Background and overview
The Nairobi Institute of Reformed Theology (NIRT) was started in 2022 by Ekklesia Afrika, a ministry devoted to equipping pastors and building healthy churches in Africa. NIRT offers a three-year MDiv-level program. It was started in response to local pastors and churches asking for rigorous graduate-level theological training that would be theologically orthodox and Reformed and that could be accessed without leaving East Africa.
There are not many Master’s-level theological programs in Kenya. Of those that do exist, we do not know of any that have a particular commitment to Reformed theology, and even basic Christian orthodoxy and academic standards are often wanting.
Moreover, in line with broader trends on the continent, many local theological programs tend to focus on applied theology, such as missiology, without providing a robust grounding in the fundamental disciplines of exegesis, biblical theology, and systematic theology. This contributes to a pattern of African theological discourse in which culture and context tend to govern theology, instead of Scripture.
To serve local churches in Kenya and beyond by helping to raise up pastors, pastor-theologians, missionaries, and counselors who can lead others to navigate the temptations and perplexities of this world by the light of Scripture.
To ground students in comprehensive knowledge of the Bible and theology and teach students how to apply this knowledge to their life and ministry
To train people to serve the church
To meet high enough academic standard that students who want to pursue further education will be well-prepared
Original languages of the Scriptures (Hebrew and Greek)
New and Old Testament
At present, NIRT is not accredited within Kenya. However, students in our program have an opportunity to apply to Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS) for their online MA degree at a significantly reduced cost. Students earn credit for 50% of their PRTS MA degree by taking classes with us. NIRT offers a unaccredited M.Div level program. The MA from PRTS fits within this program. Although NIRT’s M.Div-level degree is not accredited, we are talking with schools in the US and Europe about accepting our students into higher programs based on our degree. NIRT courses meet ATS standards.
Michael Christ, the Program Director, came under the invitation of Kenneth Mbugua to help establish and lead a seminary. Professors who teach in NIRT affirm the historic orthodox creeds and one of the following Reformed confessions: the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Second London Baptist Confession, the Three Forms of Unity, or the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. Residential faculty and tutors presently include Michael Christ (PhD, University of Chester/Union School of Theology), Jamie Viands (PhD, Wheaton College), and Tim Avery (MA, Reformed Theological Seminary - DC). Present and projected visiting faculty include Stephen Fix (PhD, The Catholic University of America), Nicholas Piotrowski (PhD, Wheaton College), and James Roh (PhD, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary). NIRT’s long-term vision is to raise up an indigenous leadership and faculty.
At present our students all reside in or near Nairobi, allowing them to come and attend our classes, which are taught in-person – at our campus in Lavington, Nairobi – rather than online. At this very early stage (less than a year into full operations), we have more than 20 students, men and women hailing from several different churches in the city. We have also been in conversation with a denominational seminary in western Kenya that wants its students to avail themselves of NIRT, and we are considering how we might serve them.
How you can help
As a new seminary that is trying to keep costs for students as low as possible, we have funding and resource needs in a few areas.
First, we need more funding to cover our minimum operating expenses, which includes for 2024 a full-time seminary administrator. The minimum operating budget for 2024 is $56,000.
Second, we need theological books to begin building out a local physical library for our students. Such books are usually hard to find in Kenya, and even when they are here, they tend to be very expensive for this economy. Book donations would be most welcome; we can advise as to what we’re looking for.
Third, we could use funding to make it possible for some students to study full-time. Employment in Kenya—including employment in a church—is typically all-consuming. It’s difficult for students to find employment that will allow them any time to study. We desire to offer cost-of-living stipends to students, who we identify as having strong potential to serve the church.
Fourth, we are on the lookout for more professors who share our vision for theological education to come and help us, either as visiting or as residential professors. Please mention us to those who might be interested.
Fifth, please pray that the Lord would use this seminary program to raise up lay Christians, pastors, and pastor-scholars who would help to strengthen the church in East Africa and beyond, to the praise of his glorious grace.
If you want to learn more or tell us of a way you might be able to help, please contact our administrator, Betty Gichuki, at email@example.com, or our director, Mike Christ, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your interest in what God is doing in Kenya!