Mukhanyo was honoured on 24 July to welcome Prof Arjan de Visser of the Canadian Reformed Seminary in Hamilton, Canada, as the preacher at the opening of the academic second semester of the year. He is a professor in practical theology and mission. Prof de Visser lectured at Mukhanyo 15 years ago, before he was called to the Canadian seminary.
Prof de Visser preached from Philippians 2:25-30, emphasising the bond between Paul and Epaphroditus, even though Paul sent Epaphroditus to the Philippians so that they would rejoice at seeing him again. This little history has three lessons for Mukhanyo:
When visiting Mukhanyo’s KwaMhlanga campus, Prof de Visser and his wife, Inge, took the opportunity to visit Nakekela in nearby Tweefontein, a palliative care centre for HIV/AIDS patients. This modern and well-looked after centre with its 20 beds was originally started by Mukhanyo in 2005. One of Nakekela’s donors is Word & Deed North America, of which Prof de Visser now serves on the board.
Very few Mukhanyo students are in a position to enjoy a real holiday. So what did they do during this year’s July winter holidays? We asked them, and here are some of the answers:
Mukhanyo has welcomed Rev Gesse Rios, who joined the Mukhanyo faculty in July. He and his wife Iolanda also hope to plant a new church in or around Pretoria where there is not as yet much Reformed influence.
Though he is a new face at Mukhanyo, he has been involved in mission work in Southern Africa since 1995. He is now also serving as base director for Southern Africa of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. He is a member of the Presbiterio Noroeste Da Bahia church in the Bahia State of Brazil, where he is an ordained minister.
Why Mukhanyo? Says Rev Rios: “Because Mukhanyo prepares new generations of African Christian workers to serve the Lord, based on a sound and solid teaching of the Holy Scriptures.”
In his studies in Brazil, Rev Rios specialised in pastoral theology with the focus on missiology in his post-graduate studies. One of his three children lives in Brazil; the other two in Cape Town.
While the students enjoyed the July holidays, Mukhanyo’s staff started planning for 2019, discussing all aspects of the college from new study programmes, to distance study groups and facilities, to marketing and administration.
In respect of the study programmes, it is expected that the newly accredited BTh programme and the BTh Honours will be launched at the beginning of 2019, and hopefully also soon thereafter several other new qualifications. The new church-focused certificates will follow soon (see the article below).
All of this requires the development of additional study material and the appointment of the necessary staff where necessary. Several other developments include the following:
Distance groups: The number of distance study groups has grown significantly in the past year – adding 13 new groups – bringing the total to 58 groups. This growth is expected to continue, requiring additional logistics, administration and management as well as the training of tutors.
Tutor training has become an important annual activity. The next Tutor Workshop is planned for 3-5 October at Mukhanyo’s main campus in KwaMhlanga.
Johannesburg: The Johannesburg campus has finalised plans for building additional three lecture rooms as well as a new library, offices and internet computer facilities. Sufficient funding has become available and construction is expected to start soon, with completion hopefully early next year.
Mentorship: In the past year, the mentorship programme for students has continued in KwaMhlanga and it has been extended to the other centres as well.
Rustenburg:Plans for the upgrading of the Rustenburg distance study centre now have been finalised and the vacancy of a full-time leader and facilitator will be filled soon. This plans are made in co-operation with the local churches and can become a model to be duplicated elsewhere.
Support services: Also in the past few years, our computer facilities, administration and registration systems, as well as communication with students, have improved significantly. This progress must be continued, made possible with new technology becoming available and within reach of Mukhanyo’s resources.
Perhaps more than anything else, Africa needs practical Bible training for pastors and other church leaders. At present, literally thousands of them lack a good understanding of the Bible as well as many church matters, although they act as ministers in literally thousands of congregations.
That is why Mukhanyo Theological College was established nearly 25 years ago. Its main purpose was to train pastors and church leaders to preach the Bible in the way God wants it taught: reformed, evangelical, fully submitting to the authority of the Bible. This was done firstly in the old KwaNdebele region northeast of Pretoria. But over the years Mukhanyo’s activities spread all over Southern Africa and beyond.
Another development was that Mukhanyo developed into a registered institution of high repute, with a number of programmes accredited by South Africa’s higher education authorities. However, the required academic standards presented Mukhanyo with a problem. Only students who had certain educational qualifications could be allowed. But statistics show that most church leaders and pastors in South Africa and in other countries in Africa have no or very little formal training. Even worse, many know not much of the contents of the Bible or how to prepare a sermon and to preach.
Over the years Mukhanyo had different ways to approach this matter, such as to offer an entrée certificate or a number of short courses over and above its accredited programmes. In addition there is the diploma programme for students, also at the distance study sites.
Then the question arose: why not use all these centres to offer a number of courses which are not accredited but which are very important to un- or under-qualified practising pastors and other church leaders who do not qualify for Mukhanyo’s other programmes?
That is why the new Focus Programme is now in the process of being developed, to be available at all teaching sites. The programme includes thirty modules in the five categories: The Study of Basics, Bible Foundations, Church Growth, Church Leadership and Church Life. The plan is to prepare the modules first in English and later in at least two other languages.
The Focus Programme is practical-oriented and seeks to avoid abstract material. The courses have to be good and helpful in the practice of a Christian’s life and the functioning of a church. The presentation of the modules will be fairly flexible. Tutors will either do all the presenting or the presenting will be done through lecturer-presented seminars or DVDs. The tutor will also facilitate discussions, other group work, assignments and exams. Tuition time per module is estimated at 16 hours, spread over 12 weeks. Half of each study unit should be for supervised exercises and group discussions.
It is envisaged that these programmes will meet the most important training needs of church leaders outside of higher education, with a balance between providing all-round practical training and other specific training needs felt by churches.
At present the development of these modules is in its early stages with outcomes and outlines of about half the modules completed, and with a limited number of draft study guides. A lot of prayer and hard work still needs to be done over the next few years. May God also provide the necessary manpower and funds!