As an American, it’s been my dream and prayer that the next global awakening would have its epicenter in the U.S.A. I’ve dreamt that a youth-led awakening would unleash across the United States and skip two great oceans to spread far east and far west. Throughout my sermons over the years, I’ve relentlessly referred to the 18th-century’s First Great Awakening that, under the leadership of George Whitefield and John Wesley, shook two continents for God: North America and much of Europe. It’s been my heart’s desire that this would happen again.
But, as I type these words, I’m on a plane over the Atlantic rethinking my revival theory. After spending three days in Africa with 100 key leaders from 14 African countries for Dare 2 Share’s first Gospel Advancing Summit not on U.S. soil, I’m convinced that Africa is rising. I believe this continent could be the one to trigger a global student-led awakening.
Here are four reasons I believe that the next great student awakening may rise up from Africa.
1. The continent is young.
The median age of the U.S. population is 38.8. In Africa, the median age is 19. Stop and think about that for a moment. It’s a continent packed, from Cape Town to Cairo, with young people. And where you have the young, you have vigor and vision, danger and risk—all of which are necessary for revolution or revival.
There are 343 million young people in Africa. That’s more than the total population of the United States and more than 10 times the number of American youth.
Africa is young. And God loves to use the young to accomplish His purposes. From David to Esther, from the mostly-teenaged disciples to the great spiritual movements throughout history, the young have often been used by God to unleash revival, launch mission movements, and upset the status quo of an institutionalized church.
2. The context is ripe.
As one of my African friends, Stephen Bahago, said last week to a room full of African leaders, persecution often precedes progress. And Stephen should know. He’s a ministry leader in Nigeria, which has the highest per capita persecution of any nation in the world. He risks his life every day as he mobilizes young people for evangelism, and he is excited to do it. Stephen told me that mobilized teenagers who are sharing the Gospel in a dangerous context come back on fire and excited to do even more for the Kingdom.
But it’s not just persecution that makes African soil fertile for the seed of revival; poverty contributes as well. The striking poverty of much of the continent causes people to look for hope. And, ultimately, that hope is found in the message of the Gospel. Charles Spurgeon once said that if you want to set a house on fire, start the fire in the basement, because fire burns upward and outward. If we want to see a continent on fire, start the fire among the poor, amidst the townships and shantytowns. That means there’s plenty of kindling in this amazing continent.
NOTE: Of course, holistic ministry must take place in Africa. In the words of my dear Kenyan friend and partner in ministry Joe Bonga, we must help teenagers to thrive with their heads (on an education level), hearts (on a spiritual level), and hands (on an economic level).
3. The cause is advancing.
Over the last nine months, I’ve been to Africa twice. And one of the things that struck me is this: The Gospel Advancing movement is already happening in many pockets across this great continent. I think of my friends at Go Live Dare, who use Dare 2 Share materials to mobilize youth leaders and teenagers in several African countries. I think of J-Life, a ministry committed to launching disciple-making movements across this continent. I think of International Christian Youthworks Africa, which is in 30-plus countries and, in less than a year, has equipped more than 6,000 youth leaders to become Gospel Advancing. I think of our dear friends at Word of Life, who are spread across Africa with the vision of “every teen, everywhere, hearing the Gospel from a friend, and every teen in a growing relationship with Christ.”
And these are just a handful of the ministries advancing the Gospel to and through young people in Africa. The Gospel is going forth. Africa is rising! If Mt. Kilimanjaro, the largest mountain in Africa, represents the cause of every teen hearing the Gospel, I believe that Africans will be the first to summit.
4. The conspiracy is happening.
The Gospel Advancing Summit was an amazing opportunity to partner with the ministries mentioned above, as well as our friends at NXT Move and World Evangelical Association’s Converge. We used Steve Addison’s groundbreaking Movements That Change the World book as a template for continent-wide Gospelization. The speaking team was composed of mostly Africans (and me), and together we fleshed out the five key elements Addison highlights in his book: white-hot faith, contagious relationships, adaptive methods, rapid mobilization, and commitment to a cause.
But as inspiring as the talks were (along with the excellent breakout sessions), the real gold was the round-table conspiracy. Everyone sat in circles during the general sessions and spent time conspiring how to put it all into practice. The breakouts were super-interactive as well.
There was chatter during breakfast, strategizing at lunch, idea-sharing at breaks. And the attendees were next-level leaders, who lead city-wide movements and, in many cases, country-wide and continent-wide movements.
But the most inspiring conspiracy was not between Africans—it was between Africans and God during the many prayer times. These leaders were begging God for the church to be energized, the youth to be mobilized, and this generation to be Gospelized. It was beyond-words powerful.
On this side of the Gospel Advancing Summit, we’re excited and at ease that Africa is in good hands—God’s hands of course, but He’s using African hands to do the work. Africans are the ones to reach Africa (no offense, America!), and African teens are the ones to reach African teens.
May the movement that has started in Africa kick-start a movement across the United States, South and Central America, Europe, Asia, Oceana, and beyond!