What would you think about a nation in which nearly 90 percent of the people claim to be Christians? You might take it for granted that there’s no theological famine here!
That nation is my country, Zambia, where on Dec. 29, 1991, the then Republican president Dr. F.T. J. Chiluba, declared this to be a Christian nation. However, as in America, where almost 80 percent say they are Christians, statistics depend on definitions.
There are about 13 million people in Zambia. Although most go to church, evangelicalism is at a low point in that most of those churchgoers are not born again. As in every other country, many people believe that because they are Catholic or Anglican or members of some church, they are going to Heaven.
But the hunger is growing for truth found only in God’s Word. As recently as 25 years ago, there was not a single reformed Baptist Church in Zambia. Now there are nearly 50, present in all 10 provinces of Zambia and counting. The Lord has been very gracious in yielding fruit to the hard labour of his saints.
In this regard, we of the growing Reformed movement in Zambia are so blessed to have TGC International Outreach partnering with us to provide theological resources for our ministers and lay people.
Voracious appetite for books
For the last 22 years, the single biggest highlight for the reformed fraternity in Zambia has been the Zambia Annual Reformed Conferences, which are held in the last week of August. This year's Conferences will be held from 26th to 30th August at Lusaka Baptist Church in Lusaka. We are projecting that upwards of 1,400 will attend the gathering, particularly since TGC’s president, theologian and author D. A. Carson, will be one of our principal speakers on the programme.
When Bill Walsh, Director of TGC’s International Outreach, asked me how many books we would like to have for our 2013 conference, I (semi-) jokingly replied, “You must never ask an African how much he wants! We want 1,000 of each!”
Seriously however, there is a voracious appetite here for good books. English is our national language, so there is no need for translation.
The event is really two conferences that run concurrently. The Reformed School of Theology is geared for pastors, elders and men with a sense of calling to the ministry. We expect 250 to 300 church leaders for this one. The second is the Reformed Family Conference, aimed at all else who are not in the ministry. Brother Walsh has been able to provide us with 250 copies of Don Carson’s book, "The God Who Is There".
A vision for Reformed education: African Christian University
No doubt one topic of great interest will be the establishment of a reformed Baptist school of higher learning, African Christian University. The vision for this endeavour comes largely from Conrad Mbewe, the pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church, where I am an elder. Pastor Mbewe is a great force for the gospel throughout Zambia and beyond. He has been fondly called “the Spurgeon of Africa” for his inspired preaching, teaching and writing.
Since 2008, Pastor Mbewe and other Reformed brethren have been working to establish ACU. An anonymous donor has contributed a substantial amount to begin the work, and our goal is to open the doors of the university in 2014.
How can The Gospel Coalition be of the most help to ACU? The ACU is a mammoth project and we have neither the human nor the financial resources to take it off the ground. However, it is fairly evident that it is a project "for such a time as this," to borrow the words of Mordecai to Esther in the Bible. The Gospel Coalition can most help the ACU by calling on missions-minded reformed believers for their prayer, personnel, books and financial support.
Additionally, the ACU will need the expertise of brothers and sisters in the USA who are already serving in Christian universities and have developed their curricula based on Christian thinking. With TGC’s help, we hope to get word to such individuals so that they come to Zambia for a season to pass on their knowledge to us as we develop our own human resources to run this gigantic undertaking.
We thank God that He has sent TGC and other like-minded brethren to partner with us “for such a time as this.”
Charles Bota is an elder at Kabwata Baptist Church.
Dennis Roberts is a former religion writer for The Modesto Bee newspaper and has contributed to a variety of Christian and secular publications. He produces Pursuing Christ, the radio ministry of Elk Grove (CA) Bible Church. He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Valley Springs, California.