Sunday, 27 September 2009

Reaching Africa from here

I spent an enjoyable but exhausting day in London yesterday, teaching for the Philip Project. This takes its name from the incident with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, and aims to train students from Africa to become effective Bible-teachers when they return home.
The students themselves are very aware that much of what passes for Christian teaching in Africa, whilst well-intended by the preacher, bears little relationship to what is in the biblical text from which they purport to be preaching or teaching.* None of them are studying theology, but all of them will be involved in Bible studies or church leadership, and one of them has even helped set up a Philip Project offshoot in Africa itself.
My given topic was the Wisdom literature, and in the time available we managed to cover a Bible overview for the context, then Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs and Job, before finishing with a brief consideration of Christ as the Wisdom of God.
One thing that struck me, in preparing and presenting this material, is that Christians have a golden opportunity to preach and demonstrate wisdom in societies where God is ignored or rejected, since the result is that life simply doesn’t work as it should. In Africa we have widespread corruption and inefficiency, in the West we have the ‘credit crunch’ and the vacuousness (Ecclesiastes would say the ‘vanity’) of daily life for many people.
Before we preach, though, we have to learn, and I am determined to go back and do a bit more thinking about and reading of the Wisdom books, and especially Proverbs.
This morning, meanwhile, we are trying something new in church, instead of the standard sermon. Whether it will work, I don’t know. I notice it is also ‘Back to Church’ Sunday. We did it a couple of years ago, with mixed results. We’re not taking part this year (my slightly cynical comment was, ‘Why spoil Christmas?’), but I’d be interested to hear from those who do.
Revd John Richardson
27 September 2009

*Actually I don't think this is just an African problem.
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