Since 2003, NETS has been investing in African church planting. That year, Rev. Sam Jato flew to Vermont from Cameroon to be trained by NETS. In 2005, after completing his residency, Sam returned to Cameroon and launched Redeemer Baptist Church in Bamenda.
Rev. Shadrach Vegah, pastor of the largest Cameroon Baptist Convention church in Bamenda, began his NETS Residency in 2008. His family joined him one year later. In 2010, Shadrach returned to Cameroon to plant Gospel Baptist Church. Gospel Baptist is sponsored by both NETS and the CBC’s Musang Baptist Church.
Over 900 people hear gospel preaching each Sunday in these two churches. But that’s not enough for Sam and Shadrach. Both are identifying and training future planters, hoping to launch as early as 2014.
All of northern Africa lies within the famed 10/40 Window, the least evangelized and most populated countries in the world. Cameroon sits on the sill of that window, bordering Muslim Chad. It is a nation replete with unreached people groups. Eighty percent of the regions are French-speaking, and largely unevangelized. The three Muslim-dominated northern regions feel more like Chad than Cameroon.
In 2001, the US Center for World Mission identified the spiritual poverty of the church as the country’s greatest tragedy. “Nominal Christianity is a bigger problem in this land than in any other in Africa. The early pioneer work... was damaged by compromise and the arrival of liberation theology. These large churches lost spiritual life and opened their doors to millions who had no personal faith in Christ and with no one to lead them to Him. Tribalism, pagan practices, alcoholism and low moral standards are endemic.”
Why did this happen? According to Operation World (2011), “Today’s spiritual disaster has its roots in a failure in theological training. Church leadership is more noted for pride, power-struggles, disunity, moral failure and misuse of funds than for holy living. ... Most in these churches have no concern for the unreached of the north, nor do they have a prophetic voice to address the major ills of society.” Churches lack accountability structures, and leaders are regularly accused of seeking wealth by manipulating their flock.
The NETS Factor
According to the Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary website, “If the Christian faith is to survive in Cameroon she must be rooted in the Word of God” (2008). NETS agrees.
Perhaps Shadrach expressed it best on the eve of his return to Cameroon: “I’m thankful that the Residency Program not only clarified my understanding of Scripture, but allowed me to see the gospel at work in the lives of people we’ve come to love at Christ Memorial Church. Cameroon is filled with political, economic, and moral problems. But the real problem is sin. Only when the historic gospel is preached will true revival come.”
Beyond his Residency training, support for his family, and funding for the church, NETS has paid for Shadrach’s MDiv, purchased land and a parsonage, coordinated two mission trips totaling 116 people, helped construct and renovate church buildings, facilitated relations with the CBC, and counseled Redeemer Baptist through an unprecedented reconciliation process. And we’re still in the game, working with Sam and Shadrach to prepare their congregations for their first church plant.