There's something about the grace of its people, the diversity of its topography, the winsome sound of its music and language—even when you can't speak it—that burrows into your soul and leaves you itching to return again.
These warm and fuzzy feelings stand in contrast, however, to the desparate plight of a continent on which the fate of the rest of the world seems to hang.
It is in the furnace of Muslim Sudan that Osama bin Laden's and al-Qaida's hatred smouldered—and where he issued a "Declaration of War" against the United States in 1996.
Although it is the most impoverished continent on earth, greed for Africa's vast wealth of natural resources has created a fertile environment for the wars, colonialism and slave trade that have wracked the continent for centuries.
Until recently, the world stood idly by while Africa became an incubator for a global AIDS epidemic. The latest United Nations estimates say 26 million of the 40 million people infected with HIV worldwide live in Africa, and that Africa saw about 3.2 million of the nearly 5 million new infections recorded in 2005—most of whom are women and children.
In spite of what may appear to be the depressing realities of Africa's political and economic past and present, the nation's spiritual future could not be brighter. The observations of scholars (such as Philip Jenkins, in his book The Next Christendom) vividly reveal that the center of Christianity has shifted from the Western world to the East—and that Africa is at the epicenter of this shift.
For those who suspect the speculations of pointy-headed academics, we offer "Out of Africa" (page 28), just one example among many that the mission field of Africa has become a missionary-sending continent, and that God is using the creativity, spiritual sensitivity and courage of African church planters like Sunday Adelaja to take up where many of us in the West have left off.
These pioneers teach us that crises on the homefront are no excuse to neglect the Great Commission's call to cross-cultural witness. The students have become the teachers, and I, for one, don't plan on skipping class.
First, today's church leaders have little time for the labels that often divided their forebears. The theological distinctions of yesteryear are melting away as leaders—evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal—shed their differences and link arms to bring cultural transformation.
Second, the growing currents of secularism and pluralism combined with an increasing fascination with spirituality demands that leaders understand the times in which they live and that they possess intellectual and spiritual tools for capturing the hearts and minds of this generation.
The growth and influence of the church in some sectors—combined with the troubling statistics of dropout pastors and shrinking congregations—indicates that the stakes are high for those who navigate these waters.
In light of these dramatic shifts, founder and publisher Stephen Strang has felt the leading of the Spirit to relaunch Ministries Today under a different name, and with a redefined mission, to more effectively serve the needs of faithful subscribers and expand readership beyond the current boundaries of the magazine.
Beginning with the May/June issue, Ministries Today will be relaunched as Ministry Today. The mission of Ministry Today will be to identify and explore trends relevant to the next generation of Christian leaders, engaging the interests of church leaders from diverse theological, ethnic and generational backgrounds.
Ministry Today will provide tools for understanding the challenges and seizing the opportunities of 21st-century ministry, not merely informing readers about what is working and not working in the church, but inspiring critical thought and creative action.
Expect to find analysis of cultural and religious trends from experts such as George Barna, insight from columnists such as Andy Stanley—as well as profiles, news stories and commentary.
Each issue of Ministry Today will celebrate innovation and experimentation, connecting inquisitive readers with thoughtful experts who will help them understand the times, and proactively engage their communities and the world with the gospel. Our goal is not only to also offer information, but to be a catalyst for ongoing transformation in the church.