Africans claiming Africa: Tracking 20 years of missions
Online now, find our coverage of the 2012 Africans Claiming Africa for Christ conference in Lusaka, Zambia. (Also, see my blog post live from Lusaka, including a video of an African chorus performing an original song about the event.)
Counting Churches of Christ in Africa is exceedingly difficult.
Between 2009 and 2010, the vast continent surpassed 1 billion souls, according to population researchers. Churches of Christ have flourished across the continent in the past century. Some have more than 1,000 members and meet in grand auditoriums. Others have 20 members who meet under the shade of a mango tree.
Research by Wendell Broom and Mark Berryman in 2002 showed that the continent was home to nearly 15,000 congregations with a combined membership of more than 1 million. No reliable census of the entire continent has been compiled in the years since, but church scholars estimate that the number of congregations and members surpasses that of the United States.
In 1992, church leaders gathered for the first Africans Claiming Africa for Christ conference in Kenya. The conference represented a “passing of the torch” from U.S. and European missionaries to African Christians. Every four years the church leaders reconvene to discuss the status of African-led missions to the unreached nations of the continent.
Since 1992, African-led teams have planted churches across West Africa, including the predominantly Muslim nations of Senegal, Gambia, Mali and Mauritania. Church elders, including Douglas Boateng of the Nsawam Road Church of Christ in Accra, Ghana, have raised funds for the mission work and set up businesses for Christians to operate in foreign lands. Meanwhile, teams of U.S. Christians have launched works among unreached people groups in Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin. In countries including Angola, Rwanda and South Sudan, U.S. and African Christians have worked together to start new congregations.
The map above is an approximation of mission work in Africa in the past two decades. In some of the countries coded with red, green or blue, a few Churches of Christ existed before 1992. In others, including Tanzania and Mozambique, new mission teams from the U.S. have launched works among the continent’s unreached people groups since 1992.