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A SpindleWorks Feature (Dec. 1999)
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Pointing in the right direction

One of the many pleasures which developing this web site brings are the opportunities for contact with and service to men and women of the Reformed faith throughout the world. The Internet may well become of increasing significance in aiding the Church-gathering proclamation and dissemination of the Gospel message as we, on this web site, profess this in the treasured doctrinal and catholic standards of Reformed unity: The Heidelberg Catechism, the Canons of Dort and the Belgic Confession of Faith .

One such contact is with the Mukhanyo Theological College and its Principal Dr. Flip J. Buys. We thankfully use this special occasion to introduce this College to our visitors as an illustration of how the Internet and this web site can be a handmaiden to Reformed believers the world over.

The College is located not far from Pretoria, South Africa, in an area known as KwaNdebele, homeland to a native people known as the South Ndebele.

The Ndebele

The South Ndebele, together with the Zulu, Xhosa and Swazi, belong to the South Nguni ethnic group. In the case of the South African Ndebele group, the area is, broadly speaking, the Eastern Transvaal Highveld to the North East of Pretoria. Here, they have lived and worked on farms for generations and, since the mid-1980's, also in their homeland of KwaNdebele (the "place of the Ndebele"). The tribe consists of two major clans, the Ndzundza and the Mandala, together comprising probably less than 400 000 people. In recent years people have flocked into the KwaNdebele area so rapidly that it is estimated that two million people are now living there and that more than 60% of them are unemployed.

The characteristic of their lives which most obviously distinguishes the South Ndebele from other indigenous South African peoples is their art, be this house-painting, beadwork or any other visual arts from which they derive so much joy. The brightly painted houses that decorate the Transvaal Highveld with their distinctive designs proclaim clearly "this is an Ndebele home", and the striking style of dress of the women could not be mistaken for that of any other tribe.

Their unique lifestyle and art is gradually starting to disappear. Although Western civilisation, with its greater technology and exciting new concepts, provide the means for some of the brightest moments in Ndebele culture, the attractions of the modern world are now beginning to take over the Ndebele way of life. The art of a nation is dying, as rising costs make the necessary materials prohibitive, and the ever-increasing tempo of life precludes the time to pursue it. (Adapted from Aubrey Elliot's, "The Ndebele Art and Culture", 1993)

What is the Mukhanyo Theological College?

Mukhanyo Theological College wants to serve the Christian Churches in Africa focussing on the KwaNdebele Pretoria area with relevant, high quality, in service training of church leaders on a variety of levels. Humanly speaking, the greatest need for Christianity in Africa to survive and prosper is not so much to plant new churches but to fulfill the second part of the great commission, namely teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us (Matthew 28:19).

A well known Missiologist has rightly said: "Christianity in Africa is like a very wide river - ten kilometres wide, but only 10 cm deep" Especially the so called African Independent (also called African Initiated) Churches are mostly syncretistic, still doing many traditional pagan practices while pasting Bible verses (taken out of context) on it. Yet they have millions of adherents. Therefore it is a marvelous opportunity to be given an open door to assist them with training of their leaders to get a clearer vision on the real gospel of Jesus Christ.

How the College was started

The College entrance with students

In 1985 the now retired Rev. Bob Rebel of the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken), who was a missionary planting new churches in the KwaNdebele area, decided to start a new work in one of the villages. As the custom was, he first went to the local traditional chief to pay his respects and request permission to work in the area. The chief said that he should come back the Sunday afternoon to appear before him and his "advisors in religious matters". When he returned on the Sunday afternoon a whole group of leaders of the African Indigenous Churches were waiting to meet him. They requested him to inform them exactly how he intended to go about in his work of planting a new church. He carefully explained that he would start with preaching and visiting people in their homes and teach baptism classes to those who showed signs of conversion and interest. After their baptism he would continue to teach them to become coworkers, first of all only in teaching new members with him. Later he would identify those who seemed to have the gifts of preaching and teach them how to preach.

After listening carefully to him for some time, they responded enthusiastically with a request: "Why don't you teach us as well? We are pastors, bishops and archbishops of churches, but we have never had any training whatsoever! Some of us cannot even read. We feel that especially the youth that have had more opportunities to become educated are looking down on us. We are afraid that we cannot reach them on their level of thinking any more."

Rev. Rebel saw this request as a Macedonian call and his mission board allowed him to start offering decentralized Bible School courses in several villages in the area during weekends. He did this for almost ten years, going around as a "traveling" teacher, meeting groups of leaders for two hours per week. The church leaders soon said that they now really "saw light!" That is why the name of the work became Mukhanyo Bible School (the Ndebele word Mukhanyo meaning 'light').

The humble beginnings of Mukhanyo Theological College

A moving experience

After some years these church leaders came with another request: "Why don't we start a centralised Theological College where our younger people can go for a few days per week and do more advanced training. Dr. P.J. (Flip) Buys an experienced missionary and pastor of the Reformed Churches in South Africa was invited to begin this work. (This church federation is also known as the 'Dopper Churches'. The 'dopper' was the 'snuffer' with which the candles that were used to illuminate the early 19th century worship services were extinguished; it was therefore a defamatory epithet).

He began this work in July 1994 when he started with a group of five students in the vestry of a small church which was offered free of charge in Tembalethu (a village in the old KwaNdebele homeland about 80 kilometers northeast of Pretoria). There were no library, no books and no facilities at all and yet he taught a course leading to a Diploma in Theology. As the number of students grew, a few wooden huts were added. In the mean time the long and painful process began of obtaining property and erecting buildings. They moved into the new campus in July 1998 in KwaMhlanga, which used to be the capitol of the previous KwaNdebele homeland, before the area became part of the larger Mpumalanga province of South Africa since 1994.

There are now five classrooms, a few offices and a library with about 2000 titles keyed into a computer program. The College has 39 registered students who come mostly from the KwaNdebele area but also from other parts of the country and even from other African countries. (Two are from Sudan, one from Nigeria, one from Kenya and two from Zambia.) The College offers study programs on three different levels (Certificate, Diploma and a BA (Theology) degree in co-operation with the Potschefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. In addition, the College assists churches with pastors conferences, evangelism workshops and Sunday school teacher workshops. All the lecturers are doing their work part time because the College cannot afford full time staff. They are pastors and missionaries in the Pretoria area. The principal, Dr.Buys, also preaches in African churches every Sunday (sometimes three services in a row in different villages).

Various workshops for lay-leaders

In addition to the formal academical courses there are also a variety of one day or weekend workshops for lay-leaders at the college like Sunday School Teachers, Evangelism workshops, Discover Your Gifts seminars, refresher courses for pastors etc.

Development Aid Projects
The boxes contain homemade peanut butter the students sell to make money

Some of the great challenges for the Christian Church in Africa are poverty, unemployment and churches that can not pay their pastors salaries. In the Independent Churches about 98% of the pastors have to do their ministry in "tent making" ministries. They have to do some other job in order to have an income to care for their families.

In order to provide a Theological education which is relevant to the needs of these less developed parts of Africa, the College has started all kinds of opportunities on campus for students to learn an additional job skill, with which they may gain some income, even while they are studying, and thus learn to maintain themselves and perhaps create employment opportunities for the members of their churches. These projects include intensive gardening, business skills and computer training.

Management of the College

A Board controls the college. On this board representatives of the following churches and church organisations co-operate in the management of the College:

Dr. Flip J. Buys

Dr. Flip Buys and family

Nearly all of the material for this article was sent to SpindleWorks by the College's Principal, Dr. Buys. He is an ordained minister of 26 years standing in the Reformed Churches of South Africa (the CGKSA) which has fewer than 20 member congregations and a long history of cooperation with the Free Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. He is well acquainted with the views of Dr. K. Schilder and Prof. B. Holwerda (two 'liberated' Reformed theologians) and is in agreement with the Free Reformed Church's views on the covenant.

In his own Masters degree dissertation, which he wrote in 1984, titled "The Character of the Covenant and Evangelism", he took his point of departure in the teaching of Prof. Schilder and Prof. J. Kamphuis. The title of his doctor's dissertation in New Testament is: The Relationship between Evangelism and Edification in the Church according to the New Testament. He works within the International Conference of Reformed Churches with missionaries from the Free Reformed and Free Church of Scotland.

In his e-mail correspondence with SpindleWorks Dr. Buys pointed out that because of the "interdenominational" character of the College certain issues have to be treated with caution to avoid that students stir up division and strife on campus.

Dr. Buys has for the past 6 years directed the work of part-time lecturers from the Free Reformed, Reformed, Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian Reformed, Christian Reformed and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Gemeenten).

He requested "prayers for the College and its ministry, especially for wisdom in all our efforts to serve in a very poor and underdeveloped rural area"..
He very helpfully provided these beautiful photographs to illustrate this 'front page' feature of the College that is clearly very near and dear to his heart.

He wrote recently: "We are doing our ministry in a poverty stricken and underdeveloped rural part of South Africa. Our students cannot afford textbooks and books for their own personal libraries. Therefore we appreciate SpindleWorks' ministry very much. We make printouts of your articles and copy it for our students. Most of them are already ministering as evangelists or pastors in small church planting ministries. Through your valuable ministry we regard you now as partners in our ministry".

Language Medium

Arts and crafts

Students are mostly Northern-Sotho and Ndebele speaking. There are already Tswana, Tsonga, Swati, Southern-Sotho, Chewa and Anwak speaking students and Shona and Portuguese speaking students have also applied. Therefore all the courses will be taught in English with explanations in Zulu and other vernacular languages where possible.


1. A certificate in Theology Course of two years

Prospective students for this course do not need any formal educational qualifications. Students must only be able to read and write and understand English.

In this course the following subjects will be taught:

Introduction to the Gospel, Spirituality and forming of Character, Systematic Theology, Homiletics, Introduction to the Old Testament; Introduction to the New Testament and General Subjects, such as Study Methods and Basic English.

2. A Diploma in Theology of three years.

A person who wants to enroll for this program should have passed at least standard 7 or grade 9 at school (emphasis SW) or have completed the elementary course and prove that he is proficient enough in English to be able to follow the classes.

3. A BA (Theology) Degree of five years

This program is accredited by the Potschefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. A person who wants to enroll for this program must have obtained grade 12. Because Mukhanyo is an in service institution teaching part time courses only, this program which can be completed within three years full time study at a university, is spread over a period of five years part time study at Mukhanyo.

4. BA (Hon) in Theology

The study program for this course is planned individually with each student enrolling in it.

Enrollment and Registration

Students must apply for enrollment by completing enrollment forms before the end of November before the year in which they want to commence with their studies. Only those who have submitted:

1.A Completed enrollment form;

2. A deposit of an amount of R100,00 for the certificate or diploma course and R200,00 if you apply to enroll for the degree course;

Two recent ID photos;

4.A testimonial from a church leader;

5.A certified copy of a valid study visa as well as a valid proof that they do have finances available to return to their own country if needed (student's from foreign countries only) will be considered to enroll.

These should be received before then end of November. A final decision concerning enrollment will only be made after personal conversations with prospective students have taken place.


Tuition fees for the different courses will be as follows in 2000.

Certificate course: R 200,00 per semester or R 400.00 per year

Intermediate course: R 475,00 per semester or R 950,00 per year

BA (Theology) R 1250,00 per semester or R 2500.00 per year

(Note: One South African Rand (ZAR) in 1999 equals slightly more than U$ 0.16 and so there are about R6.00 to U$ 1.00. From this it would appear that tuition fees range between U$ 65.00 to about U$ 415 per year, which is probably less than 5% of the cost of tuition at a North American seminary!)

If students pay the full tuition fee before the end of January they will receive a 10% discount for cash.

Otherwise they have to pay a first installment (deposit) of R100.00 at the time of registration and thereafter 4 equal monthly installments to cover the outstanding balance. Payment of the monthly installments must begin one month following registration.

Fees for accommodation (including meals) will be as follows:

R55.00 per month for accommodation and R165.00 per month for meals.

Because there will be 5 months per semester this will add up to R1100.00 per semester.

If students pay the full amount of accommodation fees before the end of January they will receive 10% discount for cash.

Otherwise they have to pay a first installment (deposit) of R100.00 at the time of registration and thereafter 4 equal monthly installments to cover the outstanding balance. Payments of monthly installments start to be due one month following registration.

If students have not started to pay fees by the end of the first semester, the Management Committee may terminate their studies.

Students must provide their own toiletries such as soap and towels and toothpaste. They will also have to do their own washing and clean their rooms themselves.

As part of the training program it is required of each student to do some cleaning duties at the college.

The College will provide pillows, sheets and 2 blankets, but students will have to wash it themselves (and provide their own blankets if they need more than two).

Code of Conduct

Outdoor concert

It is expected of all staff and students to accept the foundation of the college as stated in the second paragraph of the constitution, which states that the College accepts the Bible as the word of God and the final authority for all doctrine and life.

In their conduct to one another it is expected of all students to behave in a Christian manner with mutual love and respect. The staff of the college will keep in mind that all students at the college are either preparing themselves for some position of leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ, or are already functioning in a leadership position in their churches. Therefore all students should meet the Biblical qualities for Christian maturity and leadership in the church as set forth in 1 Timothy 3: 1-7:

"If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap".

The conduct of students outside of the premises of the college in the local community is to be an example of Christian conduct.

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity". (1 Timothy 4:12)

No alcoholic beverages are allowed on the premises of the college. No student may stir up conflict and division on doctrinal issues. Especially in teachings concerning the manner and mode of baptism and ways and means of serving the Lord's Supper, students should respect the views of others and do not stir up arguments that bring discord and disunity.

No student may influence members of other churches to leave their church and join his or her church. "Sheep stealing" is strictly forbidden on the premises of the college.

At the college a set of domestic rules are also in force. Students should all submit to these rules.

Should students become guilty of misconduct a disciplinary committee consisting of staff members as well as representatives of the student body will consider the issues at stake and take the necessary disciplinary steps to restore unity and love amongst all involved. The management board may suspend the studies of students and order them to leave if necessary.

In Conclusion

House congregation with student leading the serviceVisitors to this web site from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other more developed countries with large and well established Reformed churches will no doubt count themselves blessed at the privilege of being able to take advantage of seminaries much larger, better funded and equipped than the humble, rural MUKHANYO THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE OF KWAMHLANGA. And some would probably be a little uncomfortable in a Reformed seminary where certain issues of doctrine and ecclesiastical practice must be approached with caution in order to prevent strife and division among the students. Nor is it common to see a prohibition against 'sheep stealing' posted above the entrance to schools of theology. And would there be many other seminaries which require students to do their own laundry or where students grow peanuts in the College gardens from which they prepare a ('light'?) peanut butter which they then sell in the market places to help pay their tuition fees?

Let us therefore, conscious of a wealth so often taken for granted, prayerfully encourage Dr. Buys, his fellow teachers, the students and the entire College to abide and continue in what Paul gives as further instruction to Timothy:

"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV 4 Tim.,16)

It further should serve as encouragement to our 'contributors' to continue to support SpindleWorks with their older and newer articles and essays. How wonderful it is to know that their contributions are down loaded and printed thousands of kilometres away in a small South African seminary where the students are too poor to purchase their own text books.

May God bless this College with ever increasing faithfulness and may the labour of staff and students be rewarded by Him in grace, so that the churches there will lay up treasures by which to take hold of the life that is truly LIFE and LIGHT.

Dr. Buys may be reached by e-mail at: [email protected]

November 1999

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