher. “Believing that there’s nothing God cannot do, and being filled with hope for tomorrow, irrespective of how dangerous immediately is – [the African church] could be very upbeat in that regard,” stated Pastor Agu. Taking the Bible at its phrase and trusting in God’s love and His guarantees to behave are commendable attributes of many African Christians.


It is a unfavorable stereotype to think about Africa as a spot of poverty: there are rich Africans, and a few elements of their economies are doing properly. However it is honest to say that there’s more cash sloshing round in Western developed international locations. Could this be one cause for our relative religious dryness?

Cardinal Robert Sarah, the influential Catholic priest, wrote shocking phrases in his guide God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith. He made optimistic feedback about poverty – distinguishing it from destitution, which we must always alleviate. “Poverty is a Christian worth,” he stated. “The poor particular person is somebody who is aware of that, by himself, he can not stay. He wants God and different folks to be able to be, flourish, and develop. On the opposite, wealthy folks anticipate nothing of anybody. They can present for his or her wants with out calling both on their neighbours or on God. In this sense, wealth can result in nice disappointment and true human loneliness or to horrible religious poverty.”

Perhaps the Western church must muster humility and hear tougher to our African brothers and sisters, and the way they practise their religion? Pastor Agu does emphasise that the Western church can cross by itself knowledge too. He stated: “The magnificence is when [the two cultures] rub off on one another; what it produces is so lovely.”

Heather Tomlinson is a contract author. Find her work at or on twitter @heathertomli



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