Josiah M. Wambua
FrontLine • January/February 2010
The cliché “Christianity in Africa is many miles wide but only a few inches deep” is not new to most ears. Unfortunately, it still remains a reality to this day. Our Lord Jesus Christ said that believers are to pray so that the Lord of the harvest would call laborers into His harvest (Matt. 9:38). Once God calls laborers they need to be trained and equipped to do the work of the ministry. After all, our Lord took about three-and-ahalf years training the twelve.
There is great wisdom in what Pastor Mike Sproul of Tri-City Baptist Church, Chandler, Arizona, used to say during my years of college training: “To do the work of the ministry without proper training is like trying to cut a eucalyptus tree with a butter knife—but proper training gives one a chain saw.”
In Kenya we need qualified workers to start and build Bible-believing Fundamental Baptist churches. Lack of trained church workers has hindered the effort of planting and building Bible-believing churches.
In the mid-1960s and early 1970s veteran missionary Edward Weaver took the lead in establishing independent Baptist churches in Kenya. He did a great work for the Lord and our country, for which I am ever grateful, as I am product of the Weaver ministry. Since then other missionaries have done a tremendous job of church planting both in major cities and in remote parts of the country.
Many of the churches planted, and especially the ones in cities such as Nairobi, still exist and are growing under the leadership of missionaries or national pastors who were trained by missionaries.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a frightening trend of losing some planted churches to liberal religious groups. The worst affected are those churches in the remote parts of the country. About forty percent of the churches started in remote parts of the country have closed due to lack of trained personnel. Many others in the rural parts of the country have maintained the name Baptist but have, over the years, compromised or joined liberal groups. Basically, this problem is attributable to lack of proper formal training of the national pastors who assumed leadership from the missionaries. Although most of these national pastors may not need seminary training, quality Bible-college training is vital. In 2004 two veteran missionaries, Mike Mestler and Dr. Rick Simonsen, started Bible institute training for church workers in Nairobi, Kenya. These institutes mainly operated as ministries in the local churches they had planted.
In 2005 we started a ministry to the churches in the remote parts of the country. We visited and sensed such a great need for training among the local pastors. Three times a year we take our Bible institute to pastors and other church workers who cannot come to our new college in Nairobi due to cost or family limitations. Many pastors who have little education have been attending faithfully from more than seven churches. In August 2009 we had the first group of seventeen graduate with certificates in Bible.
However, the cost of bringing a national pastor to obtain Bible-college training in the United States is quite expensive. Existing Bible-believing colleges in Africa are few and far apart. There is a good Bible college in Zambia, Central Africa, established by missionaries, where some Kenyan students have attended in the recent past. Still, the cost involved makes it beyond the reach of most Kenyan pastors. There has been therefore a genuine need to provide affordable, Scriptural, formal training for pastors in Kenya.
Independent Baptist churches in Kenya need to maintain continuity and be indigenous—that is, self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating. The need to train national pastors cannot be ignored.
Numerous independent Baptist churches were planted in Kenya in recent years. The cry of the current pastors now, whether missionary or national, is for someone with proper training to continue the work after them. Kenya still remains receptive to the gospel of our Lord. New converts and older believers need a shepherd to fill the pulpit but also to ground them against all the compromise of our day. A pastor can do that effectively only if he is well trained.
In 2009 Dr. Rick Simonsen, Brent Halstead, and Michael Rains under Baptist World Mission and Mike Mestler and myself under International Baptist Missions were led of the Lord to consolidate our efforts to facilitate college-level training for national pastors in Kenya. As pastors responsible for different local churches, we agreed that this could be achieved without compromising the independence of our local churches. We all are involved in teaching at the Bible college. Occasionally we have adjunct professors come from the United States to teach modular courses.
The college is growing, and we have students from many independent Baptist churches in Nairobi and other parts of the country. More than half our student body consists of pastors who are already pastoring existing churches. What a blessing to equip servants for the Master!
We are looking forward to graduating our first students in November of 2010 with a Bible college degree. While there are still challenges to be overcome, we are persuaded that training servants for the Master will be a great help to the churches in Kenya.
Meanwhile, Kenya is becoming westernized rapidly. Some of our graduates will need more training to be better equipped to articulate the Word of God in a culture that is becoming more educated. We envision our Bible college being able to offer a master’s degree. Plans for this program are under way, and we plan to initiate it in 2011, Lord permitting.
If the Lord tarries, it will be a great privilege to see Independent College of Ministry continue and help churches become more self-supporting, self-governing, and selfpropagating by training pastors and church workers for Bible-believing churches in Kenya.
Josiah M. Wambua serves as national pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Nairobi. Pastor Wambua holds two degrees from International Baptist College.
(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2010. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)