Recently Nigeria's National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) issued a ban on the television broadcasting of miracles—specifically, those not "provable and believable" (though the NBC failed to provide guidelines for establishing proof). The ban is aimed at the many Pentecostal ministries in that country who air video of healing miracles to draw people to their meetings and to Christ.

My response to this sort of "news of the miraculous" in Africa is mixed. First, I get a small thrill—a little, inner voice saying "Yay!"—when I am reminded of how powerfully God has touched that continent, so that miracles of healing would become standard television fare. Second, I share in the skepticism that suspects some charismatic ministers broadcast such events—without adequately checking the genuineness of the "miracles"—to aggrandize their ministries and gain followers. Third, I am angry (with, I hope, a holy sort of anger) that the Devil continues, as he always has, to discredit by any means possible the work of the Holy Spirit—in this case, through exploiting the base motives of some leaders.

No longer among my reactions, however, is a desire to dismiss all of African Christianity as shallow and unbiblical. Though I once did lean toward this opinion, I have moved away from it as I have learned more about the progress of the faith on that continent during the past century.

The twin lions of African Christianity

West Africa's two most distinctive, fast-growing indigenous religious movements are, first, the "prophetic independent churches" that began to appear after World War I, and second, the charismatic and Pentecostal churches that sprang up in the 1970s. Both are growing with stunning rapidity. And both ...

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