African Christian University Update

    07.15.18 | Missions by Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr.

    ACU is a unique place.  Most people, when they find out we’re working with a school in Africa, respond with the same question, “Oh, so you’re starting a Bible College?”  Unfortunately, that’s our only point of reference.  It is simply ‘the way things are done’ in the African context.  We come to Africa, do some relief work, share the gospel (or a film about the gospel), have an alter call where dozens, if not hundreds, respond, then we start a church.  Of course, the ‘natives’ need some training, so we start, you guessed it… a Bible college!

    This age-old, paternalistic approach, though well-meaning, has resulted in generations of syncretism, heresy, and dependency throughout Africa (and many other parts of the world).  To be honest, we would not have come to Africa for that kind of work.  Having been here many times from 2006 to 2014, I knew firsthand what kind of fruit that approach had produced and did not want any part of it. 

    We came to Africa to be something different.  Something most people have never seen or imagined.  We came to Africa to help the Reformed Baptists of Zambia start a Christian, Semi-classical, Liberal Arts, Biblical Worldview University.

    A University

    African Christian University is just that; a university.  This is not a Bible College designed to train pastors in an environment that provides remedial education.  This is a full-on university!  Our faculty members all have teaching credentials (Masters Degrees or higher).  Our students must meet rigorous entrance requirements.  We offer courses that are on par with universities in the ‘developed’ world. 

    An Indigenous University

    Perhaps the most unique thing about ACU is the fact that it is an indigenous university.  As I said, we came here to help the Reformed Baptists of Zambia start this university.  This was not primarily an American effort.  We did not bring our ideas and systems and plop them down in the midst of the Zambian context.  This was something that was born of Zambian soil.

    For the past three decades, God has raised up a group of Zambian leaders who have overseen a movement that is unparalleled in its scope and depth.  Men like Joe Simfukwe, Conrad Mbewe, Ronald Kalifungwa, and others have been faithfully pastoring and planting churches, developing leaders, and influencing Zambia and the rest of Africa.  These men are sound in doctrine, faith, and practice.  They have produced a body of literature and a pattern of discipleship, mentoring, and reproduction that has spread healthy churches throughout Zambia and beyond. 

    ACU is a logical next step in the development of this powerful movement.  As a developing nation, Zambia’s economy would struggle to support a vision with the magnitude of ACU.  However, that will change.  In the meantime, there is a need for partnership with brothers and sisters with resources (both material and intellectual) necessary to get this vision off the ground.  And that is why we’ve come.

    A Christian University

    ACU is a Christian University.  I know we use that term rather loosely, so allow me to explain what it means in our context.  First, it means we are a university committed to the gospel.  Second, it means we are a university under the leadership of the Reformed Baptists of Zambia.  Our board is appointed by ReBCAZ (Reformed Baptist Church Association of Zambia).  Third, this means we are a confessional institution (holding to the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689).  Fourth, this means we hire faculty with credible professions of faith, accountable church membership, and consistent Christian character.

    A Semi-Classical University

    ACU is also unique in its approach to Christian education.  We are a semi-classical school along the lines of the early Ivy League institutions (specifically, Harvard College in its original 1639 charter).  We teach a curriculum based on the Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric), emphasize source-document research and learning, offer a two-year classical core curriculum that every student (regardless of their major) must complete (including Latin for the first year).

    This also means that mentoring is a key to our approach.  Each student in our program is assigned a faculty mentor with whom they spend an hour each week in group mentoring.  In the first year, they meet in a small group (perhaps 3-5 students to a single faculty member), but by their last year, this mentoring is one-on-one.  That means each ACU senior is spending an hour per week in one-on-one mentoring with a full faculty member!  

    A Liberal Arts University

    Our goal at ACU is to be a leading Liberal Arts University.  Eventually, we will offer degrees in dozens of areas including Law, History, Fine Arts, Science, Engineering, and much more.  Currently, we offer degrees in Theology, Education, Business and Agricultural Science.  This is a major departure from the ‘Bible College’ approach that trains pastors and forgets the rest of Africa that simply must develop

    Churches here don’t just need trained pastors.  They need trained people; Christians who apply their Christianity to every area and sphere of life.  As such, we simply cannot afford to continue to train pastors in Bible Colleges while every other African Christian is trained in a secular, humanistic (probably UN funded) institution that undermines the cause of Christ.  We must “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 For. 10:5)

    A Biblical Worldview University

    Finally, ACU is a Biblical Worldview University.  This means we teach every course in every department, and in every discipline from a biblical worldview.  We do not have Chemistry professors who happen to be Christian but teach their course in exactly  the same way and from exactly the same perspective as the secular State University down the road.  We are developing faculty with a full-orbed biblical worldview who incorporate that worldview into every lecture.

    We are achieving this through a series of programs we have developed in an effort to develop faculty (most of whom have never taken, let alone taught a course from a biblical worldview).  First, we have developed a series of Faculty Development Seminars.  We take potential faculty members through a four-month series of seminars designed to help them understand the process of worldview education.  Second, we have an ongoing (weekly) faculty development meeting where we continue to teach/apply worldview development to our pedagogy.  Third, we have a faculty mentoring program whereby each new faculty member is assigned an experienced faculty mentor to help them adapt.  Finally, we have an evaluation and review process.

    An African University

    ACU is also a distinctly African University.  We strive to contextualize all of our teaching and mentoring with that reality in mind.  Most of our faculty is African (most Zambian, but also Kenyan and South African).  All of our courses are expected to have an emphasis and application oriented toward Africa.  Again, our goal was not, and is not to have an American institution juxtaposed on African soil.  

    Also, it is impossible to do the work we are doing without a basic knowledge of African Traditional Worldview (ATW) and African Traditional Religion (ATR).  As such, all of our faculty members are taught these subjects in an effort to understand and address our context appropriately, and to confront these ideologies where necessary.

    A Practical University

    In addition to all of this, ACU has a Student Labor Program (modeled after the early days of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute) through which our students learn basic skills, develop a biblical work ethic (which they are also taught formally through our Theology of Work lectures), beautify and develop the university, and serve their fellow students