Apologetics for the African Mind

Apologetics fits under the banner of our prayerful responsibility under God to both make and mature disciples of Christ. Under that umbrella of discipleship are three other categories: evangelism, edification, and equipping. Evangelism is when we introduce people to Jesus, edification occurs when we see people mature and grow in the Christian faith, and equipping happens when we train the saints to evangelize and edify.

So, where does apologetics fit in? Well, rather than as a distinct category, I would suggest that apologetics, properly speaking, is a tool under each of the three E’s mentioned above. Let me explain.

  • We use apologetics to evangelize when we help people grapple with Jesus as we desire to see them become disciples of Jesus.
  • We use apologetics to edify when we aid the saints to grow in their love and knowledge of the Triune God as disciples of Jesus.
  • We use apologetics to equip when we train Christians to be disciples who make disciples as they seek to reach non-Christians and invest in fellow Christians.

As we think about apologetics in Africa, my encouragement is to ensure that we keep this tool under the right umbrella and guard against creating a new category.

Of course, even as we have a responsibility under God to make disciples, let’s not forget that the saving and sanctifying power to both reach and mature people belongs to the Lord. And so, in all this, we will need to be distinctly prayerful as we look to him.

Apologetics in Africa Should Be Contextually Christological

We should not expect that the areas of apologetics that take center stage in North America or Asia to be as important in Africa.

Of course, they could be in certain cases, but as we think about apologetics in Africa, we must consider the African context before we consider another context.

So, for example, from my admittedly limited patch of Africa, I am far more concerned with African Traditional Religion, Islam, and messy Christianity than with atheism.

I am far more concerned with African Traditional Religion, Islam, and messy Christianity than with atheism.

Anecdotally, in the last 10 years, out of thousands of conversations I’ve had during walk-up evangelism or discipling fellow Christians, atheism has probably only popped up a handful of times.

Most of our African cultures have built into them a creator god. He isn’t the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he is supreme and powerful in the eyes of those who worship him.

Let’s think about and engage first and foremost the issues that intersect in the lives of African people––whether those match the categories I gave, or not. 

However, as we sit contextually with the African soil between our fingers, let’s do so with a focus on Christ. Because apologetics properly speaking fits under discipleship, we’ll always want to be pointing people to Jesus from the Scriptures.

Engaging with African Traditional Religion

In the context of African Traditional Religion, we will want to explore the issue of mediation between us and God. We need to make the case that Jesus Christ––the Son of God and the one who died a globally applicable death on the cross––is the only sufficient and appointed mediator between us and God.

Engaging with the Rapidly Spreading Islam

In the context of a rapidly spreading Islam, we will want to contend that Islam inherently lives in the shadow of Christianity. In other words, it has to disprove Christianity to be something itself. We will want to show how even a slight glimpse of the all-sufficiently beautiful Jesus reveals that Islam, Muhammed, and the Qur’an aren’t enough. You don’t return to the candle when you have seen the sun. 

Engaging with Messy Christianity

Because apologetics properly speaking fits under discipleship, we’ll always want to be pointing people to Jesus from the Scriptures.

Lastly, in the context of a messy Christianity in Africa, we will need to step forward to show Jesus as Lord. Sometimes this means that professing Christians will need to repent of their merely cultural Christianity. This may mean contending with those in cults who manipulate hijacked Scriptures away from Jesus. Christians will need to engage in the so-called prosperity gospel. And the history of colonialism in Africa necessitates showing how Jesus isn’t a white man, and Christianity isn’t the white man’s religion. 

The overall encouragement here is to engage our African context and to do so with a distinct focus on pointing people to the biblical Jesus. As we focus on learning and utilizing apologetics correctly in our context, we can do so with the hope that sharing the true gospel will lead to more and more disciples made and churches planted across Africa.  

Ryan van der Avoort serves with a ministry to university students in KwaZulu Natal, Durban, South Africa, called ‘The Bible Talks KZN‘. He is an Elder in his local church and blogs regularly at Taste and See. Ryan is married to Jo, and they have two children.


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs are receiving the least support. You can help change that!

Exit mobile version