A while ago I mentioned an article by the atheist Matthew Parris which said that Africa needs God. A little later, I reflected a bit more on that article, this time not seeing it in quite such a positive light. With these thoughts in mind, it was good to see an article on Ben’s blog saying that Africa still needs missionaries:
According to Philip Jenkins, historian and author of The Next Christendom, the Christian church is currently growing faster in Africa than on any other continent. If this is true, then why on earth should any more missionaries go to Africa? Surely there is a greater need for missionaries in places like Europe and North America, where the church appears to be in decline, or in the Middle East, where the church is small and growing more slowly. African Christians must be doing something right to experience such amazing church growth. How could missionaries from elsewhere contribute anything significant to the evangelistic efforts of the African church? It’s very expensive to fly missionaries across an ocean, educate their children and provide them with health insurance and a retirement plan. As outsiders, perhaps the most efficient and effective way of promoting evangelism in Africa would be to focus our resources exclusively on issues like poverty, AIDS, infant mortality, corruption and war. Through this investment, African Christians will be better equipped to tackle the task of spreading the gospel, a task they are clearly capable of handling themselves.
I’ve regularly heard this type of argument in the US and occasionally in Africa as well. This argument is persuasive, in no small part because it holds a lot of truth. Africa’s poverty, disease and conflict are crushing evils that demand a response from Christians worldwide. The African church is a model for Christians around the world in its vision and faith in the midst of suffering. The Holy Spirit is working through many African evangelists who are extremely effective at spreading the gospel without any outside help or expertise. Missionaries are desperately needed in many parts of the world besides Africa, and missionaries from distant lands, North Americans and Europeans in particular, are indeed expensive to send and sustain overseas. (read more)