Doctoral Research

“You are touching something that is not already existing. If we talk about evangelism, it may well be a new way of approaching evangelism, but we already have many methods of evangelism. But (a series of books focusing on) discipleship is …really an innovative thing .”

— a Burkinabé theological educator, examining a prototype booklet

African contexts

An important philosophy guided the development of Maize Plant Discipleship: African voices should determine the theology of practical relevance to African contexts.

Maize Plant Discipleship is authored by an outsider to Africa. Yet its development is wholly a response to African contexts. The missional energy, insight and cultural perspective of African people has been crucial and elemental. In Romans 4:17, Paul reveals that Abraham’s faith called into being things that did not exist. In essence, the faith of African leaders and learners called Maize Plant Discipleship into being.

Assemblée Evangélique de Pentecôte and Mouvement des Jeunes Serviteurs de Dieu were especially significant. Between 2003 and 2010, they regularly organised leadership training conferences, in Léo and Ouagadougou. This collaboration facilitated the repeated testing and continual refinement of the Maize Plant Discipleship Syllabus. It culminated in doctoral research, conducted by the author of Maize Plant Discipleship, amongst Burkinabé leaders and learners, in 2010.

Research and Findings

Survey questionnaires, focus groups and personal interviews gathered insights from over seventy Burkinabé participants. A significant number of participants held denominational responsibility for leadership training and discipleship. The research explored multiple themes relating to leadership training and intercultural dynamics. Data analysis of participant responses revealed critical findings relating particularly to:

  • Discipleship
  • Theology
  • Literature.


Research participants identified strongly with the concept of discipleship. In particular, they identified a need to embrace fresh, holistic, generational discipleship practices. Hence, Maize Plant Discipleship focuses upon:

  1. Awakening or strengthening contextual ownership of the call to serve God’s eternal purpose
  2. Promoting lifelong commitment to missional action and disciplines, including the generational formation of disciples
  3. Encouraging personal, communal and cultural transformation.


Participants consistently validated the theological content of a prototype learning resource. Hence, Maize Plant Discipleship incorporates:

  1. A holistic worldview, communal orientation, charismatic spirituality
  2. A historical, covenantal, missionary interpretation of Scripture.
  3. A biblical theology incorporating:
  • discipleship;
  • suffering and overcoming;
  • spiritual revival, intercessory prayer and spiritual power;
  • poverty and prosperity;
  • personal and corporate vocation;
  • messianic-leadership
  • cultural transformation.


Research participants repeatedly identified a need for appropriate literature. In Burkina Faso, leaders and learners frequent two cultural worlds: orality and literacy. Maize Plant Discipleship resources seek to bridge between these two cultures. Hence, they:

  1. Focus on practical discipleship formation;
  2. Eschew academic, philosophical language
  3. Follow a thematic, modular structure
  4. Aim at cohort group use
  5. Incorporate reflection, group discussion and memorisation
  6. Include graphical and metaphorical illustrations
  7. Are economic to reproduce and distribute
  8. Are licensed for non-commercial, vernacular adaption, translation and republication.

The research led to the publication of Facilitating a Renewal of Discipleship Praxis Amongst Burkinabé Leaders and Learners (dissertation // abstract) and John’s being awarded, in 2013, of a Doctorate of Missiology (Contextual Missiology), from Fuller School of Intercultural Studies.