Native Evangelism in Africa

Ways and means of native evangelism.

By J. R. CAMPBELL, Superintendent of the Zambesi Union Mission

The gospel is to be proclaimed "by the  foolishness of preaching" in this last gen­eration, as it was in the first generation of the Christian Era. The hearts of men are much the same in all ages, and their soul needs are the same. The gospel of Christ is and ever will be "the power of God unto salvation," until the work is finished, though methods of presenting the message may vary somewhat from age to age.

The apostle Paul labored largely for the Gentile world, who, with but few exceptions, knew little or nothing of the living God, and less of the Saviour who had come. In South­ern Africa the early missionaries encountered an even more unpromising situation, for there was no civilization, and complete illiteracy pre­vailed. And even yet there are large sections in which the inhabitants have scarcely heard a whiper of Christianity. Between these outer fringes and the centers which have long been under the influence of missions and modern civilization, are found native peoples in all stages of civilization and Christianity.

It will therefore be clear to all that there is necessity for using different methods and means of evangelization in this territory. I shall deal briefly with the method used in the more advanced sections. In the larger towns and cities, evangelistic efforts and Bible work are very effective. For these efforts, either tent or hall may be used. But of course they are conducted in a far simpler way than the elaborate efforts held for Europeans in some of our larger cities. The evangelist should definitely plan to illustrate his lectures as much as possible with the magic lantern and charts. These not only help to attract the crowds, but also help to make the lessons clearer and more lasting.

Ways and Means of Native Evangelism

It has been found quite effective to give a discourse of from twenty minutes to half an hour on the Bible in the regular way, and then turn off the lights, throw the pictures on the screen, and repeat briefly what has just been given in the discourse. The pictures need not be numerous—not more than a dozen as a rule—but they should definitely illustrate the subject of the evening. This method holds the interest of the congregation, and definitely impresses the study on the minds of the people. It is very important to follow the counsel of Isaiah, who says: "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little." Isa. 28:10.

Never try to cover too much in one evening. It is better to make the meeting short, and impress a few definite points upon the minds of the listeners. The illustrations should, as far as possible, be within the experience of the people. Avoid using statistics and figures. Suppose you are holding an effort in Basutoland, and you wish to tell the people something of the size of the New Jerusalem. Do not tell them it is fifteen hundred miles around the city. Rather, tell them that so many Basutolands could be put inside the city, or that it would take them so many days to walk around it.

If it is found that some of the people do not come until it is about time to show the pictures, and thus are missing the first part of the meeting, reverse the order occasionally. Announce that at some meetings you will show the pictures first and at other meetings you will show them last. This usually has the desired effect.

Children are very numerous in Africa. They far outnumber the adults in most places.

The evangelist will often find that they will practically crowd out their elders. They usu­ally arrive first at the place of meeting, and leave little room for their elders. They also tend to be noisy, especially in the towns. Under these circumstances, it is well to an­nounce a meeting for the children only, to be held before the time for the regular meet­ing. This meeting should not be long, but an interesting talk should be given in connection with the pictures, it always being remembered that the primary object of the meeting is to win the children to Christ. Then they should be dismissed, and not allowed to attend the fol­lowing service.

Singing plays an important part in an effort in Africa. The natives are fond of singing, and are full of rhythm. With a little practice on the gospel songs, they learn to sing them melodiously, if not up to time. It thrills my soul to hear a congregation of natives singing. Of course there is a difference in the singing abilities of the different tribes. When the people can read, it is well to have song slides made to throw on the screen. As far as pos­sible songs should be used that teach the mes­sage, for they will be sung by the people far into the night, when they return to their homes. If they live in the country, they will sing these songs when they are working in their gardens during the day. They will re­member the song after the sermon is forgotten. It is not necessary to have a musical instru­ment to lead the music. In fact, in most efforts it would be impossible to use one, for the congregation would not know how to fol­low it. It is, however, very necessary to have a good song leader—someone who has a power­ful voice, if available.

The preaching as well as most of the sing­ing will be in the vernacular. If it is pos­sible to do so, have vernacular tracts prepared on the subjects which will be presented. As the Bible workers go out to visit the people during the day, they will leave with those who can read a tract on the subject presented the previous evening. This will accomplish much good. The evangelist should plan to have several Bible workers to assist him in the effort. It is vital that the people be visited in their homes, or out in the gardens and fields where they are working during the day. The Bible worker should be prepared to use a hoe himself, and work along as he visits with the people.

The heart of every discourse ever and al­ways is Christ. The truth must be presented in a strong and appealing way, in the power of the Holy Spirit. It must not be thought that the subjects can be presented with less thought and preparation than is needed for a more highly educated audience. Many ac­complish little because of this false assump­tion. It takes much thought and prayer to present the truth in such a way that it will appeal most forcefully to the African mind and heart. I have found that there is not the need for delaying the presentation of the so-called testing truths as there is in a Euro­pean effort. Preach the Word, as it is in Christ Jesus, and the people will come to listen.

When the subjects have all been presented, and the regular public meetings have been discontinued, the Bible workers must continue to follow up the interest. Probably more will accept the truth through this work than during the regular effort. The saying that you cannot "hustle the East" is also true for Southern Africa. So do not make the effort too short, nor fail to carry on follow-up work.


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By J. R. CAMPBELL, Superintendent of the Zambesi Union Mission

January 1940

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