A missiological assessment of the evangelization of the Mano of Northern Liberia

Williams, Timothy Earl (2014-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation is a missiological assessment of the evangelization of the Mano of Northern Liberia. The study considers the historical record of Liberia, the transmission of Christianity through the Americo-Liberian community, and the movement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to and through the Mano of Northern Liberia. As a foundation, a theoretical and missiological framework of evangelization is explored on a biblical, theological, and social understanding. How does one measure the extent and evangelization? Definitions and theories are presented along with expressions of evangelization. In regards to transmission, what was the approach of the initiating missionaries? How and through what impetus did a transition occur to local agents? Understanding evangelization involves identifying the contextual process resulting in the community of God expressed as the local church. This dissertation argues that the intent of the American Colonization Society and the immigrants who sailed to Liberia in 1822 was to establish a Christian presence in Africa that would serve as an impetus for evangelization of the continent. The Americo-Liberians, however, became entangled in a cultural Christianity that proved to be a barrier to evangelization of the indigenous people of the region. Other barriers included geographical isolation, the societal structure of governance, and the absence of a contextual witness. Sociological analysis is given to the all-inclusive nature and governance of the Poro Society which stymied the evangelization process. This study explored the influencing factors towards evangelization of the Mano and Gio and the acceptance of the good news of Jesus Christ. The influencing factors included the collapse of the Liberian governmental structure, the empowerment of local agent through theological education, the role and necessity of leadership caused by the coup, and the subsequent diaspora of the Civil War. Over 50% of the Baptist Churches among the Mano and Gio were started after the coup in 1980 and during the civil war which lasted from 1989 – 2004. This study utilized the methodology of qualitative researching through interviews, observations, and empirical surveys to evaluate the process of evangelization. The first gospel witness came to the Mano and Gio in 1926. The next fifty years of evangelization revolved around missionaries, mission stations, schools, and humanitarian enterprises. More recently, the Gospel has spread rapidly through the influence of contextual witness and local agents. The delimitations of the study focused on the role of Baptist Churches affiliated with Nimba Baptist Union. Prior to 1970, there were few indigenous led, linguistically Mano or Gio Baptist churches. Today, there are almost a hundred churches and missions affiliated with the Nimba Baptist Union, most started after the coup and during the war. A crucial component of the study was to determine whether or not this was a contextual indigenous movement of evangelization. The evidence of such a movement is determined by the presence of churches in the local villages, acts of personal and community transformation associated with the church, and reproductive patterns in regards to leadership and church starting. The movement of evangelization was a collaborative effort of the missionaries and local agents facilitated by political, social, and spiritual transitions. On this basis, the study proposes an Interpretative Model of Evangelization to serve as a useful tool in attempting to understand how to interpret the extent of evangelization. From this study, it is clear that evangelization is an imperfect process, but the movement towards contextualization of the gospel infuses deeper levels of transformation. As the Apostle Paul concluded in the Acts of the Apostles, the Gospel continued unhindered (Acts 28:31). The unhindered manner did not reflect the absence of barriers, but the onward movement propelled by the Holy Spirit, through proclamation of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and by local empowerment through contextualization of methods, message, and leadership. The study is evaluative in nature and has implications for missiological strategy, cross-cultural understanding, and contextual methods of evangelization.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif is ʼn sendingkundige assessering van die evangelisasie van die Mano-stam in Noord-Liberië. Die studie ondersoek die geskrewe geskiedenis van Liberië, die oordrag van die Christendom deur die Amerikaans-Liberiese gemeenskap en die verspreiding van die evangelie van Jesus Christus aan en deur die Mano-stam van Noord-Liberië. Om ʼn grondslag vir die studie te lê, is ʼn teoretiese en sendingkundige raamwerk vir evangelisasie ondersoek vanuit ʼn Bybelse, teologiese en sosiale perspektief. Dit is gedoen deur die volgende vrae te beantwoord: Hoe meet ʼn mens die reikwydte van evangelisasie? Definisies en beskrywings van, asook teorieë oor, evangelisasie word hiervoor aangebied. Wat was die benadering deur die aanvanklike sendelinge om die evangelie aan ander oor te dra? Hoe en deur watter impetus het oordrag na plaaslike agente plaasgevind? Om evangelisasie te verstaan, moet die kontekstuele proses geïdentifiseer word wat lei tot die gemeenskap van God, soos uitgedruk deur die plaaslike kerk. In hierdie proefskrif word daar geargumenteer dat die oogmerk van die American Colonization Society en die immigrante wat in 1822 na Liberië gevaar het, was om ʼn Christelike teenwoordigheid in Afrika te vestig wat sou dien as ʼn impetus vir evangelisasie van die kontinent. Die Amerikaans-Libiërs het egter in ʼn kulturele vorm van Christenskap verstrik geraak wat ʼn hindernis gevorm het vir die verspreiding van die evangelie onder die inheemse bevolking van daardie streek. Ander hindernisse was geografiese isolasie, die gemeenskapstruktuur van die regering en die afwesigheid van ʼn plaaslike getuie. Die allesomvattende aard en regering van die Poro-gemeenskap, wat die evangelisasieproses gestuit het, is gevolglik in hierdie studie geanaliseer. Hierdie studie het verder die faktore ondersoek wat evangelisasie van die Mano- en Gio-stamme, asook hul aanvaarding van die blye boodskap van Jesus Christus, beïnvloed het. Hierdie faktore sluit in die ineenstorting van Liberië se regeringstruktuur, die bemagtiging van plaaslike agente deur teologiese opvoeding, die rol en noodsaaklikheid van leierskap wat deur die staatsgreep veroorsaak is en die diaspora na aanleiding van die burgeroorlog. Meer as 50% van die Baptistekerke onder die Mano- en Gio-stamme is gestig na die staatsgreep in 1980 en tydens die burgeroorlog wat van 1989 tot 2004 geduur het. In hierdie studie is daar van kwalitatiewe navorsingsmetodologie, deur middel van onderhoude, waarnemings en empiriese opnames, gebruik gemaak om die evangelisasieproses te evalueer. Die eerste evangeliese getuie het in 1926 die Mano- en Gio-stamme besoek. Vir vyftig jaar daarna het evangelisasie om sendelinge, sendelingstasies, skole en humanitêre inisiatiewe gewentel. Meer onlangs het die evangelie vinnig versprei as gevolg van die invloed van gekontekstualiseerde getuies en plaaslike agente. Die afbakening van hierdie studie was om te fokus op die rol van die Baptistekerke wat met die Nimba Baptist Union geaffilieer is. Voor 1970 was daar min Baptistekerke wat deur mense van die inheemse bevolking gelei is en waar daar in Mano of Gio gepreek is. Vandag is daar amper ʼn honderd kerke en sendinggenootskappe wat met die Nimba Baptist Union geaffilieer is. Meeste van hierdie kerke is na die staatsgreep en tydens die burgeroorlog gestig. ʼn Belangrike komponent van die studie was om te bepaal of hierdie ʼn kontekstuele, inheemse evangelisasiebeweging was. Bewyse van so ʼn beweging sal wees die teenwoordigheid van kerke in plaaslike dorpies, persoonlike en gemeenskapstransformasie wat met die kerk geassosieer word en reproduserende patrone met betrekking tot leierskap en kerkvestiging. Die evangelisasiebeweging was ʼn samewerkingspoging tussen die sendelinge en plaaslike agente wat gefasiliteer is deur politieke, sosiale en geestelike oorgangstadiums. Op grond hiervan, stel die proefskrif ʼn interpretatiewe model van evangelisasie voor om te dien as ʼn nuttige hulpmiddel om die omvang van evangelisasie te probeer verstaan. Uit hierdie studie kan daar duidelik gesien word dat evangelisasie ʼn onvolmaakte proses is, maar dat dieper vlakke van transformasie bewerkstellig kan word, namate die evangelie gekontekstualiseer word. Soos die apostel Paulus ook in die Handelinge van die Apostels opmerk, het die verspreiding van die evangelie onverstoord (soos in Handelinge 28:31) in Liberië voortgegaan. Dié onverstoorde wyse het egter nie die afwesigheid van hindernisse weerspieël nie en die voorwaartse beweging het plaasgevind danksy voortdrywing deur die Heilige Gees, deur die verkondiging van die blye boodskap van die evangelie van Jesus Christus, en as gevolg van plaaslike bemagtiging deur middel van die kontekstualisering van metodes, die boodskap en leierskap. Hierdie studie was evaluerend van aard en hou gevolge in vir die bewerkstelliging van sendingkundige strategieë, transkulturele begrip en kontekstuele evangelisasiemetodes.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/95988
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