6 Important Urban Trends Facing Church In Africa

A while back, in a monthly meeting I have with other lead pastors from the Nairobi Chapel family, we set out to outline important trends shaping our culture. Here are some of the ones I think we need to pay close attention to!

1. Assertive youth culture – the 844 culture is here! Their official language is sheng, they surf the internet daily at cybercafes, meet on facebook, sms at the speed of light & have their own local pop idols and music. They watch music videos all day on TV that our Kenyan censors would never have allowed to air 5 years ago. They have a ‘get rich quick’ mentality (their models include gansta rappers in America who made a lot of money without too much school). They are extremely bright and inquisitive, and they don’t trust the ‘system’. Very few churches are at presently ‘speaking their language’ or seeking to proactively engage them. The existing church will need to undergo not a remodeling but a revolution to reach this generation!

2. Family breakdown – there is increase in family breakdown due to dissapearing extended family support for city dwellers, as well as increasing economic pressure on the family unit. The result is that parents are away from home for longer hours. Among the middle class, children are increasingly being brought up by house-helpers, who act as ‘surrogate mothers’. The result is increasing cases of marital strife, divorce, child abuse, and delinquency. There is a crisis in parenting, with many parents feeling ill-equipped and helpless in bringing up their children to live according to the values they hold dear. The church needs to actively engage measures to offer relevant support to family life, or else it will constantly find itself counseling couples and families when it is already too late!

3. Growing isolation of a Christian subculture – There is a ‘flight’ from engaging the rest of society as Christians create a thriving Christian subculture. This is seen more and more in Christian radio, TV & newspapers, Christian schools etc. that speak to and serve an exclusively Christian clientele. While these things are not bad in and of themselves, the church needs to proactively participate in our culture in order to impact it positively, otherwise it will become increasingly irrelevant, speaking only with itself, and certainly not being the ‘light of the world’.

4. Increasing suspicion of Christianity – In the past, it was fashionable to be a Christian. Today, the secular media constantly paints Christianity as a part of the ‘status quo’, a colonial hangover that we’re all inevitably moving from. This is only bound to increase. In the future, Christians should be prepared to operate in a culture that is not friendly to their profession of faith and values, and that does not automatically understand their Christian ‘language’.

5. HIV/AIDS orphans – East Africa alone currently has a staggering 4 million AIDS orphans, a number that may double or treble in next 10 years. The implications of this are mind boggling. Governments of the three countries will be overwhelmed for a long time with issues like health care, education & street children. Should Christians be much more aggressively preparing for this by starting children’s homes, VCT centers, HIV support groups, adoption support groups and educational facilities for orphans?

6. Poverty & unemployment – Kenya’s economy has improved greatly over the last 4 years. However, it will take a long time before the economic growth ‘trickles down’ to the common mwananchi. Poverty is dehumanizing – more people steal or go into prostitution today not in a short stint to survive but as a lifestyle. Donations have been shown to do little to stop the cycle of poverty, and in many cases actually worsen the situation. Salvation limits the available modes of survival, and so it is not a good choice for many among the poor! Should churches today be much more passionately involved in engaging people in the areas of creating business opportunities and addressing the issues of poverty?

What must the church of today be doing about these trends? Suggestions are welcome.

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