Africans Matter For Our Christian Faith
Many of the early church fathers were African. They wrote in Greek or Latin because of the common language of their day, but they were not white!
Tertullian, a lawyer, was a gifted apologist who advocated for charismatic gifts and prophecy in the church. Origen was a great theological and philosophical thinker. Augustine, through the practice of biblical exegesis helped shape Christian doctrine for the Western church and the church as a whole. He wrote substantial works on the Trinity and on the relationship between church and state. His Confessions was the first autobiography of its kind. The writings of these African church fathers still influence our faith today.
Africans Matter For Our Nation
Gabrielle, a black Christian from Rwanda, arrived in Glasgow with her four children seeking asylum. They were housed in a high-rise estate in a deprived area of the city where drug and alcohol abuse was rife. There was no warm welcome for this African family. They were shouted at and spat upon. Neighbours refused to share the lift with them. When they were burgled a second time it was hard to know what to say. After church one Sunday morning I saw Gabrielle walking towards me, but before I could offer my sympathy she embraced me. With her usual flashing white smile she said, “What do a few things matter when I have my Lord with me?”
She continued to say, “God bless you,” to each person she encountered in her block of flats and at Christmas time put cards through all her neighbours’ doors. “They’re so needy,” she would say. Now, there are only very few Scottish Christians who have chosen to live and minister in the deprived areas of our cities, but God has brought believers like Gabrielle who are making a difference.
How is she able to be so generous in spirit? Perhaps a clue lies in her testimony. Gabrielle is someone who has suffered – someone who has been broken and suffered great loss, but someone whose heart has been healed by Jesus. Fleeing as she did from war torn Rwanda, the Lord worked a deep forgiveness in her heart. Now, she turns every set back to prayer with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6).
God is bringing fresh life to our nation. Increased migration driven by various political, economic and environmental causes has resulted in a rise in African Christianity throughout Europe. Then there are even those who have come to us as ‘reverse missionaries’. Shocked by the spiritual impotence in our culture and the lukewarmness of the church in the UK, they see their calling is to revitalise faith and are keen to plant churches in the more deprived areas of our cities. It’s humbling for us to be on the receiving end of missionary activity, but let’s acknowledge our need.
Africans Matter For Our Churches
Whatever their reasons for coming, we need to learn from the Gabrielles the Lord has brought amongst us. African Christians bring vibrant worship, spontaneous prayer, a sense of community and hospitality – gifts that could help re-evangelise Scotland if only we can find ways to capitalise on this mission potential. Our churches need our African brothers and sisters. If we can offer genuine friendship, helping them feel fully part of our fellowships, their cultural understanding would deepen and their mission be more effective.
Many Africans understand their Christian roots as dating back to the Scots who sacrificially took the gospel to them in the early 19th Century. Many come to us with a sense of gratitude. Actually, if truth were known, we are greatly indebted to them.