“There has never been a Synod like it!” was the comment to Myles from quite a few ZEC leaders as over 250 delegates began to leave the Mitsidi headquarters of Zambezi Evangelical Church to head home last Saturday afternoon after “Synod 2016”.
The Synod is the highest governing body of ZEC which has a Presbyterian model of organisation. So it is roughly the same as the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, with each local church entitled to be represented by the pastor and two elders to review the prior year’s work of the church and decide on key proposals for change.
The event was the culmination of a lot of work by Myles in support of the General Secretary, his deputy, the Central Council and the Board of Trustees as – over the prior weeks – they had debated and refined the agenda.
Daily devotions by Watson Rajaratnam – an SIM missionary to Malawi from Singapore – did a great job to set the tone of the event through his sermons on Radical Discipleship, Radical Mission and Radical Leadership. This was perfectly aligned to ZEC’s priorities as it continues to ‘reboot’ itself and rediscover an outward looking focus on “Discipling Nations for Christ”.
Getting such a large number of passionate Malawians in such a small space leads to some lively debate, long lunch queues, and lots of laughter! Myles found it a real challenge to know how an agenda point was progressing because, in the highly emphatic Chichewa communications style, your speech is just as ‘violent’ whether you are agreeing or disagreeing! And everyone’s contribution always seems to end in a joke that presumably softens the blow of what is being said and leaves the Synod rolling in laughter! I don’t remember that happen too often in the dour General Assembly 😉
Pastor Luckwell Mtima, the General Secretary, made the first ever GS report in the history of ZEC Synods that used PowerPoint, and thankfully the power stayed on! The clear story Luckwell presented was well received. He explained the fresh determination of ZEC to renew its partnership with the Holy Spirit in fulfilling the biblical commission to grow mature disciples and developing servant leaders; how this presented the greatest opportunity to tackle the spiritual and material challenges of Malawi; and how these priorities had been translated into a portfolio of well defined programs that would marshal ZEC’s many strengths.
Of course much of the benefit of this sort of event came from the opportunity for folk from every corner of Malwi to chat in the breaks or the (very long) lunch queue.
However, on the last day as the leaders got ready to leave it was as if Christmas had come early. J-Life in partnership with Feed the Children, provided boxes of Fortified Rice for the pastors from the poorest churches to take home to their family’s table; ZM in partnership with Crossway distributed ESV Global Study Bibles to pastors to support their ministry of the word; and ZM distributed 40 bicycles to pastors who often have to walk 3-4 hrs to get to the farthest corners of their ‘parish’ in rural Malawi.
It was a fitting reminder of what the Synod was all about. Yes, talk about refreshed constitutions, strategic plans and church handbooks might appear bureaucratic and less than spiritual but, just like the church of the Book of Acts, ZEC needs its Jerusalem Council, its governing elders, and its consensus building on the right way forward. Why? So it can continue all the better to love through “waiting on tables”, love through “ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2), and love through going (by bicycle or however) and making disciples (Matt 28:19).
Pray with us that the unity and sense of purpose that made this Synod so special, and was remarked on by so many, will continue to blossom and bring forth a real spiritual fruit in the life of ZEC and of Malawi.