It’s very common to hear about the poverty in Africa, the AIDS epidemic, the orphans and widows of Africa and feel overwhelmed by the dark picture of Africa that’s painted by well meaning western workers who need to appeal to the emotions of westerners so they can get them to give financially and be involved in “changing the lives of the poorest of the poor”.
It sounds noble but this traditional money focused approach to introducing Africa to the world has done more damage than good to the reputation of African Leaders who are giving their lives away to the work of bringing the Gospel to their people and going into the unreached villages with culturally appropriate tools and methods.
That’s why I get overly excited when I meet African leaders who are not only building the kingdom of God but also are raising leaders wherever they go and empowering their communities to live a spiritually, economically and socially healthy environment that they helped create.
This morning, I had the honor and privilege of sitting and hearing the Founder and President of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (www.ALARM-inc.org). Celestine has been empowering African Pastors, community leaders, women, politicians and the like for the past 20 years. His work mainly focuses on East Africa but his heart and long term plan is to expand to the other parts of Africa.
What stood out to me from my meeting with Celestine what his heart and desire to see young African leaders like myself be empowered to do what God has called us to do for our countries and continent. As someone who has grown up in Ethiopia seeing the lack of spiritual leadership in our churches and the void that was left when western missionaries left our country during the Derg Regime has deeply impacted how I approach leadership.
What happened was during the persecution local pastors who were not properly trained and equipped by western “long-term missionaries” were left to lead a congregation that went underground. Most of these pastors didn’t go through theological training nor were being actively groomed to take on the leadership of the churches planted and all of a sudden become the senior leaders of the churches that were under persecution. Persecution had forced most of the Ethiopian Evangelical churches to remain underground but once there was religious freedom under the new government and churches were given the freedom to operate as non-profit businesses, a new era of corrupt evangelicalism ascended upon us and thus was the birth of prosperity gospel.
It’s important to emphasize that we have many christ centered, gospel believing evangelical churches in Ethiopia, the problem is most of them are not attracting the younger generation. They are at the risk of dying out because the prosperity gospel movement has allured many young people to a pseudo christianity that doesn’t require carrying the cross, doesn’t identify with Christ in His suffering, dying to flesh is a foreign concept and no real sacrifice is expected, only sacrifice of money at the alter.
This false and deadly movement has confused the bible and pagan traditions and uses them interchangeably as the teacher pleases and when it’s most significant to manipulate the congregation. Unfortunatley, because there was not long lasting leadership development and equipping done from church planting missionaries, false teachers took up the baton and churches started opening left and right. This has gotten out of hand, now we have TV stations dedicated to the “man of god”, “prophet” and the like. These are the leaders that are strongly moving the communities because they have money, they know how to collect the money of the communities through untruthful fear based teachings that essentially say if you give you’ll be blessed and if you don’t you’ll be cursed. They sucessfully use it to expand their businesses they call church. I daily plead with the Lord to raise spiritual leaders in my country, men and women who fear the Lord, stand for truth and are true prophets for change.
Meetings like this one fuel my heart with hope, passion, revival and anticipation for what the Lord has in store for my country and my people. Leadership development should be a key component to spreading the Gospel, I think we Africans tend to think that the Holy Spirit will do everything for us. He will do everything THROUGH us not FOR us there fore, we have to present our minds, hearts, souls, abilities and skills to Him. We have to be invested in developing ourselves because we are the vehicle Jesus uses to work in and through the church, communities and government we’re a part of.
If we are christians we have to be the best in all we do, and if we’re Africans we have to be the best of the best because there is a whole lot of work we have to do to redeem the damage done by allowing philosophies and tactics that have shaped our communities from a cultural perspective that is not ours. We have a lot of self educating we need to do, study our own cultures and go back to our roots. God created us differently for a reason, he placed us in Africa for a reason and by abandoning our culture we’d be abandoning the image of God displayed in it.
Let us partner with ministries such as ALARM and use our gifts and talents to bring reconciliation and leadership to our continent. Let us equip our people, and be a part of the great commission that is a command to be obeyed for all believers including AFRICANS.