Several years ago I met with John Stott, one of the founders of the Lausanne Movement. I shared with him my concerns about French-speaking Africa in the following terms: “Please, do not forget French-speaking Africa.” He remembers this statement each time we meet.
Because of its colonial past characterized by a low vitality of Protestantism in France and Belgium (the colonizing countries), French-speaking Africa was often regarded as the “poor man” of the evangelical world. Missiologically, because this part of the world is culturally difficult and little-known by the evangelical world (which is dominated by the American and Anglo-Saxon culture), French-speaking Africa has often been neglected.
French-speaking Africa during these last decades has been through times of unprecedented violence. Almost every French-speaking country in the sub-Sahara has experienced a political and/or military crisis causing displacement of populations and deaths amounting sometimes to thousands, as in Rwanda and in D.R. Congo. There has also been a great expansion of Islam as well as a resurgence of the African traditional religions.
But God, in his sovereignty, and in spite of these crises, is doing great things in this part of Africa. God in his sovereignty has often used war to facilitate the propagation of the gospel through refugees and migrants and to accelerate the missionary movement. French-speaking Africa gradually became a provider of missionaries to other parts of the continent and to the rest of the world.
Today, the future of the Church in the French-speaking world depends mainly upon the French-speaking churches of Africa, which are becoming strong and expressing a remarkable vitality. These churches must resolutely take on the challenge of the evangelization of the French-speaking countries in the rest of the world which are often very secularized and difficult to evangelize. They must continue to be aware of their missionary responsibility both toward other French-speaking countries in the world and also the francophone culture which is often not understood by non French-speaking people.
Moving Together in Unity
To fulfill this mission, the French-speaking Church of Africa must be put in battle order. It should move together in unity. It is important for its Christian leaders to regularly consult on issues related to the life of the Church, to evangelism, and to mission. It is also vital to prepare the new generation of leaders by cultivating in them a spirit of unity and sacrifice for the gospel, and a true missionary spirit.
The Lausanne Movement gives us an unequalled opportunity to be well connected to the evangelical world in order to share the infinite richness of the gospel. We must rejoice and celebrate the organization of Cape Town 2010: The 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization coming for the first time to Africa. We must prepare ourselves in prayer and mobilize resources and people from Francophone Africa to attend the 2010 Congress in Cape Town in order to give and also to receive from God's people the blessings the Lord has already prepared for us.
(This article is also available in French. Click here.)