“The New Normal – How and Where Christianity is Lighting the World”
The Shift to the South
In my first post, I wrote: ‘God desires worshipers and He has charged His children, the church, to be engaged in the seeking endeavor so that the world might be found worshiping Him in spirit and truth.’ For most of my years in the church, this mission was decidedly American and European-centered. In other words, the West was leading the mission charge around the world. Christianity was spreading from that center. But today there is a dramatic shift. Consider:
- At the beginning of the twentieth century, about 71 percent of professing Christians in the world lived in Europe. By the end of the twentieth century, that number had shrunk to 28 percent. 43 percent of the Christians now lived in Latin America and Africa.
- In 1900, Africa had ten million Christians, which was about ten percent of the population. By 2000, the number of Christians was 360 million, about half the population of the continent.
- “Last Sunday . . . more Christian believers attended church in China than in all of so-called ‘Christian Europe.’” (The New Shape of World Christianity, Mark Noll)
- Last Sunday “more Presbyterians were in church in Ghana, Africa than in Scotland” (Ibid)
- “This past week in Great Britain, at least fifteen thousand Christian foreign missionaries were hard at work evangelizing the locals. Most of these missionaries are from Africa and Asia” (Ibid)
These areas of growth are grouped together in what is being called The Global South. Soon, most of the world’s missionaries will come from that area – and the United States is quickly becoming the targeted mission field.
- “The country that received the most missionaries in 2010? The United States, with 32,400 sent from other nations” (The Surprising Countries, Christianity Today, July 25, 2013)
The Gospel Dilemma in Africa
Whenever we consider world missions and the statistics that offer us a glimpse into what is going on, we must account for the challenge of separating the wheat from the chaff. In other words, all so-called Christian churches are not, in fact, Christian as defined by the gospel. And even if we focus on growth in one area, ‘evangelical Christianity’, we are left with an unclear picture. You see, much if not most of the growth in Africa (it would be the same most everywhere in the Global South) is driven by the mission and church planting zeal of the charismatic movement: preaching a Prosperity Gospel that is NO GOSPEL.
Conrad Mbewe, Pastor of the Kabwata Baptist Church in Zambia has insight into the dilemma that the gospel faces in Africa. Many of you are familiar with Conrad’s ministry – he has been a frequent speaker at the Shepherds’ Conference in California and was our own Rostern Tembo’s pastor when he was in Africa. He writes:
Jesus said, “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matthew 18:6-7)
- Think of what this means especially to those “prophets” who are wooing female congregants into the bushes and hills and sexually abusing them in the name of cleansing them from spirits that are interfering in their marriages or preventing them from getting pregnant.
- Think of what this means to so-called “men of God” who are fattening themselves and their bank accounts at the expense of their congregations whom they are hoodwinking into parting with their money through misapplied texts of Scripture. I really tremble for them.
- Think of what this means to the many pastors whose bad example in this realm has opened the door to the current flood in the church of Jesus Christ. Many are now thinking that the best way to make yourself rich is by becoming a pastor, a bishop, a prophet, or an apostle.
- Think of what it will mean on the judgment day for those preachers who have turned many from seeking God to seeking gold, from extoling self-denial to pursuing self-aggrandizement, and from looking up to the cross daily to looking up to them for earthly blessings.
The Gospel Hope in Africa
Despite the dross, the chaff, the weeds that the enemy has sown in God’s field in Africa, the growth of gospel-centered, faithful churches is also happening. God is at work. His desire that the world would be found worshiping Him in spirit and truth continues. Wherever the gospel is clearly proclaimed, hope looms large!
In Zambia, a faithful work is expanding:
- Kabwata Baptist Church is focused on spreading the gospel through mission endeavor.
- In December 1998, Heart Cry Missionary Society, USA (Paul Washer) offered to help underwrite the salaries of any church planting missionaries Kabwata sent.
- Kennedy Sunkutu (a dear friend of Rostern) was one of those men. A church was established in Kafue, Zambia
- Since then, Kabwata has planted churches within Zambia and outside Zambia. In Zambia, the Eastern Province; there are church plants in Chitawe, Katete, Nyimba, Petauke and Sinda. In Southern Province: Mazabuka, Monze and Choma. In Western Province: Kaoma, Senanga and Sesheke. In Central Province: Kapiri Mposhi. In Northern Province: Kasama. In Lusaka Province: Chamba Valley, Crossway, Ibex Hill, John Laing, Kabanana, Kafue and Matero.
Each of these churches worship in the Reformed Baptist tradition with unwavering commitments to the exposition of Scripture and the spiritual growth of its members.
An Invitation from Africa
The Kafue Reformed Baptist Church (Pastor Kennedy Sunkutu), planted by Kabwata Baptist Church, has invited us to join with them to support a new church plant in Shimabala (10km north of Kafue town). Kennedy first contacted his friend, Rostern, and then in August sent the elders here at Grace a formal invitation.
- KRBC’s work in Shimabala has been running for about 8 years. The growing population of settlers in the area now demand the formal establishment of a church. For about two years the church has been praying for the Lord to raise someone to take up the work. The church has finally found a candidate for the area. He received training from the then Reformed Baptist Preachers’ College (a jointly run venture between Lusaka Baptist Church, Kabwata Baptist Church and Mount Makulu Baptist Church), over a decade ago. He also participated in caretaking John Laing Reformed Baptist Church, a church plant of Kabwata Baptist Church for several years.
- The man we are calling is Mr. Dube Baleni. He is married, and he has four children. One is getting into college next year; two are in secondary school with the last one in primary school. Dube and his family are excited to serve the Lord in Shimabala. He holds on to reformed theology convictions as expressed in the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith statement. He is also very fluent in the local dialect spoken in the area.
- We are making this request because as a church we are not able for now to take on an additional expense on our budget. But we are persuaded that this work should not be delayed any further.
An Invitation from Your Elders
The elders and I are anxious and excited to be a part of this opportunity. We are hopeful that God would produce a shared excitement in your hearts. At the end of this post you will find additional resources: sermons from Conrad Mbewe addressing the African Opportunity and Challenge, the invitation we received from Kafue Reformed Baptist Church, planting pastor, Dube Beleni’s testimony and family information, and Dube’s testimony of his call to the ministry in 2002. Rostern is in Ohio for the holidays, but I’m sure he would welcome any inquiries regarding the work in Zambia. He is close to these men and is hopeful we can be a help.
Any response by Grace Community Church can only be informed by your response in financial support.
The financial burden includes:
- Salary: $445/month
- Housing: $311/month
- Book Allowance: $5/month
- Internet: $23/month
- Transportation: $22/month
- Telephone: $22/month
- Education: $340/month
Please join us by giving.
The last three Sundays in 2017, in the midst of this season of giving, could be a cause for celebration and an affirmation that we share in God’s desire that He be worshiped in the world. We’ll point to the Wooden Box and trust God’s provision to guide our intentions to join in the spread of the gospel in Zambia.
Conrad Mbewe – Strange Fire Conference, 2014