Leading People to Christ in Africa

During recent weeks I have been confronted from various quarters with the idea that leading people to Christ in Africa is so much easier than it is elsewhere in the world. In a seminary class I teach in Johannesburg, South Africa, some of my Black students have commented on how easy it is to lead Black youth to Christ. I have also come across recent journal articles that say there is a much greater openness to the gospel in Africa than in the States. The following article in a Baptist Press publication on the 28th June 2000 highlights this feeling that evangelism is much easier in Africa:

Baptist teenagers touch lives by witnessing in South African schools - by Erin Curry.

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa (BP)--More than 1,900 professions of faith were recorded when a collegiate team from Concord First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., spent two weeks in May doing one-on-one evangelism in South African schools. The group of 34 taught in schools, played sports and led assemblies in order to develop relationships and share the gospel with thousands of students and adults. International Mission Board missionary Alan Duncan connected the collegiate team with the students in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. "Our basic program was to reach schools where I had strong contacts with Christian leaders who were willing to assume the role of follow-up once the team left," Duncan said. South Africa is going through a time when educational leaders are rare, so many of the schools are looking for people who are willing to teach life skills classes, Duncan said. They also seek people who will volunteer time as guidance counselors or recreation leaders. While Christians volunteer to teach life skills classes concerning alcohol, drugs and sexual issues, they also are able to lead students to Christ and disciple them during class time. The collegiate students led assemblies each day, sharing testimonies, presenting tracts, and counseling children one-on-one. They also provided follow-up material and weeks later are receiving requests for more. "We need specific prayer for many of the youth as they are not allowed to be baptized or join a Baptist church until they leave home," Duncan said. "Their parents tell them they are already Christians, just not born-again Christians!" The American students were amazed at how easy it was to lead people to Christ. "If we gave an invitation right now, almost all the students from First Baptist Concord would return to South Africa just to continue serving the Lord in those wide-open schools," said college minister Jeff Lovingood.

When I read that a team led 1900 people to Christ in such a short period of time, just two weeks,  I can't help but wonder whether it is possible that much of the so called responses to the Gospel are less that lasting experiences of genuine conversion. Please note that I am not judging the mission that the report refers to - but just questioning how effective our evangelism actually is.

It has been said, and I don't know who first said it, that the church in Africa is a mile wide and an inch deep. Could it be that the evangelistic responses are been made in many cases for reasons different to what the evangelists are assuming? I would like to suggest that this is the case and that some of these reasons are as follows:

If we want to see a strong church in Africa, we will have to rethink our approaches and avoid concluding too quickly that our Western methods work just because we are seeing results. We just could be doing more harm than good in terms of growing healthy churches in Africa. Written by Mark Tittley, lecturer in youth ministry at BTC Southern Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa. He maintains the Commitment Level Model of Youth Ministry website at http://www.btc.co.za/model/index.htm
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