This past weekend at Eastbrook Church we celebrated and African Global Gateway weekend. As part of my message, “The Cost of Discipleship,” I shared the story of Byang Kato, sometimes referred to as the father of African evangelical theology.
In 1953, a sixteen-year-old young man in Kwoi, Nigeria, came face to face with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was confronted with the weight of his sin and the power of God’s grace. Dedicated at birth to the juju priesthood by his parents this young man, Byang Kato, was at a fork in the road. He writes about that moment in 1953:
The Holy Spirit convicted us of our selfishness…nearly a thousand men and women wept for their sins. Husbands and wives were confessing how they’d sinned against each other…With my heart breaking within me, and tears streaming down my face, I went forward to confess my sins before the Lord and His people. As a symbol of my sincerity, I took off my shirt and laid it alongside the other gifts. Oblivious to everyone, I knelt in prayer.
“It’s not only your shirt I want,” Jesus said to me.
“What do you mean?”
“I want your life, son.”
“Lord, I give you my life. I don’t know what You want me to be, but I dedicate myself to You. Do whatever You want with me.”
He did not know that he would only live to the age of 39. But in that brief twenty-three years between this pivotal moment of surrender and his unexpected death, God used Byang Kato to revolutionize African Christianity in his time. Championing indigenous theological education in both west and east Africa, as well as mobilizing thousands to serve Christ in sub-Saharan Africa, Byang Kato left a legacy as a leader of the chruch that is hard to measure.
For more on the life of Byang Kato see the following resources:
“Byang Kato,” Dictionary of African Christian Biography: http://www.dacb.org/stories/nigeria/kato1_byang.html.
“Let African Christians be Christian Africans” by Carolyn Nystrom, Christian History: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/june/let-african-christians-be-christian-africans.html.
“Byang Kato (1936-1975): Theological Visionary,” in Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 80-95.