The church in Africa may now be larger than the church in the United States. Congregations in the West are in decline. Congregations in Africa continue to increase. But what will be the nature of the African church? Will it hold firmly to the word? Will the preaching be Bible grounded and Christ-centered? Or will the church be an odd mixture of misunderstood imported customs?
There are many different schools operated by our brothers in Africa that claim to be offering training for church leaders. They all have this in common – the textbooks they use are imported books designed for use elsewhere.
Several attempts have been made by missionaries to address the need for African textbooks. Many of these have been an improvement over what was previously available. But the books coming from such good intentions have not been as much of an improvement as one might have hoped.
In 1997 Thayer Salisbury began studies at Concordia Theological Seminary. This school was chosen because its faculty was well equipped to guide a research project on the question, “what kind of textbooks are needed to maximize learning at African Bible colleges?” Brother Salisbury studied at Concordia for three years, reading everything that could be found on the subject. By 1999 he had designed a set of experimental books that were used to test students at Nigerian Christian Bible College, at George Benson Christian College (in Zambia), at Ghana Bible College, and at the Ghana Baptist Seminary. The results of this extensive research were published by the Evangelical Missiological Society in its dissertation series, as well as in two articles in the Evangelical Mission Quarterly.
Between 2000 and 2005, Dr. Salisbury produced two textbooks based on the principles learned from the research. But then a series of family events and a loss of support caused the textbook project to cease. Today, at most of our schools in Africa, the situation is little different from that of 25 years ago. Students are still using Western style books that do not really meet their unique needs. We rejoice that the textbook project has resumed. Since arriving in Eswatini at the end of March 2021 a revision of the book God's Mission Begins has been published in two volumes. A volume on the synoptic gospels is underway.