A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Vibrancy of African Christianity in the United States

Ninety percent of the world's missionaries are sent by churches in the United States. Yet, more and more the US itself is being viewed as a mission field. While Christianity is on the decline in Europe and Canada, and appears to be diminishing in the United States, there is a vibrant Christianity spreading and on the move in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Christians in these regions are now sending missionaries to major cities throughout the USA.

The Redeemed Christian Church of God is one church involved in such mission to the United States. Founded in Lagos, Nigeria by the work of missionaries from America, the church is now returning the favor with an aggressive program of evangelization with established congregations in such major cities as Chicago, Atlanta, and New York-- over two hundred congregations throughout the country.

The worship of these churches is enthusiastic and vital with marathon prayer meetings as the focus. The leaders of the denomination have effectively used entrepreneurial methods to fund their mission including their satellite TV network, Dove Media. Ajibike Akinkoye, chief executive of Dove Media states, "We didn't bring this church to the United States to be another Nigerian church. We are afraid with the way things are going in the world and in America - allowing people to do what they like, creating their own religion and philosophy." The people of the Redeemed Church of God know they are indebted to Christians in America for bringing the Gospel to them in the first place. Akinkoye says, "There is a vibrancy in Africa. We are offering that gift back to America."

One of the biggest challenges facing the Redeemed Church of God is the segregation of the church in America. It is an obvious truth that the most segregated time of the week in the US is Sunday morning. The Redeemed Church does not want to fall into such unbiblical divisions. While the denomination remains largely African, it is intentionally working to market itself as a church that transcends racial and ethnic divisions.

"We are not introducing Jesus Christ to America," observes Akinkoye, "but this society has become a post-Christian society and that is a dangerous thing."

Now for some personal observations:

First, I am truly grateful to God for sending these faithful sisters and brothers to us in the United States. With mainline Protestantism in an advanced state of spiritual rigor mortis, mostly because of its compromise with orthodox doctrine and the increasing influence of secularism on its moral life, it appears that help can only come from the outside.

Second, the Spirit-oriented theology and worship of these congregations is a breath of fresh and transforming air in a culture that still does not know how to come to grips with the integration of faith and reason, science and religion, private and public. If there is one thing I have learned about these vital expressions of faith coming to us from other parts of the world (my own experience is with churches in the Caribbean), is that the affirmation "Jesus is Lord" means that Jesus not only has something to do with all of life, he defines and reorients all of life. Perhaps believers who have no concept of compartmentilization of faith from other aspects of life, can truly have an impact on a culture that systematically marginalizes faith from politics, science, and morality.

Third, the segregation of the church in the United States continues to be a very disturbing feature of Christianity in America. It seems to me that the sad and sinful history of slavery in America, which is still with us, has made it difficult, if not impossible, for the church to integrate. Perhaps what is needed is a group of Christians, a minority in the US, but from the outside, who do not carry in themselves the history of America, who can move us toward the integration that will truly make the church in the United States a light to the society.

Fourth, and finally, the globalization of the church fulfills Christ's vision for the church in the world. As believers from all over the world join together in ministry, we begin to fulfill the words of Revelation 7:9, "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." John Wesley said, "The world is my parish." It is our parish too.

Let us continually uphold in our prayers the missionaries we send to other parts of the world, and the missionaries sent to us.

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