Many students of the church have observed Africa’s crucial role in the evangelization of the world. Nowhere in the world is Christianity rapidly spreading like wild fire as it is in Africa. Churches are planted in their hundreds in the year across the once heathen nations. Missionaries are sent to once mission sending nations from Africa, and many exciting phenomena.
The above notwithstanding, the Sierra Leonean church has grave problems. The character of the church community has left many thinking if this is all there is to Christianity and whether they want to be identified with such a life style. How is it possible for a nation like Sierra Leone that was the first to receive the gospel in Africa South of the Sahara to be plagued by enormous vice? Is Christianity in the Sierra Leonean church a mile wide but an inch deep? It is incontrovertible that several things have gone wrong.
1. Negative characteristics, practices and attributes of the church
Central to one’s observation are fundamental or root causes (problems) that find manifestation in various forms. To solve the problems the church firstly needs to identify them.
a. Lack of proper theological training: The African church is plagued by grave ignorance. It is generally assumed that Christian workers do not require balanced training. At worst, it is the misfits of the society who should be Christian workers. Consequently, the church is considered to be privileged to have a trained accountant as its pastor having graduated from a University, even if s/he does not have some theological bearing.
b. Lack of commitment to Biblical holiness: There is confusion over the doctrine of holiness. Some have taught the standard so low that they are comfortable with sinful behaviours. Others look at holiness as a goal they have attained and need no progress. Yet another is the assumption that holiness is unattainable in the present life. So beside the commitment is the lack of knowledge and clear teaching of holiness. Even the little, muddled up, that is known is not lived. Pastors have also contributed to this demise. They contradict by lifestyle what they teach. There is a great lapse in the church. Believers are accommodated to sin.
c. Lack of proper teaching: Chinyere Madugba is right when she observed that people who are not ready for discipleship are not ready to be pruned. Unfortunately people are taught to acquire such things as will promote their prided and greed. Is it not ironic to have several Christians in Freetown yet be plagued with so much crime? The church is inevitably a contributor. Central to the problem is the lack of proper teaching. People cannot profess to be Christians who are not ready to be guided by Christian ethic. Christianity is not a ‘Sunday gown’ to be worn to church on Sundays and abandoned throughout the weekends.
d. Spill over: One could reasonably state that the above issues could be the core to the problem of the church in Africa. However, in manifestation, various forms are evident.
i. Pride: Pride is the esteem of oneself to be superior, through some false measure, to others who are considered inferior. Pride is a symptom of an unbroken self. The lack of teaching on the discipline of the Christian life leaves an untouched part of human being that exposes itself in pride. This could be seen in the much desire and attachment to titles, positions, acquisition of unwanted property and certificates. It is incontrovertible that it is presently an unrebuked sin in the Sierra Leonean church.
ii. Self-centred prayer: The populous teaching on prayer in African churches has a lot of African Traditional Religion (ATR) intrusion: the progress of oneself and the destruction of his enemies – ‘back to sender’, ‘fire for fire’, Holy Ghost pursue them’. They believe that all answers to prayers should instantaneous.
iii. Misunderstanding of revival: Revival is generally considered as one of the annual church scheduled programmes when believers are called to be serious with the Lord. The Biblical meaning of revival is missing. The sense of revival as being moral and essentially coming back alive to God is not the understood sense of revival.
2. Characteristics, practices and attitudes needing transformation
It is sad to note that the African church may neither have nor sustain a revival until the minimum revival conditions of God are met.
a. Trained personnel: Africa is in need of Biblical theologians, pastors and Christian workers trained in both doctrine and practice of Biblical Christianity. These are to set the standard for practical Christian living. A pastor that will be used of God in bringing revival to his congregation must be knowledgeable in doctrine and experience of sanctification. The pulpit is central to revival and there cannot be revival until the man of the pulpit or some section of his congregation is transformed.
b. Commitment to holiness: The African church needs to be re-taught that the claims to be Christian carry with them responsible Christian living. Revival could easily come when people are not ignorant in doctrine and the pursuit of Biblical holiness. If holiness is the product of salvation, then not being holy is to deny salvation.
3. Agencies for a continuous revival
The church must be committed to teaching. The basics of Christianity and the Christian walk should be made as clear as possible: the way of salvation, the fullness of the Spirit, how He can be obtained and the necessity of Christian discipline. In the context of revival, Christians should have a biblical meaning of revival, how it should be sought and the condition under which it must be sought. People should also be taught about the gravity of sin and its consequences. Holiness is God’s desire for His people, and to walk in holiness is to walk in God’s will and pleasure.
In addition, Christians should know that seeking God involves a process. They must seek the face of the Lord in humility and consecration. Surrender or consecration is not a performance of will but a perfection of devotion of love. Revival will come when God’s conditions are met. It comes in the context of clear teaching of sin, salvation, fullness of the Spirit, repentance, total surrender, appropriation of the gift of faith and in prayer and fasting.
It is with deep regret that we state that Sierra Leone might not have a genuine biblical revival and cannot sustain it even if it should be experienced until there is a refocus on the need for genuine repentance and prayer, training of church workers, knowledge in doctrine and ethics, and as a church committed to the Biblical teaching and practice of holiness.