Africans and God’s mission
By Rev. Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko
When it comes to God’s global mission, Africans are often considered newcomers to the table. It was not too long ago that Africa was described as the “dark continent,” not because there was no electricity, but because the life-giving light of the gospel was dim. At great cost, many came so that we could partake in God’s great love expressed in Christ and participate in his amazing redemptive work: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
But, wait a minute, are Africans really the newcomers? Acts seems to suggest otherwise. In fact, Africans were at the very forefront of the first spread of the gospel beyond Jerusalem and Judea. In Acts 11:19-20, we read:
“So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who came to Antioch and began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.”
Men of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, and Cyrene in Africa (today’s Libya) were breaking the gospel out of its Jewish culture and captivity by preaching to Gentiles in Antioch. Until then, the gospel had been confined to the Jews, but these outsiders, lovers of our Saviour, broke the taboo. Surprise, surprise, “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21).Amazing work was done through these Mediterranean and African men who chose to take the gospel of Christ beyond barriers. As believers in Antioch were laying hands on the first church-commissioned missionaries (Acts 13), behold, a man from Africa, Lucius of Cyrene, was again present. He and possibly Simon called the Black (perhaps an African, or he may have had a nickname), along with a converted Ethiopian eunuch, were among the representatives of this continent in the opening chapters of the gospel’s journey to the nations.
Now God is calling Africans to make the closing argument for this life-giving gospel. Whatever statistics you view, it is evident that the once dark continent is now a beacon of light. Africa is home to the largest Evangelical Christian population in the whole world. It is for this reason that the Movement for African National Initiatives (MANI) is sounding the call to all African believers: it is time to take our rightful place in taking the gospel to the nations. For generations Africa has received the blessings of the gospel. Now God is calling us, as He called our pioneers in Acts, to break down a different kind of barrier to the gospel.
Today, many places in the world are not safe for Westerners but Africans can live there without fear or concern. Many world religions are suspicious of Westerners, but would not think twice about an African. God is inviting us to be a solution to such barriers to the gospel. He is calling us to help make the closing argument as we proclaim Christ, making his disciples among those who currently would otherwise live and die without hearing the gospel. Join us in crossing all barriers to express the love and compassion of Christ among communities where He is least known.
Rev. Dr. Joshua Bogunjoko, SIM International Director