They can’t keep up

Training leaders in fast-growing Ethiopian church

June 30, 2015 | Web First
Mennonite Church Canada

The fastest growing Mennonite Church in the world can’t keep up with its need for leadership training and Bibles.

The Meserete Kristos Church (MKC) in Ethiopia, a member of Mennonite World Conference, baptized over 19,000 new members in 2014 according to leaders. In 1994, the church founded the Meserete Kristos Church College to help meet the need for trained leaders, graduating nearly 1,000 students for ministry since then. Each year the college must turn away eager applicants, for lack of funding.

This spring, Meserete Kristos Church and College, MKC College Link Canada, and Mennonite Church Canada signed agreements to work together in support of scholarships for students and campus development in Ethiopia. The church and its college have embraced curricula with Anabaptist values such as non-violent peace building, conflict management, and reconciliation.

Meserete Kristos Church emerged from the work of Eastern Mennonite Missions in the 1950s. It grew slowly at first. In 1974, the Derg—a military regime driven by communist ideology—took power in the country. In 1982, the 5,000 member church was forced underground. Leaders were jailed and church assets were seized, but despite this setback the church continued to grow. The Derg government was toppled in 1991, and the burgeoning church surfaced once more. Within a year of freedom, its membership was tallied at tenfold the 1982 number.

The majority of Ethiopians are farmers who earn from $1 to $2 per day. Some sources indicate that only about 1 in 7,000 Ethiopians graduate with a college education.

Despite those statistics, the church has an aggressive growth strategy. It aims to develop strong leadership for over 850 self-supporting local congregations and about 900 church plants dispersed across 34 regions of the country. Because each of these churches has the key mission challenge of planting an additional church—with a projected total membership of 1,000,000 by 2025, the task of empowering leadership is crucial.

In an email, MKC College President Kiros Teka wrote, “I appreciate Mennonite Church Canada and MKC College Link Canada for reaching a decision to work with MK Church and its College to fulfill God’s mission here in Ethiopia and beyond.”  

Mennonite Church Canada will help raise awareness of ministry in Ethiopia, connect the MK Church and College with prayer supporters in Canada, and help raise funds for scholarships at $2,000 USD per student per year. See here for more about the partnership between Mennonite Church Canada and MKC College Link Canada. 

For background on the Meserete Kristos Church, see: 

“Ethiopian Church grows in maturity” 
“Bogale Kebede: Apostle to the Kaffa”

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