What Churches in Southern Africa Can Teach Us About Stewardship

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Stewardship and generosity have been frequent topics on The Network (see The Joy of Generosity, The Stewardship Series). So when I came across Nancy Njunji Kimani's February newsletter and read about what the churches in Malawi were doing, I just had to share it. 

"In April 2012, World Renew Malawi launched the Church Community Mobilization Process (CCMP) with a visioning workshop for selected leaders from various congregations from the Nkhoma Synod of the Central African Presbyterian Church (CCAP). After the conference, leaders selected people from their prayer houses (local churches) who would then be trained to mobilize their local church and community in development projects using the local resources available.

The leaders selected twenty participants and two more came from the Lundanzi-CCAP Zambia Synod. The first workshop for these new community facilitators was held in September 2012, in Lilongwe, Malawi.

The workshop was two weeks long and involved development theory, practice, reflection, and application. The participants have since returned home and are now working with their local churches. In November 2012, World Renew Zambia consultant, Patsy Orkar-Sagara, invited me to meet with her partner’s workshop participants. The meeting was held in Chipata and our aim was to introduce the workshop material to the new Director of CCAP Zambia Relief and Development Department, and Reverend Lazarus Chilenje who missed the training because of a car accident. We also had an unusual problem to solve, which was to explore how to facilitate CCMP in Zambia because the response has been overwhelming! All of World Renew’s Zambian partner churches want to be involved with the two congregations where Rev. Lazarus and Reverend Lyold Mithi are the pastors.

Rev. Lazarus is a lawyer who felt the call of God to serve Him in ministry. In his words, he always wanted to be a pastor, but ironically, his brother who is a pastor, dissuaded him. He went on to become a lawyer and took a high-level job with the UNHCR in Lusaka. But ultimately he could not put off his calling. He resigned from this well-paying job, went to seminary and has taken a very rural congregation in Chasefu South. He lives in a house with no plumbing or electricity, but this does not dampen his zeal to minister to God’s people. Using the development skills he learned in the UNHCR refugee program and his legal experience, Rev. Lazarus jumped right into CCMP training and began engaging the churches throughout his congregation. He led Bible studies with the participants who attended the Congregational Conference in Lilongwe, and the work grew to more than 200 men, women, and youth. He divided the attendees into groups and assigned material that they would then report back to the larger group.

The discussions were riveting! The people discovered for themselves that God has given them enormous resources to use to create change within the body of Christ because the church is the light and salt of the earth. The impact even at this early stage has been phenomenal! It is like a veil was removed from their eyes and now they are steering their own change. In Rev. Lazarus’ words, “They have discovered that they can be their own donors!” There are so many things happening in this congregation in the last three months that the community is abuzz about who the new donor in town could be. But there is no donor—the people have just been woken up by the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Below are a few of the ongoing developments.

  • The pastor’s house had been under construction since 2002. A decision was made to collect maize from the Christians to sell and use the funds to complete the house by 15th of December 2012. They missed this deadline by a month, but as I write this newsletter the pastor is already in his new house. After ten years of moving at a snail’s pace, the gospel galvanized them to complete their project in about three months!
  • One of the regions where members of this congregation live is situated across a river that floods during the rainy season. The Christians decided to raise funds to construct a local prayer house for these Christians who usually miss Sunday services during the rainy season when the river cannot be crossed.
  • Tithing and giving has increased tremendously.

The Church in Community
Chancy Chirwa is a 25-year-old man from CCAP Nkhoma Synod. He is one of the twenty-two people trained at the first workshop of CCMP. After facilitating a workshop for their local church in Msozi, the congregation has contributed money to cultivate a groundnut field. They plan to sell the produce and use the money to support the needy in their community. HIV and AIDS has left many orphans among the families in this community, and there are also very many poor and elderly people. Chancy and the Msozi congregation are also reaching out to their community through evangelism, and have collected money to buy sleeping mats which they donated to the Presbyterian hospital at Nkhoma.

The Southern Africa ministry team is excited about these developments because they are examples of the vision of the Church in Community (CnC), facilitated by World Renew Southern Africa Team Leader Peter Timmerman. They show the involvement of the whole church, not just a department at the Synod’s headquarters. CCMP is empowering the church and community at the grassroots level. Next, we plan to work with the church leadership to create a common vision of holistic development. Then we hope to develop a joint strategy to engage the entire body of the church in the facilitation of transformational development. Join us in a prayer of thanksgiving at what God is doing in our team and also petition His help to guide us through the implementation of our Church in Community vision, which is about the extension of His Kingdom."

Can you imagine if churches in North America showed similar zeal in generosity and a desire to impact their communities?

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