Helping school children is just one of the practical ways MMD students serve their communities.
When theory becomes practical
by Laurie Lind, Entrust staff writer
Men and women eager to introduce people to the Savior have left their homes to serve in Africa since the earliest days of Christianity. They initiated varieties of Christian ministries which met immediate needs and led to people from every country on the continent responding to the gospel.
“Christianity has grown to become the religion of almost half of Africa’s population and nearly two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa,” according to Operation World. “From 1900 to 2010, Christian numbers grew from 9.1% of the population to 48.8%, and from 7.5 million to 504 million.”
We can rejoice in this. And, at the same time, we must take an honest look at the state of the African church.
African Christians express concern that the church on their continent is sometimes described as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” In response to this, key African theologians and leaders formed a ministry called More than a Mile Deep, designing a biblical and distinctly African training curriculum to deepen the vast African church in its understanding and application of the Bible. Since its inception in 2003, MMD has been Entrust’s ministry partner in sub-Saharan Africa.
Through MMD course writer and facilitator Dr. Elesinah Chauke, we asked three MMD students—Susan, Josphat and Elias*—to describe what they’ve learned through MMD, how they’re applying what they’re learning and their vision for the region.
*not their real names
Although I had done a course in pastoral studies with a local church, my studies with MMD, which started in 2017, led me to a completely new way of learning and doing things. In these studies, I gained valuable experience unlike the theoretical way of learning I had been accustomed to.
I learned practical ways to spread the gospel as we planted churches according to principles from MMD courses. I also learned to live a life worthy of the gospel as we went through such modules as Living a Practical Christian Life. I learned that practical Christian living is about serving one’s community and family members. And, I learned humility and commitment from our facilitator.
At present, I am sending two less privileged girls to school, providing for all their needs. I have taken one of those girls in, to live with me. I make uniforms for others that are needy and unable to fend for themselves. On the little patch of ground available to me, I grow vegetables to feed poor families in the rural area near my home.
A number of girls here have dropped out of school. My vision is to accommodate these unfortunate girls and hold meetings with them in the hope of encouraging them to go back to school. I am preparing to work with three specific girls in this situation now, each of them out of school and nursing babies. I desire to bring them to the forgiving love of Christ. I would also like to support my pastor’s vision of building a home for rehabilitating less privileged young girls by giving them training in handcrafts and dressmaking to help them improve their lives.
In the area of church planting, I assist a church we planted in a village near my home. I visit every Sunday to hold services, and during the week I train the women in caring for their families and living lives worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This church has adopted a nearby school and is paying fees for the very poor to attend. I make uniforms for the school children where necessary. With the help of my church, I gather and provide funds and material things like clothes, blankets and shoes to distribute to the needy in the area.
My church is helping train people to farm God’s way, and I foresee myself recruiting families to do gardening projects that will increase their income and enable them to feed and educate their children. It is also my prayer that we begin new churches in the areas that we have not yet reached.
MMD has helped to put my Christian faith into practice. It has kindled the ministry that was within me and had remained untapped. My spirit has been aroused as I realize the need of my community and feel empowered to do the little that I can do.
I had received some basic training on holistic ministry through a Christian relief and development agency serving here. The focus of that training was to address the needs—social, spiritual, physical and economic—of a human being.
I began studies with MMD in 2012. Through MMD, I have learned leadership skills, how to roll out a discipleship program, principles for alleviation of poverty in communities using local resources, facilitation skills and how to comprehend the Bible. The depth of the content in the modules and the methodology suggested is insightful as it demands active participation of the learner—experiential learning.
Being a facilitator in my church, I have mobilized our pastors and leaders to get into MMD training, to smooth and strengthen their capacity in running the church. I also deliver lectures on the philosophy of MMD, particularly on discipleship, church transformation, leadership and church planting.
I facilitate MMD courses for pastors and the church, including Discipleship, Transforming Communities and Poverty Reduction and Alleviation.
The competences and skills I’ve gained through MMD have redefined my Christian life. I have gained ability to equip others with the lessons learned. The module about leadership and another about transforming communities armed me with weapons to deal with societal ills and challenges, using a biblical approach.
Since I began studies with MMD in 2011, I’ve learned very important things, like how my personal life as a pastor can be transformed, how I can be more effective as a church planter and how I can sustain and nurture those churches. I’ve also grown in understanding the need to recognize women who have a calling to positions of ministry.
I have been able to apply almost everything I learned with MMD. For instance, I am planting growing and enduring churches and have affirmed women leaders.
My vision for ministry in my region is to see a transformation of my society, especially in the way the church conducts itself. Christians must grasp the MMD way of doing things. This can be done by recruiting leaders to study with MMD.
In early 2019, I began planting a church 50 kilometers away from my home, in a rural area. I wish to introduce seed projects like garden and poultry production there.
God used MMD to transform my way of operation. I now view ministry with a different eye. I am now more practical in approach, as opposed to preaching a theoretical gospel.
These stories share common themes; appreciation of practical over theoretical learning, built-in application while taking a course, immediate transformation of lives, churches and communities. These are MMD core principles. Thanks to MMD, the church in Africa is growing more, much more, than a mile deep.