Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”Philippians 3:12-16
I’ve had the opportunity to talk with elders and mission committee members of a few churches to give them a Malawi Reformation Network Update. When I talk with others about the ministry, I always leave with a sense of clarity, and I have gone to this passage in my mind more than once as I’ve discussed what we’re up to. Here are three themes from this passage and these missions updates:
Hold true to what we have attained.
This is our ministry. MRN exists to train those who are called. I’ve long held the position that one of the most limiting factors in the growth of the Church is the number of holy men who both desire to preach God’s word and have the gift and calling to make it their life’s work to do it well.
Preaching is not something everyone can do. It’s not something everyone wants to do. But some are called to do it and MRN wants to help men from Malawi to discern that calling and then train them to do it in the power of the Holy Spirit all the while staying true to the deep truths of God’s word.
Today, there is a level of wealth in the world that exceeds any time before. And the world is also as “small” as it’s ever been. Less developed parts of the world continue to live with less as they have for years but today they have a front row seat to watch much of the developed world acquire access to more and more comfort and wealth.
Given this, what is the purpose of a Sunday sermon in a country like Malawi? At MRN we believe it is the same as it is in a wealthy country, possibly with a different five minutes of application at the end: Holding true to the truth. The text says something both in message and tone. Give that to the hearers. The preacher doesn’t close his eyes when he preaches, but he knows that what will comfort (and challenge) his hearers the most is the truth. The people need the truth first and last. The Holy Spirit is the great comforter and He will apply his word to the hearers supernaturally; more effectively than any man could.
So in God’s perfect design, in order that His people “hold true to what they have attained”, among other things, they need to hear God’s word preached weekly and locally from one who is true to it both in life and doctrine. At MRN we are praying for the opportunity to train many men to do this.
Those of us who are mature.
While not a proven fact I assert that the deathly false gospel of health and wealth was exported from the United States to nearly all four corners of the world. Man-centered worship has gutted the truth of the Gospel in much of Africa and this is particularly true in Malawi.
Jesus is not our guru or example for accumulating more in this life. Jesus is our substitute and our door to a perfectly joyful and eternal life in the next one. When I die, my only hope for heaven is not how I lived. It’s that God, in Jesus, became a man, lived perfectly, died in my place and was raised from the dead to incorruptible life. That is why I have hope of the same.
Following Jesus has improved the lives of many. Turning from sin can have benefits. But it has been true in history and will likely be true in our lifetime that following Jesus will reduce our standard of living more assuredly than increase it. But don’t take my word for it. In chapter 9 verse 58 Luke records Jesus’ response to those who were lined up to follow him.
“I will follow you where-ever you go,” said someone to Jesus as they walked the road together.
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” was Jesus’ response.
Becoming a Christian won’t get you a bigger home. Indeed you may lose your home, and your bed. Jesus says: ‘following me in the world will cost you’. This is the message that the Christian who has “grown up” is willing to both accept and carefully teach.
We press on
And so because Jesus has made us His own, we press on. Here are a few updates and things for which we would greatly covet your prayers:
- Malawi Trip — Our trip was cancelled for this spring. Five of us had planned to travel to Malawi to see the country, meet many brothers and sisters in the Lord and be encouraged in our mission. We were also praying and longing to be in some way an encouragement to them as well. We also have many resources, books and study bibles that we would have liked to have packed with us. We are looking ahead and are hopeful that we can reschedule this trip.
- Like Minded Friends — Confex and Mwai have met many faithful ministers and Christians who are discipling and preaching God’s Word in Malawi. We want to pray for the faithful churches that have existed for years. We want to join the work that God has been doing there for years. We want to fan into flame the parts that have gone dim. We want to start new works. We are grateful for many men who are with Confex in Malawi and are an encouragement to him.
- U.S. Interns — Three of Confex’s Malawi interns have passed their English tests! Promise, Sandram, and Madalitso have all passed their English proficiency exams and are in the process of applying to Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. We are praying for both the approval of their applications and the funding for their travel and lodging. Please also pray that the men would be allowed to travel here this summer. They can do course work and study from home, but the internship with University Reformed Church would be lost until they are allowed to travel. Please also pray for Puritan Reformed Seminary. They are not charging our interns tuition. May God richly bless their work!
- Malawi Interns — The MRN Board is interviewing two more Malawian men for the internship with Confex at Christ Presbyterian Church in Blantyre, Malawi.
- 100 Churches in the US for 100 Churches in Malawi — We are grateful for the partnerships we already have. Our goal is to recruit 100 church partners in the US for the purpose of planting 100 confessional, reformed churches in Malawi. Please join us in prayer for more partnerships with church partners even as we pray for more church plants in Malawi.
Thank you for reading and for your interest. Please contact us if you have questions, want to support us or want to introduce us to your church.
MRN Board Chairman