In 1910, as the leading architects of Christian mission around the world gathered in Edinburgh to craft a global plan for world mission in the twentieth century, they were informed that, though the prospects for mission in most of the world were excellent, there was no hope for Africa. Islam was too strong. It was growing too fast. By the end of the century, Africa would be a completely Muslim continent.1 Confronted with the seemingly hopeless case of Africa, it seems that some of these leaders failed to ‘look up’.
‘Look up at the sky and count the stars…so shall your off-spring be’ (Genesis 15:5). Time and again in the long years that followed this promise from God, Abraham would have been reminded every time he looked up at the night sky that he would be the father of many nations, even as he and Sarah aged and remained childless. And when there seemed no hope, even when ‘his body was as good as dead…he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised’ (Romans 4:19-21). In other words, he kept looking up.
Those mission leaders in Edinburgh in 1910 failed to see that it is exactly where and when things seem most hopeless that God loves to act. Thankfully, others did look up and pressed on with the task of bringing the gospel to Africa’s peoples. The result is that not only is Africa now not completely Muslim but, south of the Sahara, Africa is majority Christian and the African Christian diaspora is re-shaping Christianity around the globe. Where mission leaders saw no hope in Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century, the gospel is now Africa’s overflowing hope.
On a personal level, my contact with Great Commission following Africans has enlarged my faith, warmed my heart and fanned my zeal. They have helped me to ‘look up’. They have helped AIM to look up. They stir us all to keep looking up towards the finish line of churches established among all of Africa’s remaining unreached peoples. With the hope that each of us who have contributed will one day be able to say, ‘I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do’ (John 17:4).
Dudley Pate, AIM’s European Director
1. The Kingdom of God in Africa – A History of African Christianity, Mark Shaw and Wanjiru M. Gitau, Langham Publishing 2020, p 12