Over one hundred years ago over 80% of Christians in the world lived in the Global North. This picture has changed dramatically over a hundred years and by 2020 it is estimated that 64.7% of all Christians will be in the Global South where 84% of all people will live. ***
It has been estimated that there are 500 million Christians in Africa of which 110 million are part of the Africa Indigenous Church rather than any mainstream denomination established by missionaries. With such a large body of believers and their leaders remaining mostly untaught the danger is that Christianity will dissipate in a few generations as error creeps in and church members fall away.
The research carried out by the Fraser Peckham Trust (FPT) indicated that around 73% of rural pastors are untaught and have also not progressed beyond primary school education. This contrasts with the situation in urban Kenya where over 95% of pastors are properly trained. [“Training rural pastors in Africa: which way forward?” Anthony Njuguna, The Fraser Peckham Trust, 2009.]
* Source – The Pew Forum. Note that “Christians” are fairly loosely defined in most estimates but Operation World estimates the number of Evangelicals in Sub Saharan Africa to be over 176m including urban dwellers and members of mainstream denominations versus 477m “Christians”.
** This number is derived from Operation World’s data on the number of evangelicals in Sub Saharan Africa, the % located in rural areas, the % likely to be untrained and an assumption that a pastor has 100 people on average in his congregation. The number is interestingly similar if the estimate of AIC Christians is used instead!
*** Christianity in its Global Context, Report by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 2013.
The need for training rural pastors in Sub Saharan Africa is enormous. The majority of churches in rural areas, especially those outside the mainstream denominations, are lead by men who have only a rudimentary understanding of God’s word. It is perhaps for this reason that Christianity in Africa is said to be “more than a mile wide but only an inch deep”.
This situation provides a fertile ground for syncretism and the many ethnic tensions reported among Christian communities in Africa. Syncretism is the state when Christians default to mixing Christian and cultural norms as a standard for their behaviour rather than God’s word only. This is rife among rural Christians in Africa. If this situation continues then the rural church in Africa will wither within a few generations as believers are exposed to error and they continue unfed by God’s word.
ART believes that the only effective way to reach the 800,000 untrained pastors in Africa is for those who have been taught to teach others. This is how teaching spread in the early church, as the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others” (2 Timothy 2v2). Seven graduates of the ART training programme have committed to train others as Volunteer Trainers one week per month whilst they continue to serve as pastors in their churches. They receive only travel expenses and a small honorarium.
ART has seen the dramatic effect that God’s word has on rural pastors as they are taught to handle it correctly and they themselves are fed. Many have turned away from bad cultural practices such as FGM and changed their attitudes to relationships, especially family ones. Perhaps most encouraging is witnessing the massive change in their preaching and teaching ability as they better understand God’s word and have learnt how to apply it.
* This number is derived from Operation World’s data on the number of evangelicals in Sub Saharan Africa, the % located in rural areas, the % likely to be untrained and an assumption that a pastor has 100 people on average in his congregation. The number is interestingly similar if the estimate of AIC Christians is used instead!
Rural pastors already have a church and usually a family and farm to take care of so they can neither afford the time nor money to attend an urban residential bible school.
Most bible schools do not accept students with only primary level education. ART accepts the reality of where rural Africa is right now and is seeking to meet the need where it really is.
Many pastors and their communities struggle to survive economically, often due to poor farming practices, lack of training and technology to make better use of the resources that they own which is usually a small amount of land.
Even when some of these issues have been tackled, farmers often have no access to wider markets without business help.
ART has a trained Agriculturalist who teaches pastors farming techniques in groups and one their farms as well as offering advice on an individual basis.
ART aims to help these pastors and communities over the long term in order that they may be able to afford education for their children, medical care and adequate nutrition. In the longer term it should be possible to see churches support their pastors as they themselves achieve better food security and economic conditions.
ART began training rural pastors in 2009 and the first group of 123 pastors graduated in 2013 from three centres in Nyanza Province, Rift Valley and the Coast Region.
Previously they had little of no knowledge of the bible, no understanding of how to preach or care for their flock. Pastor Bernard from Rift Valley who graduated in 2013 says
“now we have been transformed in our hearts and our minds and in the way of doing things”.
250 Pastors In Training in 8 Centres across Kenya
ART encouraged students from the group that graduated in 2013 to help train others. A total of 7 volunteered to train other groups local to them and we now have 250 pastors in training in 8 centres across Kenya.
The principle behind Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 is a key part of ART’s strategy.
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others”.
40,000 Lives Impacted in the rural Churches
The impact of these 400 pastors on their churches and communities is huge.
Previously they had little of no knowledge of the bible, no understanding of how to preach or care for their flock.
As a member of a church in the Rift Valley put it:
“our pastor has really grown and changed over the last few years”
This is God’s grace…our knowledge was very low.
Many a time we’ve preached what is contrary to the true meaning of scripture.
Pastor Joseph Mwamodo, Kasigau, Coast Region
I have now learnt that there is a lot of nonsense going on in our churches.
Now I have a chance to rectify that nonsense by being a good preacher.
Pastor Vincent, Mumias, Western Region, Kenya
Our pastor has really grown and changed over the last few years.
Member of pastor Maura’s church
Church member, Rift Valley, Kenya
We thought we knew what we were doing.
We’ve realised we knew nothing.
Pastor Joseph Mwamodo, Kasigau, Coast Region
The course Spiritual Growth… has moved me closer to God. I have known God more deeply.
I thank the sponsors, the director and the teacher.
Cornelius Mzungu, Pastor Kasigau cohort
Africa Rural Trainers are a miracle to me. I had desired to study but had financial constraints.
To God be the glory.
Joseph Mnyaka, Pastor, Kasigau cohort
I’ve been a preacher for the last twenty-five years but the quality of my sermons has been wanting.
I’ve been enlightened spiritually, academically and morally.
William Thoya, Pastor and Chief, Kaloleni
“It taught the value of understanding historical and textual contexts of a text.. How could we have known how to interpret a text by discerning whether the language used is literal or figurative?”
Jonathan Mwangeje, Pastor , Kasigau cohort
Watch Interviews With Pastors
Before joining ART Pastor Kenneth Chomba admits that his sermons had no structure and would often be made up in the pulpit!
Pastor Kenneth explains how ART has changed his understanding of the Bible and his preaching.
Pastor Stephen comes from a tribe where men do not normally eat with their family. He and his wife and daughters explain how ART’s course on the Pastor and his family completely changed his approach to his relationships in the family.
Bishop Stephen explains that in the Kisi tribe female genital mutilation FGM is still practiced even though it’s against the law. This short series of interviews illustrates how widespread the practice is and it’s cultural origins. Testimony is given as to how the word of God changed one of ART’s training cohorts views on FGM.
Pastor Bernard was a victim of the 2008 Post Election Violence (PEV) in Kenya. He tells us of his experience and how many Christians were caught up in the violence because of cultural pressure. He explains how ART has changed his life and brought him to a place of being reconciled.
Carol is based in Nairobi and is responsible for running ART locally. She has had a real passion for the holistic ministry of ART since the founders met her and her husband Nelson at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology when Nelson was completing his PhD.
Benson OdengeTrainer Western Province
Benson lives in Mumias and trains a group of pastors there as well as overseeing the training of other centers in the Nyanza Province, together with some of the pastors who have graduated from ART. He has a Masters in divinity from a US Bible Seminary. His passion is to empower church leaders to fulfill the great commission by establishing them in sound doctrine and sensitizing them to engage in productive enterprises in order to avoid financial handicaps that may impede their ministry.
Jeremiah LingiriTrainer Meru Region
Jeremiah is based in Eastern Province in the Mount Kenya region. He joined ART towards the end of 2017 and has opened centre’s in Mikinduri and Mbeu,and in 2021 Kagaene and Miathene. This is a new region for ART and we are delighted to now be able to offer training in this region.
Jeremy & Jan PeckhamChairman & Treasurer, Africa Rural Trainers Trust
Jan and Jeremy Peckham founded Africa Rural Trainers Trust in 2009 as a Kenyan based charitable Trust. They are also trustees of the Fraser Peckham Trust, a UK based charitable Trust that provides financial support for the ART Trust and provides bursaries for theological education in developing countries. Jeremy is Chairman of both trusts and Jan acts as Treasurer.
Jeremy is a serial entrepreneur and has helped to start a number of high tech businesses over the last 15 years. Jan was a Pharmacist but has more recently devoted her time to the FPT and “give a kid a life” a child sponsorship charity. Jan and Jeremy live in the UK but are frequent visitors to Kenya.
Nelson completed a PhD at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology and served as the adult ministries Pastor at Nairobi Baptist Church until January 2015. He is now the Deputy General Secretary for the NCCK (National Council of Churches of Kenya). Nelson comes from Mumias in the West of Kenya and he and his wife Carol have been involved in training rural pastors and their wives for several years. Nelson and Carol have been used of God in reconciliation ministry following the post election violence in Kenya in 2008. Nelson and Carol have three children, Tracy, Andrew and Eleon.
ART has launched 12 new cohorts across Kenya covering the Coast and Meru regions together with Nyanza and Western Provinces. Classes are being taught by a combination of staff and volunteers. Some of the volunteers [...]
The students who started training in 2017 should have graduated in 2020 but the Covid19 Pandemic meant that classes had to be postponed during the lockdowns. This resulted in students not completing their courses until [...]