THE FACTS WE’VE GATHERED
THE FACTS WE’VE GATHERED
Dr. Robert Priest, January 2009
Tyndale House Foundation expressed interest in the possibility of carrying out an Africa Leadership Study Research Project. In order to identify some of the key realities and issues that such a study would need to be responsive to, Robert Priest and David Ngaruiya spent three weeks in Nairobi carrying out interviews with a wide array of Africans (and others with long service in Africa)1 that are involved in leadership training across Africa.
This report reflects tentative understandings acquired through such initial research on contemporary realities in Africa. The following realities help explain the need for an Africa Leadership Study, and underpin any further plans or processes for how such a leadership study ought to be organized.
Reality 1: Explosive growth of the church in Africa.
In 1900 there were less than 9 million Christians in Africa. By 2007 there were 417 million,2 with the majority of this growth occurring in recent decades.
Reality 2: The challenge of adequate leadership for the African church.
While there are many outstanding African Christian leaders, the rate of church growth has outstripped the capacities of the African church to prepare sufficient trained leaders to disciple converts and guide churches in wisely engaging the challenges of their world. Paul Bowers, extrapolating from available data, has suggested “that if every person presently in any sort of leadership training program in Africa were sent into pastoral ministry, and each put in charge of congregations of 600 members, then each such person would have to pastor 10 such congregations to cover the number of professing believers in Africa today.”3 African Christian leaders, not surprisingly, often share a deep concern with preparing adequate leaders. It is perhaps worth stressing that better support for leadership development is needed both for churches founded by western missionaries, and by the large numbers of African Initiated Churches, which are often biblically based, but with weak supports for certain dimensions of leadership training. These churches often are remarkably open to evangelicals helping them with training, but sometimes are ignored by evangelicals in the West.
Reality 3: The challenge of resource constraints on leadership development
African Christianity exists in the midst of material poverty, and this poses particular challenges to the development of leadership training programs. To take but one illustration of how the material context affects educational resources: the total annual expenditure for all higher education for the whole continent of Africa in 2003 was said to be around $5 billion4, which is 1/6th the endowment of a single university in America (Harvard University), and only 3 times as much as the endowment of a single theological seminary (Princeton Theological Seminary). While African Christians outnumber North American Christians, the material resources locally available in support of African theological education and leadership training are a minuscule fraction of the material resources available in support of North American theological education and leadership training.
Reality 4: The underappreciated role of resource-sharing in strengthening the African church
Philip Jenkins’ 2002 bestseller The Next Christendom and Miller and Yamamori’s 2007 Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Involvement do a marvelous job of calling attention to the vitality of African Christianity. But both present African Christian strength as if it existed independently of strategic resource links with northern Christianity.
In Robert Priest’s recent survey of 404 megachurches in America, it was learned that these churches expended 10% of total revenue on ministries abroad, much of which was channeled through partnership projects with indigenous churches. When asked to name the country where their largest expenditures were directed, 28% named a country in Africa. Many of America’s 350,000 congregations have strong interests and involvements in partnership projects in Africa. Annually tens of thousands of Americans establish resource links as they travel on short-term mission trips to Africa with concerns about HIV/AIDS, orphanages, or poverty. Christian NGO’s (World Vision, Food for the Hungry, MAP International) channel hundreds of millions of dollars into Africa. And these, as well as more secular NGOs, often find that local congregations and church leaders are ideally situated contextually to administer projects intended to help the poor or to educate about HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, many African church leaders find that collaborating in such ministries actually helps give their church visibility and credibility in their evangelistic efforts.
Various organizations (SIM, AIM, Overseas Council, Christian International Scholarship Foundation, Tear Fund, Langham Trust, John Stott Ministries, etc.) work to channel resources to Bible schools and seminaries which help with student scholarships, the physical plant, library holdings, information technology, or which help African faculty acquire advanced degrees. And Christian foundations (Tyndale, Cornerstone, First Fruit, McClellan, etc.) generously support a wide variety of strategic initiatives to prepare all different levels of African leaders. Any effort to understand African Christianity without recognizing the strategic role which has been played by these various sorts of “resource-sharing” will inevitably be one-sided and distorted.
Reality 5: The failure of missiology to focus research and writing on wise resource-sharing
Resource sharing intended to strengthen the church in Africa takes place largely without benefit of any systematic body of knowledge focused on contextually wise stewardship. Missiologists have often failed to recognize the centrality of material resources to Christian institutions and kingdom activities. Or they have simply polarized into entrenched and absolutist positions over “whether or not” resource sharing is good. While there is little doubt that material resources can be shared in ways which are damaging to the cause of the gospel, missiologists who stress this danger (such as Glenn Schwartz or Jim Harries) have often been caught up in unhelpful, counterproductive and reactionary efforts to oppose virtually all resource-sharing. That is, missiology currently lacks a constructive research-based body of writings which recognizes and documents the central role of material resources in kingdom purposes, and which is intended as a positive and practical help to those with valuable material resources to share.
Reality 6: The wide variety of leadership types who play strategic roles in African Christianity
In the India Leadership Study, Dr. David Bennett helpfully spelled out five types of leaders, beginning with Type 1, lay leaders of small groups and all the way up to Type 5 leaders with national and/or international influence. I met a wide variety of such leaders, from a lay leader of a men’s discipleship group or a university student leading an evangelistic Bible study, to unpaid elders in megachurches who provided coaching and supervision to a range of other leaders, to women who regularly teach at women’s conferences, influencing a wide range of women in ministry, to Bible school or seminary professors teaching those preparing to be pastors or missionaries, to megachurch pastors with city-wide or even national influence, to individuals with continental or even international influence. Leadership influence is exercised through a range of means, formal and informal, oral and written. As Dr. Bennett stressed, training and development for every different leadership level is essential.
Reality 7: Non-formal leadership development
Formal education is only one part of leadership development in Africa today. For example, Oscar Muriu as pastor of Nairobi Chapel has developed an unusually successful internship program for leadership development. A fair number of influential pastors, seminary professors, and leaders of local, national and continent-wide ministries, both men and women, were taught ministry skills within the framework of Nairobi Chapel’s internship program – many of whom took formal theological studies only after having acquired ministry skills in this internship and after having proved themselves successful in ministry. Oscar Muriu (and his growing network of churches) are clearly being very successful at preparing leaders through a non-academic program. Muriu and many of his co-pastors do have master’s degrees in theology, and remain supportive of their own staff pursuing theological studies, but are critical of stand-alone theological education as not doing an adequate job of pastoral preparation, and of not sufficiently making use of the expertise of such gifted pastors in their theological curriculum.
There are a wide array of initiatives at non-formal leadership development, some with linkages to Bible schools and seminaries, others with links to NGOs, others organized by increasingly influential megachurch pastors, and others congregationally or denominationally based. A steady stream of westerners also arrive and hold leadership training conferences of various sorts. These non-formal or non-academic structures are central to leadership development in Africa today, and merit further study and careful attention and assessment.
Reality 8: The historical role of theological institutions in preparing leaders
By the 1990s tens of thousands of graduates from more than 12005 theological schools in Africa had moved into church leadership positions. Paul Bowers argues that just as monastaries held together medieval European Christianity during “chaotic centuries of disruption and confusion” so in Africa for the last fifty years “theological schools have formed the backbone of organized evangelicalism,” anchoring, sustaining, equipping, and rejuvenating the African church. The stream of graduates from these schools now serve as Christian leaders across Africa, helping to coach the next generation of leaders through formal and nonformal means.
Reality 9: Upgrading education for leaders
In earlier decades World Bank policies valued primary and secondary education for Africans while denigrating the value of higher education. More recently the trend has been to recognize that higher education is essential to the economic well-being of African countries, and universities are exploding across Africa. In a similar fashion, earlier missionary theological educators felt that theological education at an elementary or secondary level was best for Africa. But increasingly African theological education is being offered at the graduate and postgraduate level as well. Many of my interviewees stressed that rural Bible institute graduates are not well-prepared to minister to the university-educated elite which are increasingly part of urban African life. Modern Africa poses profound intellectual challenges to the church and its mission, and African Christian leaders increasingly desire institutional support for high levels of intellectual engagement. Others of those I interviewed stressed that westerners were being paternalistic when they wished to support only lower levels of African theological education. They felt that this was a recipe for ensuring that African Christian leaders would remain subordinate, having to follow the agendas determined by foreigners – unable to collaborate with westerners on a level playing field. Only when Africa has significant numbers of top Christian leaders with similar training to westerners, it was suggested, will Africans themselves be in a strong position to shape the Church’s agenda in Africa.
Today hundreds of African church leaders from across the continent travel to Nairobi in pursuit of master’s degrees in seminaries such as Nairobi International School of Theology (NIST) and Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST), with Bible school and seminary professors increasingly pursuing their doctoral work within the continent, with NEGST’s PhD program being perhaps the most central outside of South Africa.
Reality 10: Broadening the curriculum of leadership training
Leading megachurch pastors (such as Oscar Muriu and Muriithi Wanjau) prefer to work with university graduate interns who bring strengths from a wide variety of non-theological academic majors. Those interns who demonstrate ministry giftedness and faithfulness are encouraged and helped to pursue formal theological studies while in ministry. African church leadership roles frequently entail designing and leading ministries to serve the poor, help with orphans, educate about HIV/AIDS, make effective use of modern media, and administer resources. An education which is exclusively biblical and theological does not provide the full tool-kit needed for ministry success in modern Africa. Not surprisingly, a high proportion of the top-tier Christian leaders who I interviewed had university educations where they had majored in such things as linguistics, biology, chemistry, agricultural economics, marketing, accounting, business, micro-enterprise development, sociology, psychology, or media communications, and had also taken theological studies. For many, this undergraduate education provided them with the essential skills needed for effective leadership in their current positions. Furthermore, a significant number of African seminaries are developing tracks in HIV/AIDS ministry, ethnic reconciliation, micro-enterprise development, or computer technology – tracks one would not normally find in western seminaries. And a high proportion of the seminaries surveyed are choosing to add a university to their seminary. All across Africa, Christian universities are being founded, universities where theological studies are surrounded by an array of other majors. Daystar would be but one of the oldest and best established.
Reality 11: Africanization of leadership training
In earlier decades it was primarily western expatriates on missionary support who served as faculty at African theological schools, and the number of Africans with advanced degrees and able to serve as professors was limited. However, for several decades now a number of institutions (SIM International, Overseas Council, Langham Trust, John Stott Ministries, CISF, and for a short while in the 1990’s, the African Theological Initiative) have funded several hundred Africans to pursue doctoral education abroad. The landscape of African Christian education has shifted dramatically, with most schools now being African led and having a significant proportion of African faculty. This trend towards Africanization is evident as well in non-academic settings, with youth ministries, evangelistic crusades, discipleship initiatives in the urban slums being coached by African mentors.
Reality 12: The pattern of western support for theological education
Some of the principal ways in which financial support from abroad has been of particular help in strengthening the quality of African theological education include:
Reality 13: The problem of faculty support and retention
A widespread consensus among missionaries and donors affirms that expatriate (non-African) theological faculty may legitimately be supported (salaried) by western funds, but that African faculty salary support must not come from western donors. Some schools (such as NIST) have attempted to extend the missionary support model to their African faculty, requiring them to raise their own support. This has been a model difficult to sustain. Most schools attempt to pay faculty salaries exclusively through tuition income, something almost never done in North America.7 While some schools do receive support from local churches or individual Christian donors, they often find it difficult to spend this money on salaries and operating expenses because western donors giving to capital projects (which is all that many western donors will support) often require that the school provide matching funds on these capital projects. Thus the policies of outside donors sometimes pressures them to direct even locally acquired funds into capital projects rather than into operating expenses. These sorts of realities have placed marked constraints on faculty salaries. Several results of low faculty salaries are evident:
Reality 14: The desire for African contextual leadership education
One of the most consistent themes to emerge from interviews was the need for Christian education which engages the African context. It was felt that everything from youth ministry to homiletics to worship ministry needed to be grounded in contextual understandings. The following were a few contextual themes which showed up repeatedly:
Reality 15: The importance of research and writing for contextual education
There was a consistent and strong emphasis among interviewees that Africa needed research and/or writing which addressed the above themes – that theological leadership and education which simply lived off the research and writing of palefaces from abroad would be a major weakness. Such dependence would feed into perceptions of Christianity as non-African, and would severely limit the ability of African leaders to wisely and knowledgeably lead in their own contexts of ministry. I encountered megachurch pastors who felt that discipleship materials were too western and who were involved in their own efforts at writing. Younger theological educators, especially, expressed deep desires to do research and writing which would serve the African church. The writing which interviewees felt was needed ranged from the applied and the grass-roots–practical helps for family life, curriculum for Bible studies or SS classes, etc.—to the intellectually demanding and academic. Many of the top theological institutions in Africa have research centers or institutes – such as the Institute for the Study of Africa Realities at NEGST. Even the founding of the PhD program at NEGST reflects a deep desire that top-level research would begin to be done in Africa, by Africans, focused on African realities and in ways which would serve the African church. But again most seminary faculty also expressed a strong desire to teach and write in forums that were seen by grassroots Christians as understandable, accessible, and deeply relevant to their lives. Again and again interviewees who talked about writing stressed that they wanted to serve the churches, not merely the academy.
Reality 16: Weaknesses in the infrastructural supports for research and writing by Africans
In recent decades many African theological educators have been helped to acquire PhDs abroad by organizations such as CISF, OC, SIM, the Jerusalem Trust, Langham Trust, John Stott Ministries, or the African Theological Initiative–with funding from Pew Charitable Trusts. And yet Andrew Walls and others have often lamented the fact that while these scholars are gifted and intelligent, and have done excellent work for their PhD dissertations, they have not generated a rich literature comparable in output to what a similar number of scholars in America would have produced. There are doubtless various contributors to this. For one, many of these individuals are placed in administrative posts (which pay better) – but are not conducive to writing ministries. As mentioned above, many faculty struggle to make ends meet by accepting numerous “moon-lighting” opportunities which take up the time and energy they might otherwise devote to research and/or writing. But these constraints are only a part of the picture. Perhaps more importantly, when these scholars return to Africa they return to settings which do not provide the same infrastructural supports for research and writing which one would find in America.
The vast majority of publications by theological educators in America are enabled by some combination of the above infrastructural supports. It is unfair and unrealistic to expect that simply helping African theological leaders to acquire a PhD is all that is necessary to generate a vibrant life of the mind in African theological education and leadership training.
Reality 17: The need for more and well-distributed Christian literature at all levels
In my (R. Priest) own recent travels in Kenya on buses and “matatus” – I was started to see Africans reading and poring over Christian books (under cramped, jostled conditions), startled because I had just had a westerner inform me that Africans don’t read. One Christian bookseller in Nairobi regularly puts on displays in local megachurches, and reports that when pastors recommend books, people immediately come in to buy them. Africa needs books, written by Africans, distributed effectively throughout Africa – books of all sorts and written at all levels. While many work hard to translate the Bible into African languages, the actual distribution of Bibles throughout Africa is a major challenge, with untold numbers of Christians who lack their own Bible even though in principle it is available in their language. Sunday School materials of the right sort, appropriately contextualized, do find immediate usage by Sunday school teachers, but are simply not available to most SS teachers – either because they have yet to written in many instances, or because there are poor distribution systems to deliver them throughout Africa. African leadership must be strengthened through literature, which itself requires supportive infrastructures – such a ones being developed by Oasis International.
Reality 18: The need for African Wisdom to Inform Donor Understandings of Leadership Needs in Africa
While there are many agencies which support the development of African leadership (OC, CISF, Langham Trust, John Stott Ministries) none of these is exclusively focused on Africa. Each focuses selectively on matters related to African leadership development, but none provides an effort at a comprehensive assessment and engagement with the issues as they pertain to Africa. Furthermore, unlike the short-lived Pew-funded African Theological Initiative with its majority African board, African Christian leaders are not central to the development of funding policies and priorities. Apart from the very recent addition of Dr. Tite Tienou to the board of CISF, these organizations are fully run by non-Africans. This means that African Christian leaders are mainly in the position of adjusting to and responding to funding priorities decided elsewhere by non-Africans, rather than being given a voice in articulating the priorities which would be most helpful. For example, NEGST, responding to the priorities and policies of western funders, was able to raise significant funds for an impressive physical plant for the Institute for the Study of African Realities. But their ability to raise support for the actual carrying out of research on African realities has been marginal at best. This ability to raise funds for buildings, combined with inability to raise support for activities deemed strategic by African Christian leaders, seems to be fairly common. This Africa Leadership Study must be designed to bring African contextual wisdom together in a form which can appropriately inform and direct western donors about strategic giving in Africa.
1 With a few exceptions, these interviews were taped and transcribed for more careful analysis, with roughly 500+ pages of transcription. A number of leaders from other countries who were participating in a consultation sponsored by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School were also interviewed. These include Bulus Galadima, the Provost of ECWA Theological Seminary (Nigeria), Desta Heliso, Director of the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, Joe Simfukwe, Principal of the Theological College of Central Africa (Zambia), Katho Bungishabaku, Principal of Shalom University of Bunia (formerly Bunia Theological College and Seminary), Tite Tienou, Academic Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Administrators and faculty of Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology who were interviewed include Yusufu Taraki, Douglas Carew, John Ochola, James Nkansah, Peter Nyende, Christine Mutua, Ephraim Mudave (librarian), Robert Carlson and George Renner. Administrators and faculty at the Nairobi International School of Theology who were interviewed include Emmanuel Bellon, David Ngaruiya, Marta Bennett, and Lois Semenye. Administrators and faculty from Scott Theological College who were interviewed include Jacob Kibor, Esther Kibor, Paul Mbandi, Joyce Muasa. From Daystar University, Godfrey Nguru, James Ogolla, James Kombo, and Michael Bowen were interviewed. Pastors of churches involved in leadership training who were interviewed, include Oscar Muriu the pastor of Nairobi Chapel and Muriithi Wanjau an author and the pastor of Mavuno Church (a megachurch comprised of young educated and wealthy members). Others who were interviewed include missionaries (Larry Niemeyer, Jim Harries, and Marvin Smith), Mary Munyi (founding director of Tumaini Ladies Integration Program), Gerald Macharia (enterprise development consultant with the Clinton Foundation), John Padwick (administrator at the Organization of African Instituted Churches), Vincent Wanjau (Evangelism Explosion), Reuben Maina (Christian Mission AID), Wanjau Nduba (Navigators), Steve Maina (chief executive for Chaplains for National Youth Service), Samson Wesaka Mabonga (church planter in the slums), and Mutava Musyimi – a member of parliament, former Secretary General of the National Council of Churches, and chairman of the National Anticorruption Steering Committee.
2 Barrett, David, Todd Johnson, Peter Crossing. 2007. Missionmetrics. International Bulletin of Missionary Research 31:25-32.
3 Bowers, Paul. Theological education in Africa: Why does it matter? www.theoledafrica.org/OtherMaterials/Files/TheologicalEducationInAfrica_WhyDoesItMatter.pdf
4 Teferra, Damtew and Philip G. Altbach. 2004. African Higher Education: Challenges for the 21st Century. Higher Education 47:21-50.
5 Bowers, Paul. Theological education in Africa: Why does it matter? www.theoledafrica.org/OtherMaterials/Files/TheologicalEducationInAfrica_WhyDoesItMatter.pdf
6 NEGST’s library of 35,000+ books is impressive at one level. At another level, for a school with a PhD program and intended as the in-continent context for Africans to pursue advanced PhD education, this is very weak. While NEGST attempts to place a focus on “ethnicity” in its doctoral programs, the library resources for “ethnicity” and/or for Africa-focused research are limited and weak.
7 Among ATS accredited seminaries in North America less than fifty-percent of expenses are covered through tuition, with some combination of endowment income and gift/grant income contributing more than fifty percent of expenses. [see Ruger, Anthony. 1999. Financing protestant theological schools. In Financing American Religion, edited by Mark Chaves and Sharon L. Miller. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, pp. 111-118.] Nor is there any ideology geographically limiting where one’s income comes from. For example, Trinity seeks and receives funding from Singapore, Korea, or Hong Kong – and not just America.
8 This is a complex issue which cannot be fully explored here, but does not appear to be primarily due to good employment opportunities in theological institutions of America or Europe, as a majority who stay abroad apparently end up taking jobs outside of theological education altogether. CISF and Langham Trust have been developing policies which have strengthened the rate of return. However, it does not appear that good data is available on the rate of return. Research on this is needed. What should be said here is that this problem of no return is partially a result of problems related to theological faculty support in Africa itself.
9 Cases of individuals being hired by an international NGO, or of faculty starting their own NGO featuring ministries that western donors were willing to fund (such as orphanages), were called to my attention.
© 2016 Africa Leadership Study. Citation: From Africa Leadership Study 2016, http://africaleadershipstudywp.azurewebsites.net