An African Church Planting Initiative church plant in rural Malawi, with Mount Mulanje in the background.

I am home from Malawi, but I left part of my heart in Africa. This post is an attempt to capture a few musings in order to share the joys of my trip with our church and others who care to read about it. I would love to convince you to share my newly discovered love for Africa. However, I know it’s one of those things you have to see for yourself. There are numerous hyperlinks in this post, which you can click to see more pictures and videos if you’re interested.

The Big Picture of a Lot of Moving Parts

I traveled to Malawi for twelve days with Pastor Matt Boyers and Hal Lehman to further strengthen our partnerships for church planting in southern Africa. Matt and I taught at a pastor’s conference, preached in churches, and taught at The Pastoral Training Institute of Africa.

The Lord has orchestrated a friendship between Pastor Matt with two Zimbabwean brothers, Bishop Isaac Soda and Pastor John Mutandwa to start the African Church Planting Initiative (ACPI, formerly known as the Southern African Church Planting Initiative). Together, these men are the co-directors. The mission of ACPI is to resource and capacitate African leaders to establish reproducing churches in rural areas of Africa. The strategy is carried out through training African leaders, planting African churches, and resourcing African communities with practical economic development education and funding. The desire is for ACPI to be led by Africans in partnership with western Christians who have the heart to see the gospel advance on the continent of Africa. ACPI is a new organization, but it seems that the Lord wants to grow it exponentially to many nations in Africa. KCC as a church is investing relationally and financially in Malawi.

ACPI co-directors: Pastor Matt Boyers, Bishop Isaac Soda, and Pastor John Mutandwa.

The ACPI partners with The Pastoral Training Institute of Africa (PTIA) in Malawi, led by Pastor Robert Manda, an Acts 29 pastor in the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi. Pastor Robert started New Life Church and founded the PTIA in order to carry out the words of 2 Timothy 2:2: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” The video below explains more about PTIA as Pastor Robert talks with Pastor Innocent who was trained at PTIA and sent out in partnership with ACPI, and supported by our church. Glory to God.

Pastor Robert talks with Pastor Innocent who was trained at PTIA

Five Musings on God Working in Malawi

1. God’s harvest is plentiful in rural Malawi, and so are the laborers, but they need to be trained.

There are some parts of the world where there is great resistance to the gospel and the work is to plow the ground in order to plant the gospel seeds. There are places where the ground is ready and the need is for more sowers and harvesters. Malawi is the latter. There is a great need and opportunity to plant churches in Malawi. My impression from talking to Malawian pastors is that Malawian people are hungry to be fed with the Word of God and are receptive to the gospel. There are many pastors who are ready to be trained but lack the opportunity and resources. This is a place where God is working, and it’s a privilege to be a small part of it.

Sam Andres and Spliano Chipwila preaching at New Life Church plant, outside of Lilongwe, Malawi

2. False teaching has devastating consequences in the lives of people.

Upon driving out of the Lilongwe airport, we were welcomed to Malawi by a billboard from a popular prosperity gospel “Prophet.” The toxic false teaching of the “prosperity gospel” has infiltrated many churches in Malawi. Most people in the churches simply don’t know any better. Many people in the pulpit don’t know any better. Not only does the prosperity gospel lead people astray into false teaching but it descends them into further poverty. Preachers promise things like, “if you give money, you can sit in these blessed chairs, and when you go home, you will be blessed with a car.” It’s infuriating to hear how people are being conned in the name of Christ. You can imagine the spiritual discouragement that arises when those promises prove hollow. Pastor Robert is interviewed about the prosperity gospel in Malawi on this Acts 29 podcast.

Students at the Pastoral Institute of Africa: Immanuel, Boswell, Blessings, Aubrey, and Moses.

3. We have much to learn from the sacrifices of our Malawian brothers and sisters make.

Malawian Christians are eager for opportunities for theological education and pastoral training. For example, of the six students at the Pastoral Training Institute of Africa whom I talked to, four of them are married. They leave their wives and children at home to come live residentially at PTIA. Then out of the small stipend they receive as a PTIA student, they send money home to their families. They only go home to see their families three times a year.

When these pastors are sent out to plant churches, there is no hope of becoming wealthy. They are going to far-flung, rural spaces, and must work with their hands alongside pastoral ministry. They are making sacrifices for Christ’s kingdom. Their sacrificial living makes me want to live on less so I can give more to this work.

Bags of corn meal given by KCC members to relieve hunger due to the recent cyclone in the Chikwawa area of Malawi.

4. Church planting alongside economic development projects is a strategic pairing.

This is a ministry of both Word and deed. Not only is ACPI serious about theological training and church planter assessment, but there is also business training. ACPI trains and resources church planting pastors with tools for economic development through a strategy of micro-businesses and microloans. This is our strategy for helping these churches become self-sufficient to be both a spiritual and material blessing to their community. ACPI trains pastors with a curriculum from Partners Worldwide. The pastors will apply these business principles to provide for themselves and help create income for their church members.

Pastor John Mutandwa and Pastor Matt Boyers on the mindset needed for church self-sustainability in rural Africa.

5. American Christians can have a key role in partnering to pray, train, and send.

Malawi is one of Africa’s poorest nations, and as such, the needs are overwhelming. One of the key roles we as American Christians is to pray. Praying for this work is no small thing. It means so much to these brothers and sisters to know that we are lifting them up to the Lord in prayer. Prayer IS doing something.

Five church planters graduate a church planting training. Top left: Hal Lehman, John Mutandwa, Isaac Soda, Matt Boyers, Robert Manda. Bottom left: George, Blessings, Dennis, Arthur, and Jeremiah (I did not catch their last names).

We can also experience the joy of giving to train and send church planters. The Lord has given us an abundance of resources in this nation not so that we can spend it on ourselves, but so we can be generous (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).

Here are a few ways you can give:

  1. You can give to the African Church Planting Initiative through the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches. That money will go toward supporting church planters who have been trained and assessed. Give at this link to “SACPI General Fund.”

  2. You can give to the Pastoral Training Institute of Africa and support theological training for future church planters. The students of this school are making great sacrifices of time and family to come receive this education. Give at this link to “General” or to “Support for Pastors/Church Planters.”

In summary, I trust the men on the ground who are leading the work of the African Church Planting Initiative. I trust the leadership of the Pastoral Training Institute of Africa. I would love to persuade some of you to join me on a future trip to Malawi to see with your own eyes what I have seen. I would love to persuade you pray for and give sacrificially to this worthy work the Lord is doing in Malawi.

If you want to hear more about the African Church Planting Initiative or the Pastoral Training Institute of Africa, I’d love to grab a coffee and tell you more.

Read our December 2020 article about Malawi.