Bush pastor seminary

What do you do when your pastors are suddenly told what they are doing is illegal?

Most of us know of the difficulties in the underground churches and what persecution believers go through. But in Kenya a new law is suddenly hamstringing the Church.

Rules are now in place requiring all pastors to submit a certificate of good conduct and have a theological degree in order to do the work of a pastor (whether as his sole job or as an unpaid pastor). (read one article here)

The new laws come from good intentions as a measure to stop the growing tide of “send me $50 and your crops will be blessed” con artist pastors (and there are a lot of them in sub-Saharan Africa). But the ripple effect wasn’t thought through.

Last month I was with our partner in the bush of Kenya. He has 200 pastors scattered in the remote parts, serving in small homesteads in the middle of nowhere. Almost all of them have not completed school and can’t read or write. Obviously none of them have theological degrees. So what does our partner do? Does he ignore the law? What about the fifty villages they are preparing to start church planting work in this year…does he not go? What about us – are we helping them break the law by training pastors who we know are going to be illegally leading churches?

Almost 300 people meet under these trees each Sunday, one of many bush churches led by unschooled pastors.

Almost 300 people meet under these trees each Sunday, one of many bush churches led by unschooled pastors.

As we sat together talking about this, we talked to Bishop James about starting a simple certification program that met the government’s requirements, but with a twist. What if we created an all story-based, no books, no handouts, no electronics, all discussion driven, modular course of study that could be done over a couple years’ time? Unschooled pastors could learn core theology, overviews of Old and New Testament, and important topics like church planting, discipleship, evangelism, and godly leadership, among other things.

This is going to take some time to develop and will definitely have some bumps along the way – we’re already seeing that – but how incredible would it be to have 200+ pastors living in the bush knowing 200 Bible stories that shape their congregations’ growth? Imagine the impact in sending new missionaries and pastors who have been raised in that from their youth and now are going into Muslim-dominant countries to the north of Kenya – Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and into the Sahara Desert. Please be praying with us for this.

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