Biblical training fosters healthy African churches

Africa’s population is unquestionably on the rise, so much so that by 2050, projections suggest that roughly a quarter of the global population will be African. Within this continental groundswell, nearly 60% of its people are expected to be under the age of 25, firmly establishing the continent as the youngest globally. Moreover, Africa is home to nearly 685 million Christians, with 760 million expected by 2025 – making it the continent with the most Christians in the world.  

Herein lies an extraordinary opportunity for the church: by investing in this vast population of next generation leaders, we have a chance to shape not only the future of the continent but also the trajectory of global missions and the church worldwide.  

The question then begs asking, is the church in Africa equipped to do so?  

Dr. Stuart Sheehan, CEO of World Hope Ministries International, suggests that we answer this question by evaluating the authenticity of the gospel being shared. A gospel that is undiluted and free, and comprehensive in its presentation, will catapult the African church to be a ‘missional, hope-exporting enterprise’ to the world. A gospel that is ‘marred and spiritually compromising’, on the other hand, will hinder the church’s ability to fulfil this crucial mission, ultimately limiting its impact.  

‘Therefore,’ says Mergon Foundation’s De Wet Spies, ‘the question we need to be asking is: how healthy is the church, and how can we ensure that new churches are being built on a healthy theological foundation? The church was God’s idea, after all – it is His primary plan for displaying and preserving the gospel for the generations to come. The scriptures are clear about Him coming back for His church, His bride… Not a fancy building or stately individuals, but a healthy body of people who are devoted to Him, have a love for His Word, who display the love of Christ to others, and who worship Him in Spirit and in truth,’ he adds. 

‘Our goal must be an Africa, trained and ready to reach the nations,’ says Sheehan. Whether we reach that goal, he asserts, ‘depends on the theological training of African pastors and ministry leaders across the continent.’ 

This is why, in the sub-Saharan region, one of the areas the Mergon Foundation focusses on, is equipping leaders in the indigenous church to be servant leaders with sound theology, a missional mindset, and vision for holistic transformation. Here is a deeper dive into our focus on biblical training: the rationale behind it and the approach we have taken to address its need.  

The need for formal theological training in Africa  

Within the context of predominantly rural and highly communal cultures in Africa, church growth unfolds organically. Small gatherings often engage in discovery Bible studies, reading scripture portions and reflecting on practical applications. However, as these groups expand into house churches or larger congregations, a pressing need emerges: the demand for equipping leaders with fundamental theological knowledge and pastoral skills. 

This has resulted in a surge of Christian leaders without formal training to adequately shepherd their people, accounting for a significant majority – roughly 90% of all church leaders across the continent.  

 ‘The need for true gospel-based training, resources and access to discipleship could not be more vital for Africa’s future,’ says De Wet. Real transformation can only take place when our leaders have a true grasp of the gospel – along with the tools and networks – to love God’s people well and share this love with their people and communities.’ 

Our partnership criteria for ministries engaged in theological training  

To address this significant need, the Mergon Foundation partners with a number of ministries who work into the theological training space.  

When choosing partners, we consider a few things:  

    • Where they are serving? Is it an under-resourced area where there isn’t access to training?  
    • What is their model and is it contextually relevant? 
    • Is the model catalytic in the sense that it can be reproduced? 
    • Are the trainers speaking ‘at’ the people or is there a healthy participation of people discovering for themselves? Just training for the sake of training has no lasting impact if they aren’t really getting to the heart issues of what people are grappling with. 
    • Discernment from the Holy Spirit.  

This approach has led us to incredible relationships with people who understand the need on the ground… who take the training to the pastors, recognising that the barriers that keep people from being theologically trained are usually finances, proximity and literacy. These partners are also aware of the fact that many pastors are running their own businesses to support themselves, so they keep it practical. They would typically do a short week or two-week module after which they are sent home for six weeks. They then come back to give feedback and start another module of training before they go back home again for six weeks. 

Some of the incredible ministries with whom we partner include The Word Transforms, Reconciled World, New Harvest Ministries International, Re-Forma and Judea Harvest, among others.  

The growing importance of theological training  

Theological training is becoming increasingly essential as more and more African countries are requiring pastors to have some form of certification in order to do their work. Some of these countries include Benin, Kenya, Rwanda with talks about it in Nigeria and South Africa. This list will likely keep expanding into the future.  

‘Oftentimes theological training unfortunately isn’t certified – especially in the challenging areas where our partners work,’ says De Wet. ‘To this end, we are working with one of our partners, Re-Forma, who is responding to the crisis of a lack of trained church leaders. Founded on outcome and impact-based assessment, Re-Forma provides recognised benchmarks for informal and non-formal biblically-based ministry through a programme which provides guidelines for evaluating the thousands of existing training programmes. We are exploring an opportunity where, if the training institutions are able to show certain outcomes, then Re-Forma is willing to award them with a Certificate of Biblical Training for Ministry. Underwritten by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), this certificate provides the first-ever global standard for non-formal ministry training.’ 

 ‘Tackling the task of training this vast number of pastors across the continent is not easy, yet it is an incredible opportunity. And as a foundation that believes in the role and the power of the church as Christ’s body, we support ministries that work towards this end. Our desire is truly to see the church healthy and thriving across the African continent and we believe it well within reach,’ De Wet concludes. 

Partnering for success and significance

In this episode of Our Mergon Journey podcast, Mergon CEO Pieter Faure, COO Gauché Radley, and director Almero Strauss delve into the details of our investment approach by taking us through the hallways of Mergon’s history to the pivotal year of 2008, when founder Francois van Niekerk handed over the leadership reigns to Pieter Faure. Inspired to nurture their entrepreneurial drive, the young team initiated the groundwork for partnerships and measurable impact through early-stage investments in South Africa. Here is an overview of this insightful conversation.

A fork in the road: choosing the entrepreneurial path

In 2008 the team found themselves at a critical T-junction: either to adopt a capital preservation approach, conservatively growing the portfolio over time, or to embrace a more entrepreneurial path and start reinvesting in younger, earlier stage businesses. They opted for the latter – a choice that required new faith and fresh eyes for opportunity. ‘Until that point, our investment focus was primarily on South African property,’ said Almero. ‘Although that remained an important part of the portfolio, we wanted to diversify and explore new investment opportunities beyond South Africa.’

At the same time, he explained, they also wanted to increase their giving through the Mergon Foundation. ‘After 28 years with the primary focus on growth in asset value,’ Almero continued, ‘the time had now come to drive growth in distributions. So, we embarked on a journey of aggressively growing the distributions to partners of the Mergon Foundation and added many new partners over the next few years.’

Navigating uncharted waters: a unique investment approach

In the coming years, the portfolio further diversified and grew – investments began to mature, along with an increase in distributions to the Foundation. However, as Gauché explained, this entrepreneurial approach was not without its challenges.

‘Typically, you have two investment scenarios,’ he said. ‘Either you have a high-growth portfolio with a lower yield, and the focus is on plowing all the returns or dividends back into the portfolio to ensure maximum growth. Alternatively, you have a lower-growth portfolio where the focus is on the yield, almost like an endowment fund.’

‘We decided to go for a high-growth, high-yield mandate,’ he added, ‘a decision which is ‘not really normal’ in the investment world.’

‘This strategy was incredibly dynamic and exciting,’ Gauché said, ‘but it did present some complexity when it came to cashflow.’ In order to generate liquidity and effectively manage the portfolio, he explained, they needed to depend on a complex blend of funding sources. This involved receiving dividends from some of the more mature or listed investments, making strategic reallocations within the portfolio, and using gearing to ensure gradual and steady results over time. It was a strategy that proved to be successful, allowing Mergon to significantly increase its distributions to the Foundation for over 14 years.

Adapting with purpose: embracing flexibility in strategy

In recent years, Almero went on to say, Mergon has adopted a more balanced approach by blending private business investments and more liquid assets. This approach has not only enabled the team to stay dedicated to investing in private businesses but also has ensured a careful handling of liquidity.

Pieter reflected on this strategic shift, acknowledging it as one of several adaptations that Mergon has made over the years. ‘I believe it’s crucial, as we steward capital, not to be overly attached to a fixed model or a specific way of thinking about the right or best approach,’ said Pieter. ‘Instead, we must create space for God to speak into our strategy and our hearts. Looking back at previous seasons, different models have been called for. We’ve never adhered rigidly to our thinking; we’ve always maintained flexibility. Our approach has consistently been open-handed and open-hearted, allowing us to hear what God is saying. The result of which, we’ve had the incredible privilege to be actively engaged on the ground, journeying alongside entrepreneurs in building businesses over the past 14 years.’

Nurturing Long-Term Partnerships

Because partnership is a core part of our approach, it has significantly shaped how we think about investments. This has led to an investment mindset and strategy that differs from the usual approaches often associated with venture capital. Gauché elaborated, ‘Unlike a private equity fund that engages in short-term buy-ins and exits within a five-year span, we take on a more long-term outlook. This aligns our values with building value alongside entrepreneurs, which requires a bit more patience. We ensure that we’re making the right decisions for the business, avoiding a rush to maximise value within a five-year window.’

He added, ‘But journeying with entrepreneurs entails more than just business – in the end, it’s about people.’ Pieter, Gauché, and Almero went on to share their views on what it means to stand by entrepreneurs, leveling power imbalances through partnerships and journeying through all of life’s challenges and victories. To learn more about our relational approach and listen to the full podcast, click here.

Introducing ChristianHub.com – a uniquely African online directory

Something that has always knit followers of Jesus together is the pursuit of a shared mission of expanding God’s kingdom on earth – sharing His love, mercy, compassion and joy with those we meet and seeing them walk in freedom and relationship with Him.

This is the great commission. It’s simple, but in today’s environment it’s not always easy and we certainly can’t do it alone. Partnership has always been at the heart of the gospel. When Jesus gave us the great commission to ‘go out and make disciples of all nations’, He had every intention for His people to work together in accomplishing it.

There is an undeniable power that lies within the connections we build with one another, especially in the ministry and non-profit world. When left unutilised, they remain simply that – connections. But when we are intentional, these connections can foster conversations, ignite collaboration, and ultimately drive meaningful impact in our communities. At Mergon we have often seen this play out in our partnership journeys with ministries.

Discovering its roots: South African Christian Directory

In 1986, Marjorie Froise published the first South African Christian Handbook after many years of researching Christian ministry activity in the country. Over a fifteen-year period, the publication improved with each edition. For us at Mergon this was a wonderful tool to find out who did what in the Christian ministry landscape and to identify organisations with whom we could partner. It was Bybel-Media who first created an electronic version of the SA Christian Handbook. The idea, however, was to turn it into a fully digital search platform – a ‘Yellow Pages’ for Christian activity in South Africa to make connection and collaboration between churches and ministries easier. This is where Mergon got involved and the South African Christian Directory (SACD) was born.

We have seen over the years how the SACD has been a catalyst for Kingdom collaboration. Says Skip Krige, who has played an integral role in growing SACD: ‘We live in such an individualistic world. I realised that there were people in the same city and suburb – basically neighbours – that didn’t know each other but who were pursuing the same Kingdom projects and travelling all over the world without ever connecting or collaborating with one another. Our desire has always been that people will take hands, and it has been a joy to receive such positive feedback about people having discovered one another through the platform.’

A uniquely African resource

It’s been wonderful to see this platform grow over the years. With thousands of directory listings, it is an incredibly helpful tool for anyone looking to connect with believers across a wide range of industries. An in-depth analysis of the website revealed that engagement was high, with over 30,000 website visits per month! This was a clear indicator that there was a need amongst Christians for a platform like this.

Says Mergon Foundation’s Etienne Piek, ‘It was always our dream to potentially expand SACD to a resource hub that offers excellent biblical content and resources, in addition to the directory. With our findings about the usage of the website, we saw the immense potential and started conceptualising ideas for what this resource hub could look like. As a result, we repositioned and rebranded SACD and we are delighted to introduce the new platform, ChristianHub.com.’

True to the original DNA, ChristianHub.com remains an online directory connecting Christians across various sectors and industries. The updated platform is not only easier to navigate but is now also a uniquely African voice offering enriching biblical content which we have curated with our content partner, RightNow Media. These resources are great for small groups, families, students, leadership development, and more, to help you equip and disciple others.

In addition to the video resources and Bible reading plans, ChristianHub also offers helpful legal documents and charters for churches and ministries as well as a ‘Praying for Africa’ section with specific prayer points per country.

Power in the collective

What started as a resource directory for South Africa, ChristianHub.com aims to become a platform that serves the wider African network.

‘There are so many resources out there, but people aren’t aware of one another’s resources, or they don’t have access to it,’ explains Etienne. ‘What excites me most about ChristianHub.com is the potential for it to become a powerful aggregating platform for contextual Kingdom resources from across Africa. We see ChristianHub playing a catalytic role in empowering under-resourced ministries by connecting them with well-resourced ministries who make their content available through the platform. The power of the platform will truly lie in what everyone brings to it,’ he explains.

Visit www.christianhub.com to access the new website where you can explore the wide range of high-quality Christian resources and add your organisation or church to the directory.

Beauty in small beginnings

In this episode of Our Mergon Journey, Pieter Faure, Almero Strauss and Lauren Cloete-Henning share some of their learning experiences as a small new team. At the time, there simply was no blueprint available for operating in the diverse environments of entrepreneurial investment, philanthropy, and corporate social impact. Driven by their shared dedication to learning and improving, and to understanding God’s ways in business, the team found their way forward.

In the previous article, Pieter and the team discussed the transition from founder Francois van Niekerk to the next generation team, which sets the stage for the journey described here. Pieter and Lauren were integral members of a small team that was entrusted with a blank canvas, providing them with the opportunity to shape the path ahead.

Lauren fondly recalled her Mergon journey, which began during a church conference in France where she crossed paths with Pieter while serving as their translator. Mergon’s unique mandate of making a meaningful impact through business intrigued her and kickstarted conversations that resonated with Lauren’s passion for corporate social responsibility.

Reflecting on these early discussions, Pieter realised that there were questions and nuances to the dynamics of social impact that the team had not yet considered. ‘It wasn’t quite as simple as I thought it would be,’ he remarked. ‘We realised if we are going to be successful in having positive social impact, Mergon would need to be investing in the right people. People with a deep knowledge of the social development as well as the impact sector.’ For this reason, Lauren was invited to relocate to Pretoria and join the Mergon team.

Building upon Pieter’s reflections, Lauren shared what excited her about joining the team, and how her previous learnings could benefit Mergon’s vision for partnership and sustainable impact. ‘Having developed standards of applications and evaluations from my previous work in the UK,’ she explained,’ I just loved the idea that we could apply these practices and knowledge to the South African context. I saw that we needed to professionalise the work that we were doing and align ourselves with standards of excellence. This was important not only to us, but to the organisations, businesses, and philanthropists we worked with.’

Pioneering new paths amidst a global crisis

Lauren took to this task wholeheartedly, seeking to understand the South African social impact landscape and how Mergon could best serve the partners who operate within the sector. At the same time, the company had just come through a significant period of growth, and the team felt they were facing a crucial decision. At the time the portfolio consisted primarily of ownership in private property funds in South Africa. The question was: do we adopt a more conservative, capital preservation approach or do go the entrepreneurial route? They chose the more courageous road, opting for entrepreneurship…ironically just as the 2008 financial crisis hit our global shores.

Against this backdrop, the team made a bold decision to increase their giving during this challenging period. He explained, ‘We wanted to start funding organisations we were starting to build relationships with. But we were sitting with a balance sheet that was very illiquid. Although it was fast growing, the private property funds weren’t paying dividends, but were rather focused on capital growth.’

In light of more than two decades of portfolio growth, reaching impressive annual rates as high as thirty to forty percent, the team was now faced with the task of exploring innovative strategies to unlock cash flow. ‘Let’s be honest,’ Almero said, ‘it was a tough time. It was really difficult to be entrepreneurial in order to generate liquidity out of the portfolio for the giving, but also to reinvest in other smaller businesses.’

Cultivating courage through challenging times

Despite the very real challenges they faced during that time, Pieter noted that the atmosphere cultivated a great deal of courage and optimism. Thanks to Francois’ intentional approach to transitioning his leadership, he remained involved and present, providing mentorship and guidance. There was space to make mistakes and to learn from them, as the young team learned to stretch their faith and pursue ambitious ideas.

Pieter added to this perspective when sharing, ‘If I look back on those first years, I think God was more interested in our character than our success. If we had walked in and everything was flowing seamlessly, it probably wouldn’t have been good for us in the long run. As youngsters in the investment space, we had to learn how to wrestle through those challenges.’

‘We also needed to create a position of influence,’ he continued, ‘an influence that could only be established through solid relationships.’ To build trust and credibility with others, Pieter noted that they had to commit to staying humble and open to learn from their investment partners – an approach that he noted, ‘set the base not just for our investment approach, but for me personally’.

The significance of partnerships

There was a growing realisation amongst the team that Kingdom impact embodied much more than giving, but the way in which they engaged with their investment and ministry partners. Increasingly they were asking themselves, ‘How do we show up in spaces that reflects God’s heart and prioritises the interests of our partners whilst doing good business?’

Lauren elaborated on this idea, noting that the donor-beneficiary relationships was typically characterised by a ‘power imbalance’ that they desired to address and rectify through equal, trust-based partnerships. Often with the best of intentions, she explained, donors could take on a ‘saviour mentality’, resulting in the ministry becoming disempowered and overly dependent. ‘We wanted to change that dynamic,’ said Lauren. ‘Part of our journey was in spending time, seeking to understand both our ministry partners and not-for-profits’ realities. Knowing that they had so much to teach us, we wanted to hear their voices and understand their approaches. The key was to encourage both parties to see one another as partners on the journey – not just as ‘donors and recipients’.

This dynamic was no exception in the investment space, Almero said, acknowledging the influence that comes with capital and how it more often leads us to assume we’re the experts in the room. ‘We wanted to come with a different spirit – as ‘co-entrepreneurs’, learning alongside them on this journey.’ He explained how they were intentional about honouring leaders, coming humble and teachable to the table, and applying biblical perspectives to the way they engaged in these relationships.

In the remainder of this podcast, Pieter goes on to emphasise the importance of nurturing healthy relationships and teams as a fundamental aspect of stewardship. Through personal anecdotes and vivid memories shared by all three participants, they provide both practical and inspiring perspectives on the significance of investing in people.

To hear some of these stories, listen to the full podcast here.

Igniting potential, transforming Africa

No segment in society can match the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of young people. Older generations have a profound opportunity and responsibility to walk alongside this rising generation, providing encouragement, support, and investment as they embrace their God-given potential.

Across the Mergon Foundation’s South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Middle East & North Africa portfolios, we partner with ministries who sense the responsibility and potential of investing in the next generation. Through different contextualised programmes and initiatives, these ministries share the gospel and disciple youth in creative ways, train them in practical leadership and life skills and, ultimately, play a significant role in launching young people into all God created them to be.

Says Mergon Foundation’s SA Regional Manager, Cain Matloko, ‘We greatly value our partners who are dedicated to the education, skills development and holistic wellbeing of our children and youth to help them make a successful transition to adulthood. At the heart of their programmes, they seek to provide young people with an opportunity to hear the gospel, make an informed decision to follow Jesus and learn a new life and identity in Christ.’

Mergon Foundation currently partners with more than 30 organisations that focus on youth in one or more of their programmes and initiatives. In celebration of National Youth Day, we offer you a snapshot of what some of our partners are doing to see our youth grow and flourish into their full God-given potential.

Sports Movement

It’s no secret that youth in Africa have a special passion for sport. Mergon Foundation partners with multiple ministries across sub-Saharan Africa that use sport as a way to engage and disciple youth. While many might see sport as purely physical, most of the organisations that form a part of the sports movement recognise the need to focus on all aspects of a young person’s life including the spiritual, physical, emotional and social aspects.

Says Mergon Foundation’s regional manager for sub-Saharan Africa, De Wet Spies, ‘Our partners use sport in various creative ways to connect with the youth. As an example, one of the ministries we work with aims to train 90-120 highly gifted sports and movement leaders from Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa as coaches and athletes who can use sport as a tool to share the gospel with unreached people groups in the region.’

Gold Youth Development Agency

‘We guide youth in initiating their own change – in themselves, their friends and family, and wider community, which echoes our strong belief in youth-led change across Africa,’ says gold Youth Development Agency (gold-youth) CEO Susannah Farr.

gold-youth works with youth across five African countries, taking a long-term, holistic approach to mentoring young people as they ‘call out the gold’ in them and raise them up to be leaders who positively influence their peers. gold Youth creates employment for youth between the ages of 18 and 26 – developing them as ‘facilitator interns’ who train and mentor teenage ‘peer educators’ over a four-year period. Facilitator interns help peer educators to model positive decision-making, strengthen their school academic work and positively impact their peers and communities. The alumni are part of the gold grads community for life; connected to opportunities in further education, internships, jobs and micro-businesses.

‘As Jesus did, we focus on the one, and see the impact on many. For over 15 years we have been building a lasting systemic solution that changes generations, one person, one family and one community at a time,’ says Susannah.

Echo Youth Development 

In South Africa, Echo Youth Development hosts weekly youth programmes and offers free counselling services at a number of schools across the country. They have also created a support system for vulnerable youth where young people from different cultures and walks of life live together across 13 houses, called Echo Communities. Some of these communities focus on providing a home to school-going teenagers where all their basic needs are met, while others focus on supporting youth from childcare facilities that need to make the jump into adulthood. This ‘community house’ setup allows housemates to practise the basic principles of a life of simplicity and sharing, a life that challenges the norm, yet a life that we as followers of Jesus have been called to.

Children in Christ (CIC)

Serving and discipling children in 24 sub-Saharan African countries, Children in Christ (CiC) is an African indigenous ministry that focusses on the so-called 10/40 Window, a slice of the world spanning North Africa and the Middle East. It’s within this area that access to the gospel is most restricted and children are most financially, socially and spiritually marginalised.

Over time, CiC has developed a ministry model that cultivates and boosts the organic growth of children’s clubs and discipleship groups where, through games, songs, Bible reading and discussions, children are discipled and cared for. One of the key elements is their ‘apprenticeship’ approach to leadership development. Upcoming youth and young adult leaders are given a unique learning experience to grow as future leaders and coaches by travelling with and serving alongside senior leaders in other regions and countries.

CiC’s model has had a transformative impact by casting a vision and fostering multiplication, inspiring leaders to equip, empower and unleash the untapped potential of young people. Through their model, young leaders have been sent out to serve in other regions and countries, ‘impacting their families and entire villages with the love of Christ,’ says CiC’s Jennifer Merriman.

We celebrate all our ministry partners across Africa and the Middle East as they continuously keep youth front and centre, finding innovative ways to set them on a positive future path. We commend them for thinking small and big, deep and wide – for focussing on the one but committing to changing the system from the ground up so that the world will see our young people as critical change agents and crucial contributors to our future.

A glimpse into Mergon Foundation’s funding approach

As a Foundation with a long history of partnering with impactful ministries, we have been through many learning curves. We have persistently sought the Lord and adapted the way we do things out of obedience to Him and His purposes for the Mergon Foundation. He has taken us on a journey and shaped our thinking, including our funding approach. How we show up in spaces, our posture of partnership and the focus that we place on relationships are all critical to our funding strategy.

We don’t have all the answers. There is always more to glean from those who have gone before us and those who come alongside us. Allow us to share something of our journey and thinking. Our hope is that in sharing, others will feel called and inspired towards greater Kingdom generosity.

Giving through partnership

When the Mergon Foundation was established, we used to have more of a transactional relationship with our beneficiaries where we would approve applications and provide funding where needed. Over time our perspective on partnership broadened and our understanding of the role God wants us to play shifted – we describe this as moving from being a conduit to a resource partner.

Says Mergon Foundation’s Neil Hart, ‘We want our primary vehicle of giving to be through partnership because we believe that the DNA of the Kingdom is relationships. Jesus came for us because he loved us, and we want to be funders that consider relationships in the same way.’

Naturally, the primary reason people approach us is for financial support but for us, being a resource partner speaks beyond just the money. We have realised over time that the world is a big place and money doesn’t go very far. We want to make sure that we steward our capital well and as a result, we’ve truly come to see the value of collaboration and networking. We therefore look for those multiplier-type initiatives, those networks and collaborative initiatives where the little part we play can have a much bigger (catalytic) impact.

‘At the recent Professionals in Christian Philanthropy (PCP) Conference I realised that though we were one of the smallest foundations present in terms of funding, we were one of the biggest in terms of the size of our team, or our ‘human capital’,’ Neil explains. ‘I see this as a reflection of Mergon staying true to its relational DNA. The decision to have a bigger team has allowed us to better invest in people and ministries who are passionate about seeing God’s kingdom manifest on earth. It has allowed us to have a team that is outwardly focussed – not only on the work of our ministry partners and what they need, but also on the holistic health and well-being of those ministry leaders.’

Mergon Foundation’s Healthy Leaders Journey is one such example which is specifically designed to create more support for the leaders with whom we’re partnering.

‘Over the course of a year, our partners experience a carefully curated leadership journey filled with thought-provoking spiritual conversations, rich peer engagements and wide-ranging support. Its purpose is to refresh and envision our partners for all God has for them,’ explains Neil.

‘We often see leaders doing amazing things but we’re not always aware of the tremendous burdens they carry. It’s not just the spiritual burdens that they have to carry but also the financial and emotional burdens of their family, team and the people they’re ministering to. We really want to support these leaders, love them better and make sure that we’re not just ‘funding a ministry’ but that we are actually in partnership on a much deeper level,’ says Neil.

A growing understanding of the needs in different regions

Mergon deploys funds into three regions namely South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and Middle East North Africa (MENA). Initially, we had a one-size-fits-all approach, but we became more and more aware of how God is at work in his own unique ways in each region.

The first question we therefore ask is ‘God, what are You doing in this region and how can we join You?’ Each of our three regional teams asks this question and out of it has emerged three unique regional strategies.

Though each strategy is different according to the needs we identified and the role we sense God wants us to play in that region, we consider potential partners by looking through three primary lenses:

  • Do they clearly share the message of the gospel through their ministry activities?
  • Do they have discipleship programmes and activities in place to help new believers to mature as followers of Jesus?
  • Do they get people involved in healthy church communities where they can have a sense of belonging on their faith journey?

Mergon Foundation partners with organisations that focus on one or more of the abovementioned aspects because ultimately, our goal is to see God’s kingdom expand.

Closing the power gap

One of our greatest challenges is the tangible power dynamic that descends upon a room as soon as capital walks in. We’ve experienced it many times, but we want to be responsible with the influence that comes with being stewards of capital. This means that we are constantly trying to get better at laying down that power when we walk into a room to establish equal standing with our stakeholders – this happens through prayer, honesty, vulnerability and authentic relationships.

While our partnership cycle is only a three-year cycle, we know that our partners’ journeys continue long after our funding cycle has ended. Our desire is therefore simply to be faithful while we have the privilege of partnership and to see them and their Kingdom activities flourish well into the future.