Erlo Hartwig Stegen: a missiological evaluation of his life, ministry and teachings

Although some research was done on Erlo Hartwig Stegen ministry and projects at KwaSizabantu Mission over three decades ago, there has been no missiological evaluation on his life, ministry and teachings. This qualitative missiological evaluation endeavours to fill this lacuna in answer to the overarching research question on the missiological contribution of Erlo Stegen’s life, ministry and teachings. Grounded in the theory of revivals, this study includes a synthesis of a protestant revival evaluation criteria (PREC) used to evaluate the revival among the Zulus, which is the underpinning paradigm of Stegen’s 50 years of ministry. The qualitative research design of the study was tailor-made to best answer the research questions. Three theoretical perspectives on missiological research, namely the historical, ethnographical and theological perspectives, served as the theoretical framework, with pragmatism as the research philosophy. The study is divided into three parts according to the missiological perspectives: Part I includes a historical investigation to evaluate the life and ministry of the study subject life before and during the revival. Part II entails an ethnographical investigation to describe how God revealed himself among the Zulus and identifies intercultural lessons that may be valuable to other missionaries. Part III consists of a theological investigation from a reformed Christian perspective to evaluate the ministry and teachings of Stegen and the revival among the Zulus. Qualitative data were gathered through interviews, newsletters, sermons, audio-visual material, photographs and other documents. This provided a thick description of Stegen’s life, ministry and teachings.

ATLAS.ti™ software and networks were employed during data analysis. The findings of this study indicate that Stegen experienced a divergent theological triad in the time preceding 1966. This caused a tension build-up between his orthopraxy and orthodoxy. After 1966, his theological triad converged towards one focus point, the life of a bondservant of Christ. Stegen pioneered missions, mission work, education, humanitarian efforts, agricultural projects and a sustainable model for missions through experimental farming. By fulfilling his role as bondservant of Christ among the Zulus, Stegen bridged the chasm of racial tension and hostility towards the white man’s God during the height of Apartheid. Scripture played an integral role in the quest for revival and throughout the revival. God revealed himself to the Zulus also as their God. KwaSizabantu ministry cannot be classified as a Pentecostal, charismatic or neo-charismatic movement, and according to the evangelical definition, cannot be classified as a cult. The revival among the Zulus correlates to a large extent with other protestant revivals. This research provided information for a publishable biography of Erlo Stegen, the director of KwaSizabantu Mission, and for journal articles. Further findings indicate that the recent media attacks on KwaSizabantu Mission lack a sound evidence base. This study indicates that KwaSizabantu Mission may be a suitable training environment for students of missiology and Christian workers, and an evangelical Christian centre for interdominational Christian fellowship.

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