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