Hope for Congo through Early Missions
Updated: Jul 1, 2019
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) “But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
According to Pew Research, Christianity is the major religion of the Congo (Christianity in the Democratic Republic of Congo/Wikipedia). More than 95% of Congolese claim some Christian affiliation, with 50% being Roman Catholic, 20% Protestant, and 10% Kimbanguist (a home-grown religion).
Missions began early in Congo’s history. In 1491, King Nzing of the Kongo Kingdom converted to Roman Catholicism after meeting Portuguese colonial explorers. Later in 1885 when King Leopold II of Belgium established the Congo as his own personal colony called the Congo Free State, he encouraged Christian missions as part of his “civilizing” mission. When Belgium took over the Congo in 1908 after King Leopold’s abuses became a global scandal, they continued this objective and encouraged missions to start schools and clinics. In 1954, the Catholics began Congo’s first university known as Lovanium University.
The first Protestant missionaries arrived in 1878 from the Baptist Missionary Society of London, founded a century earlier by William Carey. Initially Belgian officials in Congo distrusted the Protestant missionaries, but soon their value in “civilizing” the population became very evident. From there, missionaries spread across the country bringing both the good news of eternal life in Christ and the hope of a better future through education.
Some may ponder why it took so long for European Christianity to spread south into sub-Saharan Africa. Why were these people captives in spiritual darkness for so long? This question has neither a good nor a simple answer. But the light of Christ today lights many areas of Congo. Some areas still are under the power of tribal beliefs and customs. And in many denominations, Biblical teaching gets thoroughly mixed up with animism and witchcraft creating a perversion of the truth.
Today, most mission organizations in Congo are focused on Congolese nationals doing the work of spreading the gospel and training the next generation of spiritual leaders. May we continue to pray that the pure light of the gospel will shine into the darkest regions of Congo and erase the greed and violence that have plagued certain areas of Congo for centuries.