Christianity has grown to become the religion of almost half of Africa's population, and nearly two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa. From 1900 to 2010, Christian numbers grew from 9.1% of the population to 48.8%, and from 7.5 million to 504 million. Of the world’s evangelical Christians, over 33% live in Africa – a proportion that increases annually! It is very possible that within our lifetime, over half of the world's evangelicals will be from Africa. Pray that the spiritual vibrancy of Africa's believers will spread to the rest of the world's Christians.
Evangelical growth has been even more spectacular. In 1900, evangelicals numbered 1.6 million (1.5%), but now they exceed 200 million and approach 20% of the population! This is as much as all evangelicals in the Americas combined and is the largest evangelical population of any continent. African evangelicals are also increasing at a faster rate than any other continent.
Third Wave Pentecostal groups, strongly evangelical, have become a major element in the African Church. They are strong on the Scriptures and outreach, expectant of miracles, fervent in prayer and courageous against the powers of darkness. The Redeemed Christian Church and Deeper Life Bible Church were both started in Nigeria and have planted churches in dozens of countries. Groups such as the Church of Pentecost (Ghana), the Zimbabwe Assemblies of God, and others in Kenya, Tanzania, Côte d'Ivoire and elsewhere continue to grow and plant new churches.
A number of countries experienced significant growth in the Church - either large-scale church growth or breakthrough among previously unevangelized peoples. These include Ethiopia, Sudan, Benin, Nigeria, Algeria, Mozambique and Angola, just to name a few.
The impact of the gospel on the educated. The ministries of SU, IFES and others among students have been remarkable; through these and the ministries of churches and agencies, a large proportion of Africa's professionals and leaders in Anglophone and Francophone countries are committed Christians. Their influence is becoming decisive in addressing corruption and social evils and in affecting the power structures of society; the fruit of this can be seen in the positive changes all over Africa in the last decade. Pray for this to continue!
The mission force of African agencies and missionaries continues to grow and diversify. Lacking the established infrastructures and financial resources of the West, Africans find creative new ways to train and send church planters. Specific areas of praise:
- Research. A number of more specific research initiatives - usually on the national or regional level — are assisting greatly in identifying the task remaining and offering insight on strategy and methodology.
- Reaching Muslims. The vast bulk of Africa's unreached are Muslim, many of them practicing an African brand of folk Islam. As demonstrated in West Africa, East Africa and elsewhere, sub-Saharan Africans can be extremely effective at winning Muslims to Jesus and are doing so to greater effect than ever.
- Holistic ministry. African churches and missions are becoming savvy about the great effectiveness of combining prayer, compassionate ministry, development work and church planting.
- Bible Translation. Increasing numbers of Africans lead translation programmes in their own languages. Numerous seminaries in Africa now provide education in translation and related studies so the African Church can address the enormous translation challenges it faces.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.