Each day as I live, I have learned to look back and get amazed at how the Lord has been faithful leading me all these years in theological higher education. When the vision was first born in 1998/99, I never thought I would reach to nations. I just thought of preaching and teaching high school teens about having faith in Christ, what it means to be a Christian and how to share Christ with others.
I have always known myself to be an evangelist. Teaching was never my dream. All I ever wanted was to share the Gospel with the sinners and encourage the saints to go out and win the lost. However, after a series of Bible studies in Ephesians, I began to see Ephesians 4:11-16 in a different way. The church had told me that the evangelist is for the lost sinners ONLY. But then, I realized the text wasn’t saying He gave some evangelists to the world but He gave some…evangelists in the Church! This changed my views and I began to understand that as an evangelist I am sent first and foremost to the churches and then to the lost. Together with the Ephesians 4:11 Ministries, my task is to equip the Church. That’s what I do; it’s my mission, it’s my life.
I remember my first adult class. It happened when I was doing my Associate degree in Biblical Studies. That day, I had a heated debate with the Professor whom I argued with concerning his erroneous views on the rapture and tongues and asked him to re-examine his hermeneutics. It became a heated and highly emotional class that the Professor went and complained to the Principal and asked to leave the class as long as I was the student. The principal then said, “Ernest, you have dismissed the teacher, so who is gonna take your class?” I responded by saying that if the professors are ill-prepared and students are more equipped to intelligently share their faith, then the students can take the reins. The whole class laughed and I quizzed the Principal, “Would you like to stay for the next hour and listen as I teach?”
He agreed, and I started teaching. After the lecture, I was asked why I had come to school if I already knew the stuff. I told them I had come to study God’s word, but I was widely read and previously self-taught myself in theology so I had just found that my little information was far above that of my professor. From then on, I was given a number of classes I was teaching and filling for missing lecturers.
Upon graduation, I met a co-pastor at church who was teaching at another local bible school and invited me to teach Biblical Hebrew to the diploma class. I agreed and went to teach the first day. The students wanted me to come back again and for 2 weeks, I taught at the local school. It was after that 2 week of introducing Hebrew that the school was closed for reasons that I have not heard until now. Then I met another pastor who had just started his college but had no teachers. He had an earned bachelor’s degree and I only had two diplomas and after a long chat, he gave me four courses to teach.
For the first week he sat in class to listen to me while I taught. He later called me into his office and confessed that his Bachelor’s degree had no value because all the “stuff” I was dishing, he had never heard of it before. I taught for 2 years at that school and became its first Academic Dean.
Meanwhile, I was invited to study for the Bachelor of Theology degree by a friend at another institution. I was told that the fees were too high and without any means for financial support, I brokered a deal with the school authorities that I would supply them with 500 good library books for their library and that should be enough to cover my tuition fees. The school agreed and I gave them the 500 brand new theological library books from my personal library. Sadly, the school changed the agreement half way and demanded that I bring another 500 books to pay the tuition. I failed to agree with them because of the value of the books, so I quit the program 2 months prior to graduation.
The following year, I got enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree at another institution but I was assisting the lecturers part time and thus helped to improve and sharpen my teaching skills. I applied for a scholarship from another school which accepted me in their Masters program. As an evangelist, I preferred a Master of Ministry degree, but was also studying a Bachelor of theology degree from another school. At the same time, opportunities to teach at other schools started opening up.
Life was so difficult those days with no financial support whatsoever. I had just married and my wife was pregnant. I had no computer then, I was using the services of local typists who almost affected my graduation when they fired the typist and she erased my 200 page Master of Ministry thesis. Fortunately, I had handwritten the whole MA Thesis of 34,000 words. At the same time, I had established my own theological school and was busy drawing up curriculum and policies for the schools.
The number of local schools I was teaching grew from 4 to 14 and once reached 18. There was a serious economic crisis in the country and no money to pay workers even transport allowances. I remember several days per week, I would walk on foot to attend classes in town, a 20 minute drive, but I walked on foot by day or by night. I was volunteering and had no expectation for any payments.
My dream was to become an international theologian with a worldwide outreach to pastors and church leaders in the majority world. I felt there was a need to further my education, so I enrolled for the DMin program and a Th.D program simultaneously. I understood that the DMin is for practicing ministers and is not a teaching degree though in some institutions it’s acceptable. But a Th.D is a teaching degree, so I had to study them together. It was not an easy work but the rewards have been enriching. As a result, I have managed to see a number of opportunities coming my way simply because I am a doctoral graduate.
I also learned that the best way is to write and write effectively to reach others which I could never reach in person. To keep abreast with fresh ideas, you have to read widely and study. So I committed myself to studying, writing, networking and building relationships with schools, pastors, teachers, theologians, apologists and bible college professors. The more I have taken courses, the more opportunities have opened for me.
I now sit on the faculty of several schools in Africa, Europe, the US, Canada and India. Through God’s grace, I now have students in over 144 countries and over 25 publications and numerous articles being available for free or for sale in almost every part of the world. But how did I manage to get there? What hardships and obstacles have I faced along the way? What are my future plans and vision for theological higher education in Africa and the majority world? Who are the people who have inspired me the most?
To be continued….