Here’s some good news. According to Operation World, evangelical faith exploded in Africa during the 20th century. There are now approximately 182 million believers in Africa, a population nearly double the size of the evangelical community in the United States. This staggering growth, however, has led to what Operation World calls a “critical bottleneck.” There are simply too few theologically-equipped leaders for all these Christians. How should we in the West respond to this need? One of the ways we surely must respond is through fervent and united prayer. God loves his church and loves to answer just these sorts of prayers. Another avenue open for some is to partner, either short or long-term, with one or another of the handful of indigenous ministries seeking to meet this need, sharing with them one of the resources we in the West have in abundance—theological education. A dear friend of mine (and DBTS grad), Jeremy Pittsley, just spent a year doing this at the Central Africa Baptist College (CABC) in Kitwe, Zambia. I recently had a chance to ask him about his experience. Here’s what he had to say.
(1) Jeremy, can you tell me a little bit about your experience? Last year I had the opportunity to train pastors and church leaders at CABC in Kitwe, Zambia. I taught a number of Old Testament classes, as well as English and Apologetics. Moreover, in my second semester, I took on some of the lower administrative responsibilities to help Nathan Washer, the college’s academic dean. I became directly involved in the admissions office, organizing and conducting interviews for applicants to the college. I’d say that nothing impressed me with the need for leadership development in Central Africa more than my interviews with these prospective students. False teachings and nominal Christianity abound, and leaders often lack the biblical grounding necessary to expose error and commend truth. These future and current pastors are hungry for the truth of the Word and eager to shoulder the hard work of becoming able students and expositors of that Word.
Also, at one point during the year I had the opportunity to teach two one-week block clasess on theology in South Sudan. I had an incredible time exposing a group of church leaders, some for the very first time, to the broad story of the Scriptures (creation, fall, redemption, consummation), the doctrine of the Trinity, and the person of Christ (100% divine and 100% human). The thirst for the Scriptures in this war-torn land was palpable.
(2) Who can get involved in this sort of work? These short-term teaching opportunities are available to anyone with a master’s degree in theology, divinity, or Bible. They are also available to those whose master’s degree included at least 16 hours in Bible.
(3) I know you managed to bring your family with you. Would you recommend others do the same, or is a post like this best filled by singles or those without children? Some single men have taken this opportunity to teach. The flexibility afforded to singles can open many doors of opportunity for mutual discipleship and encouragement of faith with the students. But that doesn’t make being single a necessity whatsoever. CABC has housing for both single and married students. They provided housing for our family in the married student flats near campus.
(4) Let’s get real practical. Where does the money to make this sort of trip come from? I was in something of a unique situation because I was in the middle of raising support to go to Nairobi, Kenya, when the Lord used my sending church, Inter-City Baptist (Allen Park, MI), to point me in this direction. Our partner churches unanimously agreed that gaining experience and helping this sister ministry was a great opportunity, and they continued to support us while we were there. We had friends, however, who probably represent a more repeatable model. They were able to raise the necessary support by saving their own income and by visiting a handful of churches. The fact that God provided for us and for them in the current fiscal climate is a good reminder not to put anything beyond God’s ability to provide.
(5) Any parting words for those seminary students who might happen across this interview? The year in Africa confirmed my calling to leadership training abroad like shorter missions trips never could. It also drew my wife and me closer as we teamed up on my work assignments and faced challenges together (including the birth of our third son!). I treasured the opportunities I had with my family to welcome the students into our home, introducing them to our children, and helping our children to listen as the students shared their testimonies of salvation and the circumstances surrounding their call to ministry. We were glad for the opportunity to put the boys in a context full of real adventure and loving friends and neighbors. Looking over my life, I cannot think of a happier year than the one we just spent in Zambia. I know I’ll never forget it.
Note: Have you had a similar experience? If so, we’d love to hear from you.