Fire Over Africa Quarterly Report

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Christianity in Africa is growing in amazing ways, yet there are pockets of resistance to the gospel. One of those pockets would be areas dominated by Islam. We have literally seen hundreds of thousands of Muslims turn to faith in Christ, yet there are missions more. Why has it been so challenging for the gospel message to penetrate Muslim communities? 

 One reason is that Islam is based upon actions and lifestyle more so than a set of doctrines. Christian groups, on the other hand, tend to emphasize right beliefs and. Having a correct doctrinal statement. A second reason is that Christians have a lot of church methodology and traditional baggage that resists adaptation. We think church must be done in a certain way, look a certain way, sing these songs in this way, preach this kind of message in this manner, etc. But Muslim communities already have their own understanding of how “religion” ought to be expressed and lived out. An imam will normally sit with his head covered as they teach. All of life is a matter of religion for Muslims and there is no separation of religion from society in the common way Western Christians compartmentalize life. Christianity must begin as an underground movement in most Muslim contexts which requires many adjustments in how we do church and live out our faith in Christ. 

While Muslim communities in Africa represent perhaps the largest identifiable mission field, there are many other groups without a living witness in their society and cultural setting. So, while we rejoice in the growth of Christianity across Africa, we also recognize there is much work to do. 

The amazing expansion of Christianity in Africa, while encouraged by foreign missionaries, has been accomplished by Africans themselves. Foreign missionaries have a contribution to make, but seldom penetrate deeply into non-urban environments. About 90% of all foreign money spent on missions globally is used in urban centers. In fact we have built whole theologies around why this is correct and the most effective approach. The global population is increasingly urbanized, we say, and beside that is how Paul did it. But across Africa the numbers are similar to Ethiopia. Currently Ethiopia has about 125 million people. Of those, less than 20 million live in urban centers. Therefore, if we were to fully reach every person in the urban centers it would total less than 20% of the population. We use words like “nation taking” to describe this sort of approach but our strategy is not effective beyond 20% of the nation.

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