Ministry in Africa really was a two-way street!
From 2003–14 I had the privilege of helping to run a Pastor Training Program in South East Africa – a joint initiative between African Enterprise and the Moore College External Studies Department (as it was then known). The aim was to provide high-quality, low-cost, short-term theological education to untrained African church leaders – of whom there are many.
Sub-Saharan Africa is full of fine Christian men and women who, for reasons of lack of money and opportunity, have not been able to receive much (if any) formal theological training. The idea of the program was to use Moore College’s very good Preliminary Theological Certificate materials (appropriately adapted to the cultural context) to better equip these leaders. It was the “teach the teacher” principle.
We put on a regular program two week Australian-taught intensive courses, with a view to putting the students through six or more PTC subjects over a one to three year period. I travelled to Africa on eight occasions, teaching in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi … and LOVED it.
Local African leaders were very enthusiastic about the initiative. I recall one prominent Kenyan pastor describing the church in Africa as being ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’. This training we offered was a strategic and greatly valued way of addressing that.
But … the benefits were not one-way! In terms of Christian learning and encouragement, it
really was a two-way street. The African believers I met and became friends with had a LOT to teach me, too!
In my very humble opinion, we in Australia had something to contribute to the growth of the church in Africa in terms of theological training, organisation, finances and prayer. But I found that I learned so much from my African friends in the areas of evangelism, prayer, a concern for the spiritual and social needs of people, and hospitality.
Many Africans I met felt at ease in sharing their faith evangelistically almost anywhere. A lot of African churches seemed to prioritise prayer and prayer meetings – often overnight. Christians were flat out evangelising and pastoring AND helping with development and aid work. And African hospitality was a pleasure to experience. In each of these areas I was greatly encouraged and inspired!
It’s been about six years since my last trip to Africa, but I am still in contact with a number of former African students and co-workers. I am sure that the capacity for Australian Christians to help African Christians, and African Christians to help Australian Christians is just as great as ever.
It has been truly great to be part of God’s transnational purposes on this planet
Written by Stephen Liggings
Stephen Liggins is a minister at Anglican Churches Springwood, and guest lecture at the Sydney Missionary and Bible College.