Wilkinson and Warren: evangelical neo-colonialism in Africa...

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Bruce Wilkinson is best known for his little booklet, The Prayer of Jabez, which sold millions of copies and made Mr. Wilkinson a very, very rich man. Then, back in 2002, Mr. Wilkinson became convinced that his next project should be solving Africa's problems.

Wilkinson moved to Swaziland where he intended to build a massive demonstration project that would become a model for healing the continent. According to a December 19, 2005 article (sorry, by subscription only) in the Wall Street Journal, Wilkinson announced his Swaziland project would include a bed-and-breakfast, game reserve, Bible college, industrial park, and tourist destination similar to Disney's theme parks.

He founded a non-profit organization called Dream for Africa and took off on the lecture/sermon circuit to promote his vision.

Rick Warren invited Mr. Wilkinson to Saddleback Community Church and, following his visit, adopted a similar vision for another African nation, Rwanda.

Robert Schuller invited Wilkinson to preach at his Crystal Cathedral. Coinciding with his work, Dream for Africa, Wilkinson had issued another booklet called The Dream Giver. Pushing both his new booklet and his Africa work, Wilkinson began his October 26, 2003 sermon in the Crystal Cathedral titled "Living the Dream" as follows:

Good morning, everyone. I want to talk about dreams. Of all places in the world to talk about dreams this is the place ... because I think Dr. Schuller is the patriarch, in the work about living your dream.

I want to talk to you abut your dream today, that part of your heart that if you think about it, you become emotional. It's that dream that you wish ... "if I had all the money in all the world and I could do whatever I wanted to do, that's what I would love to do." That's called your dream. And before the end of this service, a number of you are going to break through towards your dream in a way you never thought possible. Because the great Dream Giver, God, also has a dream for you. It is called His plan, from eternity past to eternity future. And God has a part of this plan here, from point A to point B that He wants to accomplish in the earth, in time and space. And He begins to shape and craft a human being with gifts ... with strengths ... with passions ... with desires ... with weaknesses. And then God puts a dream inside of each person. It is those people who follow that dream that not only please heaven, but they live life abundantly.

As I travel around the world to speak, I meet all kinds of people. I ask groups everywhere, "What percentage of people in this country do you think follow their dream? ... that live their dream?" What do you think they say? They say between 5 and 10%. Would you agree with that this morning? That means 90% of everybody seated in this room ... maybe not 90% here, but in most places people take their dream and they kind of bury it ... and soon they lose sight of it. Something happens when a person does that. A part of your life leaves when you don't let your dream come out. If you don't watch out, you can bury it's so deeply that you don't even believe it exists anymore ... that it's too late for you to have a dream. it's never too late to follow your dream!

But maybe you are saying, "I don't really believe in a dream."

I was having a conversation with a man who is a producer in Hollywood. We were having lunch and I was trying to convince him that everybody has a dream. And he said, "Listen, Bruce, you may have a dream and I may have a dream, but don't tell me every single person in this restaurant all have a dream. You don't really believe that, do you?"

Since the work began, though, Dream for Africa has hit hard times. The Wall Street Journal reported on December 19, 2005 that Wilkinson has resigned from Dream for Africa and abandoned his work in Swaziland. Quoting the Wall Street Journal article, Professor Johan Malan of the University of Limpopo, South Africa, published an essay last week titled, " Wilkinson's Dream for Africa is Shattered." Prof. Malan's article dealt with Wilkinson's failure in the larger context of the spiritual and economic needs of his own continent.

There is much that could be said about this debacle. Helpful pieces can be found here. But the larger issue is not Wilkinson, Mr. Warren, Mr. Schuler, or any other of the multitude of rich white saviors who have come to Africa bearing gifts. Rather, the larger issue is Africa herself.

After my dear friend, Rev. David Wegener, read the Wall Street Journal article, he penned a little ditty that says what he, a Presbyterian Church in America missionary to Africa, believes needs to be said about Mr. Wilkinson's failure and the ways of God:

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa by helping.
He didn't realize that he was perpetuating a crippling attitude of dependency.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa by bringing in lots of money.
He didn't realize that outside money is the problem, not the solution.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa by bringing in an innovative plan.
He didn't realize that Africans must take responsibility for their own future.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa through miraculous displays of Jabez-released power.
He didn't realize that miracle-workers are the problem not the solution.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa on his own.
He didn't realize how haughty this was.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa quickly.
He didn't realize that this is never the way God works.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa while ignoring wise counsel.
He didn't realize that this is never the way God works.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa while ignoring African culture.
He didn't realize that this is never the way God works.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa by unleashing God.
He didn't realize that God is sovereign, not a cosmic servant.

Bruce Wilkinson thought he could save Africa.
He didn't realize that only Christ can save Africa and He will do so if He so chooses.

Finally, picking up on Pastor Wegener's theme, here is an excellent essay written by long-time missionary to Africa, Loren Davis, titled " Race for Africa: The Re-Colonization of Africa providing an historical and biblical perspective on the work of Rick Warren in Rwanda and Mr. Wilkinson in Swaziland.