North Africa (MNN) — When discussing today’s hot button issues like faith in politics, legal freedoms, and abortion, you probably don’t hear many people quoted from 2,000 years ago. But maybe you should.
International Media Ministries (IMM) is working on an eight-part docu-drama series called The Heritage Project. Each part is a 30-minute story featuring an influential Christian from North Africa in the first five centuries whose life and teachings still affect the Church today.
One story highlights Tertullian, a Christian theologian and lawyer from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa.
Denise Godwin with IMM says the societal issues Tertullian challenged through his lens of faith are strikingly similar to the issues we still deal with today.
“During his lifetime in the area of North Africa that he lived in, there was a plant that would cause abortion if it was eaten, so it would terminate a pregnancy. It was actually a huge industry at the time to sell that all over the Roman Empire.
“So Tertullian, when he became a believer, started challenging this and…he said life begins in the womb. How can you say something that’s going to grow from a seed is not that thing? The seed is the whole thing. An apple seed will become an apple if it’s allowed to grow. So he was confronting Roman society about the value of life.
“The other thing that the Romans did is when a child was born that was unwanted, they would leave it out in the cold, or by a river, or at a temple. If someone wanted to take the child, they could. But many times, they were mauled by animals or died of exposure. So Tertullian was also speaking out that this is not right…. A child is left to suffer for hours, and this is just a horrible thing to do to anyone in any circumstance.”
Today’s Church could learn a lot from studying Tertullian and seeing his story come to life in The Heritage Project.
As Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
“I just find it interesting that we go around in the cycle again and again in society and culture, even when the cultures change and the societies change,” says Godwin. “It’s important that the Church knows that it’s not the first time in history that these things have happened to us. It’s important to know that people have died for the truth of keeping the Bible going and all kinds of things through the years to not allow deception to creep in.
“These are all important topics that people knew they had to stand for in their day and age. I think there are times when God calls us, depending on what He calls us to do, to stand up for truth.”
It’s also significant that each of these early Church leaders in The Heritage Project came from North Africa — a region now dominated by Islam. Many people don’t realize that North Africa’s heritage was actually Christian, even though claiming Christ today in countries like Libya, Egypt, and Algeria could get you killed.
“One way to get into places that maybe aren’t as open is to tell some historical stories. North Africa has a rich Christian history and that’s largely lost in that part of the world. So an open door to come in there and to be on satellite and different outlets is to say, ‘We want to tell you something that happened in your own neighborhood, in your own area.’ We found some really powerful stories of believers who were very influential on society in North Africa during the first through the fifth century.”
Godwin says it’s launching Gospel conversations. “We are seeing as we share Bible stories or these docu-dramas about history, people, first of all, say, ‘Who is this Jesus that I hear these stories that people are willing to sacrifice for Him? What is so interesting and important about Him? I need to know more.’”
These stories can also encourage North African believers living their faith in secret or under persecution today.
“It’s so important for people in closed places to know that they are not the only believer. They are not the only person from their culture who has stood up and said, ‘No, I believe in Christ. He saved me, and I’m not going to deny that, no matter what.’”
Please pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in North Africa to sense God’s love, peace, and courage. Ask the Lord to bless IMM’s ministry through The Heritage Project.
You can also donate to support IMM here!