The East Africa Churches of Christ held the 10th edition of the Ministry Training Academy (MTA) on 14-15th June 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme was “Christ and Culture” where students learned about Christ and culture exploring the relation of the Christian to the world around them through race/tribe, politics, gender issues, technology and the changing global culture. They were also able to explore ways of engaging culture and provide guidance for leaders to navigate culture as they shepherd God’s people.

According to the lead facilitator Michael Burns, the students focused on the importance of understanding the dynamics and elements of culture on day one. Bearing in mind that God has given us the mission of gathering the nations, but he has also given us the task of preserving and carrying on that mission by learning the skills of being all things to all people.

On the second day, students focused on the specific applications of cultural skills and competence on how we can be in the world and not of the world.

To help them, the students read, “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” by David Bercot and “Crossing the Line: Culture, Race, and Kingdom” by Michael Burns as part of their preparation for this specific training.

“Crossing the Line: Culture, Race, and Kingdom” highlights Michael’s interesting personal story as it relates to this subject and his biblically informed worldview. In his own words, he states, “I am what our society calls white. My wife, MyCresha, is black. We met in 1994 and got married in 1997 and later moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In America, racism is a predominant issue that I address in my book and we as a family have not been spared.”

Berhanu Bedada from Addis Ababa Church of Christ stated that the MTA session on “Christ and Culture” was truly an eye-opening. “It helped me realize how I am deeply affected by my own culture and do not even realize it. Culture is what is “normal” in a particular society. What is normal to me affects how other people interact with me as I reach out to them. For example, in my culture it is not enough to deal with what is right or wrong in relationships (which is what I have been focusing on as a disciple); the issues of shame and honor, like saving face must be considered.”

He added, “It matters how things come across to people and how it makes them appear to others even when they are wrong. We are a global church family of multiracial, multitribal, multilingual and multicultural identities and it is very important that we understand how to navigate those differences and still be united. The goal of understanding culture is to be able to identify which aspect of culture we should reject, grow or appreciate and still become all things to all people so we can win as many as possible. I keep asking myself, how do other people feel when they walk into my church? Do they feel welcomed? Are we attempting to make them like us or like Christ? Are we seeking to assimilate them or accommodate them? The answers to these questions tell me that we have a long way to go!”

Joachim Kundaeli Pallangyo who leads the Dar es Salaam church notes that he learned a lot especially about Jesus and the culture. “How I should love others regardless of their cultural differences instead of judging them, I need to balance because so many a times we just focus on one side and forget the rest. I would start interacting with people from other cultures. My challenge is to go through the class again and put it into practice as well as share it with the church in Dar.”

Hillary Musinguzi from the Luwero church in Uganda pointed that his experience with MTA has mostly been awareness. “I was never aware that tribalism was very alive in the church that it affects our mission. We as a church have a culture; I was not so much sensitive to it and did not value its impacts for instance, our church being termed as English speaking. I need to go beyond our culture as a church and not limiting our potential to reach out and help people to become disciples of Jesus Christ and not disciples of our church culture. For us to be a church, we ought to be all things to all people.”

Josephine Nakiranda from the Kampala church who was attending MTA for the first time noted that it has widened her knowledge about God. “My purpose is to portray God by being image bearers and his mission to reach to others and to love each other deeply moreso my enemies. For those who did not attend, she encouraged them to make every effort to attend and not just to think about the cost which discourages many yet the lessons are life transforming.

“The MTA topic on racism, culture and tribalism was phenomenal. The teaching points were like missing links that fell perfectly in their right places in a chain. I now have answers, thank you teacher Burns,” stated Rose Kisini from Eastern block in Nairobi.

Michael Burns is a teacher at the Twin Cities Church in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. He is also the founder and director of the Ministry Development and Training Academies centered in Minneapolis, and serves as an instructor in the Ministry Training Academies in Africa. He is the author of the C.O.R.E. series of books. Together with his wife they are blessed with two sons and they reside in Roseville, Minnesota.

The MTA lived to its billing as a great time of learning and fellowship with day one recording 127 students and day two having an attendance of 131 students.

The East Africa churches leadership present was drawn from Tanzania (Arusha, Dar es Salaam), Uganda (Kampala, Luwero), Rwanda-Kigali, Burundi –Bujumbura, Ethiopia -Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Kakamega, Eldoret, Embu, Kisii and Bungoma.

Gilbert Kimeng, one of our newest teachers in Africa, was also present and will be very instrumental in teaching MTA across Africa.