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Growth of Christianity in Africa

Updated on May 19, 2017
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I am a working professional who shares a deep passion for writing and likes to share his thoughts using credible sources and facts

Quick History of Revival in Africa

Pray for Africa

Pray for hearts and minds to be open to the gospel message, and for believers to grow strong in their faith.
Pray for hearts and minds to be open to the gospel message, and for believers to grow strong in their faith. | Source

Introduction

For years, Africa has been ravaged by different groups of people, wars, pestilence and suffering. Corruption within governments drained nations of their resources while its people went to bed hungry. Militant groups carry out targeted punitive rapes in government or opposition controlled villages in conflict ridden regions. When you hear Africa, you think of genocide - you think you Rwanda, Congo, Darfur region and apartheid in South Africa. More recently, the rise of Islamic terror groups and militant organizations have further destabilized the continent in places like Nigeria, Mali and Kenya. Amidst all of this suffering, there is still hope. More Africans today grow up better educated, better fed and more equipped to take on the challenges of the modern world. Moreover, more Africans have committed their hearts and souls to Jesus Christ as a wave of evangelism and the gospel of Jesus Christ sweep the continent one nation at a time.

Millions Attend Meetings in Nigeria

Looking through Statistics

According to USA today, Christianity has 2.18 billion adherents worldwide but 24% of Christians worldwide are in sub-Saharan African nations. That in itself is a massive shift considering that Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa accounted for only 9% of the population in 1910 and today accounts for around 65% of the population. In North Africa, Christianity decreased largely in number upon the arrival of Islam. The largest christian community in North Africa is the Coptic Christians in Egypt - making up about 10% of the population. South African and West African nations have embraced various forms of Christianity. Ethiopian Christians and South Sudanese Christians are the largest group in East Africa. In the overall picture, World Book Encyclopedia estimated that in 2002 Christians formed 40% of the continent's population. Only nine million Christians were in Africa in 1900, but by the year 2000, there were an estimated 380 million Christians. Of this number, 147 millions of African Christians are Pentecostals. This is a significant growth considering that Africa was predominantly tribal indigenous belief systems and Muslim after the arrival of Islam in the early 700s.

Unreached are Many

Africa is home to over 900 people groups who have yet to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Africa is home to over 900 people groups who have yet to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. | Source

Complexity of Christianity

The complexity of Christianity in Africa is mind boggling. While the Catholic church and protestant groups, such as the Pentecostal movement, remain the largest Christian groups in Africa, there are local churches and belief systems that are evolving with a different take on Christianity. While these groups may be considered "non-christian" by theological and popular standards in Christianity, they are growing rapidly under the banner of Christianity in Africa. These groups include people that believe in local tribal beliefs of powers, amulets, charms and ancestor worship while still claiming to be adherents to Christianity. While these groups pseudo-christian groups exist within the churches in Africa, a more dangerous group has slowly been growing in Africa as well. These groups include big mega church movements that claim to help their believes get rich and get miracles and live their "best life now" while embezzling millions of dollars from the local believers. Both the pseudo-christian group and the scammers exist in Africa and threaten to unravel the growth of Christianity in the continent. More recently, attention has been shifted in South and Central African nations to tackling these belief issues and identifying false Christian groups.

Pentecostal movements and evangelical Christian movements have sprung up rapidly and many of them are surging in numbers. While the number of Muslims in Africa remain fairly stable (with the exception of Uganda), most converts to pentecostal Christianity are from the local indigenous beliefs, Orthodox and Catholic churches. Uganda is the only case where significant amount of people who self identified themselves as Muslims converted to Christianity. In Rwanda, the genocide resulted in the scattering of Rwandans throughout the region and exposed them to Pentecostal Christianity. Since then, these people have returned to Rwanda, a Catholic stronghold, and the number of pentecostal Christianity exploded in the nation. One of the reasons for the growth is the lack of a strong stance and help from the Catholic church during the genocide to protect its congregation and halt the violence.

Growth of Neo-Pentecostals

Fastest Growing Religion

The popular misconception is that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. This may have been true mid-1900s and even late 1980s but there has been a growing shift in growth rates. While Islam is largely limited to its current sphere of influence with growth mainly due to high birth rates, Pentecostal movements are growing through sheer converts. In Brazil, the movement has around 40% of the country's population as its adherents considering that a 100 years ago, Brazil was 100% Catholic. In Africa, the same growth rates are predicted. This has led to rising tensions with Muslims in the region.

In North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, there has been rising tensions between Muslims and Christians. Attacks against Christian churches, believers and places of worship are common in countries like Mali, Kenya and Nigeria. Traditional African forms of moderate Islam, often with Sufi roots, are being challenged by Saudi funded Wahabist movements and preachers. With daily religious broadcasts from Saudi Arabia, influx of more radical Islamic groups and the growing mob-like mentality in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, radical Islam is gaining hold in these countries. In Mali, Islamic militants are taking over cities and destroying world heritage sites, churches, beliefs of local people, Sufi monuments and cultural icons as they slowly push to take over the country despite government efforts to resist them (with French and African Union help).

Competition of scare resources, rapid population growth, corrupt weak governments, tribal politics and large numbers of unemployed poor people in these nations, the region is set for more conflicts in the years to come. Message of peace and understanding will be more critical in the days to come.

Africa moving to God

Africa is transforming rapidly
Africa is transforming rapidly | Source

Future of Christianity in Africa

From the growth of Christianity in Africa so far, it is evident that it is here to stay. Christians can play a large constructive role in Africa by being moderate, being the voice for reason and standing up for Justice. The principles of peace and love - the message of Jesus Christ - can be the powerful anesthetic Africa needs while the cancers known as militancy, wars, rapes, and hatred for others are slowly excised from these nations.

With militant organizations like Boko Haram gaining ground in Africa, Christians should not loose heart or faith. Yes, times will be tough and yes, they will use fear, violence, and possible death to intimidate the believers but Jesus did not say you will be free from it but rather you will be given the hope, faith and love to overcome it. God is moving powerfully in Africa and no group and no amount of violence can stem that growth. Christians should never advocate violence and war but they should do everything in their power to protect the innocents caught up in these conflicts - including the women and children of their enemies. Christian churches should stop teaching or viewing militants are enemies but as people who don't know God and needs God. Violence should never be encourage but issues of political, economic, and religious injustice should be brought to public discourse to encourage dialogue and less violence. As Sunday Agang, academic dean at Jos's ECWA Theological Seminary, said "Christians must do anything they can to make the Muslims understand our shared humanity. This is what Jesus means when he said that we should turn the other cheek."

The church in Africa should be outspoken and tackle social issues. For example, Christian leaders join efforts to circumcise 20 million adult men in fight against HIV while promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS and how to contain it. According to UN projections, if 20 million men aged 15-49 are circumcised by 2015 in 14 target nations, there would be 3.4 million fewer HIV infections by 2025. The churches should also be outspoken on Tribal differences as it is often the catalyst for violence in some regions of Africa. The church should empathize that under Christianity, all men - no mater their tribe, nation, language or racial differences - are equal under an almighty creator.

Africa needs Jesus more than they know. Only the power of God's love can change that continent's people to embrace love and tolerance. Pray for Africa and pray for its people. God will need to continue to move in that continent, especially in West and North Africa.

Christianity in Africa

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