European Christians are calling, “Come over and help us!”
By Harvey Kwiyani
A careful reading of the history of missions – one that pays attention to the development of the movement of the followers of Jesus not only from 1800, not even from 1500, but from the very beginning of the story in the book of Acts – shows us that God has used Africans in missions from the very beginning of the Church.
In Acts, we meet John Mark, Lucius, Simeon the Niger, Apollos, and others who came from Alexandria, Cyrene, and other parts of North Africa. This African presence at the beginning of Christianity sets the tone for the next six centuries when North Africans played a central role in evangelizing the Roman Empire and beyond. God has used Africa to evangelize not only in Africa, but in Europe and parts of Asia before. What we see today, when Africans are once again engaging in missions across the world, is not new. It has been before.
“Gifts such as prayer, community, and an African understanding of the Spirit are desperately needed in Europe.”
Missions is generally a coming together of two phenomena: spiritual revival and migration. Africa has been experiencing a great deal of both for a few decades, and we often take the revival for granted. It is usually a shocking thing to find oneself in a post-Christian, secularized Europe. They have left the faith en masse and are now so far detached from Christianity that Bible-reading, Spirit-filled Christians are often hard to come by. When I taught at a university in England, less than five per cent of the students were Christians. One student told me, “There is no Christian in my entire family network, I am a fourth-generation pagan.” Many did not know any Christians or anything about the Bible. Indeed, those who sent missionaries to us 150 years ago now need evangelists sent to them.
Like the Macedonian man who appeared to Paul in Acts 16, European Christians are calling, “Come over to Europe and help us.” Where Christianity is growing in Europe is mostly among migrant Christians, especially the Africans. Indeed, Africans (including Afro-Caribbeans) make up more than 60 per cent of church attendance in London. Similar reports are heard from other European cities. The largest congregation in Europe is African-led and located in Kiev (The Blessed Embassy of the Kingdom of God). The largest congregation in the UK is also African led (Kingsway International Christian Centre). In many European cities, Africans are keeping the flame of Christianity alive. Their presence has also started to register in North America.
Whatever God is doing in Africa is beginning to overflow to other continents. The gifts God has given to the African church are not only for Africa, they are for the entire Body of Christ in all the six continents.
Gifts such as prayer, community, and an African understanding of the Spirit are desperately needed in Europe.
It will take a great deal of prayers to pull down the strongholds of secularization that have almost dismissed Christianity in Europe.
Christian fellowship understood in the ways Africans live their communal lives, often expressed through generosity and interdependency, will be a welcome gift in a context of individualism and consumerism where self-sufficiency is a coveted life goal. The powerful work of the Spirit that gives us liberty and enables us to wrestle with powers and principalities is needed in Europe where Christianity has evolved in the aftermath of the Enlightenment to become a religion devoid of the Spirit. Many African Christians will know full well that a religion without the Spirit is simply human philosophy and dogma.
Africa has been exploited by Europe for centuries. God, in God’s wisdom, is taking the ‘weak’ things of this world to confound the wise. Now is the time for Africa to share Jesus with the world in love and humility. Out of what Europeans pejoratively called the ‘Dark Continent,’ God is bringing forth light that is shining in the spiritually dark continent of Europe and in other continents worldwide.
I pray that God will send more labourers, for the work is huge. Those who cannot come may support us in prayer, for we need it. May God stir your hearts to pray for Africans serving in missions among the diaspora and, if God calls you to serve outside the continent, may you find the strength to obey.
Harvey Kwiyani, from Malawi, is the Chief Executive Officer for Global Connections, the UK network for world missions, and Director for Missio Africanus. He teaches theology, mission and leadership. His current research focuses on contemporary missions in Europe and North America, intercultural theology, migrations, and African Christians in the Diaspora. www.globalconnections.org.uk