“Would HeartCry consider helping fund another ministerial college in Zambia?” This was the question posed to me by Pastor Conrad Mbewe during my January visit to Zambia. We were already partnering with Lusaka Ministerial College in their training of low-income pastors in the capital city and rural Lozi pastors in Western Province. Now Pastor Conrad was asking us to consider an additional partnership with Copperbelt Ministerial College in Ndola.
Of course, HeartCry’s financial priority has always been the direct support of indigenous church-planters as they evangelize the lost and establish biblical churches. However, we also realize that ministerial colleges can play a vital role in church-planting. We like to say at HeartCry that missions is a theological venture and that our work is not just sending missionaries but sending God’s truth through missionaries. Therefore, ministerial colleges serve multiple purposes in our Zambian church-planting efforts: they equip missionary pastors with a greater grasp of biblical truth and improve their ability to communicate that truth, and they also bring to light new like-minded missionary pastors with whom we can partner.
The staff assigned me the task of investigating Copperbelt Ministerial College (CMC) during my July visit to Zambia. On my trips to Africa, I truly enjoy meeting our missionary families, hearing about their lives and ministries, and seeing the churches and communities where they faithfully labor. I was not overly excited about investigating a school. I happily confess, though, that my attitude quickly changed as I interacted with the school’s leadership. Why would I suddenly find myself excited about a college?
1) Their training philosophy. The founders of CMC recognized a flaw often found in Africans who receive higher-level theological education. In pursuit of seminary training, many Africans attend school in the U.S. or U.K. Some of these students become accustomed to the comfort and wealth of life in the West and never return to minister in their home country. CMC was founded with the hopes of helping to avoid this problem. Utilizing five week-long block sessions each year, the school brings in top-level lecturers from Zambia, the U.S., and the U.K. to provide quality teaching in the students’ own country.
The week-long block sessions serve pastors well, as they remain busy caring for their flocks. It is, after all, a ministerial college; and the founders intentionally put that focus in the name – Copperbelt Ministerial College (not Bible College or Theological College). This is not a college for students who just want to study the Bible; it is a training institution for pastors actively serving in ministry. The leaders of the school are all seasoned Zambian pastors. The lecturers are not just Bible scholars, but pastors who are also scholars – pastors training pastors, as it should be.
2) Their theological truth. All of the teaching is from a historic Reformed perspective. Many pastors, including some current HeartCry missionaries, came to CMC from varying denominations and left four years later with a theological framework very different from that with which they came. Some of these pastors have taken the biblical doctrine they learned back to their churches, rather than leaving their denominations.
3) Their personal care for pastors and their churches. When a pastor full of zeal for newly-discovered biblical truth returns to a church still functioning in unbiblical traditions, the result can be explosive. Here again, the wisdom of CMC’s seasoned pastoral leadership shows. Practical mentoring is offered to the students. Whenever possible, the school’s leaders visit the student pastor in his own church, observing his ministry, noting particular challenges, and offering practical advice. They guide students in implementing biblical truth in a gracious manner to minimize church conflict.
Three missionary pastors supported by HeartCry are currently attending CMC. This Zambian school is also having an international impact. They currently oversee the theological school in Kenya (led by HeartCry-supported pastors Sam Oluoch and Naphtally Ogallo), and they have been asked to start an extension school in Namibia.
After a long day of meetings with CMC’s leadership and staff, I traveled back to Lusaka even more encouraged about the future of the church in Zambia. I marveled at story after story of pastors and churches that were transformed and denominations that were impacted by the wise and faithful work of Copperbelt Ministerial College. It is truly an honor and privilege to partner with such ministries for the glory of Christ and the good of Africa.