How Did it All Begin?
In 1985, an experienced missionary, Rev. Bob Rebel, wanted to plant churches in the KwaNdebele area. According to custom, he had to go to the local traditional chief to pay his respects and request permission to work in the area. The chief asked him to come back the Sunday afternoon to appear before him and his "advisors in religious matters".
On his return a whole group of leaders of the African Indigenous Churches (Apostolic and Zionistic types of Churches) were waiting to meet him. They wanted to know how he intended to plant a church. He carefully explained that he would start with preaching and visiting people in their homes and teach baptism classes to those who show signs of interest and conversion. After their baptism he would continue to teach them so that they can become his co-workers in teaching new members. Later he would identify those who seem to have the gift of preaching and teach them how to preach.
They responded enthusiastically with the request: "Why don't you teach us as well. We are pastors and bishops of churches, but we have never had any training! Some of us cannot even read. We feel that especially the youth who have had more opportunities to become educated are looking down on us. We are afraid that we cannot reach them on their level of thinking anymore". These leaders formed an umbrella organisation, which they called the KwaNdebele Churches Board.
This Board, later called the Masakhane Churches Board, requested assistance from the Mission Deputies of the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (CGK-N) to start a Bible School. Their main objective was to see that their people (leaders and lay people) was provided with training to help them understand and handle the Bible properly.
The leaders of the CGK-N saw this opportunity as a Macedonian call and responded positively by allowing Rev. Rebel to teach courses at several villages in KwaNdebele. This decentralised training, in which he met groups of leaders for two hours per week, was maintained for almost ten years. The church leaders soon declared that they now really "saw light!" This ministry became known in the area as the Mukhanyo Bible School. The word mukhanyo is the isiNdebele word for light.
The Ministry Grows
The church leaders desired a centralised theological college which their young people could attend a few days per week in order to receive more advanced training. Rev. Dr. P.J. (Flip) Buys was called to start this extension of the ministry as the first principal. In March 1994, the Mukhanyo Board of Control met officially for the first time. Lectures started in July that year at the Reformed Church Thembalethu who offered their vestry free of charge, not far from KwaMhlanga where Mukhanyo’s main campus is located today.
So formal training at Mukhanyo began in 1994 with five students, a few wooden huts to accommodate them, a small library and an office. Initial finances came from the CGKN and donations from South Africa. There was not yet a fixed curriculum, accreditation or funds for future plans, but through the years our Lord made innumerable things possible.
As the number of students increased, it became necessary to find larger premises. The current property in KwaMhlanga was purchased and the Bible school was officially named Mukhanyo Theological College. A large building was erected with a hall able to seat 250 people, offices, kitchen, library, etc. In 1998 nine new students enrolled, making a total of 27 students. In 2001, a double-story dormitory was added, able to accommodate 36 students. Over the years the facilities were extended to what they are today.
Mukhanyo has also been greatly involved in the local community, starting various local ministry initiatives that served for many years in the greater KwaMhlanga region, eventually under its daughter umbrella organisation Masibambisane Community Development Corporation (MCDC). Mukhanyo also helped to establish a Christian primary school, the Musawenkosi Christian Academy (MCA)
Mukhanyo is Growing
In 2009, Dr. Flip Buys stepped down as principal after fifteen years of fruitful labour, and the Board of Directors appointed Rev. Dr Brian DeVries as Mukhanyo’s second principal. The college then entered a new period of growth and expansion.
In the next decade, Mukhanyo experienced excellent growth in many areas: (1) quality education and material, (2) additional programmes, (3) a distance model for decentralised facilitated learning, (4) new campuses and regional centres, and (5) an experienced team with efficient support systems.
Quality education: Government accreditation for the Diploma in Theology and Bachelors of Theology degree programmes was obtained in 2009. Since then, much effort has been invested in creating quality teaching material and creating an environment for the effective mentoring of future spiritual leaders.
Additional programmes: Mukhanyo added several more programmes, both accredited qualifications and church-based training. In 2010, the teacher’s training programme was started in KwaMhlanga and later expanded to Pretoria. In 2016, development started on the Focus programme, a well-designed collection of church-based modules for training at the secondary school level. In 2019, two new Higher Certificate qualifications were fully accredited to replace the Diploma in Theology that was being phased out. Mukhanyo’s own Bachelor of Theology Honours was started in 2018 and facilitating the the Masters of Theology programme of PRTS started in 2021.
Distance learning: Mukhanyo also expanded greatly with a unique distance model for decentralised facilitated learning. A pilot project was started in 2009 when the first study centre with 12 students was established at a church near Centurion. Other groups were soon added, with rapid initial expansion to 22 centres by 2012. The model of decentralised facilitated learning proved itself with great success; more than 50 students have graduated from this programmes every year since 2015.
Since 2016, Mukhanyo’s distance programme has been consolidated in order to maintain Mukhanyo’s standard of high-quality education and spiritual mentorship. In 2022 there were more than 600 active students at more than 90 centres across southern Africa guided by more than 150 experienced facilitators.
Network of locations: Since the early 1990s, Mukhanyo’s main campus in KwaMhlanga has served within its regional (the former KwaNdebele homeland) and beyond. In the 2010s, several other campuses and regional centres were added to the growing Mukhanyo network in order to serve a wider audience of students.
The Johannesburg campus in Braamfontein was first opened in 2011 though initial growth was very slow. The Pretoria Campus was opened in 2015. The Rustenburg Centre was restructured in 2019, initially a distance learning support centre since 2010. And the Durban Centre was opened at the beginning of 2020.
Experienced team: Mukhanyo has been blessed over the past 25+ years with a wonderful family of gifted lecturers and well-qualified support staff. We are a very diverse family, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, and growing together to serve our decentralised student body. Much effort has been made in the past decade to expand and improve the many internal support systems that are required to make our ministry a success.
By God’s grace, Mukhanyo Theological College continues to glorify God by equipping pastors and other Christians in Africa.
KwaMhlanga: +27 13 947 2179
Durban: +27 31 023 0043
Johannesburg: +27 11 339 1223
Pretoria: +27 12 004 1215
Rustenburg: +27 67 822 3442