Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The State of Christianity in Africa Today

In this small article I will endeavor to limit my focus on Africa as much as I can and hope that I will give it the best justice to my ability and knowledge. Please note also that I am not an authority to issues facing my continent and neither do I want to appoint myself as a ‘champion’ for any group or sects whatsoever. Am just writing to see how we can creatively engage ourselves in issues affecting us today. Again it will be good to mention that my wider theological knowledge on African culture  is limited but hope we can engage with each other. Nevertheless I believe there are issues that cut across the sub Saharan Africa.
The question I wish to think about is, ‘What is Christianity? What is the Past, Present and the future of Christianity in Africa? Again I am not offering to give answers to them but hope we can critically look at these issues through the mirror of scriptures and what I would call ‘simple’ people.
Coming from a little village deep in the central part of Murang’a in Kenya I got the chance to interact with great women and men of faith who taught us even with little scholarship on Theology what it meant to be a Christian. I am highly indebted to one man Retired Bishop Mahiani who taught us great deal what it really meant in simple words and more so, through his life. He taught us the key to memorizing scriptures in our local language and now wonders whether he knew what one Sundar Singh from India said.’ If you can’t read the Bible in your mother tongue then you probably don’t know it well or you probably don’t believe in it.’  I can go on to mention others who have made long lasting impact and caused ‘simple ‘ looking fellows to being credible men making impact in their worlds today .It would not be fair not to mention in this respect the likes of Late Cannon,Felix Nyoro and Late Teacher Titus Macharia. Reflecting on these people and their faith, challenges, successes and failures during my Christian formative stage has really helped me to think locally but also act globally.
My village stand highly indebted to one faithful missionary by the name of Dr. Krapf (May the Lord rest his soul in eternal peace) who brought the Good News to our little known village by then.  As Dr. Krapf was busy  working in our village different works were going on in Meru, Nyeri(Tumu Tumu), Kikuyu(Scotland(Thogoto) Mission center, Maseno in Kisumu, Rabai in Mombasa amongst other different areas around the country. Again it would be honorable to mention one missionary David Livingstone (An true African at heart and soul) who pioneered Christianity in Africa.
Looking back I then ask myself what was taught then, where we are now and what is our possible destination in the years to come. I personally feel that we cannot be able to look at these issues without looking at globalization in relation to the church in African context. In simple terms globalization would be where there is too much ‘world’ in the church. We started off with a very small church yet very powerful that routed and chased away paganism and darkness. What originally started as Christianity shows us that those people who believed the Gospel were defiant in their way of life. They had values which were Christian and Bible based which made them to stand against the odds of culture and traditions of their society and they had a clear reference that is The Bible. As Africans we are very ‘religious’ people, we are ‘wholistic’ people where we don’t have a dichotomy of secular and sacred and therefore anyone presenting the Gospel has to be in a form of down to earth teaching. God has sent us not to gather people but to make disciples.  How then do we present the Gospel in a context where globalization has destroyed the whole fabric of our society like family.
The first and the most basic is our missions effort to present the Gospel which is inseparably bound to our own way of life. Too many of us first sees ourselves as having come from such and such a place and therefore in our presentation of the Gospel that comes first. Every one of us I suppose should have two homelands: heaven and the place he works in. That leaves out our race/social/economic/academic status out of the equation. That attitude I believe must somehow be the starting point of every Christian. If we then present the Gospel first in these ‘Jackets’ and people reject them, and then inevitably they will reject our God as well.
Secondly I would like to highlight what I call Christian ‘Racism’. That is a tough criticism to accept, but honestly requires us to take a hard look at ourselves and our attitude towards each other. We have preached that in Christ all men are one, but frequently have practiced a different thing entirely. How am I supposed to see my brother from Kisumu or Samburu or Digo without using my tribal lenses? How am I supposed to consider others better than myself? How do I live without bigotry of thinking am better spiritually than them? I must say that am privileged beyond doubt to have had a chance to study in the west but I dearly misses the ‘long’ drumming, dancing moves as well as prayer sessions back home. At the beginning I wished I could find a place that feed that desire and fortunately got one but the problem which I found was that it becomes very parochial and inward looking and therefore fails to grab the concept of being (catholic) global.  This I believe is the same reflection of what happens at home.  If we are able to address this then I believe we might be able to think deeply and critically some of our most disturbing issues like what is God saying me in my context in my relation to my Muslim brother, what is God saying to me in relation to our leaders of our country who decide to make policies that affect others because they don’t come from the same tribe, what is God saying to me in relation to tribalism and ethnicity vis-a-vis the oneness we share in Christ.
Thirdly I also wish to look at the issue of leadership gap. Perhaps the greatest shortcoming in Africa has been our failure to develop leadership among ourselves. Please don’t think of me of one trying to bring any revolution whatsoever but I think it would be good for our church and mission leaders to clearly understand that the mission of God is from one generation to another. This means therefore there would be need to keep passing the baton to the next generation of leaders. I am a firm believer of the African philosophy is old is gold and the need to respect ‘white hair’ but I also believe that God mission outlives anyone of us.
As we celebrate the spiritual vibrancy in Africa our theology has to be global, Biblical and Christo-Centric.