This is an article from our quarterly newsletter. Click here to download the whole document as a pdf.

Training workshop in Tanzania

Training workshop in Tanzania

The statistics tell an uncomfortable story. Across the developing world, an estimated 3.2 million pastors are untrained or undertrained. In Africa, one study suggests that an incredible 90% of church leaders may never have received even one day of formal theological education.

By far the fastest growing church group across the continent are independent African church networks. But these networks lack qualified theological teachers, bible schools and funding to resource pastor
training. Even in Anglican and Catholic dioceses with established theological training programmes, resources are scarce.

Nevertheless, since the 1960s an authentic African theology has emerged that has encouraged theological reflection in relationship to the cultural contexts in which African people live. Building on the platform created by great African theologians like John Mbiti, Mercy Oduyoye and Jesse Mugambi, African theology is enabling Africans to feel at home in their Christian faith.

Training workshop in Tanzania

African theology is deeply practical and focused on justice for the poorest. It rejects a separation of spirituality and physicality commonplace in traditional Western culture. Rather than the wholesale rejection of Africa’s rich cultural heritage, African theology is helping Africans to know Christ more abundantly within it.

Since 1981, APF has been dedicated to improving access to training for African church leaders. In the past, APF Directors played a central teaching role in APF training conferences. Derek Blundell, Ralph Hanger and Ian Enticott were all known for their inspiring teaching ministries and are still remembered fondly by APF’s longer standing partners. But the growth of authentic African theology, alongside the teaching ministries of former APF directors, has paved the way for APF’s current approach – supporting pastor training programmes run entirely by our African partners.

While our partners doing the training are all experienced Bible teachers, they can also speak with deep cultural and contextual insight. They understand intimately the issues facing remote African churches and rural communities.

What’s more, it’s cost effective. Just £2,000, for example, has enabled Pastor Heavenlight Luoga to run seven workshop series across north-west Tanzania during 2018. Spending four or five days with pastors and church leaders in each training venue, he’s tackled a wide range of themes, from micro-business to hermeneutics, from family relationships to Christology. Heavenlight writes:

“I would like to thank all those who give to APF for supporting this teaching ministry in Tanzania. It has enabled me to reach hundreds of pastors in 2018 and help them to grow spiritually and understand many areas in the Bible. I dig day and night in reading and studying the Bible, commentaries and also other resources I have from eVitabu. Some pastors arrived so discouraged because of hardship in their ministry and families matters, but through these teaching seminars they are revived and go back to continue with their ministry.”

After attending a four-day workshop in Ilgambe, a village in north-west Tanzania, Pastor Wilson Mshimo explained the impact of Heavenlight’s training on his ministry, church and community:

I was thinking to give up on Christian ministry. Times were hard. I wondered why God was allowing this. But the training from Pastor Luoga in my village has really helped me move forward. Now we pastors have changed because of the teaching. Now we are focusing on building the Kingdom of God, not our own as we used to. In our village there was another pastor who was feeling isolated and the church he was leading was struggling. We all came together to see how we could help him and encourage him. Now we are happy and rejoicing in the Lord.”

In Christianity and African Culture, Prof Jesse Mugambi says that ‘when people of a particular culture accept the Christian faith, they are challenged to bring into being a community of believers (a local church) which is in tune with the needs of that situation.’ Through the dedicated work of Africa’s pastors, this is happening across cities, towns and villages every day. By supporting training workshops run by our brilliant African partners like Heavenlight, APF is playing a very important part in this movement. While the roots of APF’s historic training ministry remain as strong as ever, the route by which this happens is now firmly grounded in African soil.

If you’re able to support vital pastor training programmes like Heavenlight’s, please label your donation to APF ‘for pastor training’.

This is an article from our quarterly newsletter. Click here to download the whole document as a pdf.