In Sub-Saharan Africa the Gospel message is spreading rapidly, with some countries now reporting up to 90% of local populations describing themselves as Christians.
This is incredible news that people’s hearts are so open to the love of Jesus, but it does bring up an interesting dilemma. How do we help them grow in their knowledge of God and His Word so that they can become mature Christians, who can pastor others and have enough depth of knowledge of the Gospel to then evangelise others in their communities.
With the pressures of life forcing many children into full time employment, many of those in the African continent only have a primary school education and 36% in the Sub-Saharan region are illiterate, so can’t read the Bible for themselves.
Ben Campbell is the CEO of African Enterprise, an organisation with a heart to not only reach the lost in Africa but also train up disciples and run practical skills training to give people a hand up, not just a hand out. He joined Neil Johnson on Vision Christian Radio’s 20Twenty program to share about this growing need.
Our real challenge is their understanding of the Gospel, rather than their affiliation.
“What we tend to find is people with a great faith, an ability to speak and a desire to talk about Jesus who might be running a church, but in some cases are illiterate and can’t even read the Bible. There are a lot of people who need to understand the real truth of Jesus a lot greater to then help train, teach and disciple their own congregations.”
The population demographics are also quite different in Africa without the multi-generational families we see here in Australia.
“It’s remarkable that the average age of the Continent is 18 years of age. With the rural to city migration, there’s people looking for opportunities in the city. They come across looking for work and income, and unfortunately we might see that they get stuck in a slum. That’s where, if you visit Africa, you see a lot of people walking down the middle of streets trying to sell goods, or women who get caught up in some pretty horrific situations.”
“Cities are growing exponentially, so our work is to have a look at how do we reach out to those people that are in the cities with the Good News of Jesus.”
With the desperation of life in the slums with young people getting caught up in drugs, alcohol and prostitution, Ben says that it’s fertile ground for people with open hearts to the Gospel and a way out of their current circumstance.
Reaching out into communities with an evangelistic message, what difference does that make to people’s lives when they are caught up with all the dangers of life in poverty? When someone becomes ‘born again’ with a new life in Christ, what then happens in the lives of these ‘baby Christians’?
“We’ve calculated that generally each year there’s around a 100,000 people coming to Christ – committing or re-committing through [African Enterprise’s] city wide missions in ten to eleven different countries.”
“We’ve got plenty of stories of lives changed, and one of the ones that stands out to me is a chap who was on his way to take his own life. Unfortunately he had acquired the implements to enable that, and then he came across our evangelists in the city. He listened to them, made a decision for Christ and dropped his implements into the nearest bin. And then his life was transformed to the point where he actually joined us in the mission.”
African Enterprise works with local African churches to train local people to be evangelists to their own community in their own language.
They first reach out with the Good News in these city missions, offer people practical tools to get out of their current situations, the ability to read the Bible and equip them with an in-depth knowledge of the Word. These ‘baby Christians’ become ‘mature Christians’ and can then become evangelists themselves to keep spreading the Gospel – and thus continuing the cycle of evangelism to discipleship to evangelism.
Ben shares that this process is incredibly cost effective from donations received in countries like Australia and the USA. “Compared to Australia it’s amazingly cheap, and the harvest is very large. Our particular ministry is that where we can, we’ll host volunteers to stay with others in a particular city that we’re reaching out to.”
“So that means when we’re hosting a mission over 7-10 days that the cost per person, or volunteer who is out there ends up being around $2 a day. We could be reaching out to a city expecting to reach out to between 100,000 to 300,000, depending on the city.”
“Typically a mission in a Sub-Saharan city would be around USD $20,000, so we seek to raise those funds from our supporters.”
Continue listening to Ben Campbell’s chat with Neil Johnson in the podcast below where they go into detail of the work African Enterprise is doing, and how you can be involved in reaching this part of the world that is ripe for harvest.