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Why Train Indigenous Leaders? Part 4: Impact

A recent survey asked professionals what they found to be the biggest barrier to international business. The number one answer was cultural differences, followed by language and law. Another study found that the neglect of cultural differences was the greatest cause of failure faced by cross-national companies.

But the effects of Babel (cf. Gen 11:1–9) are not only felt in the business world. They pose a real challenge for the missionary, as well. David Beakley, Academic Dean of Christ Seminary in South Africa, explains, “These linguistic and cultural barriers are massive obstacles in Africa, especially in the black community. As an American, it is impossible to fully overcome them. In Africa, white people do not move as freely in the black community. An American could not effectively pastor a church among the Zulu or Tswana; or if he did, he would always be viewed as an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with ties to white culture and wealth.”

CS Students in class 800

South Africa, whose pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution’s recognition of eleven official languages, is especially challenging for the missionary. It is a nation where cultural differences play a significant role in raising walls between peoples. David admits, “It doesn’t matter how good of a teacher I am. I’m white, and therefore perceived as a colonial. The men that I teach are friendly, kind, and think like Christian men, but there is always a grid through which we process information. When white people challenge areas of theology and pastoral ministry in the black community, immediately following come questions concerning national politics and worldview. I can share biblical principles, but I can’t speak very personally to these men about how they should navigate an African pluralistic world.”

These cultural challenges underscore another reason why TMAI trains indigenous leaders. Barriers like those experienced in South Africa will never fully be overcome by the American missionary. However, unhindered by cultural and language barriers, local church leaders can plant and pastor churches more effectively than foreign missionaries.

Christ Seminary exists for this very reason, namely, to equip faithful South Africans, who will then lead churches and even train other pastors. “When an African stands to teach other Africans,” explains David, “there is a unique connectedness. Africans can denounce the dangers of prosperity theology without sounding colonial. They can unmask traditional African religion in ways that I will never be able to do.” These South Africans are God’s men called to unfold God’s Word to God’s people. They are effective ambassadors of Christ who only need the training that TMAI member schools can provide with your support.

The fruit of this emphasis is already visible in the fact that six of the seven faculty are African (two white, four black), most of whom are graduates of Christ Seminary. It is especially rewarding to see leadership handed over to the local men who have been proven faithful through hard work, intense training, and obedience to Christ. This is why we train indigenous leaders.

[Read Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4]