By: Dr. Christian Overman – biblicalworldviewmatters.blogspot.com – November 23, 2018
David Livingstone, the famous missionary to Africa, in a speech at Cambridge in 1857, declared: “A prospect is now before us of opening Africa for commerce and the Gospel. Providence has been preparing the way…Those two pioneers of civilization—Christianity and commerce— should ever be inseparable; and Englishmen should be warned by the fruits of neglecting that principle…”
What does commerce have to do with the Gospel?
If we understand the Gospel to mean the “Gospel of Personal Salvation,” it has nothing to do with it. But if we see the Gospel as the “Gospel of the Kingdom,” the two are, as Livingstone said, “inseparable.”
Pilgrims coming to the New World in the 1600s understood this. Under the leadership of John Winthrop, Puritans established the Massachusetts Bay Company, which by 1640 became a thriving business. The Moravians, in the next century, also understood the integral relationship between Christianity and commerce.
For these Christ-followers, the “Good News” included personal salvation, but was not limited to it. As the Puritan Pastor George Swinnock declared, “The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground.” This means “full-time Christian service” includes plumbing, property management and computer programming.
3 things have impressed me on my visits to Kenya: Christian music pumped over the public address system at the airport; church after church after church along the roadway from Nairobi to the Rift Valley; and ubiquitous poverty. And I mean ubiquitous.
Why is “Christianized” Africa so poor today, 150 years after Livingston?
Apparently, other missionaries didn’t get the memo. And the Pilgrims (thankfully for me) sailed West, not South.
Now Islam is encroaching southward dramatically from the northern Islamic nations of Africa. This is in part due to Muslims including commerce in their “Gospel,” as they did in Indonesia. I use the term “Gospel” loosely here, as Islam is anything but Good News. Meanwhile, all of Kenya but the northern part has probably been “saved” 10 times over. (I have no data to support this. Just a hunch.)
Nobody can understand this problem like an African. Particularly one whose mission is to establish churches in Muslim communities, as my friend Aila Tasse courageously does. Rather than write about what he has told me, I invite you to listen to a conversation I had with Aila about “the problem.” This video is under 3 minutes—yet speaks volumes:
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