On Saturday, October 26, 2019, just a few days before Reformation Day, Malawi Reformation Network (MRN) hosted its first ever pastors’ conference, Reformed Pastor Conference, at African Bible College campus in Lilongwe, Malawi. This is one of our strategies to build a strong network of Reformed pastors and churches that would join hands and advance the gospel of Christ in the country.
The name of the conference was inspired by an address of another 17th Century Reformed pastor, Richard Baxter, which was later turned into a book titled The Reformed Pastor. During the opening address, Rev. Confex Makhalira, founder of Malawi Reformation Network and pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Blantyre, highlighted the four objectives of the conference.
1. To encourage pastors to do ministry according to the Scriptures
One of our frequent prayers here at MRN is for revival or awakening in Malawi. As one old preacher once observed, “If we want revival, we must revive our reverence for the Word of God,” MRN strongly believes that it is only when pastors have a high view of God’s word and seek to minister as the Bible directs that the gospel would faithfully be preached and, Lord willing, revival occur in Malawi.
2. To encourage pastors to use the ordinary means of grace in their ministries
The Westminster Shorter Catechism question 88 asks, “What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption? The catechism answers: “The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.”
In an age where the motivation for many is “if it works, go for it,” pastors are often tempted to use means that temporarily work despite not being what Christ has prescribed for his ministers and his church. Therefore, MRN would like to encourage ministers to be men of “ordinary means of grace.” The word, sacraments, and prayer should always mark a faithful pastor’s ministry.
3. To share Reformed literature and resources
One of the greatest challenges that the church in Malawi (and this can be said of Africa as a whole) faces is lack of sound biblical literature and resources.
MRN is thankful that we have partners that are willing and able to donate to us Reformed literature that we can in turn share with like-minded brothers and sisters. So, we would like to use Reformed Pastor Conferences to bring together ministers and share with them reformed literature and resources that are beneficial to their ministry. At this conference, we gave out about 40 Reformation Study Bibles that were donated by Ligonier Ministries.
4. To promote fellowship and networking among Reformed pastors in Malawi
Pastoral ministry sometimes can feel very lonely, more especially, when you do not have many like-minded pastors who can encourage you in your work. Reformed pastors are a minority in Malawi. Therefore, MRN, would like to use the conference to promote fellowship and networking among these ministers.
We are thankful to the Lord that the conference was well attended by more than 50 pastors and ministry leaders.
The theme for the conference was “Take heed to yourself and the flock” taken from Acts 20:28. The three speakers, Pastors Kondwani Nyanda, Newton Chilungulo, and Confex Makhalira preached on: “The Pastor’s Life” (1 Tim. 3:1-7); “The Reformed Pastor’s Ministry” ( 2 Cor. 2:14-3:6), and “The Reformed Pastor’s Message” (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Using the conference’s theme, the speakers addressed various challenges in the Malawian church including false gospel, lack of biblical leadership, and celebrity culture among pastors. The conference concluded with a question and answer session.
The feedback was positive since many pastors, after hearing the messages and receiving Reformation Study Bibles, were motivated to faithfully preach the gospel for the good of Christ’s flock and the glory of God. Many asked MRN to consider making this conference an annual event. Attendees who did not receive the Bibles, because there were not enough for everyone, asked MRN to request that Ligonier Ministries consider donating more bibles. We are thankful that Ligonier granted our request and sent more Bibles to our MRN office in the USA. We are now praying for God’s provision to have these Bibles shipped to Malawi.
Personally I (Willard) benefited greatly from this conference. As an intern who is looking forward to engaging in church planting, it was a privilege to be exposed to the sample of realities and challenges of the church in Malawi. Questions from the pews opened up my mind to understand the theology of the church in Africa. Many people are hungry for the truth but are exposed to false doctrines. It was also an opportunity for me to exercise servant leadership since I was involved in serving and attending to participants through the registration desk.