"He must hold firmly
to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage
others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it." (Titus
Paul wrote these words to Titus who was sorting out unfinished tasks on
the island of Crete. He was keen to stress the importance of holding firm
to the trustworthy message of sound doctrine. Crete was a country affected
by false teaching, similar in many ways to the UK and Malawi today. For
a number of years zambesi mission has partnered with the
Malawian organisation J-Life/Learn2Serve to hold inter-denominational pastors'
and elders' training conferences in Malawi and Mozambique. It
is estimated that over 90% of church leaders there have never received any
formal Bible training; the need for culturally appropriate Bible training
in Malawi is enormous.
Mchinji Bookset Conference
This year three conferences were held during July and August. There are
two types: the first is a "bookset" conference ; so-called because
at the end of the conference each delegate receives a set of study books
to assist them in their ministry. The second type is called a refresher
conference . These are follow-up conferences held usually two or three
years after a bookset conference - the aim is to go over and reinforce the
original teaching. The team consisted of - Pastor Simon Chikwana (Field
Director for zm), Pastor Connex Ijalasi (J-Life Country
Director), Pastor Victor Zuze (from Limbe ZEC), Myles MacBean (zm Church
Development Partner), Saul Mateyu (EBCOM Lecturer) and Rose Chirwa (zm Projects
Officer). The teaching at each conference covered personal discipleship,
teaching and preaching, Christlike leadership (including challenges and
pitfalls), the Gospel and local culture, and mission and evangelism. Each
conference was open to pastors, elders and women's leaders from churches
from a wide range of denominations.
This year's conferences were held in the following places:
Bookset conference - Mchinji - between 13th and 17th
July. This was attended by 110 people.
Bookset conference - Mulanje, Limbuli - between 27th
and 31st July. This was attended by 120 people from 11
Refresher conference - Nchalo - between 10th and 14th
August. 225 people attended this conference.
A number of interesting observations were made.
Biblical teaching on marriage made a big impact on the
participants. zm's Field
Director Simon Chikwana wrote that "the participants saw that stable
marriages form strong building blocks of a church".
During the conferences it was found that local cultural
practices were having a negative impact on the church in some areas. After
one of the conferences Simon wrote that "during group discussions and presentations, it was
discovered that some churches are still bowing to the cultural pressures.
Some churches reach a point of closing the church on a Sunday in order to
give room to initiation ceremonies. Such churches encourage members to still
participate in the cultural practices that contradict the gospel. We thank
the Lord that by the end of the conference the word of God was clear on
how Christians should deal with cultural issues while maintaining Christian
Some participants at the conferences noted that failure
to properly preach the Word of God was allowing false teachers and false
religions to mislead congregations. Simon Chikwana reported that "proper
preaching and exposition of the word of God counters such false teachings".
Mulanje Bookset Conference
During the conference at Mulanje the conference leaders
experienced an amazing moment.
zm's Church Development
Partner Myles MacBean tells the story -
"Perhaps the biggest encouragement to the
team came from Mama Debra's Take Away! As usual, the team was staying
at a small local 'rest house' but this time there was no food available.
So, each morning and evening the team walked across the beaten red
earth road to a small 12'x12' restaurant to be served some surprisingly
tasty food by 'Mama Debra' who - despite the title - is a bright
young woman. It turned out to be a lovely environment for 'good
craic' (as the Irish say) and lively theological discussion over
the evening meal, as we were 'serenaded' by
competing PA systems blaring out from the neighbouring barbers.
Certainly something attracted Mama Debra's interest and on the last
evening the senior pastor in the team had the privilege of leading
Debra and the restaurant owner to the Lord".
Simon Chikwana concluded: "This year's
conferences were done at the right time in the right places. The comments
that are coming through since after the conferences are so encouraging.
The overall conclusion from every pastor who has commented has been that
it has been a rare
and real opportunity to get training."
~ that the Bible teaching will prove effective
as the leaders take it back to their churches;
~ that the books will be well used and helpful
to the pastors and their congregations;
~ that resources will be available
to continue to hold such events in the future.