The African Church is growing at an unprecedented rate. As people flock to local churches, untrained Christians have taken on teaching roles for which they are not prepared. In this context, Bunda Bible College (BBC) in Tanzania plays a vital part in equipping leaders to preach God’s word faithfully. Recently retired CMS missionary Jono Vink, shared how BBC is helping locals to teach and apply the Bible. Elisabeth Carter reports.
In recent years, the African Church has been troubled by heretical preaching, particularly influenced by the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’. Untrained pastors who have stepped into roles out of necessity are modelling their ministry on the teaching of influential but unhelpful preachers, and lack the skills to prepare a biblically faithful sermon and present it in a way that will engage the congregation.
In order to improve the quality of preaching in churches across Africa, Bunda Bible College in Tanzania is investing in theological education for local pastors, evangelists and lay leaders from often rural and remote areas of Tanzania. Bunda Bible College has 47 students studying courses at Certificate and Diploma levels.
Former CMS missionaries Jono and Amy Vink served at Bunda Bible College for the past 14 years, returning to Australia in July last year. Jono was a lecturer, training pastors, evangelists and lay leaders in order to equip them for serving in Tanzanian churches.
During their time at BBC, Jono and Amy were excited to welcome gifted preaching trainers from the Centre for Biblical Preaching in Australia, to support and equip the BBC students. The preaching seminars, run by Mike Raiter (from the Centre for Biblical Preaching) and Andrew Reid (now Principal of the Evangelical Theological College of Asia) were not only for students though – most of the pastors of the Anglican Church in the Tanzanian Diocese of Mara came together. The training led the pastors to confidence in the Bible as the word of God and gave them tools to preach well. Seminars have been held bi-annually over the past few years.
Rev Saleh Kandolo, a student of BBC from D R Congo, says the preaching seminars taught him how to preach exegetically. Before coming to BBC, Saleh understood only small parts of the Bible. In his region very few preachers actually teach from God’s word. According to Saleh, church leaders often preach whatever they are thinking about, and their teaching frequently causes difficulties and arguments in the church.
Studying at BBC and attending the seminars has given Saleh a deep understanding of the whole Bible. He says, with great enthusiasm, “The preaching seminar helped me understand that when you are teaching from a passage you should preach what the passage is saying and nothing else. When I prepare exegetically, I feel like I understand the text well, and those who hear me will learn what the text is saying.”
Revocatus, a student from the village of Karakukere, shared that, “[The seminars] taught me to look for the big thing that is in the passage and not to say anything that is different from what the passage is teaching.”
Preaching seminars like these ones run through BBC are helping to strengthen the teaching in churches across Africa, but challenges remain. Jono Vink says, “The greatest challenge to training local leaders in biblical preaching and teaching in Tanzania is just providing them with opportunities to be trained. There is a hunger to know the word of God here but people need an opportunity, like being sponsored to go to Bible college, so that the church can be fed and become strong through the word of God.”
If you would like to provide opportunities for African Christians to be trained in understanding and teaching God’s word, consider giving a gift from the 2016-17 CMS Gift Catalogue, like this one, which equips church leaders in Tanzania, or this one, which enables ongoing education for clergy in Africa and beyond.
Or, maybe you can commit to long term missionary service to train and equip African pastors? Start a conversation with your CMS branch today, and find current opportunities with CMS in Africa here: http://www.cms.org.au/opportunity/africa