Patience Wanzala

Carlile College: programmes that “propel the mission of the Church”

Carlile College, Nairobi was established in 1958 by Church Army Africa. Its name is explained by the fact that Church Army was launched by Wilson Carlile in the late 19th Century “to train ordinary Christian men and women to share the gospel with those most in need.”* Following on from last month’s blog post, Benjamin Kibara interviews the Principal, Revd Capt Patience Wanzala.

For our readers, can you give some further background to Carlile College?

Carlile College is a unique institution offering academic programmes with a focus on mission, evangelism, discipleship and church planting. Our vision and mission is to train men and women who will offer solutions to the church in Africa.

How has that mission focus shaped the college’s programmes?

The college has helped the Church in Africa remain focused on mission by developing and offering programmes in Chaplaincy and Children’s Ministry, among others that propel the mission of the Church.

What developments would you like to see at the college over the next few years?

The development we anticipate at the college is to upgrade our physical infrastructure to give it a new face so that we are able to attract more students to our programmes.

How do you view your vision for Carlile in relation to the changes that might lie ahead for more traditional forms of theological education?

Our vision will not change even as are faced with new ways of doing theology: moving from residential to non-residential, physical to online. Last year we had to change to online studies and though our students and staff struggled a bit we managed. Therefore I believe change is possible with some preparation through training and orientation.

Can you comment on how we can we best achieve academic rigour and personal transformation through training?

Theological Education aims at academic formation, ministry formation and spiritual and character formation. These can be best achieved by ensuring that they are reflected in the curriculum, have faculty who understand that as their mandate and create time for implementation, partner with local churches and communities to provide space for student mentorship.

These are difficult choices, but how can we also take cost-effectiveness and sustainability into account?

The sustainability of theological programmes depends on ownership by all the stakeholders such as students, staff, church, community and partners who together support the running of the programmes in various ways [such as] funding, sending students, teaching quality, among others.

What might all this mean for modes of delivery, which you’ve begun to touch on?

That we need to adopt to friendly modes of delivery such as distance learning [and] online studies among others to give room to those [who are] working, [so they can] study at the time of their convenience.

Finally, in the light of what you know about BUILD, with its non-traditional approach and model of multiplication, how do you see it serving within theological education?

BUILD is a good programme that has its place in building the capacity of the leadership of the church. There is no programme that has monopoly of importance; therefore BUILD comes in to reinforce what other programmes are offering to the church.

Many thanks for sharing with us Patience. BUILD is proud of its own focus on mission and evangelism, as well as its intention to act as ‘yeast in the dough’ for theological education: connecting it together and contributing to the whole. That desire is certainly in keeping with your closing comment.

* From

Walter at Carlile

Extending theological education in the Anglican Church of Kenya

Since its beginnings in Guatemala over 50 years ago Theological Education by Extension (TEE) has had an extraordinary impact in doing just that: extending the reach of theological education. Walter Omudokolo is the Provincial TEE Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK). BUILD’s Benjamin Kibara caught up with him at Carlile College, Nairobi to talk about TEE and BUILD.

Walter, on reflection, what do you see as some of the strengths and weaknesses of the approach and the movement?

The books are one big strength of TEE, as is its suitability for the structures of the Anglican Church. Plus there is a long history of TEE courses in Kenya, which makes it easy to introduce to any diocese. However, our books’ content is dated and has served its purpose, and they are expensive for students to acquire.

How have those insights played into the story of TEE in the ACK, and how do you assess its impact?

TEE has impacted many leaders at the parish level. Many evangelists and lay readers have gone through the programme including some of the clergy. But due to lack of proper funding and coordination at the top, and lack of people who are willing and trained to teach TEE materials, the uptake has been going down over time.

Can you explain where TEE is now heading in the ACK and why?

The provincial department that was formerly known as TEE has been renamed to Lay Christian Training by Extension (LCTE). TEE and Certificate in Christian and Religious Studies (CCRS) are some of the programmes under LCTE; both are hosted by Carlile College. LCTE is a broader name that makes it possible to introduce other courses aimed at equipping lay leaders to serve the church.

TEE has a huge potential if the materials used for training can be availed easily to those willing to take it. It remains as a parish programme, especially for church leaders who desire to do personal study and acquire some basic theological knowledge. It is very informal, rather than rigorous and academic. There are very few formal requirements from the students compared to CCRS.

However, we have introduced CCRS as an additional course to equip the licensed lay readers and commissioned evangelists. Some clergy who had not been trained properly are also enrolling in this course. This is an academic course with an entry requirement, fee payment, exams etc. CCRS is a one year provincial course that is domiciled at Carlile College and validated by St Paul’s University.

Can you indicate the focus of the content: would you describe it primarily as training in discipleship or leadership or would you use another category altogether?

The focus of LCTE is more or less a traditional theological course. There is nothing new apart from the mode of delivery. In fact, the curriculum mirrors a very high percentage of what is offered in the other theological colleges.

Are you changing any of the ways in which LCTE is delivered on the ground?

The certificate curriculum has 12 units that are covered in three semesters. Currently we have 16 centres across the country. Each centre is operated independently. The diocese helps in recruiting students, they purchase the books which are sold centrally, the centre coordinator collects fees from students and a percentage of those fees is remitted to Carlile. The diocese is responsible to look for competent trainers who will teach the students.

What do you see as some of the greatest challenges that lie ahead for LCTE?

The content of the CCRS doesn’t help in spiritual formation. It is an academic exercise that focuses on head knowledge but very little on the heart. These challenge can only be met if we can have a current, contextual and relevant curriculum that is focused not only on academics but combines both academics and spiritual formation. Emphasis on discipleship and personal spiritual growth is lacking.

Tied to the above relates to the instructional materials that need a lot of revision to address aspects that speaks to the heart.

BUILD’s focus is leadership: strengthening those who lead, care for and teach local churches, as well as those in related ministries. It is not divorced from discipleship and encourages that, nor is it divorced from biblical and theological knowledge, but the content is designed to serve those who lead. How might LCTE and BUILD best encourage one another?

I wish you shared the information about BUILD last year, I could have launched the course as a diploma course in our latest centre doing a diploma. Looking at the content of BUILD, I can see a lot of emphasis on the Bible. This is something that is missing on many curriculum. Also I have noted that every module you have emphasis on leadership. The preaching emphasis and sermon preparation will be highly welcomed by our current target group of lay readers and evangelists.

Thank you for sharing, Walter.

UCU (2)

Higher things

Training local church leaders at the grassroots is BUILD’s focus. But BUILD programmes have a range of other outcomes, both those that are anticipated and some that are quite unexpected. One benefit that we are seeing increasingly is the way in which BUILD training helps churches to identify, enable and prepare emerging leaders for higher education, and to build their capacity in this vital way.

We asked a handful of BUILD learners some questions about their experience of further education and how BUILD had prepared them. Their first names, which they have given us permission to use where appropriate, are Celestine, Erick, Rodah and Sammy. Here are those questions and some of their responses.

First, to what extent did your BUILD training enable you to enter your degree course?

Celestine: “The BUILD training I received elevated my academic standards, which boosted my admission at St.Pauls University.” Similarly Eric shared, “The BUILD training was vital for my admission into Uganda Christian University for a degree program. The admission requisite was for one to have at least a diploma in any Biblical course. Therefore my BUILD training came in handy.”

Once you began your course, how did the preparation from BUILD help?

Rodah noted, “the two complement each other, the difference is the depth of the content.” Celestine added, “[BUILD] helped me understand both the Old Testament and New Testament, which helped me tackle exegesis units well; understanding the Christology and pastoral care units was simplified by the knowledge I had, and it has improved my preaching. I was very good at presentation and having ideas during group discussions.” And a comment from Sammy: “The BUILD training prepared me for the task ahead. I found it easy when I entered the university because pastoral studies, biblical studies and preaching became a walkover during my studies.”

How did you feel your performance compared to that of your peers who had not done BUILD?

One respondent thought that, “Thanks to [my BUILD trainers] and the principles we gathered through the BUILD programme, my grades at university were much, much better. Not only were my grades better but my general understanding of the Bible principles was made better.” Another concurred, “My grades were better than those who did not do [BUILD]. And my exposure due to BUILD helped me to be more informed….”

A third noted, “My level of perception increased – the illustrations that I received in BUILD class when it comes to Biblical texts helped me gain a more advanced insight.” Perhaps most importantly one added, “BUILD gave me a perfect and faithful background when dealing with the word of God; those who missed BUILD training missed the real foundation of the study.”

How might teaching others using BUILD materials have helped you in your studies?

As Celestine put it, “I gained experience and more knowledge while teaching that helped me in my studies. It kept me alert.” And Eric had been active during his BUILD course, “I was often used by lecturers in leading other students through the BUILD manuals. This helped me develop confidence in our classes [at university] I would handle the word of God before my fellow students, and later on in the Church where I served.” Rodah underlined all this: “training and teaching others using the BUILD materials increased my skills in tackling Biblical texts.”

Did you receive any comments about the quality of your work that might be traced back to BUILD?

One of the group had been seen as outstanding: “Yes, my lecturers loved my work and used me as an example to others, and in fact recommend me for further studies.” In a more reserved way another explained, “I received a few encouraging sentiments on my understanding abilities which were greatly enhanced during my training in BUILD classes. The lecturers appreciated my unique approach and view-points on various theological debates in a bid to clearly bring out biblical truths.”

The benefits of the clear focus on understanding and applying the Bible were matched by the others: “Actually my lecturers in exegesis we’re impressed with my participation in and I believe BUILD training had a hand in that.” And interestingly, “Most of the comment I received from my supervisors were when I proclaimed the word of God. [Comments such as:] ‘You have been so faithful with the text’; ‘Your introduction, body and conclusion were superb.’”

Do you have any final comments?

Erick underlined the focus of BUILD mentioned in the opening paragraph, and the difference between the types of study: “[The BUILD] programme, when compared to campus studies, is more practical and therefore better suited for training local pastors. The program receives direct feedback from the trainees who try out the lessons in the field immediately.” And for the record he highlighted his own experience of developing his preaching through BUILD: “The program helped me develop my pulpit character through in-depth sermon preparation and presentation on the study passages. This is still helpful to date as all my sermons are prepared through the BUILD structure.”

The others emphasised their enthusiasm for BUILD: “BUILD training is vital for those aspiring to be gospel leaders,” shared Rodah. And Sammy says he would “pray and urge upcoming ministers to go through the BUILD training because it’s the foundation that deepens the faith of a believer.”

A final word from Celestine: “Long live BUILD.”

Thank you all for sharing.


A firm foundation for BUILD

The name BUILD is a gift. The word sums up BUILD’s focus: to build God’s Church through growing and multiplying healthy local churches. It has also led to our anchor or memory verse: Matthew 16:18, in which Jesus says: “I will build my church.” And the five words behind the acronym (Biblical – Understanding – In-service – Leadership – Development) not only lead to some excellent learning tools but act as anchor points for the values behind BUILD. However, those values have remained implicit, until now.

Over the past few months one of the behind the scenes tasks has been to communicate BUILD’s vision, mission and values in fresh contexts within Africa’s Great Lakes Region (BUILD’s target area within East and Central Africa). With institutions operating in very different modes it has been an opportune time to move conversations forward about the place of BUILD in different churches. Until now BUILD has worked with a combined vision and mission statement and with implicit values. Teasing apart the vision and the mission, and creating an explicit set of values in dialogue with individuals in different countries has been rewarding: it has not served both our communication and our teaching.

For example, Module Four of the BUILD curriculum has the title Nehemiah & the Historical Books: Building God’s People & Strategic Leadership. One component, which follows on from a study of Nehemiah mobilising God’s people in Neh. 2:11-20, is a learning unit exploring that theme, and it includes the importance of mobilising God’s people around a common vision, mission and values. It has been important to work back through the curriculum and to flag up in Module One the need for those elements in relation to the BUILD initiative itself, and in so doing to anticipate teaching and learning that lies ahead.

The outcome is that these important elements are currently as follows (with section numbers left in place to indicate that they belong in a manual):


We have already discovered the focus of BUILD, which is to build God’s Church through growing and multiplying healthy local churches. It is also important for any ministry or project to have a clear vision, mission and values. We will look at this subject in more detail in Module Four, but it is introduced here along with BUILD’s own vision, mission and values.

1.5.1  BUILD’s vision statement

A vision statement paints a picture of the future we hope to see as a result of the work we do in partnership with God and his people. Here is BUILD’s vision statement:

“BUILD’s vision is to see a multitude of well-equipped leaders at the grassroots building healthy churches across Africa’s Great Lakes Region and beyond.”

1.5.2  BUILD’s mission statement

In addition to a vision, it is important to have a clear mission or purpose. A mission statement captures how we aim to achieve our vision, as we work with God and his people. Here is BUILD’s mission statement:

“BUILD’s mission is to enable churches to train their own leaders with a practical understanding of the gospel, Scripture and theology.”

1.5.3  BUILD’s values

In addition to a vision and mission it is helpful for churches, organisations and projects to have a clear set of values. Values are foundational principles that we believe in and which motivate us and guide us in our practice.

BUILD has five values. Each one is a conviction about Christian learning that flows from one of the five words that BUILD stands for (and from the word and verse in 2 Timothy they are linked to).

1. Biblical – BUILD believes in learning under Scripture

The word ‘biblical’ (and “Scripture” in 2 Tim 3:16-17) reminds us that our learning must come under the authority of God’s word. The Bible and its gospel must be central to our training if personal development and local church growth is to be genuine.

2. Understanding – BUILD believes in learning with integrity

The word ‘understanding’ (and “handle” in 2 Tim 2:15) reminds us that our learning must be conducted with integrity. Skilful and godly use of the Bible and its gospel are essential for the development and growth of true leaders.

3. In-service – BUILD believes in learning in context

The word ‘in-service’ (and “reflect” in 2 Tim 2:7) reminds us that learning is best done in the midst of ministry and mission. This means that the training of local church leaders must be done in partnership with their local churches. The fact that BUILD was developed locally reflects this commitment.

4. Leadership – BUILD believes in learning and leadership

The word ‘leadership’ (and “entrust” in 2 Tim 2:2) reminds us that learning and leadership belong together. Leaders who understand the gospel deeply and who then identify and invest in others are essential for healthy churches.

5. Development – BUILD believes in learning for life

The word ‘development’ (and “continue” in 2 Tim 3:14) reminds us that while every training course comes to an end, Christian discipleship does not: learning is for life. Our training must equip leaders to be life-long learners.

We hope you will find those elements as informative and encouraging as we do.

Jacob in situ landscape

Courageous leadership in a refugee camp

Last month we began to connect learning with life in this time of COVID-19. How are the most vulnerable populations in East Africa coping? In order to find out we spoke to South Sudanese leader Jacob Karaba in a refugee settlement in northern Uganda. As a pastor and BUILD trainer he supports others in a range ways, and the pandemic has compounded local challenges, “exposing the community to hatred, poverty and educational problems.” But Christians like Jacob are responding with great courage.

Today Jacob reports: “Things are still at a stand-still as the lockdown and curfew has been increased for another 21 days. The restrictions remain on movement, public gatherings (including public worship), and schools remain closed. Lack of firewood has brought a number of conflicts between the refugees and the host communities. And there are shortages of drugs in the health centres, with fears of contracting the COVID-19 from social centres. Currently, people are scared and concerned about what will happen if this COVID-19 reaches the camps. And beside this, WFP [World Food Programme] has reduced the food ration to only 8.64 kg per month, there has been a lack of rain for two months now, and all this creates fear and worries among the refugees, not least in Imvepi Refugee Settlement which is a rocky land [and hard to dig]. Death rates, sickness, attempted suicide, cases of evil spirits, and domestic violence are becoming rampant.”

As a result, “COVID-19 has exposed tensions between the community of faith and local government. Some politicians are using this COVID-19 as an opportunity to finance themselves and to silence church activities. The challenge for all is how to foster community and to support one another while keeping physical distance.”

How are Christians and leaders like Jacob responding to these pressures and rebuilding community?

“Pastors and church leaders are under threat of harassment. As I speak now, when a pastor moves with a Bible it seems like he or she is carrying a coronavirus.” Despite this, “Many believers trust the blood of Christ to protect them, and in my community Christians are famous historically for staying to care for the sick and dying during significant plagues. After all to risk one’s life for the sake of another is the Jesus-like thing to do. They are never alone in these brave acts of service: this kind of self-sacrificial service is central to many of the pastors and the Christians.” And this, even though “pastoral care has become more complicated: some have set up a pastoral care roster of weekly phone or radio calls to check on both the physical and spiritual needs of members.”

In all this, “pastors are risking their life in providing some emergency services such as the burying of the dead, visiting and praying for the sick as well as reconciling families struggling with domestic violence.” Pray for Jacob and others that they would continue to do so.

The featured picture shows Jacob distributing food and support to the community

Joseph Adida

Living and learning through the pandemic

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley…” In BUILD Module Six we see the shape of the Psalter as a whole as it leads down into darkness and up through renewal into the light of mature faith. How are those involved with BUILD responding to the current COVID-19 crisis in the light of that teaching?

The growing death toll for the pandemic reveals an uneven spread of infection. Wealthier countries appear to bear the brunt of the disease while lower income ones are spared. However, this masks the wide ranging secondary impacts on lower-income countries such as those within BUILD’s footprint of East Africa, including the effect on livelihoods, on local economies, on education, on the political landscape, and on the vast volume of remittances normally received from the East African diaspora. And particularly, it seems, on the urban poor who are several steps removed from rural subsistence economies and are acutely vulnerable to widespread economic turmoil.

How can our blog begin to engage with the scope and scale of the pandemic and its fallout? Rather than attempt the analysis that is being done elsewhere, we will simply see how trainees respond to the crisis as they experience it and in the light of BUILD teaching – as they connect their learning with lived realities, and inform us of both along the way.

Returning to the Book of Psalms, early on in Module Six we trace the stages of the Psalter and its five books through five words: covenant, kingship, crisis, renewal, and maturity. Book I is grounded in the covenant and relying on the Lord who leads his people; Book II highlights kingship and obedience to the King who rules his people; Book III turns to crisis and reflection on God’s covenant in our suffering; Book IV looks to renewal, not least of our lives of worship; and finally, Book V heads to maturity and our growing faith as God’s people. The crisis in the middle is that of the exile, which we label ‘the darkest valley’ as we reflect on suffering and injustice through select Book III psalms. And we teach that Psalm 23 itself follows that pattern: it moves from trust in the Shepherd and obedience to him; into that ‘darkest valley’; and on to renewal and the celebration and stability of covenant love, where we “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

There were simply too many responses to this question: how does that learning speaks into your lives? Taking one person’s response by way of introduction, Joseph Adida, Christian Education Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Tanzania shared: “There is nothing people fear like death. People in Tanzania are devastated and disoriented as corona is hitting us. Among the people [around Lake Victoria], it is regarded as an evil spirit (Masamvwa in Sukuma), which is against the lives of people. Many Christians regard Covid-19 as the punishment from God because of sin: people are worshipping idols and power. Others see it as an effect of natural evil.”

But the Psalm assures us that, “He is the God who cares and protect his people against evil and death. Fear not. Psalm 23 is a very well-known psalm to most believers. People sing it when they are facing troubles that are beyond their control and beyond their understanding of power, politics, reason and thought. When President Magufuli of Tanzania first spoke about COVID-19 he was courageous about God’s power which is in control. He supported his talk by using Psalm 23 to encourage people to have faith in God alone who can control and finish COVID-19.”

“Psalm 23 shows how God cares and protect his people against evil. It is in this regard that people in Tanzania see it as the Psalm that speaks to the current situation of COVID-19. The people read it in connection with Psalm 121 and Colossians 1:15-20: through the Cross of Christ on Calvary God has conquered and controls all through his Son Jesus Christ, the image bearer of God who has become the agent of God’s grace. Therefore we should not fear, he alone can provide abundantly and protect his people by his power.”

As we continue to walk through “the darkest valley” with different people we will see what it means for them in practice to “fear no evil” in their various contexts.

AICMAR cohort 19 10 15 - Copy

The merry-go-round, ‘harambee’ and sustainability

An earlier post shared some promising data from BUILD training-of-trainers cohorts in western Kenya. Quantitative impacts were the focus but the qualitative ones include some fresh attitudes and approaches to sustainability, which are essential for the health and future of the Church, given the extensive training needs across East Africa.

There is no ‘silver-bullet’ for sustainability. Instead a range of approaches needs to be discovered, undergirded by a fundamental attitude of commitment to training, which needs to be set as the seedbed within which any creative initiatives can flourish.

Two of the three cohorts mentioned in the July post were, on the whole, locally resourced. This meant that something of a model had already been set – how the training starts can dictate its direction. However, one, with a regional reach, had significant external support, which was not surprising in a pioneering context. But the wider effect of the training was experienced and its value rose: “They see the need for the training and go out of their way to make sure they get it,” as one observer put it. And so with a new cohort beginning on 15 October 2019 there was an opportunity to observe and develop some fresh attitudes and approaches to sustainability.

To set the context, the cohort was fairly large for this sort of intensive training: 38 individuals with the 19 women and 17 men giving good gender-balance. The training is, like all BUILD training, in-service: in this case a day a week on Tuesdays, over a two and a half year period. All the participants are what we would call ‘mature students,’ with families to support and who cannot therefore afford to leave their homes for full-time study. All the participants are already serving in churches as lay-ministers, supporting the work of their vicars, and so the mode and content of the study is tailored to their needs and the needs of their parishes, who are encouraging them. The formation of the cohort was not driven by BUILD or even the Diocesan Education Coordinator in this instance, but instead by repeated requests from the institution itself, AICMAR (African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research), which had seen the impact of the training as well as its suitability and teachability.

But the most striking thing about the current group is the way in which they are supporting themselves and one another. The course is running on a modular basis with the ten modules forming the core of the learning. That in itself means that self-funding can be broken down into ten smaller units, when compared with the typical tranches associated with four semesters or six terms. Each module is costed at 8,000 KES per student, which is approximately 80 USD or 60 GBP, meaning that the BUILD based Diploma in Bible, Theology & Leadership as a whole comes in at 80,000 KES or 800 USD or 600 GBP.

All students have been asked to raise their own funds. Some are raising support from within the churches they serve – but that is only for around 20% of the students who are serving in significant roles in their churches, and serving in churches that are able to support them. This needs to be addressed going forwards. When it comes to the other 80%, some individuals have their own savings from their small-scale businesses and/or from farming.

Not only is the diploma as a whole broken down into the ten units of the modules, they are able to pay in an even more micro and incremental manner, week by week, saving and contributing effectively 200 shillings per week per person. The system they have come up with a group is based on two local approaches: what they are calling ‘the merry-go-round’ and the Kenyan principle of ‘harambee.’

With the merry-go-round they pool small amounts together each week and credit that pot to just one member of the group – to more or less raise the total for one module’s training for that person. The following week they move onto the next. They are determined that no one should leave their class. What they bring together to put in the pot each week covers not only fees but can also help with other personal needs related to their studies, or relieving needs that would prevent their study. As the same observer put it, “This is based on a common philosophy here in Kenya called ‘harambee,’ which means pulling resources together for a common goal.”

The above account might appear to assume that all will contribute the exact same amount, but the reality on the ground is that those who have more are covering others, going out of their way to support their friends and co-workers: “students are making individual sacrifices to support each other.”

This might sound difficult for the institution itself. However, the funds are trickling in consistently over time, so there is no shortfall at the end of the year or semester, with the common scenario of students failing to pay at the end of the course and the painful threats around not being awarded their diploma.

Rhino Camp

The Revelation and the power of cross in context

Teaching and learning from the final BUILD module with local leaders is a humbling and enriching experience, not least because of the contexts they face. A recent residential with learners from Burundi, Congo, South Sudan and Uganda led to additions to the module as we explored why the cross of Christ is the key to history.

An excerpt from a book by John Stott drove the discussion. The BUILD materials rarely quote from western authors, preferring to draw on comments and insights from participants in the curriculum development process. But given the relevance of the material and the stage learners have reached in the curriculum and their personal development, it seemed right to quote the book, and at length. What follows is drawn from the materials. The introduction and the discussion questions that follow top and tail an extended quote. The hope is that our readers will also be challenged and encouraged.

The cross of Christ as the key to history

In one section of his book The Incomparable Christ, John Stott considers Revelation chapter 5, just as we have done in an earlier learning unit. He draws attention to the truth we have already discovered: only Jesus, the Lamb of God, can break open the scroll of God’s purposes. “See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals (5:5).”

John Stott then asks and then answers these questions: “Why is Jesus Christ the only person who is worthy to open and explain the scroll? What is it about the Lamb of God which uniquely qualifies him to interpret it? Clearly it is because he was slain, and because of what he achieved by his death.”

We have already been learning that lesson together, but it is important to reinforce it: Jesus is the only one who is truly qualified to shed light on history because of his death on the cross. But we need to now go deeper and Stott recognises that. He continues by adding this question: “But what is it about the cross that makes it the key to history?”

We have grown a great deal in our understanding as we have gone through the BUILD curriculum. This is a good moment to test and to stretch that ability by reading John Stott’s answer carefully and by considering the questions that follow. Why is the cross of Christ the key to history? John Stott explains what that is the case by making four main points:

“First, the cross illumines history because it speaks of victory. The reason why the Lamb was able to open the scroll is because he has triumphed (5:5). The same verb has been used at the conclusion of each of the seven letters to the churches. A promise is given to him who overcomes. For example, ‘To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne’ (3:21). Thus the cross is represented in the New Testament as victory not defeat, as triumph not tragedy. For, as Paul wrote, on the cross Christ dethroned and disarmed the principalities and powers of evil, triumphing over them in the cross (Col. 2:15). True, they are still alive and active, for they have not yet conceded defeat. Nevertheless, they have been conquered and are under Christ’s feet (e.g. Eph. 1:22). This is the great truth of Christus Victor, which the church has sometimes forgotten. The first reason why the Lamb alone can interpret history with all its evil is that he triumphed over evil at the cross.

“Secondly, the cross illumines history because it speaks of redemption. The repeated use of the title ‘the Lamb’ will immediately have reminded Jewish readers of the Passover. For just as the Passover lamb was sacrificed, its blood sprinkled and the people spared, so Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, so that we might be redeemed and might celebrate the festival of redemption. Thus history has a twofold plot-line. There is world history (the rise and fall of empires) and there is salvation history (the story of the redeemed people of God). Moreover, we dare to say that the former is explicable only in the light of the latter; that what God is doing against the backdrop of world history is to call out from every nation a people for himself; and that only the cross makes this possible.

“Thirdly, the cross illumines history because it speaks of suffering. For the sufferings of the Christ, although unique in their redemptive significance, were nevertheless the prototype of the sufferings of the people of God. Because he suffered, his people are called to suffer. Because he went to the cross, he calls us to take up our cross and follow him. So John moves on from the Lamb slain (in ch. 5) to the souls of the martyrs, slain because of their faithful testimony (in ch. 6). Thus those who are called to suffer for Christ, whose sufferings are so hard to understand and to bear, learn to see them in the light of the sufferings of Christ.

“Fourthly, the cross illumines history because it speaks of weakness, and specifically of power through weakness. This paradox is seen in its most dramatic form in Christ and the cross, and in John’s vision in Revelation 4 and 5. For at the centre of God’s throne (symbol of power) stands a slain Lamb (symbol of weakness). In other words, power through weakness, dramatized in God on the cross and the Lamb on the throne, lies at the heart of ultimate reality, even of the mystery of almighty God himself.” (Inter-Varsity Press 2001, pp. 185-187.)

For discussion

  • Look at John Stott’s first point, “the great truth of Christus Victor” (Latin for the Victorious Christ or Christ the Conqueror). Consider his argument carefully and then explain how the cross – an event that appears to be one of humiliation and defeat – qualifies Jesus to teach us about the turbulent history of our world.
  • Think about Stott’s second point, “history has a twofold plot-line.” Explain what he means by that and then go on to discuss how this truth can help us as Christians to live through the difficulties of human history and to stand firm in our faith.
  • Now turn to point three. A “prototype” is a first example of something that then becomes the basis for later models or versions. How do Christ’s sufferings explain and help us in some of our own sufferings (see also 2 Peter 2:21)?
  • Finally, look at the last paragraph and point. The cross is the ultimate demonstration of power in and through weakness. Explain and describe some of the ways in which that can help Christians in the midst of the struggles they face.


Featured picture: South Sudanese BUILD trainees in a refugee settlement learning together.


Responding to training needs in Kakuma Refugee Camp

BUILD has been training local church leaders in refugee settlements in northern Uganda, as reported previously. This month, in partnership with the Church Army in Kenya, we have begun to look at the needs there – beginning with Kakuma Refugee Camp in the north west of the country.

Kakuma is under enormous pressure. The camp that was designed to host a population of 70,000 now has approximately 150,000 refugees, and that having been ‘decongested’ through 38,000 being hosted in the nearby Kalobeyei Settlement from mid-2015 (the combined population was 191,500 registered refugees and asylum-seekers at the end of August this year).

Every possible resource is stretched to the limits, including those needed to grow and sustain healthy churches. Benjamin Kibara from BUILD in the ACK is also a Captain in the Church Army (an Anglican mission initiative). Benjamin reported as follows:

“We visited Kakuma Refugee Camp with a team from Church Army Africa through an invitation from Ven. David Wuor, from the diocese of Ayod. Five dioceses from southern Sudan had written to us asking for help in various areas including evangelism, clothes, food, tents and chairs for use during Sunday worship, and the training of leaders. The dioceses are Ayod, Nasir, Akobo, Maiwut and Bentiu (all are new dioceses, sub-divided from Bor and Malakal).

“As a team of eight we managed to take two large tents, with capacity for 150 people to meet, 100 plastic chairs, 10 sacks of clothes and assorted foodstuffs. Earlier in the year, Carlile College, the Church Army College in Nairobi, as a response to their request admitted four evangelists to train for three years. Even with this, the need for training leaders is huge and there is so much that needs to be done.

“Ven. David Wuor, was the dean of the cathedral that was demolished due to the ongoing war, and finished his diploma last year from Carlile College. David, who has been in the camp since 2014, shared with me that he had no previous training, even though he has served as a clergyman for twelve years. He is in charge of five congregations with 400 – 500 in attendance each Sunday. To do that work, David is supported by fifteen evangelists and lay readers who have no training at all to lead churches.”

David’s situation seems typical. Benjamin went on to describe how he had also visited a classmate of his from Carlile, Revd Timothy Ibrahim in his church in Kakuma.

“Timothy was my classmate in Carlile from 2005 – 2008 and has been in the camp since 1999. Timothy has three congregations and seven untrained leaders who support him. Timothy introduced me to the chair of all the Anglican clergy, Ven. Abraham who has been in the camp since 1992. Abraham shared that there more than 40 ordained Anglican clergy in the camp but more than 90% of these have no formal ministerial training.

“During my visit to Timothy’s church, the Bishops of Feiyang and Kongeren Dioceses were visiting the Dinka community in the camp. The bishops gave me time to address the gathered Christians and I explained to them about BUILD work across East Africa. Bishop David and Gabriel were excited to hear of the prospects to train their church leaders right there in Kakuma.”

David, Gabriel and many others are excited by this prospect, but delivering that training will not be straightforward. The nascent BUILD ACK initiative is now beginning to look at how this might happen, alongside putting down roots in and around Nairobi, where, despite a wealth of resources in comparison to Kakuma and Kalobeyei, there are also significant training needs. The challenge and opportunity will be to do this in an integrated way.

AICMAR grad supporters (2)

“Some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Empirical data on follow-on training from BUILD initiatives can be hard to gather. It was therefore encouraging to be sent figures from efforts at AICMAR, described in an earlier post. 36 of 59 students who completed their BUILD-based diploma studies were sampled and the following figures were noted and observations made.

First, the training had been emphatic when it came to the importance of passing on learning to others. 100% of the sample followed through on this: every single one had trained others using BUILD materials or methods and a total of 423 individuals had been reached. If that figure is extrapolated for the 59, then a total of approximately 700 will have been reached, 693 being the estimate. One outlier showed extraordinary enthusiasm in passing on his training to 45 others. BUILD can have that effect. But if he is removed to normalise the findings and a new average is applied, the group remains responsible for equipping around 640 (637 the figure).

Second, students were assured that quality was as important as quantity and that follow-on training to a few peers was legitimate and to be encouraged. Against that background the lowest number reached by an individual was three (two individuals trained that number) and the highest 45, as we have noted above. If that exceptional individual is included the mean number trained per student is just under 12 (11.8), but even with the outlier removed the average is only reduced to just under 11 (10.8). These encouraging figures may well reflect local leadership development group sizes. In that distribution of leaders reached per trained trainer the person, apart from the individual who reached 45 others the next most prolific reached 24 others. The most frequent number reached was nine: six individuals reached out to that number with BUILD based training.

Third, the 59 BUILD graduates came from three distinct cohorts. 23 were part of a Church Workers Cohort made up of students in full-time ministry: priests, deacons, evangelists, lay readers and associate ministers. A further 15 were in a Chaplaincy Cohort, the majority of whom were early childhood development teachers and teachers from primary and secondary schools. Finally, there was a Regional Cohort, also with 23 graduates, drawn from the Western and Nyanza regions of the Anglican Church of Kenya, together with two students from Tanzania. Looking at those different types of leader, the Church Workers averaged just under 10 per person (9.7). The Chaplaincy members averaged a higher number: 15 (although the outlier was in their ranks and without him they averaged just under 11 (10.7)). Those from the Regional Cohort reached on average just over 14 others (14.3). That higher number may be due to the sustained focus on the incremental development of local leadership development groups in that group.

A final observation or comment is that it is impossible to quantify the more informal teaching and training that resulted. If the approximately 700 who were directly touched by the training (including the 59 themselves) were preaching to or praying for or sharing with just ten others on a week-by-week basis then the wider impact or influence is increased ten-fold. But of course many would be interacting and interfacing with much larger numbers in groups and congregations. The wider numbers of those influenced in some way by just 59 students in a single BUILD programme are then in the thousands.