More Information
ISBN: 9781839730566
Imprint: HippoBooks
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 5
Publication Date: 30/11/2020
Pages: 100
Language: English

The Mystery of the Church

Applying Paul’s Ecclesiology in Africa


The Pauline epistles are filled with beautiful and provocative metaphors for the church: it is a bride, a body, a flock, a temple. Each of these metaphors emphasizes the central unity and indivisibility of the people of God. Yet how do Christians live out this unity in the face of ethnic conflict, tribalism, and political divisions? In this powerful application of Paul’s teaching, Fabrice S. Katembo explores the mystery of the church in an African context, arguing that the greatest challenge facing God’s people is not external threat, but internal discord. Katembo draws his reader’s attention back to the unifying work of Christ, who died to abolish all walls of separation and in whom we are one, no matter the tongue, tribe, or nation. Providing an overview of Paul’s life and ministry, and engaging the work of renown theologians such as John Mbiti and Kwame Bediako, this is an excellent resource for anyone facing intercultural tensions within the church. It is also a vital reminder that far from harmless, divisions between believers threaten to cripple the body of Christ by distorting its witness, injuring its members, and separating what Christ died to unify.

Author Bios


Fabrice Katembo is determined to follow the biblical truth wherever it will lead him. In this study of the New Testament church and its relation to the church in Africa, he labors well to write in a biblically clear way. Fabrice has a refreshing burden for biblically healthy African churches, and in his analysis he accurately surveys not only the Scriptures but relevant African theologians. Here is an author worthy of your time. Tolle Lege! (Take up and read!)

Daniel Huffstutler, ThM
Redeemer Bible Church, Nairobi, Kenya

Fabrice Katembo has explained the mystery of the church of Christ in very captivating, simple, and clear terms. In the final two chapters, although he differs markedly with other renowned African theologians such as John S. Mbiti and Kwame Bediako (such as on whether the true God of Israel is the Supreme Being in African traditional religions and other aspects), Katembo has endeavoured as best as he can to present the implications of the revealed mystery of the church on the African context. Readers may not agree with all that he has written, but it is an outstanding book worth reading and interacting with from beginning to end.

Nathan Nzyoka Joshua, PhD
Lecturer in Biblical Studies,
Africa International University (NEGST), Nairobi, Kenya

This book helpfully provides readers an overview of Paul and his theology before examining the concept of the church as a “mystery.” As Katembo notes, churches in Africa often struggle with divisions. Thus, this work provides a way for Christians to think about what it means to be the church. The book is accessible while providing both scholarly support for the author’s claims and taking the church’s context into account.

Stephanie M. Lowery, PhD
Lecturer in Theological Studies,
Africa International University (NEGST), Nairobi, Kenya

In this work, Katembo brings to light the theological weaknesses of a few of the earliest and most respected African theologians like Mbiti, Bediako, and Idowu. While applauding their attempts to find connections between Christianity and African Traditional Religion, he demonstrates that some of their conclusions do not stand up to the witness of Scripture. Katembo is one of the new generation of African theologians who are academically gifted and respectful of the past, but thoroughly committed to the truth of Scripture above culture or tradition. His work is a breath of fresh air and an exciting application of ancient truth to modern life.

Kevin W. Rodgers, PhD
Africa Baptist Theological Education Network

This book provides an apt, accessible, and clear exposition of Paul’s understanding of the mystery of the church with particular application to contemporary African Christianity. Avoiding technical language, the book covers Paul’s life and theology, metaphors of the church, African traditional religions, the Christologies of three prominent African theologians, and the church as the body of Christ. What I find most helpful about this book is its simplicity and bravery. It is written with pastoral concern for a wide readership. Thus, lay Christians, preachers, and students will find it valuable.

David Kirwa Tarus, PhD
Executive Director,
Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA)

Fabrice Katembo has provided us with a good overview of Paul’s theology of the church, with a unique focus on its implications for the church in Africa. Taking up the mantle of Byang Kato, he rightly subjects African traditional religions to the authority of the Word of God, rejecting syncretism. He appropriately upholds the gospel as the solution to ethnic division. Katembo’s work is saturated throughout with Scripture; it is gospel-centred, and Christ-exalting.

Jamie Viands, PhD
Lecturer in Biblical Studies,
Africa International University (NEGST), Nairobi, Kenya

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What Is the Mystery of the Church?
  3. The Shape of This Book
  4. Part 1: Paul and the Theology of the Church
    1. The Life and Theology of Paul
      1. Who Is Paul?
      2. Paul’s Apostleship
      3. An Overview of Pauline Theology
    2. Metaphoric Figures of the Church
      1. Definition of the Church
      2. The Visible Church and the Invisible Church
      3. The Church as God’s Building
      4. The Church as God’s Temple
      5. The Church as the Bride of Christ
      6. The Church as the Body of Christ
      7. The Church as a Flock
    3. The Mystery of the Church: Ephesians 3:1–12
    4. Introduction to the Book of Ephesians
    5. A Special Problem
    6. The Mystery of the Church
    7. Old Testament Accounts about the Gentiles
    8. The Mystery Hidden for Ages
    9. The Relationship of Israel and the Church
    10. Made Minister of the Mystery
    11. Why Does the Church Exist?
    12. Conclusion
  5. Part 2: The Church in Africa
    1. The Concepts of Christ in African Christianity: A Brief Reflection on the Christology of John Mbiti and Kwame Bediako
      1. Engaging the African Culture
      2. The Jesus of John Mbiti
      3. The Africanization of Jesus by Kwame Bediako
      4. The Continuity of the Understanding of God in Africa
      5. A Pauline Approach to Christ
      6. Is Christ Really a Redeemer of African Heritage?
      7. Conclusion
    2. Corporate Unity in Christ and Its Consequences in Africa: Ephesians 2:11–17
      1. Defining Ethnicity
      2. Cause of Ethnic Hostility
      3. Unity and Peace in Christ
      4. Uncircumcised
      5. Strangers to the Covenants
      6. Christ Our Peace
      7. Conclusion
  6. Conclusion
  7. Bibliography

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