In 1976, Byang H. Kato wrote,
In the African church’s search for theological identity, evangelicals have a great potential for keeping the church evangelical. Practically all the mission societies that have been working in Africa started out as evangelicals. Many of them are still evangelical. Most of the Protestant churches are still evangelical. If adequate leadership is produced now through missions and churches within the evangelical sphere, the church in Africa will have a proper biblical perspective to hand on to forthcoming generations of African Christians.
This statement is the reason I believe that theological education is key to the future of the church in Africa and other parts of the world. When Kato wrote this in 1976, his dream was to see foundations for evangelical theology laid, such that future generations will not drift from it.
For the same reason, the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM) was formed in 1966. Their goal was to “act as a service organization to promote the evangelical stance of the churches.” Both the AEAM and Kato believed that to achieve such a goal, the training of Africans had to be top priority. Kato said, “Widespread cooperation from evangelicals abroad will boost the cause of evangelical Christianity in Africa.” Unfortunately, Kato died shortly after he wrote these words.
The vision of Kato remains true today both for Africa and any mission context. If evangelical Christianity is to take root anywhere (like Africa), the training of nationals has to be top priority. Yet, this is exactly where we encounter a problem. In the same article, Kato identified a problem area that remains today. When Kato wrote his article, he was struggling to see young Africans trained in order to provide a theologically sound future for the churches of Africa. This is where he met with resistance: Kato found that the promotion of any theology, liberal or evangelical, depended on available finances. He wrote,
Receiving money indiscriminately is one economic advantage of the ecumenical movement. For example, ecumenicals recently received $10,000 from Vatican City for organizing the fifth Assembly in Nairobi. The state church of Germany contributes large sums from its church-taxed funds to promote WCC programs.
Seeing the promotion of ecumenical theology through the availability of finances, he saw the need for evangelical North American churches to adjust their approach to missions in Africa. His suggestion remains true today:
Evangelical churches in North America should take their mission to Africa more seriously. North American churches contributed $393 million in 1972 in support of four thousand missionaries in Africa. By contrast, an appeal was launched by African church leaders in early 1973 to collect $1 million for theological education among the leadership of the ten million evangelical Christians in Africa. . . . Three years have passed, and the contributions from North America are still below $50,000.
This was not a picture that encouraged Kato. One may be tempted to think that this was only a problem in the years 1973-1976, but that is not so. It remains the problem today. It is easier for North American churches to spend more in support of missionaries than to invest in the training of nationals. Yes, sending missionaries can be seen as training of nationals, but this would be to miss Kato’s point. His point was that in addition to the presence of missionaries, Africans should be trained. This would cost a fraction of what it costs to support missionaries, because these Africans hold the key to a stable evangelical African church. One can understand why he concluded;
How can a biblical evangelical theology be promoted in Africa if evangelicals do not catch the vision of developing African leadership in Africa? Just a tithe of the income of an average evangelical church in North America would be enough to put one student through three years of theological training in Africa.
Indeed, Kato was right. It is a good thing to send missionaries and spend millions of dollars to support them in Africa and other places. At the same time, the sending churches can adjust their mission focus such that there is also a push to train national leaders. This is the only way that evangelical Christianity will take root and remain. Looking at the African context, for example, evangelical Christianity is at a low percentage (17.7%). This is not due to lack of missionaries but the lack of well-trained Africans in Africa to promote such a theology.
There is definitely a need to rethink our mission strategies. There can be a balance between supporting missionaries and also making funds available to train nationals who will carry the flag of the gospel and reach the unreached.
Kato’s point that available finances promoted theology in Africa remains true. The widespread liberal theology found in African theology books is a result of funds made available for the training of Africans in liberal schools abroad. For this to be combated, evangelicals must necessarily care enough to invest in the training of nationals who will in turn promote evangelical theology in their various contexts. This can be done by bringing qualified Africans and training them in evangelical schools in America or more importantly, by training them in their own contexts.
Training Leaders International is a single-focused mission agency that seeks to promote evangelical Christianity by training national church leaders in biblical interpretation, theology, and expository preaching. This is done on site without removing the church leaders from their ministry contexts. This is one way to begin to meet the needs identified by Kato.
 The quotations here are taken from Byang H. Kato, “Theological Issues in Africa,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 133 (1976): 142-152.