A recent graduate of the Bachelor of Divinity degree program, Patrick Mwongera reflects on his time at Christian Leaders Institute and the ways in which the courses and training have made him feel equipped for ministry in the future.
Fear and Uncertainty
I discovered CLI in 2013. With lots of excitement, I enrolled in the first course, but stopped halfway after someone discouraged me from pursuing the studies. They claimed that seminaries are bad for serious ministers. In 2016, things took quite a different turn and it was a dark day in our country for the cause of Christ. Our hearts melted with fear and uncertainty. The Government of Kenya passed a law that had a direct impact on how to run a church in Kenya. One of these requirements was that a minister of the gospel MUST have a theological degree to be allowed to practice ministry in Kenya. The law introduced hefty penalties such as time in jail if these conditions were breached.
Proper Ministry Training
It was a gloomy future for most men and women who were called into ministry in our country – including myself. Global statistics on higher education state that more than 90% of the world does not have access to higher education. As president Reyenga puts it, the reason much of the population is locked out of higher education or a college degree is because of the high fees required to attain a degree.
My feelings about this were torn between two good things. We all know that a lack of proper ministry training has been the cause of many bad things that have happened in the church worldwide, including in my own country. On the other hand, I knew that there are so many men of God who did so well in ministry without higher education. Men of God like Dwight L. Moody and most importantly many of the Apostles did not possess degrees. However, what they did with the help of Godly mentoring stands out in history.
To put it politely, my ministry dream vanished before my very eyes. I gave up on ever going back into ministry. I suddenly remembered CLI, but as soon as I did, my heart sank. At this time, I did not think CLI was offering any degree programs. Nevertheless, I decided to check it out. It was beyond my wildest dreams: CLI was offering degrees! A Bachelor of Divinity degree was among them, and I cannot explain the joy that I felt!
Equipped for Ministry
This training has equipped me for ministry. I have come to appreciate the way our professors lecture. They are not simply giving us knowledge, but rather imparting the faith! When I started at CLI, I did not know what was ahead of me. Having gone through all the courses; my Christian faith, walk with God, ministry, and business have all been greatly impacted. These professors love God with undivided devotion. They are dedicated to the covenant of marriage to their wives and their service to the Lord for so many years. And yet, their devotion and perception of God has remained unchanged and untainted by the current trends among the learned theologians.
This has been the greatest impartation I have gained thus far. As I was listening to them, my faith grew significantly. They are defenders of the faith and this hit me so hard. I had to change the way I preached the gospel, how I read the Bible, and how I relate to the preaching of others. Many of my friends in ministry and life have noticed the change. CLI made me more aware of the mistakes I have made in my preaching and general ministry career.
I’m eternally grateful to CLI. I must confess, the bible became alive when I got into Biblical interpretation. Although the videos did not have transcripts, I drank in every word of like a hungry-and-dying man. The tours through the biblical sites were the most amazing journey I have ever taken. His interpretations left me longing for the next video and the next site tour. I waited with great earnestness for the next site and its interpretation.
I became a pastor at the age of 24 after I went through a certificate ministry training that prepared me for leadership. However, this training did not include subjects like Hermeneutics or Biblical Interpretation among many more things that I have studied at CLI. After serving for 13 years in different capacities with my denomination, I quit the ministry. This is a long story, but the short version is that I burned out.
Without anyone by my side to help me navigate, the ministry dream became blurry. Things have really changed since then. At the onset of the studies, President Reyenga asked “what’s your dream?” and later, questions from Professor Elzinga awakened in me the desire to serve again. It was through these personal probing questions that I had to be honest with myself. My purpose became clear and I had to study to be equipped to train other revival leaders.
I am graduating as a different man. I know exactly what I want to do with my training, and how to do things that a servant of the Lord should know and do. No longer will I leave the work I should do to the Holy Ghost, but will do my work and allow the Holy Ghost to do his part. I’m his well-equipped partner in the assigned field, the ‘sphere of influence’ as Larry put it in his Developing House Church class. In the next few days, I will be going for a season of prayer and fasting to plan the planting of a house church in our community with the intention of growing it to become a community church within one year.
Opportunity to Serve
Studying at the institute been the best moment of my life. I have become deeply engaged with CLI’s mandate and vision through monthly Vision Partnership; and now I am also privileged to serve as a volunteer in growing CLI in my home country of Kenya. We have made major leaps in growing CLI here. Our main work is to motivate the students and uplift those who have stagnated in their studies. Through this initiative, we have seen more and more start their studies again. The number of enrollments has also risen significantly. I’m glad to say that at last CLI has given me an opportunity to serve and use the training I have received to impact my generation and my nation.