I’d not intended on writing a third post on theology in my “Banking on God” series, but a combination of events convinced me I need to say more.
Today in church, we had a visiting evangelist from Ghana in Africa. He regularly comes to our church because we help his missions organization minister in the countries of Liberia, Ghana, and Togo. He’s a gentle, self-effacing, native-born African who always has a powerful word to speak to us Americans, especially how we must bring Jesus to Africans and also address their extreme poverty.
As I listened to him speak, he drove home a truth that can’t be ignored. And while I already knew of the situation he detailed, I never saw how critical it was until yesterday morning.
Islam continues to swallow the northern half of Africa, with more and more countries becoming majority/exclusively Muslim each year. Part of the reason for Islam’s growth in Africa is that “evangelists” for Islam have learned what Christian missionaries knew for years: people are more willing to embrace your message if you help meet their physical needs.
To this end, Muslims are building schools, hospitals, wells, orphanages, electrical generators, and mosques at record pace. And they’re doing so backed by the money we pay for oil. With a barrel of oil over $100, it doesn’t take a genius to see where this is heading. The Saudis funnel massive amounts of money to Islamic “missions” programs, and the leaders of those programs go into villages loaded full of cash they lavishly spend to help poor people out of crippling poverty.
This evangelist told us that this is a very difficult issue to overcome, especially when Christians cannot muster the same outpouring of largess. Worse, he told us that many projects by a number of Christian ministries in his area have stalled due to a lack of funds.
Part of his work is to help new converts find work because so many people are stuck in grinding poverty. His organization equips people to start businesses and find careers because the need is so great and so practical. His hope is that the Christians in the countries he ministers to will leverage their new businesses to make local churches self-supporting. But they are not there yet.
Sadly, as Christian efforts break even or stall, the continued flood of cash by Muslim organizations is perpetuating Islam’s tsunami through Northern and Central Africa.
I heard this and, I’ll tell you, it just made me sick to my stomach. Truly.
I don’t want to think that the reins we keep on our wealth here in the American Church are so tight that millions will go to a Christless eternity for our stinginess. And while some may argue that money is not the reason for people going to hell, surely a lack of benevolence on our part contributes to that outcome. The starving African should not come to the Christian and be turned away for lack of funds—only to find comfort in the arms of wealthy Islam.
Are we ready for that kind of apologetic? Isn’t it sad to think that Christians, who once built the vast majority of hospitals, schools, and orphanages around the world are being rapidly outspent in those same areas by Muslims?
In an age when rational Western Christians have largely dismissed signs and wonders evangelistic techniques, we either need to re-evaluate our anti-supernatural position in light of Islam’s outpouring of cash or exceed that benevolence with our greater giving. If we can’t compete monetarily, we better have something a whole lot better to offer people, something that meets their physical need right where they are.
As the Bible notes,
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
That’s something Islam can’t possibly hope to match.