Missions and Context African Traditional Religion by xdr11625


									          Missions and Context : African Traditional Religion

                                            realize that Africans had their own         at your objects of worship, I even
                                            cultural and religious garb. The            found an altar with this inscription:
                                            proclamation of Christianity in Af-         TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now
                                            rica without serious consideration of       what you worship as something un-
                                            the existence of African traditional        known I am going to proclaim to
                                            religion led to the African’s re-           you” (Acts 17:22-23). This ap-
                                            sponse and acceptance of Christian-         proach of        missionary activity
                                            ity’s material help (education, hos-        yielded fruit, “A few became fol-
                                            pitals, cloths, etc.) rather than the       lowers      of     Paul    and      be-
                                            religious one. As a result many Af-         lieved” (17:34a). Today missions in
                                            rican converts continued to practice        Africa should be done in recogni-
                                            their traditional religion alongside        tion of the context of the African
      Elijah Mahlangu                       Christianity.                               traditional cultural and religious
                                              Christianity was thus experi-             milieu.
                                            enced as a sub-culture. They be-               In order to elucidate, illustrate
  There are different views concern-
                                            came Christians by day and tradi-           and demonstrate this approach, I
ing how and when Africa and Afri-
                                            tionalists by night. For instance an        will only cite one example of how
cans encountered the gospel. African
                                            overwhelming majority of Africans           in the light of the cult of African
scholars like David T Adamo and
                                            in South Africa (approximately              ancestor veneration one can pro-
S S Maimela suggest that even long
                                            70%) identify with the Christian            claim the uniqueness of Christ as
before the contact of Africa and
                                            faith but they only attend church,          the only Mediator between man and
Christianity, there was a strong Afri-
                                            i.e. they are nominal Christians and        God. The starting point is that Af-
can presence in the biblical tradi-
                                            do not have a genuine relationship          ricans always believed in God. This
tion (Jeremiah 38:1-7; 15-17).
                                            with the risen Christ.                      should be affirmed. They prayed
  Some scholars such as E K Mo-
                                               How can this situation be re-            and approached Him through their
sothoane says that the contact be-
                                            dressed? How can missionaries in            ancestral spirits. One should under-
tween Christianity and Africans can
                                            Africa today avoid these mistakes of        stand why they do that. That was
be traced from stories such as the con-
                                            the past? But more importantly how          the only way they knew and be-
version of the Ethiopian Eunuch by
                                            can missions be effectively con-            lieved that their fore-fathers lived in
Philip the evangelist’s ministry (Acts
                                            ducted in Africa in the context of          this life and know all their struggles
8:26-40) and some of the Africans
                                            African traditional culture and relig-      and upon death they become nearer
who attended the Feast of Pentecost
                                            ion? These are pertinent questions          to God.
(from Egypt and Libya – Acts 2:10).
                                            because the truth of the matter is             Although the practice is wrong,
However, the majority of African
                                            that African traditional religion           the principle is right. God is ap-
scholars agree that meaningful spread
                                            still plays an important role in            proached through a Mediator. But
of Christianity in Africa occurred on
                                            shaping the character of Africa.            God chose Jesus to be the only Me-
the Western shores of Africa in the 15
                                            Many Africans today still live in           diator between man and God. This
-16th centuries by the Portuguese ex-
                                            tribal settings and their lives are still   is how one should address the situa-
plorers to Southern Africa in the 18-
                                            controlled by religious representa-         tion. More than their ancestors Je-
19th centuries as a result of revivals in
                                            tives and customs which are still           sus also came in the flesh and suf-
Europe .
                                            traditional in nature.                      fered (knows human suffering). He
  Even if African church historians
                                               Firstly we can learn from the            died and unlike their ancestors - for
may differ about the time of the plant-
                                            Apostle Paul’s model of dealing             their sins. Unlike their ancestors He
ing of Christianity in Africa, no one
                                            with traditional beliefs or religion.       rose from the dead. Trusting the
can deny that before the coming of
                                            As a missionary in Athens he did            power of the Holy Spirit, this in-
Christianity to Africa by explorers,
                                            not plunge into preaching the con-          sight into African traditional relig-
philanthropists and missionaries, Af-
                                            tent and structure of the gospel            ion will reveal Jesus Christ as the
ricans had and practiced their own
                                            without knowledge and considera-            true Saviour and giver of eternal
indigenous religion – African tradi-
                                            tion of the context of the Athenians.       life.
tional religion. The sad fact is that
                                            He addressed them and said, “Men            Dr. Elijah Mahlangu: Director of
these missionaries did not realize or
                                            of Athens! I see that in every way          South Africa Operation Whole;
did not take seriously this stark real-
                                            you are very religious. For as I            Assistant pastor Cornerstone As-
ity. They proclaimed the gospel in
                                            walked around and looked carefully          sembly, Pretoria.
their own Western garb and did not

                                                                           MISSIONS         FEST     PRETORIA•           2008

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