DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Seldom Told Stories

Written by: on June 15, 2017

In recent weeks the members of our cohort have read two books about Africa’s influence on Christianity. In the first book, Oden argues for Africa’s role in shaping present Christian thought. In this week’s reading Michael argues for an African theology that not only has the potential to inform the African church but also the global church.

As part of his thesis, Michael suggests that the epicenter of Christianity seems to be moving from the western world southward with Africa playing a greater role in that shift. 1  In addition, he states that Pentecostal churches are the “most populated gathers in Africa and thus the ‘favorite church’ of most African Christians.” 2  To this I would add, though the epicenter of Christianity seems to be moving southward, the people of the nations of the south are moving north and west; as they move they carry their faith with them. Many of the Africans who come to Europe to find work and a new life are a  part of a diaspora whose faith foundations are in the Pentecostal churches in Africa. This great move of Africans into Europe has impacted the growth of the Pentecostal church in Europe. I offer these antidotes as evidence of this growth.

I was sitting in a missionary training session and I should have been paying full attention to the speaker, but it had been a long couple of days, I was in jet lag and my mind began to wonder. I was thinking about needing to write this post when I heard the speaker mention the Netherlands and Africa. I turned my full attention to the speaker just as he was saying, “…of the 2.2 million migrants coming to the Netherlands, 5o percent of them are African Pentecostals.”3

When I heard that my mind went back to last week when I was in Brussels. There I met an African church leader who migrated to Germany. He is a high-level leader in a church organization that consists of 800 churches made up of both German-speaking and international congregations. He told me that the African churches now make up 350 of those 800 churches, and they continue to grow. According to this leader, in the next 10 years, the African church will be well over 50 percent of the total churches in this organization and the will continue to grow. 4

I looked to my other colleagues for more information. There are international churches in Brussels, Greece, and Vienna where Africans not only make up a larger part of the congregations than do the national population they also lead vibrant and growing congregations.

In each of these cases, the national churches welcome the new expressions of faith and welcome African and other international believers into leadership roles in the greater church organization. They learn from each other, they grow in faith together and develop an understanding of a larger world in which Christians need not be divided by race or nationality but can be united by faith in Christ. These stories are seldom told let alone celebrated. However, they add to the greater story of what God is doing in Europe and around the world.

 

  1. Matthew Michael. Christian Theology and African Traditions. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2013, 1.
  2. Ibid., 189.
  3. Paul Trementozzi. “Europe Vision, Mission and Mandate.” Lecture, Assemblies of God World Missions, Springfield, Missouri, June 12, 2017.
  4. Dr. Palmer Appiah-Gyan. Group Discussion. Continental Theological Seminary, Brussels, June 10, 2017.

 

About the Author

Jim Sabella

11 responses to “Seldom Told Stories”

  1. Mary Walker says:

    Jim, that is really exciting news! I did not know of the shift in the epicenter of Christianity.
    I can only add that our denomination is having their annual synod meeting and there are a number of South African delegates there. It’s so exciting that we are becoming more global – and I was glad to read about the positive role of the Holy Spirit (after the not quite so positive role in the book). My information coming from sources that are talking about women in ministry are saying that the majority of churches allowing women to minister in Africa are Pentecostal.
    This is all good stuff and makes me more excited about our South Africa trip.
    Thanks for sharing your stories!!

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks Mary. I just spoke to a couple of missionaries who are serving in West Africa. They say that women leaders in the church are not unusual. I’m looking forward to the trip too.

  2. mm Jennifer Dean-Hill says:

    Great perspective Jim. Thanks for sharing the information about Africans increasing in church attendance around the world. It makes me want to attend an African church. Feels like I’m missing out. Their emotion and passion is contagious and so needed in our churches.

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks Jennifer. I’ve attended an African service church in Vienna, Austria. It was a wonderful experience. Enjoyed it very much.

  3. Geoff Lee says:

    A really interesting perspective Jim. I was reflecting on something similar the other day as I walked in Plymouth and saw an African preacher in his suit and with his large Bible marching up and down the high street and preaching to/at the passers-by. It struck me as culturally jarring and incongruent. The Africans are certainly bringing their practices and their traditions to Europe and the European church, and there are some real culture clashes that take place. Sometimes, I think the Africans are a few decades behind, sometimes I think they challenge us tremendously with their intense spirituality and prayer lives. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks Geoff. I have seen those preachers too and there are cultural clashes for sure. They have somehow found a way in both Austria and Germany to get beyond those differences and work together. I think it’s very unique. We don’t hear enough about the successes.

  4. Christal Jenkins Tanks says:

    Jim thank you for sharing a story that does not always get told. It is so great to see that leaders are learning from one another and growing in faith together. It is so important to the growth and future of the Church.

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks Christal. It is exciting on many levels. It’s too bad that we don’t hear more about the successes. They are not as rare as one might think.

  5. Kristin Hamilton says:

    Wow! Thank you so much for these insights and numbers, Jim. It makes me wonder if this African diaspora is God’s way of “reintroducing” the Holy Spirit to the Western church. I know Pentecostals have it down, but I think the rest of us have sanitized the Spirit from our theology because of her mysterious nature.

    • Jim Sabella says:

      Thanks Kristin. You make a good point about the African church reintroducing the Holy Spirit to the Western church.

  6. mm Katy Drage Lines says:

    I still can’t get over how much you travel. Thanks for the reminder of the mass migration occurring into Europe.

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