The Challenge of Christian Development in Africa
The Evangelical Church in Africa faces a struggle to remain autonomous and self—supporting because of pervasive poverty in many areas. Churches often must operate in a non-cash, subsistence economy; pastors receive no cash income at all. Parishioners cannot afford to purchase even one Bible per family.
|Dr. Dale Kietzman, Andre Talla and Dan Wooding at the KWVE studios after taping a Front Page Radio program|
When 90% of the population of a country such as Cameroon works in the informal economy; 69.3% of them have an income of less than 23,500 CFA francs (about $58 a month); and 75.8% of the active population is in a state of underemployment, you understand the urgency. We have universities which offer inadequate and irrelevant training, producing graduates that cannot find employment.
Many churches today are closing down for lack of pastoral direction. Because the church is located in a rural area, the pastor has been forced to move to a city to try to get work to support his family. Whole congregations could and should be trained to develop micro-projects, and have micro-financial enterprises available to get them started on a path out of poverty. This would be a benefit for the body of Christ in the community. The Church can, and should provide leadership for the entire nation in this “self-help” arena.
To move in that direction we now offer, through the Dale Kietzman University, fully authorized as a university by the Cameroonian government, a practical training in development which will allow ministers and professionals to remain in their duties while going through the training. The localized “cohort” groups will meet one day a week (Saturday) with a Facilitator. They will together go over the material assigned, discuss their reactions and areas in which they need help or clarification (to be achieved through group discussion), as well as listen to and discuss presentations made by guest lecturers or by cohort members on assigned topics.
The University offers a Bachelors in International Development and a Masters in Community Development, which are now open to Cameroonians all over the country. In addition, we have certificate programs, both in Evangelism and in Development, which take less than an academic year to complete.
This curriculum is offered by Dale Kietzman University from its center in Douala for all of Central Africa. Admission to the two year Masters is done by competition. The Certificate program, Technician of Development, centers on the methods and challenges of micro-enterprise projects. The Evangelism certificate program is now being developed into a full curriculum that will eventually offer the Master of Divinity degree.
The Master of Community Development program runs for four semesters. It aims to train professionals, pastors and others with a biblical worldview, to be able to take the lead in introducing community development projects. The graduates will in turn train others within their communities.
The program is based on a Major Applied Research Project, or MARP, which requires each student, in addition to the subjects studied, to select a community, assess community needs, plan an appropriate project, motivate community networks to execute the project, and then write a report of this Applied Research Project.
The undergraduate program of the University includes standard Bible Institute courses, plus development subjects. The offering of these practical training courses, both on the undergraduate and graduate levels, has attracted attention at the national level. The Dale Kietzman University is being recognized officially as a Christian University by the government of Cameroon.
I do believe there is a brief window of opportunity for African Christians, including the pastors, to come out of poverty, which is an absolutely necessary condition for developing a self-sustaining, church-planting movement in Africa. We can see that favorable conditions have finally appeared for such a development.
These favorable conditions include:
1. A tremendous growth in the number of churches, primarily African initiated.
2. A great hunger for intellectual depth among both pastors and parishioners.
3. The challenge from the Muslins countries in the North and West of Africa, at a time of declining influence from the Western world. This requires the evangelical churches to stand on their own and to multiply in spite of growing opposition.
How long this window of opportunity for this type of education will remain open, I do not know, but one thing is sure: Africa must change the way it trains the younger generation and the time to do this is now. There may not be another opportunity for a long time.
Dr. Andre Talla, comes from Cameroon, Africa. Over the past twenty years he has developed an integrated ministry involving training of Christian workers, planting of churches, and directing the believers in continuous outreach to the unreached in Cameroon and other French speaking areas of Africa. He heads up an association of 250 churches, is developing a Christian university in Douala to serve Francophone Africans, and is actively pursuing a workable strategy for reaching all of Africa using trained indigenous workers.