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Summary: A Brief History of Missionary Efforts In Nigeria

A Brief History of Missionary Efforts In Nigeria

Learning Objectives

1. The students will be able to explain how the Nigerian, African, European, and American missionaries worked together to plant churches in Nigeria.

2. The students will be able to apply the factors that contributed to the successes or failures of evangelism to their own lives and ministries.

3. The students will be able to list the highlights of the history of missions in Nigeria.

Introduction - There is a Hausa proverb that says,

``Da dan gari, ake cin gari!’’ If you want to conquer a town, you must learn to use a son of the town. In the same way, if you want to plant a church in a certain area you should learn to use the people of that area. Many churches have not been successfully planted because outsiders were used to do the work of evangelism instead of indigenous people. One of Jesus Christ’s strategies for evangelizing the world included using 12 men from different walks of life. They were able to spread the gospel people in many different areas, in different educational circles, social groups, ethnic groups, political groups, language groups, and geographical groups.

When the apostle Paul started his missionary work in Phillipi, he began on the Sabbath. At the prayer meeting, where he met a woman named Lydia, there he began a church. In Acts 16:13-15 we learn the secrets of Paul’s wisdom in winning the indigenes who would then form the first house church in the town.

``On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ’If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ’come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.’’

That passage gives us insights on using citizens of an area to gain credibility, trust, rapport, understanding, and a base for helping the church to grow. Now let us look at how missionaries throughout Nigeria’s history were used of God to plant churches!

I. Earliest History of Missions

A. The Portuguese Christians brought some form of the Christian message to the Oba of Benin in 1491. The chief was baptized then. (Ezemadu p.19)

B. Christianity did not spread, however, because the Portuguese were more interested in making money than preaching the gospel. (Ezemadu p. 19)

C. During the time of the slave trade in the 1800s, hundreds of freed slaves returned to Nigeria. They had become Christians while they were away. Upon returning to their homeland, they wanted to spread the gospel. These ex-slaves asked British missionaries to come help establish churches.

D. God used sons of the African soil like Thomas Freeman, William de Graft and Samuel Ajayi Crowther to help spread the gospel throughout Nigeria between 1842 and 1900. These men encouraged many ex-slaves to become involved in preaching the gospel. Crowther made this statement about the effectiveness of using indigenous people in the work of evangelism: (Ezemadu, pp. 22-24)

``It takes great effect when a returning liberated Christian gets down with his countrymen and invites them, in his own language, with refined Christian feelings and sympathy not to be expressed words but evidenced in an exemplary Christian life.’’

E. One of these ex-slaves named Simon Jonas was instrumental in convincing the Obi of Abo to stop slavery. He paved the way for the beginning of Christianity in Niger State. (Ezemadu p. 25)

F. The SIM and SUM adopted the position that a missionary society could not be established if it confined its work to mission stations.

``Hence the policy of training and involving indigenous people in the mission’s work developed at the earliest time.’’ (Ezemadu p.23)

G. Crompton in his book of the History of Christianity in Northern Nigeria says, ``It must not be thought that all the work even in the early days was in the hands of full-time missionaries . . .’’ ``In the Yoruba areas, Christianity spread through natural family contacts.’’

II. Current Indigenous Efforts of Evangelism in Nigeria

A. Geographical spread: Most of the evangelical churches can be identified within a certain area of Nigeria, but some have spread beyond their original boundaries seeking more lost, wandering, or needy sheep. (Ezemadu p.24)

1). The Assemblies of God church started in Umuahia in Imo State. They now have nearly 2,500 churches in Nigeria, mainly in the Eastern part of the country. However, it is a good example of a church which has spread throughout the country as some of its members started churches wherever they went. (Ezemadu)

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