Ever since we first visited Malawi, Myles has been captivated by the challenge of how to develop a truly contextual, scalable and sustainable way to equip and release ZEC’s grass-roots preachers to better expose the original meaning of Scripture, and better communicate that meaning to today’s Malawians within their rural oral culture.
Indeed one of the initial attractions of Malawi for Myles was that ZEC‘s leadership share this passion. And later Myles was equally encouraged when he found the leadership of Disciple the Nations in Malawi shared his vision and were willing to partner in developing a training program that would last beyond our stay in Malawi.
The long development process, that started with a few 1 hour slots within the ZM Book Set Conferences in 2015, and progressed to a series of two-day seminars in the North of Malawi in 2016, has now fully launched as a two module program run by Myles and three experienced trainers from Disciple the Nations who are also ZEC Pastors: Pastor Sekeya, Pastor Amigu and Pastor Kalima. Indeed Abusa Sekeya gave invaluable support to Myles in helping to further contextualise the course during its development and ensure a full set of Chichewa notes were available for those being trained.
Liwonde ZEC down on the banks of the Shire River in Machinga Quarterly (ie Presbytery) was the location for the first run-through of the new ‘Module 1: We Preach the Word’ on 26/27 May and, although turnout was lower than hoped, the 23 pastors, elders, women’s leaders and youth leaders got really engaged and obviously gained a lot from the experience.
“I pray that this initiative will flourish so that step-by-step Zambezi Evangelical Church leaders will excel in preaching the Good News of God’s Word throughout the world.” (Preacher, Machinga Kotale)
“We have really learned how to be good preachers: how to understand the Bible passage and to preach the Word of God well … I would recommend it to my preacher friends so we have many people who really preach the Truth in our church.” (Preacher, Machinga Kotale)
Last weekend (9/10 June) was the second occurrence of Module 1, this time at Mwanza ZEC in Mwanza Quarterly up in the mountains on the eastern border of Malawi with Mozambique . This time we were pleased to have over 60 ZEC leaders attend and over 50 received the much-prized attendance certificate. Despite the numbers, once again there was intense engagement by those who attended, a real openness to learn, and a commitment to go away and practice, practice, practice before attending Module 2 (‘We Preach the Whole Word of God’) in November.
So far Myles has been ‘modelling’ how best to train the grass-roots preachers with Abusa Sekeya masterfully translating his English into Chichewa, and Abusa Amigu received the training. However – in line with our M.A.W.L. approach to coaching – at the next instance of Module 1 in Zomba Quarterly on 23/24 June it will be Abusa Sekeya who will train the group in Chichewa, with Myles ‘assisting’ while Abusa Amigu whispers an English translation into Myles’ ear, and Abusa Kalima receives the training. The idea is that the three ZEC pastors – with supplementary coaching from Myles on a Tuesday – will then all be ready to lead the training with Myles only ‘watching’ from the back of the class before he ‘leaves’ in November.
Myles and the DtN team have no doubt that there is going to be a lot of lessons learned from actually running the course, and further iterative refinement of the training material before it can be thought of as fit for purpose, but initial results are encouraging. Leaders are turning out despite the challenges of taking time off work, finding money for travel and money for food; they are enthusiastically engaging with the material and enjoying its unusually (for Malawi) interactive and skills oriented approach; and Pastors appear really motivated to go away and act as coaches to further develop their local preachers.
Perhaps there is even something in all this that Myles can take back for use in the UK. For, despite the larger number of expository preachers to learn from in the West, and the greater availability of higher education and quality books on preaching, the priority of preaching in Christ’s Church is still under threat in Europe and beyond. This is critically important, for as Paul said so many years ago …
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:13-14)