African Textbook Ministry

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The church in Africa may now be larger than the church in the States.               Congregations here are in decline. Congregations there continue to multiply.                                                                                                                    

    But what will be the nature of the African church? Will it hold firmly to the word? Will the preaching be Bible grounded and Christ-centered? Or will the church be an odd mixture of misunderstood imported customs?                             

    There are many different schools operated by our brothers in Africa that claim to be offering training for church leaders.  They all have this in common – the textbooks they use are imported books designed for use elsewhere.

    Several attempts have been made by missionaries to address the need for African textbooks. Many of these have been an improvement over what was previously available. But the books coming from such good intentions have not been as much of an improvement as one might have hoped.

    In 1997 Thayer Salisbury began studies at Concordia Theological Seminary. This school was chosen because its faculty was well equipped to guide a research project on the question, “what kind of textbooks are needed to maximize learning at African Bible colleges?” Brother Salisbury studied at Concordia for three years, reading everything that could be found on the subject. By 1999 he had designed a set of experimental books that were used to test students at Nigerian Christian Bible College, at George Benson Christian College (in Zambia), at Ghana Bible College, and at the Ghana Baptist Seminary. The results of this extensive research were published by the Evangelical Missiological Society in its dissertation series, as well as in two articles in the Evangelical Mission Quarterly.

    Between 2000 and 2005, Dr. Salisbury produced two textbooks based on the principles learned from the research. But then a series of family events and a loss of support caused the textbook project to cease. Today, at most of our schools in Africa, the situation is little different from that of 25 years ago. Students are still using Western style books that do not really meet their unique needs.


The Kingdom of Eswatini (formerly the Kingdom of Swaziland)


   Locations all over Africa were considered for continuing this work; but we have finally settled on the Kingdom of Eswatini as the best location.

   Working from Eswatini we will not be directly associated with any school. We will be able to visit several schools in the region. We will be in a better position to get input from a larger number of students. We will be able to be of assistance to a larger number of native teachers.

   The textbook project will not take up all our time. There is also a tremendous need in this area for programs to develop local leadership in the churches. When we moved to Eswatini in 2000, the Bible school that was there had been in existence since 1965. Many evangelists had been trained and several congregations had been planted. But none of those churches ever appointed elders or deacons. Very few of those churches held Bible classes to train their children (or any of their members) for the work.     Unconsciously and unintentionally those who set up the work in Eswatini had created a clergy system. Only the preachers received any training, and so the preacher had to do all the work.

   During our three years there, we were able to set two of the congregations on a path that led to the appointment of elders and deacons. We were able to make a start on getting the churches to see that they need to train all their members to take part in the work. In returning to Eswatini, we will not be housed on the campus of a school but will move about among the churches, offering training at night and on weekends so that the entire church (not just the preachers) can be equipped for every good work.

Appeals from Africa