For the final week of Black History Month, I wanted to introduce to you a man who was saved out of Islam and is now, among many other things, helping the church to share the Good News of the Gospel with Muslims. Thabiti Anyabwile grew up in North Carolina in the middle of the Bible belt but his family only attended church on special occasions. He never felt any strong desire for spiritual things until he was arrested in high school and had a wake-up call. He figured that church might be the place to go to get some sense knocked into you when you got in trouble, but when he went, he never ended up hearing the Good News.
Most people, myself included, see the world and small changes that might be made to better it. And we look on the surface at the issues that are nearest at hand. A true visionary, though, is someone who sees foundational problems and is able to envision and pursue profound solutions, regardless of their scale or the challenges they pose. Nigeria’s Byang Kato was a true Christian visionary.
This week I’ve been encouraged by the legacy of a Zimbabwean believer who was used to further the cause of equality in South Africa. Albert Luthuli was born in 1898 near Bulawayo in what is now Zimbabwe. His mother had lived in the household of a Zulu king and on his father’s side both his grandfather and uncle had served as tribal chiefs. It was an impressive pedigree for a future leader, but it was the influence of an earnest older African minister that was used to lead him to faith and the devout atmosphere of an African evangelist’s family with whom he lodged that stirred his calling to become a lay preacher.
On Sunday I talked about Luther’s role in setting off the reformation. But people like Luther, Wesley and Calvin get mentioned so often you could get the impression that the spread of Christianity is just the story of European evangelistic exploits. That certainly isn’t the case. Today, Christianity is thriving in Africa while it is struggling to survive in many parts of Europe. And now there are more missionaries being sent out from South Korea, Brazil and Nigeria than any country in Europe. For Black History Month this year I’ve been reading a book called Clouds of Witnesses that chronicles the contributions of African and Asian Christians to the church. Because Grace Baptist has been so blessed by the testimony and ministry of Zimbabweans over the years, I was intrigued to learn about Bernard Mizeki, one of the first missionaries to bring the Gospel to that nation.