Ever since I wrote my master’s dissertation on Christian philosophy and the transformation of African culture, I have been convinced that Africa will rise, should the Lord tarry, but only because of the astonishing cultural and social power of the gospel — my friends mock me for what I call “the 500-year plan” for Africa. The global leadership of African presbyters in the Anglican communion toward gospel faithfulness is one of the surer signs of the correctness of my prognostication, I would say.
As a Canadian who averages about a month a year in Africa (and wishes it was much longer) I share some of Gideon’s hope amidst much concern. (Double Click on the picture for a larger view of me shooting in the play area at Beacon of Hope about 20km outside of Nairobi.)
The Gospel in Africa has been infected by the same “Big Man” disease that is rampant in the Western church. Many church leaders follow a model more reminiscent of the leaders in Kings and Chronicles, than of the leadership Jesus teaches in Matthew 20:25-28.
I’m only in Kenya a barely a month and I’m so sick of the prosperity gospel that has been promugated by that cadre of American preachers who pastor big churches and drive nice cars.
I told my class last week that the formula obedience equals blessing is not biblical and they should stop attending a church where a pastor preaches such nonsense. Instead, the formula (if there is one) is obedience equals sacrifice even to death on a cross. Chew on that for a while you prosperity preachers. And stop corrupting an entire nation of Christians on the African continent who wishfully believe that everything they see on American television is true. This is as close to a rant as you’ll see me post.
I might suggest that in many African nations there is a cultural predisposition to want to follow domineering leadership. (Perhaps it is simply a human condition as the Lord shows Samuel in 1 Samuel 8.) For the Gospel to truly impact any continent, it must counter our propensity to follow strong, domineering, authoritarian leadership.
I am reminded of the young Christian woman I had lunch with at Nairobi Java House this past June. She told me of how much she missed Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s former president. “He was strong,” she said. “Kibaki (Kenya’s present leader) is weak.” This, in spite of the incredible change that has taken place in Kenya under Kibaki’s stewardship. And yes, Kenya still has a long way to go.
But my young friend missed the Strongman – a dictator king who might well be described like this (Eugene Peterson translates 1 Samuel 8: 11-17 in The Message):
This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves.
My hope is that the truth of the Gospel will impact not only Africa but the rest of the world. That the upside down Kingdom of servant leaders will transform the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ – rather than the false gospel of health, wealth and happiness lead by priests in the attire of Kings – a blessing which only they seem to experience. Or a social gospel that wants to make everyone happy with little ground in the truth of the Word of God and its call to righteous living – a living where joy triumphs over happiness.
Of course, I’m just a simple Christian who attends an Anglican church in Toronto. What could I possibly know?