Why Missionaries Need to Read History

In the last 60 years nearly every country on the continent of Africa has received its independence from the previous colonial powers. In almost every case, the countries have tended to disaster. Now, to write that you need historical proof, and that is what Martin Meredith supplies in The State of Africa (2005), updated as The Fate of Africa (2011).

He does not offer solutions (Should a historian?), but I’m OK with that since I have a worldview to bring to these facts. Meredith journals with memorable detail the sad stories in every chapter. Mobutu steals the immense wealth of the Congo. Idi Amin in Uganda is eventually dispatched only to be replaced by a man just as bad, but not as famous. Julius Nyerere in Tanzania is the soft socialist who damages his country with less flair. Only Nelson Mandela sounds like a hero in this book, and even he has feet of clay.

Missionaries in Africa need to read this. Why? Because they need to have concrete examples that bad religion produces the bad fruit of endemic poverty and rising infant morality rates. Some foolish studies are trying to find causes for Africa’s suffering outside of the spiritual realm. And some believers are arguing that Africa is having a “vital explosion” of genuine Christianity. Read Meredith’s account and try to make that argument again.

Africa’s problems are terrible because African traditional religion is terrible. And while all false religions tend to impoverish and even kill their adherents, some religions have even less in common with the one true religion than others. Judaism for example, borrows many Christian ideas from the OT such as a hard work ethic and a linear view of time. African religions do not have either of these and many other basic beliefs that are vital for wealth creation. The further you stand from the fire, the colder you feel. Jews have no hope of Heaven without repenting, but they can live a lot better here on earth by taking to heart the wisdom of Proverbs. Satan has worked for millennia, however, to keep even that temporal wisdom from the hands, hearts, and heads of Africans.

Those whose job it is to make disciples of all nations should read history to further entrench their hatred of the false religions that damn the people they love. We should read history to make us understand their plight with more color and empathy. We should read history to enliven our sermons with fresh and poignant illustrations. We should read history in hopes of changing the future.

If you live or work in Africa, read Martin Meredith’s The Fate of Africa.


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