The following article was authored by Bruce Bennett of CCP, and is reprinted from the GACX May 2015 newsletter, with permission from GACX - A Global Alliance for Church Multiplication...
In the first centuries of Christendom the spread of the church in North Africa, together with African leaders such as Origen, Augustine and Tertullian, led to the continent being known as the cradle of Christianity.
The conquest of North Africa by the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate during the latter half of the seventh century severely impacted this position. However, today fired by evangelical Christians from Southern, Eastern, Central and West African nations, the Dark Continent is again fast becoming a light to the world. Between 1900 and 2010 Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa grew by 460 million against a growth of 220 million Muslims.
In the last two decades African evangelism and church planting has fueled significant growth in the sub-Saharan Africa church, today one in five of the world's Christians live in Africa.
On the continent as a whole Christendom and Islam are equally balanced with Christianity still faring rather poorly in North Africa. Yet there are important pockets of vibrant Christianity in North Africa and particularly Egypt. The African Church is becoming increasingly missional; her migrant populations are seeing increasing numbers of African initiated churches in North Africa, North America, Europe and Asia. The African Church has not lost sight of her responsibility in North Africa, whilst the work is slow and difficult she leads the initiatives to spread the Gospel in this region.
This is the age of the church planting movement, while it may have been birthed in South America and sparked in Asia - it has now taken root in Africa. Church Planting agencies and movements are flourishing in sub-Saharan Africa, not because of their wisdom and strategies but because of the winds of change breathed upon the continent by the Holy Spirit. Still, African vigor and faithfulness are to be commended. The influence of the Nigerian and Ethiopian churches are clearly visible across the globe. The authenticity of the United Methodist Church in Central Africa is becoming a guardian voice against the liberalism in her sister churches in Europe and North America.
African Christianity must remain vigilant against the rise of Christian militia, religious intolerance, syncretism, xenophobia and collective sin. The African Church must balance her call to multiply with a concomitant focus on discipleship and pastoral training. Residential seminaries and bible schools in Africa cannot keep pace with the demands of rapidly multiplying churches. Christ's model was training-in-ministry! For 3 years Jesus poured his life into 12 disciples, they birthed the first century church planting movement.
Paul encouraged Timothy to invest in reliable people who he defined as those who trained others. In order to sustain church planting movements Africa is increasingly reverting to the biblical training strategy of pastors training new pastors.
When Jesus walked through the towns and villages of Galilee he was moved to compassion because he saw sheep without shepherds. He urged his disciples to pray to the Lord of the Harvest for workers - shepherds who would look after the sheep. It is the investment in well trained shepherds that will ensure both the harvest and the sustainability of Africa's church. Africa's pronounced swing to pastoral training in ministry is favorably influencing global missions and the church planting movement.
Executive Director, CCP