through commerce and Christianity. In fact, Livingstone died
in Zambia while still trying to find the source of the Nile
River. When Zambia gained independence from Britain in
1964, all towns named after British personalities and places
were renamed—except Livingstone, which to this day is the
only town or city in Zambia with a foreign name. Livingstone
was so highly regarded that in 1973, the centenary of his death,
celebrations honouring him were held across Zambia.
Another interesting aspect of Christianity in Zambia goes
back to the ‘Comity Arrangement’. At the start of the 20th
century, evangelical mission organizations decided the most
efficient way to reach the various tribes was to divide them up
among themselves so each organization could concentrate on
one language. So most Nyanja-speaking people are Presbyterian
and Reformed, and most Tongas Wesleyan and Brethren
in Christ. One hundred years later, even for city churches
speaking English, most people still identify churches as tribes.
So it is difficult to feel accepted and to be chosen as a church
leader if you do not belong to that church’s tribe. What was
once the best way forward in missions has now become a snare!
How is a proper doctrine of creation
important for pastoral ministry?
It is as important as the foundation is to a superstructure.
What we read in Genesis 1 and 2 is foundational to our understanding of who we are and what our primary task is in God’s
world. The very fact that God created us gives us a sense of
purpose in life and also causes us to recognize the pivotal
role of Christ in restoring us to our God-given purpose. The
pattern of God’s creative activity in Genesis 1 becomes to us
a pattern of how we ought to work to develop God’s world. In
the way God relates Adam to Eve, we understand the relationship that obtains between male and female in the home, in the
church, and in the world.
Also, trying to interpret the days of Genesis 1 as anything
other than 24-hour days undermines the confidence of God’s
people in their own ability to understand and apply Genesis 1
and the rest of the Bible for themselves without the need for
What are some possible misconceptions or
challenges about Christianity in Africa?
One misconception is that Africans readily accept the
Gospel. Not true. Africans are generally non-offensive and so
will often answer your question in the affirmative even if they
do not really mean it. It is almost a miracle to hear an African
say, ‘No,’ to the question, ‘Do you want to accept Jesus Christ
as your Lord and Saviour?’ This is worse in a public meeting.
Many evangelists come to Africa and will see ‘thousands’
responding to their Gospel invitations. No sooner do they get
back on their planes to go back home than their ‘converts’ go
right back to their old ways.
On a more positive note, Africans normally do not doubt
the existence of God. Even after many years of being taught
evolution, the average African still believes in a Creator. In
our evangelistic work, we can assume all that and simply go
straight into talking about the Saviour who has been sent by
God to save us from our sins. The greatest challenge is to get
them to give up a salvation by works and rest solely on the
merits of Christ.
Have positive or negative elements
from Western Christianity been
imported into Africa?
Western Christianity has emphasized the need to write
and read Christian books. We need to learn this very positive
element here in Africa. Sadly, there is some truth to the saying,
‘If you want to hide anything from an African, hide it in a book.’
We are still very much an oral culture, and desperately need to
develop a writing and reading culture. We are only now beginning to write the biographies of our pioneering indigenous
church leaders and the history of our churches. I can only hope
it is not ‘too little, too late’.
While Africa continues to battle with its own form of syncretism (mixing pagan elements with biblical tenets), Western
Christianity is doing the same as it gives way to postmod-ernism. A case in point has been the battle on homosexuality
between the African Anglicans and their Western counterparts.
Lecturing at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson,
Delivering the Chancellor’s Address at African Christian
University in 2016