Reverse missionaries and the migration of wealth from state to church

While Christianity is rising in Africa, there is a major decline in countries that are originally Christian according to a survey

“We thank God” has become a popular phrase on the lips of Africans, whether it is in appreciation for the end of a day or a major win at an award show. For whatever reason, good or bad, God is always thanked.

Africans are very religious people; this is no news. Africans take pride in their religion; this no secret.

The growth of both Christianity and Islam in the next 41 years will be concentrated within sub-Saharan Africa. A new Pew research center report posits that by 2060, 4-in-10 Christians are expected to live in most of the African countries, with Nigeria, D.R. Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya topping the list.

One of the factors for this growth in religious demography is Africa’s increasing population, projected at 1.3 billion more people by 2050.  Children inducted into the religion of their parents are likely to continue in this religion, thereby, increasing the number of those professing these faiths.

Historically, Christianity was introduced to Africa through Christian missionaries alongside colonialism. In conversations about colonialism, Christianity is rarely, if ever, mentioned. It has been accepted by many Africans as the best product of colonialism. It has been adopted and repurposed for the African, feverish prayer sessions and singsong praise worship. This evolution of African Christianity was made even stronger by the adoption of ‘Pentecostalism’. Many of these churches which have grown into empires providing institutions in education, health and even security where many African governments have fallen short.

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While Christianity is rising in Africa, there is a major decline in countries that are originally Christian according to a survey conducted last year. In the United Kingdom, only 14 percent of Britons identify as members of the Church of England. This has inspired a need for reverse missionaries.

Reverse missionaries are Christians who have chosen to take Christianity back to Europe with hopes to restore the gospel to the origin nations. A story on Quartz Africa tells of Reuben Ekeme Inwe, a reverse missionary whose wife had a dream of him preaching to a large crowd as he often does in Lagos, Nigeria but this time, the faces in the audience were white and he was covered in snow. This dream inspired Reuben and his wife in their mission to spread the gospel and convert white British ‘unbelievers’.

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In a larger scale of reverse missionaries, some Nigerian churches now have extensions in Europe, with some of the most popular mega churches in the United Kingdom. The exportation of African-style Christianity has become another form of reverse missionary.

However, how favourable has the massive growth of religion served the African continent?

A UK news journal, The Independent, published an article saying that researches have observed that the poorest nations tend to be highly religious. As many African countries are religious and poor, one could surmise that religion is a major cause for Africa’s poor economic state.

On the other hand, a research paper published on VOX contributes to the idea that religious beliefs have a positive influence on the individual, which in turn enhances economic performance, while an increase in religious attendance has a negative impact on the economy, shifting resources to the religious sector.

Africa’s mega pastors come to mind. Large Christian congregations spend percentages of their income in their churches, trusting these churches to provide for them in areas of social security and welfare more than they trust their governments. Many African countries are unable to recover Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from their working population as they give most, if not all of it to the church; in the end, creating super rich pastors and poorer nations.

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It is valuable to believe in our religion. The belief in religion forms character and economic growth. Nevertheless, it should not take away our responsibility as citizens of our countries to hold our governments to account. Africans should offer loyalty to the State, just as much as we have to religion.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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