Dr. Daniel Bourdanné
International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) General Secretary
A Speech on EvaSUE-Church Consultation and Discussion Meeting on Feb.22/2018
I am so grateful and feel humble to be here and visit your country. It is also a great privilege for me as a son of Africa to be a missionary in the rest of the world. Coming back home is something special; something unique. For you church leaders, God is really doing amazing things during this time in our continent. During the last ten years, God is raising leaders from our continent to lead the ministry worldwide. And I was humbled to be one of those to be appointed to lead international Christian organization. And more and more people are joining. For me, this is a way of God to speak to us as the church in Africa. We are invited by God to truly take his calling and opportunity seriously to serve him beyond our nations. And seeing church leaders like this is even more exciting for me because this is truly something unique. This is something we have to value. God is speaking to us.
Thank you for raising and contributing leaders
The reason for my visit is to visit Zelalem and to celebrate the generosity of your country of the church, for lending a person to my team to serve the rest of the continent, English and Portuguese speaking Africa (EPSA) as a leader. I say generosity because if you are not, as a church, lending him, he will not succeed in his ministry. He can succeed only if you have a real sense of sending one of you in mission. And may be God will call more and more among you, among the church in Ethiopia to contribute to the global fellowship.
So it is a joy for me to be here, to see you and first to say thank you for raising young people, for mentoring them, for helping them to be faithful to God. And God was willing to appoint them to serve beyond the country. So, the first reason is to say thank you for the church in Ethiopia for working alongside our young people, investing in them, training them, mentoring them, and keep supporting them and God who is a sovereign God will appoint them for a purpose in the country and even beyond the country.
So I am coming here with a sense of celebration. As he[Zelalem Abebe] said, you know it is a good match because I was not sure if I could meet with you like this. It was not my plan. But there is no chance in God’s economy. He plans things; we don’t know but he reveals things. For me, this is truly an opportunity to say thank you for supporting the movement, for raising young people, for investing in them.
Investing in Student Ministry is a Strategic Investment
The second thing I would like to tell you is, really investing in the raising of students is a strategic investment. As student workers, we have these young people for a maximum of seven years. No more than that. For some of them like me who went through the whole system, it took me seven-eight years to finish my doctorate degree. It means I was at university only for seven years. And after seven years where are those students going? Where are they? They are not staying with EvaSUE. They are spending the rest of their time in your local churches. So actually you are giving the responsibility to EvaSUE to really help those students only for five to six years. And after that, they will go and stay in the local churches for the rest of their lives. And for you as a church leader, what a wonderful opportunity to have an organization on campus to help our students maintaining their faith, and not only maintaining their faith; bringing more of the non-Christian students to become believers.
Three hundred fifty-two (352) students have become believer recently (as reported in the presentation). Am sure denominations here will have a portion among those three hundred fifty-two. And they will be yours for the rest of their lives. And so this is a fantastic investment. And the students we are investing in, we are not investing in for ourselves, not for EvaSUE. Actually, EvaSUE has invested; I don’t know on how many thousand graduates but how many of the thousands are coming back? Even to give one dollar to EvaSUE, not many. But where are they investing? in the local churches. And if every pastor here can go and look at the book of the treasure and see the civil servants who are faithful in their giving in the local church, you may be surprised to discover that those who have been part of EvaSUE are those who are giving faithfully to the rest of their lives. Maybe the churches haven’t even given one US dollar to EvaSUE. So it is a really a strategic investment. And I want to encourage for doing that. I want to thank you for helping the student, the staff, the graduates who are dedicating their time to really make sure that students are maintaining their faith, evangelizing, and are going to the mission.
It helps to shape unity of the Church
I [Daniel] am from Chad. And when we grew up, nearly 70 percent of church leaders in my country receive their call from the Student Movement. This is the reason why Evangelicals can also work together because they learn to work together when they were students. And after the graduation when they become pastors, so they are actually working with colleagues from other denomination. It helps in shaping the unity of the church. In my country, we continue to witness that reality, and I keep encouraging them to really support the student movement; not only EvaSUE but every ministry who are working with campuses. Be faithful in supporting them.
I will share briefly some ways to support the student ministry on campus because it is very important. So thank you very much for standing alongside those ministers, for praying for them, for supporting them. I really want to affirm that EvaSUE will never become a church; EvaSUE will always be a servant of Church. We make it clear we will never appoint even a staff if that staff is not a committed member of a denomination. Because our goal is not to build a church; not to do what the church is already doing. Our goal is to focus on evangelizing the non-Christians in the university. Our goal is to focus on discipling students who are arriving in university and you all know that universities are challenging places. May God continue to sustain and encourage.
You heard about EvaSUE what is going on. In the global world, the same thing is happening. God is really doing amazing things in the world.
Challenges to the Church in Africa-taking Universities seriously!
The church in Africa has a challenge. And speaking to you as church leaders, I think as an African, church leaders, we have to take the university seriously. We have to learn some lessons from the West. Remember, the big universities, big names like Harvard in the United States, the foundation of that university was the church. In countries like Germany, if you read history you will find that foundations of the key universities were churches. And the church withdraws little by little. What do we see today? The universities are completely secularized. In some places, the Christian students are not even allowed to meet.
As church leaders in Africa, the churches in Africa need to take universities seriously. It is because universities are places who are shaping our nations; who are shaping the leadership of our nations. You like it or not. And if, as a church, we are not intentional in investing in the university, we will pay the price sooner or later. We need to see the university as the mission field of the church. And it is very important. We can be intentional in different ways:
1. Supporting Student Ministry Workers
One is what you are doing already; supporting the organizations that are doing ministry in the university. It could be EvaSUE. It could be other Christian organizations that are respected, who are doctrinally sounded and are focusing on the scripture. You need to support those organizations. Through those organizations, the church will have her presence in the university. The church will not just be external to university and out of presence.
2. Supporting Christian Workers in University
Secondly, the church should be intentional in supporting our people who are working in the university. We have professors, we have researchers, we have people who are working in the administration, and we have students. The church has to be intentional in supporting them. In praying for them, in being with them, struggling with them in every context you can find the best way to engage in supporting those people. Don’t leave our people who are working in the university alone. Give them support! Don’t leave them alone pray for them! And the church needs to do that. In some countries, they may even have a day for universities to pray for. All denominations come together because they are intentional. And we also need that because University is a challenging place. Those professors sometimes they are specialized only in their field. Maybe they are biologist like me, maybe they are physicists, mathematicians. Sometimes they have very little understanding of theology. It is the task of the church to build a theological understanding into those professors who have to engage at a higher level with the economy, with education and anything. Because when they don’t have a good theological understanding they cannot truly engage in a ‘wholistic‘ way in university in order to shape the life of the university.
This is our task as church leaders when we are sending people to do theology, are we only thinking to send people who are coming back and work as pastors? Maybe we need to think of sending few of those professors, physicists, mathematicians, and provide scholarships for them to go so that they can be well educated in theology and they can have competencies in that field of research and competencies in theology to engage the university. We cannot withdraw away from the university. In Africa, it is amazing to see how the number of universities is growing, public and private. The church cannot stay in the backyard. The church needs to find some ways to engage.
We cannot afford as a church in Africa to leave our universities, our education systems without God. We need to do everything.
God bless us as we commit to engage our churches into supporting the student ministry in this place
Those are few challenges I want to leave you with to process. May God help you to find the best way in your context to take the university seriously!
IFES was founded in 1947 and has been in service for the last seventy years. Its International office based in UK. Currently, 160 countries that have student movements linked with IFES. It estimates that the number of students that are involved in the ministry is around 500,000 worldwide.
Dr. Daniel Bourdanné, originally from Chad, became General Secretary in 2007 after serving IFES in Francophone Africa for 17 years, firstly as Travelling Secretary in West Africa, then as Literature Secretary, before becoming Regional Secretary in 1995 and taking responsibility to oversee student ministry in 20 countries across the region.