Reflection

Post-modern African folk

As we think about making disciples and doing church among people who aren’t likely to be drawn into typical churches through typical evangelism methods, we often think of this as a discussion for white people.

Europeans. All this post-modern talk is for them. Right?

I’ve gotten the impression that some think this stuff isn’t relevant to the African-American church, or for Africans in general.

I’ve heard some argue that Africans and African-Americans are still operating in many ways in the “modern” period — the era after the Enlightenment up through recent times in which intellectual truth was the standard by which all things were judged. ’.

The thinking goes that black folks and Africans haven’t really shifted to the post-modern way of thinking (is the implication that they are behind?) or that they never really bought into the modern period to begin with.

But I believe it is vital that the African-American church be engaged in the thinking process and, more importantly, in the development of fresh ways of expressing and living the faith for today’s world.

Why? First off, to whatever degree it might be true that African-Americans and Africans didn’t completely buy into the modern way of thinking, that is exactly why a great deal can be learned by observing differences in the way African faith is lived out compared to that of the European-influenced church.

It might also be helpful to the African and African-American churches to drop what sometimes is a “catch-up” mentality, a thinking that they need to do what the white church has done. There is often an inferiority complex in Africans and African-Americans (though we don’t like to admit it) that leads many to feel they aren’t doing it right because “we aren’t doing it like them.”

Understanding that many things seen by some as weaknesses in African church tradition (the importance of experience, worship, celebration, community, acceptance and grace, spiritual power, and the focus on the stories of the Bible) are strengths for operating in the emerging culture.

This is also extremely important to the African-American and African churches for their own future.

African-Americans are no longer an isolated, segregated population. Even those who still live in a virtually all-black environment still are heavily influenced by the cultural context of today’s Western world. Through television, music, etc., the way they see the world is simply not the way their grandparents saw it.

On the world scene, Africans are moving back and forth to Europe and America. Many were part of the old Soviet-era schooling. Africans don’t all think the same, nor do they all see the world the way Africans did 50 or 100 years ago.ness.

I find that young Africans in Paris are among those most in need of fresh forms of church we are trying to develop. Many of those who have studied in Europe or grown up part of their lives here struggle to fit into the culturally African churches, and also in the culturally French churches. They are looking for experience and relationship. But also teaching, soul healing, ways to understand their identity, etc.

When I went to Burkina Faso in West Africa I was encouraged to see some of the best examples of the way church needs to look for the emerging culture. Because of an inability to buy property and people being spread apart, little churches in neighborhoods and villages were naturally planted. They were seperate, but tied together by a common bond to the mother body.

Some of what we are doing in Paris now was influenced by what I saw there. But I was also troubled by the persistance and ineffectiveness of some of the old forms and formalities that perhaps NEVER fit the culture to begin with. Many of the young Africans I meet now in France want nothing to do with the churches they grew up with for this reason.

Developing church for the post-modern or emerging culture is not a discussion reserved for white folks. To think that this is not a discussion that concerns those of African heritage (and all other cultures, for that matter) is not only wrong, it is hazardous.


Todd is part of the International Teams
‘Paris Vision Team’ – “four couples spread out in different churches, different ministry foci and different neighborhoods but who have come together around a common vision to be and to make disciples in this city of 12 million people.”