Christian Living

Spiritual Life

A Harvest Sown by Generations Past

Wendy Griffith - CBN News Anchor/Reporter

For centuries, England sent missionaries to Africa. But in recent years, it's the Africans who have been bringing the gospel to England. In fact, the fastest growing church in England is now pastored by a Nigerian who is a former Muslim. So why is this evangelistic turnabout taking place?

Matthew Ashimolowo pastors the quickly growing Kingsway International Christian Center in London. In the last 10 years, Kingsway has exploded from just 200 to 10,000 members. Ashimolowo is part of a new phenomenon known as "reverse missions."

"God is sending people who used to receive missionaries to now be missionaries around the world," he explained.

Ashimolowo is just one of several African pastors that seem to be doing the impossible. They are packing pews in record numbers while the majority of churches in England are losing members in record numbers.

So what are the African pastors doing differently? Ashimolowo says its simple. They preach the Word of God and the principles of faith they learned during the Nigerian revival, which began in the 1970's and is still going strong.

"Those teachings were foundational in them believing for the supernatural and also believing that God is able to do the supernatural," Ashimolowo said. "So when they come into a post-Christian Europe, shall I say, a very atheistic Europe, they carry the faith they've known and they stand-out and they run the church the way they believe they've seen it elsewhere. And I believe God honors those who are daring enough like Daniel, and the three Hebrew men, to stand-out."

London is home to nearly 12 million people. It is a city with enormous economic and political impact, but according to Ashimolowo, it is spiritually deficient. He believes God has placed a mandate on him and other African pastors to have an impact on the city of London.

He said, "We believe that the city of London needs to hear the dynamic Gospel. It used to be a city from where many missionaries went out, and also a city where great pastors have been raised before Charles Spurgeon and the Spurgeon Tabernacle, G. Campbell Morgan in Westminster Chapel, and T. Kendal is still here and some other great names."

It is no secret that the church in England is in dire straits. Ashimolow says 32,000 people leave the Anglican Church each year. Out of 37,000 churches in England, about 24,000 have 100 or fewer members, while 8,000 churches have 50 people in attendance. Fifty-four percent of the 37,000 churches do not have teen-agers, and 41 percent do not have babies.

Ashimolowo says the decline of the church in England can be traced back to World War II. "The adult generation that saw WWII, even though it ended in victory for Britain, that adult generation stopped going to church. And with them having stopped going to church, their children became the adults of the 60's and their children didn't go to church. Their children having not gone to church, they produce the adults of the 80's, they also did not go to church."

Despite his phenomenal church growth in recent years, Pastor Matthew says the spiritual climate here in England and most of Europe for the matter, remains "church unfriendly."

He said, "We're the biggest church in Europe, biggest church in England but we're not being celebrated or given such opportunity. And rather, they would act or pretend we're not here, or rather, throw laws in our way, to make things harder and harder, just like Daniel, his success provoked new laws."

The good news is Ashimolowo's success is apparently rubbing off on some neighboring non-African led churches.

"Whenever you have a visible church, it tends to challenge others within a few miles radius to buckle up and move up," Ashimolowo said. "I do that think a good number of white-led, evangelical churches have also woken up because they've seen that this thing is possible."

As Ashimolowo likes to put it, he and other African pastors may be a "living sign and wonder" to the church in England.

"God is doing something. He had a reason for using blacks in the diaspora to start something. I think what God is doing is He's using them as a sign and a wonder to let people know there is still hope," he said.

Ashimolow says England is not the only place God is using African preaches to bring the Living Water of God to a spiritually dry country. He says several Russian and Ukrainian churches also boast thousands of members, and they are pastored by Nigerians. He calls that another "living sign and wonder" to the church.

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