Five misperceptions the American Church has of North Africa

By October 1, 2019

North Africa (MNN) — North African countries sit squarely in the 10/40 Window – the part of the world with the most unreached people groups. The majority of North African countries follow Islam and have little Christian influence.

But what does missions in North Africa really look like?

We spoke with Dennis Wiens, the Director of Church Connections with SAT-7, a satellite TV ministry to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). He says there are a few common misperceptions when it comes to spreading the Gospel in North Africa.

north africa

(Photo courtesy of SAT-7)

Misperception #1 – There isn’t a local Church movement in North Africa.

For one, Wiens says people are often unaware of the indigenous Church in North African countries. “Almost every country has a Church now…. Especially North Africa, these countries have a Church. They might be underground, it might be a house Church, but there is a Church.”

Because of this misperception, believers in the West often think they need to pour all their resources into sending foreign missionaries to North Africa. But Wiens suggests this isn’t the most effective use of missional resources.

“We have this perception of closed countries and I think the West is in a very traditional mindset in terms of outreach…. We haven’t transitioned yet to a new phase of collaborative partnership with the indigenous Church around the world.”

Wiens says when it comes to North African missions, the question we should be asking is, “How can we in the West come alongside and empower that Church?”

Misperception #2 — Christians in North Africa have the same freedoms we do in America.

On the flipside, many Christians are also blind to the persecution taking place in North Africa.

“People assume that the rest of the world has freedoms like we have,” Wiens says. “We have freedoms to go to Church, to worship. The rest of the world doesn’t understand those freedoms and we sometimes impose that understanding [of] our freedoms, thinking the rest of the world is like that. But there is severe persecution.”

2019 World Watch List naming the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian. (Image courtesy of Open Doors)

On the World Watch List of countries with the worst Christian persecution, three of the top 10 are in North Africa — Libya, Sudan, and Eritrea.

However, Wiens says, “Even in the midst of hostilities, we see God working in incredible ways. The Church is growing.”

Misperception #3 — When we share our faith in hostile places like North Africa, we need to be armed with the best arguments.

“Another misperception is that when we witness, we [must be] more confrontational. But just living your faith even in hostile situations is a tremendous witness.”

Wiens says this is an area where Christians in the West can learn from their brothers and sisters in North Africa. It can be tempting to go on the offensive when your faith is under attack. In the West, such attacks are largely verbal or social. In North Africa, attacks on Christians are literal.

But even in the face of mortal danger, North African believers are seeking to live out their faith with integrity and win over their neighbors in love.

“[They] see our belief system [and] our Christian worldview through our actions. That’s one thing that the persecuted Church around the world has understood that maybe Westerners haven’t.”

Misperception #4 — Education is widely available, so reading and writing is always relevant to how we share the Gospel.

Another myth is that connecting North Africans to God’s Word requires literacy.

However, Wiens points out, “Many in the world are still oral tradition or haven’t had education, haven’t learned to read or write. Yet, [they] still should have the opportunity of discipleship and growing in their faith and leading house churches, leading their Church.”

Misperception #5 — North Africa is not as technologically advanced as America/the West.

Finally, Wiens says, “Another misperception maybe is that America is the most advanced country in the world. Some people think that people [in North Africa] are still living in tents or traveling with camels, that kind of thing. Yet, many places are more advanced than we are in terms of technology and social media engagement.

“Even in America, [we need to] change this perception of us being more advanced or more developed. They may be different, but they’re still very developed in terms of using technology and using it for witnessing.”

Sudanese Pastor Philemon Hassan wiped away tears as he sang a prayer for peace in Sudan in a special edition of SAT-7 worship show “Keep on Singing”. (Photo, caption courtesy of SAT-7)

SAT-7’s role in North Africa

As a broadcast ministry in the MENA region, SAT-7 is run by local believers who are passionate about spreading Jesus’ name on the air. They work with and support the North African Church and are seeing people come to Christ.

 “SAT-7 isn’t an American or Western ministry. It’s based in the Middle East. It started in the Middle East…. So we’re very much for empowering the Church that’s ready there.”

Because they are a satellite TV ministry, SAT-7 can bypass a lot of the blocks set up to prevent the Church from meeting in closed North African countries, and they can minister particularly to oral and visual learners.

“We’re looking very seriously at issues of orality,” Wiens says. “How can we bring discipleship programming so people can be discipled, grow in their faith, and lead their house church?

“To show on screen the joy somebody has when they worship in church services, that joy expression on somebody’s face can be a tremendous witness.”

Your role in North Africa

(Photo courtesy of SAT-7 Arabic)

Yes, you have a role to play in missions in North Africa. If you or your church is traveling to the Middle East where SAT-7 is based, SAT-7 wants to hear from you and maybe even partner!

“We have studios there. We have contacts in many of the countries to connect with,” Wiens says. “We complement traditional models of ministry. It’s not one or the other, but we can all work together.

“So look at how your giftedness might match a need that SAT-7 has and we could definitely have a collaborative partnership!”

You can also connect with SAT-7 on social media here!

And, pray. SAT-7 has a week of prayer coming up October 20-27. Please join them in praying for the Gospel of Jesus to permeate North Africa, and for the local Church to flourish.



Header photo courtesy of SAT-7.

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