Update: My First Week of Teaching
It’s Saturday evening here in Jinja and I just finished my first week of teaching at Uganda Baptist Seminary. It was an incredible week to say the least. This was my first week of doing what I hope to do for a lifetime: teaching and equipping the church. So, it was exciting to take some of the first steps on this journey. Here are a few of my thoughts about the week and what it’s like to serve here.
What I’m Teaching
The seminary operates on three-week cycles called “terms.” Each student comes to campus for three weeks at a time, three times a year. During those three weeks the students take four classes, which means they’re in 7-8 hours of lectures each day, six days a week. When they’re not in class they are reading, writing papers, and studying for quizzes/exams. Many of them travel multiple days across multiple countries to get here. Often times they encounter car trouble, border trouble, and bandits. When they get here they spend all day in class or preparing for class. The seminary’s tuition is extremely low considering the high quality of education, but it is still a struggle for these guys. Yet, by God’s provision, they manage to procure funds and come here for each term. Their dedication to receiving theological education is encouraging and challenging.
For this term I am teaching two classes. First, there is a New Testament class covering only the General Epistles, Hebrews-Jude, and then a basic introduction to Revelation, even though Revelation is not actually a General Epistle. For each of the books I teach the historical background, themes and theology, address confusing/misunderstood passages (what I call “hermeneutical issues”), and then walk through the book giving a basic outline and teaching points. The goal is for these students to be able to preach/teach each of the General Epistles when they leave. They’ll know the background and theology and they’ll have preaching outlines already made. Each lecture is two hours and we meet sixteen times.
Second, I am teaching Christology, which is the Doctrine of Christ. We cover the two large issues of the “person” and the “work” of Christ. His person is who he is, so we talk about his humanity and divinity, and then how those two natures go together. His work is what Jesus did to earn our salvation, so we talk about his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and session. Each lecture is an hour and a half and we meet fifteen times.
What It’s Like to Teach Africans
In some ways teaching Africans is no different than teaching Americans. I use notes, ask questions, answer questions, explain and re-explain and re-explain terms/ideas, etc. In other ways though, there are unique challenges to teaching Africans. The primary challenge is language. The students all speak English, but not to the same level of proficiency. Classes are taught in English, so they have to be able to understand English. However, for some of them, it is a struggle to understand the professors. Plus, think about the topic. They’re learning theology, which has tons of big words and deep truths, and they’re learning it in a language that is not their primary language. That’s impressive. So, when I teach I have to speak slowly and clearly, and I make sure to write key words on the board and give definitions.
One thing that is really cool about UBS is that I have people from multiple African countries in my classes. There are students from Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Congo, South Sudan, and Tanzania. How cool is that!?! In much of Africa tribalism is a source of violence and division, but here at UBS we have guys and girls from multiple countries and tribes all studying the same material, living in the same place, eating the same meals, and worshiping the same Lord. It’s amazing to see the reconciling power of the Gospel. In Christ there is no tribalism. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that unites men and women from diverse backgrounds on a level that is deeper than blood, tribe, culture, language, or geography.
Take-Away from the Week
I cannot overstate the importance of theological education, here in Uganda, in the US, and all over the world. If pastors and teachers do not know the truth, how will they teach the truth? If they do not teach the truth, how will our churches walk in the truth, being healthy and reproducing? They won’t! There is such a great need for teachers here in Uganda. There are hundreds of men and women eager to learn the truths of God so that they can teach their churches. How irresponsible would we be as educated believers to deprive them of the knowledge they seek and need? We have a responsibility to pass on the truths that we have learned (2 Tim. 2:2). We also have the great opportunity to impact the world through the seminaries. By teaching two classes for three weeks I am impacting multiple countries and hundreds (if not thousands, eventually) of believers in scores of churches. How incredible an opportunity is that!?!
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:1-2
“To live by impressions is oftentimes to live the life of a fool and even to fall into downright rebellion against the revealed Word of God. Not your impressions, but that which is in this Bible must always guide you.” – Charles Spurgeon