Several things have motivated me to venture into this discussion. To begin with, to remind, raise the awareness and even challenge missionaries and would be missionaries of the concerns that have been voiced for the past many years. Secondly, I seek to call upon the nationals to critically look at the issues and thereby work towards a lasting solution. In my view I have not seen 2 Tim. 2:2 being applied fully in the African context. By the continual need to bring missionaries from overseas to teach the nationals is to me evidence that this is not happening. A call therefore to rethink theological training in Africa for Africa is burning!

Let me give you core reasons as to why I was burdened to raise this matter in my blog:

  1. To encourage the educational work that the missionaries are doing, their sacrifices and heart in providing training opportunities and the much needed direction and support in the bible colleges and institutions.
  2. One of the sad scenarios in our local churches is when the leaders themselves think that the work of theological training is solely for the missionaries. You find that even those who get their degrees in ministerial work go to their churches and completely forget that others need the training as well. They fail to sensitize the church on the need to give towards theological training, or even to discuss and challenge one another.
  3. The process towards training nationals so that they are fully equipped and qualified to teach others also has been too slow and most of the times falls below the standards that are held by seminaries abroad.
  4. I strongly believe that what Africa (Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania, being the countries I’m well familiar with) needs is conservative seminaries with high scholarship standards and not bible colleges and institutions though they may have their place. Bible colleges should thus be born from these seminaries and universities.
  5. The Methodists, Pentecostals and other Christian groups have succeeded in educating their local men in high level terminal degrees. These in turn have been used to open universities and seminaries for their people. I believe the Baptist/Presbyterians can also do it.
  6. My fellow local friends, that is pastors, students and church leaders have also seen the need for such a set up to be put in place. This has in fact been seen as long overdue.
  7. Lay men and women including teenagers and children have been amazed by the fact that the Bible colleges and even institutions are almost exclusively run and taught by missionaries. The question that I have frequently encountered is, “why is it that ‘this’ bible college has only lecturers from abroad?”
  8. I am convinced that African theologians are better placed in being able to identify, diagnose the theological problems we face and there after prescribe the appropriate antidote. They know the cultural context better.
  9. Do I want to wake up one morning and start thinking on how to send my children to Christian universities halfway round the globe? I want to send my kids to a seminary across the street from where I leave. I do not want to be faced with a situation, like the one currently prevailing, where 99% of all my options for advanced theological studies are in the West and the other 0.9% is distributed in other continents.
  10. I highly recommend Pius Wakatama’s book, Independence for the Third World Church published in 1976 by IVCF. Firstly to missionaries and would be missionaries, because he(Wakatama) does a good job in portraying the concerns many local men have faced, are facing and will continue to face if the situation remains the same. Secondly, to the nationals to look at some of the solutions he offers and hopefully channel the way forward in this crucial need – evangelical/fundamental theologians made in Africa for Africa all for the glory of God. The amazing thing when you read this book is that it was written more than thirty years ago and the issues and concerns he raised back then are still being pointed out in this very day. There are areas I don’t agree with him but in general he is right on the money

 

Several quotes from his book will be helpful at this point. Under the topic Training Nationals for Leadership he discusses the following matters:

 

“…higher education should be the priority for many missions today and not just another area needing attention.” (Wakatama, 54)

 

“The missionaries who began this modern phase of Christian expansion in Africa, together with their African helpers, were devout, sincere and dedicated men and women. But they were not theologians, some of them had little education, and most of the African evangelists and catechists were either illiterate or had only little formal learning. These workers were more concerned with practical evangelism, education and medical care, than with any academic or theological issues that might arise from the presence of Christianity in Africa.” (Ibid, 54-55)

 

“Africa needs a theology which deals with theological questions like this one which are peculiar to Africa. Foreign missionaries cannot produce such a theology. Africa’s own sons need to be trained so that they in turn will be used by the Holy Spirit to teach a pure doctrine within the context of their culture and world view.” (Ibid, 57)

 

“Only Africans trained at the highest level and able to work from the original language of the bible will be able to give the church an apologetic which will demonstrate the veracity of Christianity in African terms.” (Ibid, 58)

 

“In order for the African church to really mature, a robust Christian literature must come from the pens of committed, well trained African writers dealing with the deeper implications of Christianity in African life.” (Ibid, 60)

 

 

‘Sponsoring Nationals for Overseas Study’ is the topic under which he discusses the following things:

 

He begins a chapter on Sponsoring nationals for overseas. He notes three views on this topic. “The first view is held mostly by missionaries. They say that nationals should not be encouraged to or sponsored to study overseas. The second view is held mostly by Third World leaders of the younger generation and by students studying overseas. They point out that there is a great need for trained nationals who will take over responsibilities from missionaries and for others who will take leadership in developing the young nations. All means must be used to get them overseas where the training is available. In between these groups are nationals, missionaries and American church leaders who believe that overseas study for nationals should be utilized as a last resort if the training needed is not available in their own country pr a neighboring country where the culture is not too different.” (Ibid, 69)

 

“It is true, as my survey showed that although many are returning to their countries to minister faithfully, a few get sidetracked by various considerations. It is however dangerous to make a negative generalization because of these few. Even among them mitigating circumstances may be found. Instead of discouraging otherwise deserving nationals from going overseas by terminating scholarship programs, mission leaders should evaluate their programs to see where they can be improved in order to lessen or eliminate the possibility of casualties. They should ask themselves where they may be failing instead of just blaming the national.”(Ibid, 73)

 

“Talking on the Criteria for Selecting Nationals he says this, “Let’s look more closely at some existing standards and at those that should be used to gauge someone’s suitability for overseas study. From personal experience I have come to the conclusion that some missionaries are most happy with those nationals who tell them what they want to hear. They are more at home with the passive national who does not criticize anything but acquiesces in everything. Missionaries often regard such a national as “spiritual” and are apt to bestow all kinds of favors on him, including overseas study. The independent, thinking and creative national is often regarded as a trouble maker. Because of feelings of superiority, missionaries may find it hard to accept criticism from him. Yet he could be one who would come back to give dynamic leadership to the church because his faith is centered in Christ alone and not in the security of missionary approval.” (Ibid, 73)

 

“The educational level of Third World masses is growing at a fast rate. This rate must be equaled by the Christian community so workers will be able to minister effectively in increasingly literate societies.” (Ibid, 77)

 

 

“In order for them to adequately take over they need training at the highest levels that the missionary was trained. To say that nationals must be trained in their own countries is also unrealistic because much of the training that is needed at degree and postgraduate levels is not available in many countries of the Third Word.”(Ibid, 79)

 

Some thing I kept on hearing from missionaries while growing up was that the national does not need a lot of theological education given the fact that they (missionaries) are serving without doctorates. But I believe this is a wrong comparison, it should be between African nationals and overseas nationals not missionaries. The funny thing is that when missionaries host Bible conferences it is always the Doctor who and doctor who, who are the main speakers.

 

“The result is that ecumenical nationals now hold leadership positions in the economic, political and social life of African societies. Where issues between the church and state are discussed, evangelical nationals are conspicuous by their silence or absence. They do not have the educational sophistication to even know the issues at stake.” (Ibid, 81)

 

He concludes the book with a sobering thought, “…sponsoring nationals for overseas study is risky business. Even if all the problems discussed are eliminated, there will still be some casualties. However, the task ahead is so important that a few backsliders should not deter us from doing what is right. Any mission or church still without a scholarship program for training their top national leadership is going to face serious problems soon. At the same time emphasis should also be placed on providing the same training that is available overseas right at home within the cultural context of the Third World itself.” (Ibid, 82)

 

According to my observations and interactions with people around, both nationals and missionaries, I am persuaded that this should be the way forward:

  1. Evangelical/Fundamental Seminaries and Universities should be invited and encouraged to come to Africa and setup satellite campuses where the locals can be trained for terminal degrees so that they themselves can continue the work. In my view if they did this for a period of around 10 years then by God’s grace we can have our own people teaching their own people. The missionaries on the other hand can from then on be used to supplement the overall work.
  2. Young people and couples from our local churches should be supported both by the churches and missionaries to go abroad and receive quality theological training and preparation for ministry with the aim of them coming back and starting or extending the work that is already back home.
  3. For the work that is already going on in some of these bible colleges and institutions in our countries and for them to reach this goal, then what they need is qualified educators and trainers and not just “missionaries”. The reason is that most missionaries come with of course church planting as the main work, this then results in college work being “secondary” to them whenever they get involved with it. The other setback is when missionaries have to go for furlough or change mission stations and this really slows down the work. This in turn brings a lack of continuity because of these unplanned or unexpected breaks.
  4. When you look at other institutions like hospitals, secular universities, and engineering departments, for example, you will find that they are almost exclusively run by the nationals. But I believe they didn’t start like that. I’m sure there was a time when we had foreigners running these institutions but it came a point where they trained the locals, took them abroad (in conjunction with the government) for further studies. These are the ones who came back and continued the good work, trained others and we are now benefiting from their endeavors and sacrifices. By God’s help this can be done if we are all willing to make greater sacrifices and if we work towards that not tomorrow… but today.
  5. Local Pastors must make deliberate efforts to encourage young people to attend bible colleges and seminaries either locally or abroad. When the local churches fail to see this need then the problems we are facing in areas like missions will continue to prevail. Encouragement by mouth alone is not enough. I know churches that are able to support at least 5 called young men for training abroad but yet not a dime has ever been allocated. No wonder you have big churches with not even one person with a desire for ministry. The elders must see put this in place and also motivate the members to take up this need and support it. With this kind of heart and practice we will be able to make progress. The elders/pastors should see this as an advantage rather than a threat. They should even be in the look out for sponsorships/scholarships for ministerial training abroad and even have an elder who is in charge of these matters.

 

 

I have no doubt that missionaries are indeed making a lot of sacrifices. But with this kind of vision being deep seated in many local servants of God including numerous young people that God is raising, they will have to be called to make greater sacrifices. However the greatest sacrifice has to be made by the local churches and their leaders in order for this to happen. I strongly believe that God is able to raise local faithful men and women in Africa, who are well trained from our circles to offer ministerial training for our young people. I am also convinced that we are able to work towards achieving this goal despite the immense challenges that are in view or will emerge.

I will highly appreciate your objective critique.

 

 

It was the mid-morning of 31st May 2017 when the President of Kenya flagged off the first standard gauge railway passenger train (SGR). The SGR stands out as the largest infrastructure project in East Africa since independence. The country was full of excitement at the dawn of this new era. What the SGR is going to mean for this economy is unprecedented. The SGR is poised to create tens of thousands of jobs. The cost of transporting goods in the region will be reduced by almost 60 percent. The train will be moving at an average of 100kph hence less time of travel while carrying approximately 1200 passengers per trip. One could go on and on about what this means for Kenya and the entire region.

But my excitement this week is of a totally different kind. The launch I will be talking about will not be greeted by the pomp and fanfare of the SGR. When the Apostles and disciples in the early church were gathered they had not fully grasped the command and promise our risen Savior had given them that He would be with them to the ends of the world as they took the gospel message to every city and village. Twenty eight chapters later, missionary journeys, deaths and persecutions the message of repentance and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was turning the world upside down.

Tomorrow, 4th June 2017, I am more than privileged to be part of the core group launching the Gracepoint Church Kikuyu. As I think of the gospel ministry with all its challenges the words of the apostle Paul ring true “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation…” (Rom 1:16).

I therefore invite you to the launch but more so to be part of sinners saved by grace who seek to share the love and grace they have received from Christ. Gracepoint Church, I know I can speak for the leaders, seeks to make disciples for God’s glory by preaching a Christ-centered message. I pray that many will experience the abundant grace of God. I pray that as the Lord is pleased to bring many through the doors of this new and fledgling church the gospel of grace will be their turning point. But also for the rest of us may the gospel of grace, indeed Christ himself, be our only point of reference, our glory and our life.

The Lord has used Tim Keller once again in my life. I was watching him on video a few years ago when he said “God loves the city”. So I sought to find out what that meant. The Lord used it to shape my vision for church planting and missions.

This of course does not mean that we can not start from downstream going upstream. But this really was an answer to prayer as I sought the Lord on  the where and the how questions of church planting.

University missions is another burden the Lord gave me. The best way to flesh it out was by planting churches in the cities where these universities are based.

Once again I quote Tim Keller. This thoughts summarise my vision and burden for ministry for the glory of God:

Cities are where churches can reach the next generation (young adults want to live in the city); reach more unreachable people (people are far more open to the Gospel in the cosmopolitan city than in their hometown); reach people who have a big impact on the world (filmmakers, authors and businessmen); and reach the poor (about one-third of city dwellers live in shanty towns).”

“The people are moving into the cities faster than the church is,” Keller emphasized. “If you love what God loves then you will love the cities. If you want to go where the people are you got to go into the cities.”

This was my first time to fellowship with reformed brethren at that level (I am from an Independent Baptist background). I came out of there challenged, rebuked and encouraged by God’s Word and the people He was using that week. The fellowship was so nice you could feel the atmosphere of God’s people who love one another. I came back to Kitwe and I felt like I had been away for so long. That tells you how much I enjoyed my self there. I could tell that a lot of prayers and organization had taken place. From the registration table to the sessions, everyone seemed to know what they were doing. I could also see that those who were serving us were there when we needed them. 

Three things stood out. Firstly, the singing was awesome. Every word blessed my heart. Everyone was singing with a lot of enthusiasm and conviction. That we need to sing to our God well was evidenced. Secondly, the fellowship with the brethren left an indelible mark in my heart. Everyone seemed to have time for everyone. Lastly, the emphasis on missions totally made my day. This was my first time in my entire life to be in a midst of indigenous people who not only love and plan for missions but who actually do it. The amazing thing was that the theme of the conference was not missions. But the brethren could not help but just talk and exhort one another on taking the Gospel to the World. 

As one preparing for the ministry, my time there helped me to rethink missions. It is very easy for a church to live for itself. To pamper it self and furnish itself. While people are perishing out there who have not heard the Gospel or have been carried away by false doctrines. I saw a people who have been equipped for the ministry (Eph. 4:12) and are pouring out their lives and resources for Christ. There was a wonderful blend of old and young Christians serving the Lord with gladness. In my heart I thought “what a wonderful way of preparing the next generation for the glory of God.”

The history of how the conference began 20yrs ago really built my heart and I knew that there was hope for our country as well. The conference also taught me something else: pastoral theology. Listening to the speakers and how they work it out was such a great blessing. And what encouraged me most was that these were not speakers from U.K. or the West. That our own are doing the work on our own land brought great hope as my heart bleeds for Kenya. I think I received more than I expected or deserved.

May be one week is not enough to objectively evaluate something. But if this is what goes on there, then there is reason to thank God and everyone who was involved. The desire to be part of the conference again remained in my heart. Glory to God for using the conference in such a big way in my life. He indeed knew that I needed this at such a time as this.

We have a lot to learn from this Annual Family Reformed Conference in Zambia. I pray that Kenya will make atleast the first step of faith towards the many things God has allowed the Reformed baptist churches here to accomplish for the sake of His name.

One would not read the Bible and fail to immediately observe the concern that God has for the spiritual welfare of the next generation. God places this burden on the current generation with the responsibility of fulfilling it for His glory(this thought is still under construction!!)