‘In the heart of Africa responding to Africa’s greatest need; leadership training’.
When I read this statement on the website of West Africa Theological Seminary (WATS) I was a little surprised to say the least. I had always thought Africa’s greatest need was finance to help with the plethora of problems the people have to deal with: corruption, disease, dirty water, failing crops, internal strife or even dangerous animals. Church leadership training is not high on the list of most people’s priorities for the continent of Africa. However, when I stepped back to think this whole issue through I was challenged as to the real heartfelt expression of need in these words. Yes, if the Christian church is correctly, biblically and spiritually led, then society too can be changed. The church in Africa is growing in a remarkable way; in order to prevent false teaching distorting the faith of many, the church needs leaders well trained in the Gospel. As the church progresses with the gospel it can meet both spiritual and material needs. It can do this, firstly, by preaching a message of repentance ie – change of attitude in people’s hearts. Hence, a change of mindset will slowly allow people to reform communities in line with biblical principles of honesty and integrity. This, one hopes, would allow for a transformation in society, which is characterised by a greater burden of love for others, in thinking of others more than of self, as being more Christ-like in one’s attitudes, desires, thoughts and actions. If this is at the heart of the statement of intent at WATS it must be commended.
So what’s WATS?
WATS serves one of the fastest-growing segments of the Christian Church in the world, and it focuses squarely on the two greatest needs of the African Church: leadership development and discipleship of believers.
WATS is a community of learners in Ipaja, Lagos, Nigeria; it has small extensions in Owerri and Aba to the East. The learning community consists of approximately 750 men and women who passionately embrace the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. WATS takes the calling to be salt and light as a serious and personal call to make a difference in Nigeria, West Africa, and the world.
West Africa Theological Seminary commenced ministry in April, 1989, when a group of Nigerian and expatriate Christian leaders met to consider the needs of the Church in Nigeria, and in particular to determine how to provide sound theological training to as many pastors as possible. Led by Rev. Gary S. Maxey of the US, the group moved quickly to establish a strong, academically competent, nondenominational theological seminary, now known as WATS. For its first twelve years the seminary was initially known as Wesley International Bible College, and later as Wesley International Theological Seminary; since 2001 it has been known as WATS.
The growth of WATS has been significant since it first opened and over the years more than 1,000 pastors have graduated, and more than 2,000 have received training. Because WATS is nondenominational, it has attracted students and ethnic groups from a broad spectrum of churches, language groups and countries.
At any given moment WATS usually has students from at least:
• Thirty of Nigeria´s states
• Over forty native languages
• Ten or more other African countries, and
• Well over eighty different church groups.
WATS wants to make a difference – their website states: We intend to be “world changers” by God’s grace.
In June 2017 I will, God willing, be travelling to WATS in order to facilitate a course on the MA programme; ‘An Introduction to Christian doctrine’. This will be an excellent opportunity and a great privilege to be involved in helping to shape the future of the Nigerian Church. Please pray for me as I prepare and travel to Nigeria to be involved in this vital ministry. I ask you to pray specifically for safety in travel, relevance in teaching, finance for the trip to take place, and for God to be glorified in all that I do for Him.
In His service
Dr. Chris Palmer OMS UK Wales & West of England.
For more info on WATS see www.WATS.edu.ng
If you want to hear more about the OMS Theological Education ministry, or to support Chris in his ministry, please contact the OMS office for more information.