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30.04.2019 Feature Article

African Pastors Conquering Non-Believers Overseas

African Pastors Conquering Non-Believers Overseas

How can African Christians conquer a vanishing population of Churchgoers in the Western or Eastern world? Go to any church in Europe and North America, Christian believers are a dwindling majority. Those left in their churches are older citizens. While the young generation are not as engrossed with religion. They might flirt with Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Hare Krishna followers but on a temporary basis until they satisfy their curiosity.

Catholic churches are importing clergies from Africa to administer nearly empty churches, in order to buoy and attract recent Africans in Diaspora. Yet, they are not getting as many followers as African Apostolic churches that command more African believers. On the other hand, we’ve heard and seen Arab Muslims that would not pray behind Africans and women.

“Reverse Mission” is exaggerated, if it is based on tithes. Though it is true that African pastors are expanding memberships or gaining members overseas, their congregation are mainly Africans in Diaspora, their families and friends. To compete, many Churches have introduced local languages and dance instead of their rigid or solemn prayers. African believers should not be conflated with Westerners that have rejected Christianity from their parents and clergies.

“Reverse mission” is not new . In 1880, West African Edward Blyden predicted that one day Africa would be the “the spiritual conservatory of the world.” In the early 1900s, Daniel Ekarte, a sailor from Nigeria, started a church in the slums of Liverpool for both Africans and white British. Another Ghanaian businessman, Kwame Brem-Wilson, also founded Pentecostal Sumner Road Chapel in Peckham, London and helped spread Pentecostalism in the UK.

What is the goal of African clergies today? Establishing their brand of African religion heavily mixed with what critics see as vagaries of African God or gods and tithes to make billionaire pastors. If they cannot free or deliver Africa after the whole Continent has been conquered by the Arabs and Europeans and subjected to slavery as the will of God in the name of civilization; one must wonder if African pastors can change minds in the Western and Eastern world.

However, religion is not as important to the privileged class in Europe and North America because they can fulfill many of their dreams by class unlike most Africans that always pray for a break in life against all odds. Class is mainly the reason children of the privileged feel entitled; contrary to the notion of pulling yourselves up by the bootstraps. In most cases, children and parents’ future are determined by their Zip Code, Area Code, Postal Code or areas; not religion.

Therefore, as Africans and some of the dispossessed feel they need the Church or Mosque to pray fervently to God to bless their effort, reinforced by the clergies of many religions; children of the privileged expect progress in life as a normal part of living. So they do not have to go to religious houses, pay tithes or listen to clergies to fulfil their dreams. They look up to their parents, networking and connections for progress through their privileged prism.

Poor Africans and the world poor believe their tithes can make God to pick up their calls. Black people have been oppressed for centuries and they have always sought salvation from their religion. Africans in Diaspora before Columbus or that have relocated recently use church and mosque as a place of refuge or for coziness among the people they know and feel comfortable with. These places of worship also double as relief from the daily hustle, bustle and break from rat race to make a meaningful period in their lives. The same is true with Jews in Synagogues.

Unfortunately, their sacred peace during service in African American and Jewish churches have been shattered by gunfire that killed some. Some of the Nigerian Pastors have been charged in Europe for offences to distract them from carrying out their missions. Africanized worship has raise jealousy among those that see their congregation on the decline while newcomers are filling abandoned churches that have been deserted or leased to new immigrants of faith.

Indeed, the most conservative churches in the Western and Eastern world are still projecting the false sense of purity in order to retain and preserve their culture and “civilized” way of life from contamination by others. Simply put, there is a sense of heightened phobia that foreigners are ready to swallow their culture and replace it with exotic religions. Most of the charges filed against African pastors in Europe are baseless yet serious distraction.

Conservative churches retain and carve out a niche as they stand their ground against invading religious bodies from Africa and the East. Even non regular churchgoers align with them for the preservation of their culture and ways of life. This is why they influence conservative political parties. Indeed, they justify extreme views of some conservatives with teachings in the Bible. They also establish private schools and universities along their conservative views dictating rules of conduct for their students.

When over eighty percent of American and European regular churchgoers vote for conservative leaders, they let you know they are not electing a Pope! The only time they care or complain about candidates they consider immoral is if they belong to liberal parties. Therefore, if Africans think they can capture Western or Eastern Christians, they are in for their greatest false sense of euphoria. They will be praying in vain forever!

Can African pastors offer schools and hospitals to the poor they could not give congregations at home? African diaspora churches are now worried about maintaining the growth of their own communities as they are beginning to face an existential threat of immigration. Conservative governments elected in Europe and America are pushing against population explosion in their countries because of low birthrate compared to newcomers. So, ask for reduced immigration .

Looking at the world richest pastors, Nigerian churches feature in the top ten as the members of their congregations. Unfortunately, these pastors control the tithes of the poorest people on earth, contributing to poverty in their countries. Spreading the words of God is understandable, spreading poverty and creating business centers as churches on every street is not what African pastors can boast about to their converts or members in the Western or Eastern world.

African billionaire Mrs. Folorunso Alakija sponsored Distinguished Lecture on Religion and Public Life in Africa at Harvard on April 17, 2019 delivered by Bishop John Richard Bryant. He examined the role of African Evangelism in the Western world and their success in attracting huge members into their churches. But it is not enough to be the richest pastor if you cannot improve the situation at home of the poorest folks on earth.

At least, Christians established schools and hospitals in Africa. No serious mind should think religion would change economic exploitation of Africans by the Western world. Africans’ hold on religion that created the biggest Church in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) built by former President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, not the biggest factory to employ the poor, could actually replaced Economic Salvation. This is the reason for the pastors’ crackdown in Rwanda .

These are the same African preachers that visit their branches in Europe and America; asking members to put thousands, hundreds and everything they had into a coffer for imminent miracles in their lives. Their African members may fall for such prayers; European and American members may call in the Police as Brazilians did to the pastor that removed a lady’s underwear. It may also remind the world of Yahoo Yahoo boys that may have defrauded them in the past.

Farouk Martins Aresa
Farouk Martins Aresa, © 2019

This author has authored 490 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: FaroukMartinsAresa

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