Over a century of missionary effort has saturated Africa; yet why the notorious “inch-deep-mile-wide church”1 and continuous abject poverty of spirit, mind and strength across the continent? Aside from the increasingly man-centered methods as opposed to a God glorifying focus in missions,2 African theologians commonly attribute the ineffective Christian mission to a foreign, dualistic Gospel message that doesn’t address the holistic African life, but divides the impact of the Gospel between the sacred and secular.3 This is not the true Gospel.
From the political perspective, the solution to Africa’s plight of corruption and poverty is through education, specifically higher education.4 According to The World Bank reports, “During the past decade, Africa has experienced the fastest increase in tertiary enrollment in the world, far outstripping economic growth and the capacity of government financing to keep pace.”5 Ex-president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, recently gave a speech calling for advances in higher education to address Africa’s desperate need. He exclaimed, “The regenerated African university must be the principal driver of that intellectual awakening, which awakening will empower the peoples of Africa to remake our societies and our continent.”6
Can higher education achieve the remaking of African societies? Absolutely not! The routine importation of Western-style higher education has already demonstrated that corruption remains prevalent.7 Those who have been regenerated in Christ know that it is only the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16). For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Act 4:12). This is why Paul decided to know nothing among those he ministered to except Jesus Christ and him crucified – the Gospel (1 Cor 2:2). Our wisdom or eloquence in education will not transform lives; only the Gospel can accomplish that.
However, as an avenue by which the Gospel can be presented, higher education may very likely be the most open door to Africa before the church today. The tremendous demand across Africa for higher education must be noted by the church and capitalized upon as a vehicle through which the full redemptive narrative of the Scripture can be proclaimed and applied. Upon the foundation of redemption in Christ, those whose minds are being renewed are then free to pursue the highest levels of scholarly endeavors growing in grace and knowledge of the One, Triune God.
This is the goal of African Christian University (ACU): to know and exalt God in the pursuit of all truth via every avenue available. Through this ever-maturing relationship with God, students can turn their talents and education toward improving and developing their communities where cultural transformation of Africa can occur as Christ works through them. The Reformed Baptist Church Association of Zambia (ReBCAZ) has set their sights on creating ACU for this purpose.
[For the complete published article see: Dr. Ken Turnbull, “Discipling Africa Through Higher Education: A Proposal for an African Christian University,” Mission Frontiers, Nov-Dec, 2011, pp. 16-18.]
1Priya Abraham, The Spurgeon of Africa. World Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 12; March 29, 2003. Accessed Jul 12, 2011.
2For explanation of the difference, see this table by Rev. Brad Hunter. Accessed Jul 15, 2011.
3(a) Stuart Fowler, The Oppression and Liberation of Modern Africa; Examining the Powers Shaping Today’s Africa. Potchefstroom: Institute of Reformational Studies; 1995; pp. 37, 40. (b) Bennie J. van der Walt, Understanding and Rebuilding Africa: from desperation today to expectation for tomorrow. Potchefstroom University: The Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa; 2003 (ISBN 1-86822-419-8), p. 524. (c) Yusufu Turaki, The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria. Challenge Press: Jos, Nigeria; 1993; p. 250.
4Nazanin Lankarani, Transforming Africa Through Higher Education, NY Times, Jan 17, 2011; accessed Jul 12, 2011.
5Key issues summarized in Tertiary Education in Sub-Saharan Africa. Accessed Jul 15, 2011.
6 News24.com, African universities key to development, Sep. 7, 2010; accessed Jul 12, 2011.
7 Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Corruption in the Education Sector. U4 Issue 4, 2006. Accessed Jul 12, 2011.