Bearing this treasure of unconditional love for people will allow the church to befriend children. The church must 'engage them as guides, be taught by them' in her theological and missiological understanding, whilst she learns the language, proverbs and wisdom of the children and youth cf. This unconditional love is best described in the relational terminology of the covenant, which is biblically closely linked to the household cf. When people were reached by the unconditional love of the covenant, they confessed it in the following shema: 'Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength' Dt In the New Testament, Jesus confirms this confession in the gospels. In a complicated pluralistic Africa, 14 the church must reclaim its life story as a covenanted community, formed by people who are bound together in a distinctive bond with an obligation towards the one God and towards one another Hirsch God's covenant relation is fulfilled when he reaches to humanity, sending his Son to set us free from all our sin as well as the fruit of sin, and disarming all powers and authorities triumphing over them by the cross Col In his Christian formation anthropology, Muto indicates the importance of the working of grace, which is clearly seen in the missio Dei, when the Father sends his Son, Jesus Christ, to die, for 'whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life' Jn Ruling from the right hand of the Father, the Father and the Son sent the Spirit to empower the disciples to 'declare the wonders of God in our own tongues' Ac The way in which the shema was expressed in the New Testament and later movements was simply, 'Jesus is Lord!
Being sent by the Father, the Son and the Spirit, it is with this confession 'Jesus is Lord' that the church reaches the world. When the church lives by the confession, 'Jesus is Lord', she has the privilege to participate in God's action to reach the children of Africa through prophetic dialogue. It must always be remembered that Jesus' Lordship is always more than our understanding of him and therefore the messenger also needs a teachable spirit.
When discussing prophetic dialogue, Bevans and Schroeder use the image of entering into someone else's garden:. One can always learn from another gardener, and although one may want to give advice for growing roses or tomatoes, it is probably best that one waits until asked. How to equip African children: An anthropology perspective. An understanding of anthropology? Christian anthropology 16 wants to answer the question: What is a human being? In answering the question, Kelsy argues 'What human beings are as God's creatures is not simply their empirically discoverable nature, but their character as an ontologically contingent gift.
This often leads to a reductive understanding of what constitutes 'relevant' anthropological scholarship in the African context - narrowing it down to 'issues' such as poverty, development and the AIDS pandemic cf. Becker It is also true that, in light of 'political correctness', anthropologists and, it may be added, some theologians may not want to write on cultural sensitive issues. As a theologian, Erickson draws the attention to different views of humanity. His insights may help to understand the different situations in which many of Africa's children find themselves.
One perspective is where humans are viewed as machines and disposables. The interest of the 'authority' is then focused on the strength, energy, abilities and skills that a person possesses.
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When the same outcomes can be reached by other means, there will be no hesitation to adopt such measures. Many child soldiers in Africa may be viewed from this perspective. Another perspective views humans primarily as members of the animal kingdom. The only difference between animals and humans is then one of degree. Many African children who are captured in prostitution and human trafficking may be viewed and treated from this perspective in which positive and negative reinforcements are the means of control. Another view by a broader segment of especially traditional societies is that humans are pawns of the universe.
The view contains that 'humans are at the mercy of forces in the world which control their destiny, but have no real concern for them' Erickson Many African children and adults who hold to African traditionalism may view themselves as pawns of the universe, especially the spiritual world cf. Oduro et al. African fears grow directly out of an African worldview. An African worldview offers a set of explanations for misfortune and illness: unseen spirits and powers threaten and destroy the fullness of life.
A Christian view on humanity cf. Erickson is that people are all creatures of God, made in his image. Firstly, this implies that not one person is here by accident; everyone is here through a conscious, purposeful act of God. Secondly, the image of God, created within us, makes us different from animals. People are capable to respond to God as Creator and have a conscious, personal relationship with him. Migliore draws the attention to the fact that we are sinners who deny and distort our created being; and we are forgiven sinners, enabled by God's grace to begin life anew in faith'.
Therefore, life is dynamic propelled forward. Although there may be many differences between cultures, which are the study field of anthropology, the fact is that people, as human beings, are pretty much the same. All people have the same physical, social, psychological and spiritual needs irrespective of age, race or culture. It is also the biblical view that all people, including children and youth, are equal before God and need to be treated as such. It is in light of this understanding that we will give a religious, cultural perspective on African children.
African children: A contextual perspective. Sub-Saharan Africa is loaded with multiple diversities, ranging from different religions to different cultures and cutting through linguistic diversities and historical differences. Aware of all of this, it is the general take of this article that most of Africa's youth and children are still being influenced by, and experiencing the deep-rooted African traditional believes to an extent.
Ngong describes the African worldview as one where there is no firm distinction between the spiritual and physical world, as they are intricately intertwined. When one talks about reaching Africa's children, it must be seen in context. According to Nurnberger the children in West Africa must be understood within the traditional context of animism, where the emphasis is on personalised manifestations of power or spirits.
In South and East Africa, children must be understood within the context of dynamism, where everything that exists harbours impersonal forces and where these forces drive everything that exists. Dynamistic power does not proceed from the Supreme Being through deities, the genealogical sequence of the clan and on to animals, plants and objects. They all participate in a dynamistic power on their own account, yet in different measure. Nurnberger Crucial for an Africa child theology and spiritual transformation, is the attention Nurnberger draws to the importance of the community.
Essential to his understanding of the community is the believe that dynamistic powers are located in material objects, natural processes, people, communities, roaming spirits, rituals, witches and others. Sociologically, the extended family, the clan, the chiefdom and the kingdom are all together the life force of the positive dynamistic power.
The most essential deposit of power is located at the core of the community. As one approaches the periphery, the world becomes more dangerous. There are clear demarcations, which can be walls or fences or be invisible , between the inside and the outside. These demarcations always have the force of ritual markings. There is no life outside the community and the dynamistic powers are used for either creating peace within the community or to drive someone out of the community.
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The protection of life is a communal task and the greatest danger lies in the possibility of extinction, which makes children very important. A person's entire life, though, is inherited from and therefore owed to one's parents.
Therefore, in marriage, personal attraction is not always a decisive argument, because it is viewed as a linkage between clans, not individuals, and is often arranged by adults whilst partners are still young. Young people must marry and have children for their clans. Childlessness is viewed as a communal catastrophe more than a personal tragedy.
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Within the extended family, the role of every member is defined by age, gender and seniority, and no one is allowed to go beyond his or her particular spheres of competence. Children are viewed and treated as possessions and members of a community. With such a closely knit community, how can the local faith community equip children in Africa for spiritual transformation? Within the missio Dei, it is the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who equips people for spiritual transformation and their calling in this world cf.
Jn ; , 26; ; Ac 2; Rm ; Eph Ngong indicates that Pentecostal pneumatology is usually presented as the best way for understanding the Holy Spirit within the African context. Pentecostal pneumatology fits well in the African worldview, because the felt needs of the African people are usually portrayed as overcoming the 'evil' spirits that might threaten their life.
Although only the traditional perspective on African youth is discussed, it is noted that African youth are seriously engaged in theology, even though they might not be conscious of it. Theology is rampant amongst all people, because we must choose everyday between the gods that reveal themselves to us through electronic media, gods of good times, money, beauty and others.
Following Dean's argument , Africa's youth will not be equipped for spiritual transformation by an intuitive theology that 'feels' right, but lacks structure or a grand narrative to hold it together. Neither will they be equipped by an embedded theology, which is viewed as a religious story and inherited from a faith community, which is not critically examined.
What is needed is a deliberate theology or pneumatology, which is understood as faith, seeking understanding. Deliberate theology says, 'I believe, because In a deliberate theological understanding, the 'why? Seeing that children inquire about God Dean , the church must equip them with the grand narrative of the Bible, helping them to realise that the way in which God was involved in the lives of his people in the Bible, is the same way in which God is involved in their own lives today. The church will do even better if she equips the family to help children realise that they are part of the God story, including his covenant.
On the other hand, youth, from adolescence, 'inquire after God, seeking a relationship, a sacred trust, an anchor that remains steady in winds of change' Dean In this regard, the church must equip them with resources to discern God's will for their lives within the faith community and the world. Equipping is a teaching and discipleship process creating 'spiritual engagement' opportunities with the goal of transformation. Learning takes place when knowledge about opportunities is increased.
Equipping then enables youth to open new doors and throw off old chains in order to stretch their lives towards a new future. It is in this regard that the faith community, as hermeneutical lebensraum and agogic society, opens a window on the new future participation in the missio Dei. Ngong confirms this view when he suggests that it is not sufficient for Africa to speak of the presence of the Spirit only in terms of anti-rational or non-rational discourses, but that we will find the Spirit at work in rational discourses, referring to John b The Spirit cannot be limited to the African worldview when he is in Africa.
The Spirit must be known as the third Person of the Trinity and not only in a functional way, which dominates African understanding. The trinitarian God must be trusted to unleash his Spirit in Africa in surprising ways through the wonderful gifts he gave to Africa in persons, culture, language, history, wisdom and many others; indeed, 1 Corinthians is also true of Africa. Spiritual transformation. Children and youth are not the Africa of tomorrow; they are the Africa of today. Within the African context, which is traditional, modern and postmodern, it might be true that one of the greatest defects of children and youth ministry is the absence of a sound theological foundation.
In traditional societies like in Africa, with its fundamentalism in the African Traditional Religion cf. Sakuba , catechesis or Sunday school may be practiced as an authoritarian and often one-sided teaching cf. Nel This might be the major or only subject for children and youth ministry, with the goal of church membership 20 and not spiritual transformation. It must thus be remembered that spiritual information is an activity of the Spirit himself and it must be taught and lived in dependence on the Spirit, because spiritual information is part of the formative process and not the end result.
Being trans formed into the image of Christ is not only about receiving information like in a textbook , but is also about discipleship, which is primarily formative. Spiritual trans formation is rather caught than taught. Spiritual information and formation are especially important in view of the growing secularism in Africa, and the fact that children have become part of the economy of Africa through human trafficking, tribal wars and slavery. Secularism in Africa may be viewed as an alternative religion, which is increasingly shaping the fundamental characteristics of African societies, especially the lives of young people and children cf.
Van der Walt The struggle from a secularist postmodern view is primarily the loss of the communal story of all people, which is formulated in the Africa Ubuntu principle. Together with it, people experience the loss of the grand narrative as it is told in the Bible, and the biblical language is lost with the story.
Arthur shows that the language, which we use to articulate theological ideas, got a new meaning in a postmodern era. For example, an 'idol' today is a 'pop star' that sings and no longer has the meaning of a false god, whilst in the subcultures of the youth, many singers have become false gods who are worshipped.
A second struggle of postmodernism is the failure of imagination regarding both the claims and demands of the gospel, and the focus on the self. According to Arthur , the main values of such a belief system are the following:. In reaching the children of Africa for spiritual transformation, the church must reclaim her salvation story as part of the living grand narrative of God, looking for opportunities to 'nurture the imaginations of youth that they may have the "ears to hear" and the vision to live by the real-life gospel of Jesus Christ' Arthur When an active imagination is not transformed by the gospel and guided by the Spirit, it is prone to sin.
Spiritual transformation is the work of God; more specifically, it is the work of the third Person of the Trinity, namely the Holy Spirit. The church must confess that she has no power to transform people. Spiritual transformation with the purpose to glorify the living God as he reveals himself in the Bible, is the purpose of the missio Dei and the church has the privilege to participate in this mission.
As participant, the church must have a clear theological vision and mission of its youth ministry. What is the role of the church in her participation in the missio Dei regarding spiritual formation and transformation? As argued above, the role of the church in spiritual transformation is a hermeneutical one and therefore, she needs spiritually healthy leaders. Although relationships are very important, it cannot be the primary foundation of our youth ministry; the story of Jesus Christ is the primary foundation in spiritual trans formation.
He gave his life in order for people to be transformed. A single desire in reaching and equipping Africa's children is their spiritual transformation. Those seeking spiritual transformation may not forget that behind transformation are attitudes, culture and values DeVries In Africa, spiritual transformation is not only the changing of a belief system, but also the leaving of a social structure.
Spiritual transformation in the sense of conformed to the image of Christ means shaping one's life after his life. Thus, spiritual trans formation must not be confused with a formula in which methods of strategic programmes, designed by experts from afar, are adopted. Transformation becomes habitual for youth ministry when a unique climate of transformation is established' DeVries and where the Spirit is at work.
Transformation would involve learning, unlearning, relearning and new learning. These outcomes may manifest themselves in changes of cognitions, feelings and behaviour. The climate for transformation can be compared to a greenhouse in which the climate is set for growth.
It will be the ideal if this 'greenhouse' is the family, but in Africa, with its many disrupted families, it is mostly the role of the faith community as an extended family and agogic community that creates the climate for change. Such a 'greenhouse' effect is created when the faith community participates in the missio Dei obediently, discerning God's will together, listening to the Word and the children and youth as well as the world in this instance Africa cf.
Equipping youth for spiritual transformation is a collaborative process between those who reach out and the receivers. It is not something that those who reach out 'do to' the children or youth; it is a prophetic dialogical process to create real transformation. The agenda of the children must be part of the agenda of the church. Within the context of care, Egan makes the following applicable remark:. Outcomes depend on the competence and motivation of the helper, on the competence and the motivation of the client, on the quality of their interactions, and often on a host of environmental factors over which neither helper nor client has control.
Real transformation happens when a person child addresses difficult situations in life as opportunities to live out his or her faith. Children and youth ministry, in many instances, lead to perceived transformation where a person child enjoys participating in church activities, but a new-founded faith does not play a role in real-life situations.
The goal of spiritual transformation is not to 'solve' everything. Spiritual transformation is effective to the degree that African children and youth, through spiritual interactions with the living God of the Bible, are in a better position to manage their life situations through participating in the use of spiritual resources and opportunities the Bible and faith community to live their lives more effectively. Indeed the engagement with Africa's children will never be neutral. As in other continents, much of Christianity and the African worldview are demolished by the postmodern era and the electronic media.
Mwiti and Dueck warn that 'community dis-memberment leaves vacuums that result in the loss of the values that usually root people and give them identity'.
A good example is the acknowledgement and belief in some Africa traditions and values, for example in Ubuntu, but there are very few practical examples of Ubuntu in African communities today. This, whilst Christianity is, in some instances, accused of dis-membering of children from their families. Within this vulnerable context, the well-known African saying, 'I am because we are', may be transformed to the understanding that 'I am, because He Trinitarian God is'.
The focus must move from people to the trinitarian God. It is the role of the church to re-member the dis-membered children and youth in Africa into their families and if needed into a new family cf. This article has shown that our theological understanding of reaching and equipping children in Africa for spiritual transformation must be embedded within the missio Trinitatis Dei.
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It has further argued that spiritual trans formation of children in Africa must focus on Christian anthropology where the child is viewed as creation of God. Spiritual transformation from a missiological and theological perspective is not in the first place to change circumstances in most instances spiritual transformation and the change of circumstances go together , but to make God known and to discern his will within the circumstances.
When God is known within circumstances, it gives new perspectives and people might have more opportunities to deal with the circumstances. It must be clear that reaching and equipping children and youth in Africa cannot be to 'solve' Africa's problems, it must be to make the trinitarian God known and to help them to realise that they are part of the God story.
From the above it is clear that, in the development of an Africa child theology, there is a need for more research on the context of Africa, especially regarding the functioning of children within the family or without the family in as well as research on the ecclesiological understanding and functioning of Africa.
The most important research will be how to give the children of Africa a voice within theology as participants in the missio Dei. The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationship s that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article. Abba, J. Adeyemo, T. Adogbo, M. Arthur, S. Balswick, J. Barnett, C. White ed. Bosch, D. Browning, D. Cochrane, J. Dean, K. Dean, C. Rhan, eds.
Denis, P. DeVries, M. Dunn, J. Dunn, R. Senter eds. Egan, G. Erickson, M. Fields, D. Gehman, R. According to church teaching, at the moment of her death Mary was taken up into heaven to be with her Son Jesus. The Scripture readings concern her place in salvation history as the mother of the Messiah Revelation 12 , her assumption as the preview of the resurrection of us all 1 Cor and her example as a person of faith who praises and thanks God as the one who fills the hungry with good things Luke This article also appeared in print, under the headline "Spiritual Hunger and the Bread of Life," in the July 31, issue.
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Harrington, S. Your source for jobs, books, retreats, and much more. The Word July 31, issue. Harrington July 31, Show Comments. Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more. Harrington Daniel J. Most popular. When professional Catholics burn out. Eight Catholic horror films you should watch. Understanding the wounded psyche of gang members.
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