Thursday, April 7, 2016

Why our work in Kenya is important

By Anthony:

In Kenya, we will be doing work very similar to what we were doing in Uganda, though in a different context.  We will be based at a school and farm rather than traveling all over the country.  We believe what we are doing is very important and I'll explain why in this post.

But first, to be honest, at times we have wondered if it's really helpful for us to be missionaries in Uganda or Kenya.  After all, these are largely Christian countries.  The Gospel is preached there already.  Why are we needed?  And even if you establish that teaching is needed in theology and in agriculture, one might ask, (and we ask ourselves), are we really needed or can't a Kenyan be doing this instead?  And then there are of course all the dependency and poverty alleviation questions.  Is our presence as foreigners possibly hindering development?  These are tough questions that should be wrestled with from time to time.  The goal should always be to work ourselves out of a job, not to create jobs for ourselves.

I struggled with these questions anew when I read a dissertation written by Dickson Nkonge Kagema, a member of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK).  He did very good research on the state of theological education in this denomination, and East Africa in general.  Dickson challenged me by rightly pointing out that the financial aid and staff that Western countries keep giving to Bible colleges in East Africa can sometimes keep them in dependency and hinder development.  There are tons of small Bible colleges around East Africa, of many different denominations.  It's not uncommon to find one struggling to survive with only 5-10 students, only surviving on Western money, and sometimes with mostly Western staff/leadership.  East Africa needs fewer Bible colleges, so that each college has more students and can be self-sustainable.  Dickson's dream is that someday the Anglican Church of Kenya (including its Bible colleges) can stand completely on its own feet and be completely self supporting and self-leading.

So are we hindering this dream by going to work at Berea college and farm? We've corresponded with Dickson who wrote this dissertation and he is actually very excited that we can work with Berea. We have concluded with him that our presence there at the school will not create dependency, but that we will be able to help the school and farm as they continue to develop, through partnership together. Berea Theological college is in a healthy state already. It is not dependent on aid from Westerners. And our supervisors, the principal and dean and farm managers, are Kenyans. Actually, as far we know, there are no other foreigners working with this college and farm besides us. The college has a large number of students compared to other Bible colleges, at around 50 students. Some colleges in East Africa have more dire needs, but our presence would only add to their dependency problems and ultimately harm those schools. Our philosophy of ministry in East Africa is that it is best to encourage and further equip existing organizations that are already doing good work on their own.

 While working at Berea, we will work in such a way as to work ourselves out of a job. We are not a channel for money from the West. We are only bringing ourselves, and our teaching. We will try to empower those we work with through healthy development principles. We will be affirming and encouraging the students who will be pastors that they can develop without Western aid, that they can use their assets to grow, that they don't need Westerners in order to study theology and teach others, and that God will help their denomination to become self sustaining.

 However, Berea still has needs that we can help with which makes us excited to do our work. Let me tell you about that since that is actually the main point of this post! There are many Christians in Kenya, and many churches, but theological training is extremely lacking. The saying is true, that the Church in Africa is a mile wide but an inch deep. Of course there are many believers far stronger in their faith than I, but generally there is a widespread lack of theological education in the churches among both clergy and laity. This is one of the reasons that the false prosperity gospel keeps spreading, that there is so much syncretism between Christianity and African traditional religion, and that Christians do not necessarily stay in their churches for long.

The Great Commission (Matthew 28) is first and foremost about spreading the good news of the Gospel about Jesus to the nations.  But it doesn't stop there.  Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not only to make converts.  He said to "teach them to obey everything I have commanded you."  If we start churches in Africa, but then leave them to flounder without good biblical teaching, then we are not obeying the Great Commission.  And this is where missionaries like us fit in.  We are not church planting, but we are partnering with the church leaders who are already there, to assist them in the huge task of discipling the booming churches spreading across Africa who desperately need biblical teaching.

The Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) is one of the largest Christian denominations in Kenya, with over 5 million members.  This information I'm about to give you is from the dissertation written in 2007, so it's a little bit old, but not much has changed.  If anything, there are probably more untrained clergy now than before.  Back then in 2007, there were only 3.7 million Christians in the Anglican Church of Kenya, with 1,555 clergy.  That is 1 clergy for every 2,400 Christians.  This means that in some places 1 clergy would be overseeing about 14 churches, while lay leaders run the churches from day to day.  Of these very few clergy, only 11% have a theological degree.

To make matters worse, becoming a pastor is not very attractive to many in the ACK.  People know that it is not a well paying job.  In fact, it is mostly a volunteer position, just as it is in Uganda in the Pentecostal churches.  Many Christians have not been taught well about how to give and tithe and support their pastors.  And even those that want to give may be struggling in poverty themselves and not able to give very much.  One of the surveys Dickson used revealed that 92% of the clergy surveyed would prefer to work at a secular organization or para-church organization rather than the local church, because of the poor financial pay.

We can see that what Sara and I will be doing is important.  I will be trying, alongside other well trained Anglican leaders and teachers, to train pastors for this huge denomination of many churches and Christians desperately in need of good biblical teaching and discipleship.  And right now the teaching staff at Berea are overstretched so I will be able to help relieve the pressure.  Sara will be helping the pastors to financially support themselves.  Because of the low tithes, pastors have to have other work to take care of their families.  Sara will be teaching them agricultural and other helpful skills so that they have good side projects to do in addition to pastoring.  This was not Sara's idea, but the Diocese's and college's original idea.  They want Sara to help them integrate agriculture and livelihood classes into the curriculum for those training to be pastors.  So these activities are what we will be doing at Berea Theological College, near Nakuru, Kenya.

Life is complicated, and if you are thoughtful, missions in East Africa is very complicated.  But for now, we feel that God is calling us to serve at Berea Theological College with our Anglican brethren and we are very excited to do so.  We also hope that someday missionaries like us will not be needed in the ACK as they raise up enough of their own leaders and teachers to replace us.


  1. Thank you for taking the time to lay out your reasoning! This was very interesting and helpful too. I'm grateful MEFC is partnering with you and Sara in your work (teaching believers) as well as with UPGs (evangelism.) It's all important to fulfill the Great Commission and obey the Lord's commands.

  2. What a great editorial, Anthony. I'm so glad that you have wrestled with and resolved this issue and so proud to be able to help you two help Berea Theological College and the saints enrolled there. Keep up the good work!

  3. Antony and Sera! I am Dickson whom you have extensively quoted above. Yes as I said before we need you at Berea so that you can assist us in these two important areas: Theological education and Agriculture. Mission work is progressive and I am sure that you will help Berea and ACK in general in our effort to be self supporting, self governing, self propagating and self theologising. I sincerely welcome you.

  4. Thank you Dickson, great to hear from you. Hopefully we will meet you sometime in Kenya. Thank you for the encouragement!