Pastor Gideon Mpeni from Crystal Park Baptist Church spent the last month in Zambia and Malawi. While in Zambia he addressed a conference of pastors and on returning back to South Africa I caught up with him and asked him some questions regarding the state of the Church in Zambia.
Gideon, what was the conference you attended?
It is an annual conference for missionaries from various churches across denominations which draws people from Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Namibia. The majority of delegates are Zambians. The conference mainly draws a mixture of Pentecostals and Charismatics.
That’s interesting, you’re very much a Evangelical Baptist, and quiet conservative at that, why were you invited to the conference?
One of the coordinators was a school friend of mine. We both attended a missions training school called William Carey School of World Missions before I went on to Christ Baptist Seminary in Polokwane. So I considered it to be an opportunity to expose a group of men to Reformed theology. In the three days I had opportunity to address the conference I dealt with the 5 Solas focusing on Sola Scriptura.
Why Sola Scriptura?
There has been an undermining of the authority of Scripture – and sufficiency of Scripture – in many churches across Africa today.
Well that brings me to the next question, any observations regarding the church in Zambia that you can share with us?
The “man of God” is the one who is reckoned by people as having the final authority and not the word of God. That’s a problem because people end up not focusing on what God’s Word says but rather what the “man of God” says.
There is a movement of so called prophets north of the border. So this movement of the prophets believes that they’re receiving ongoing direct revelation from God. Which leads many ill-equipped men to sway to this movement, no longer regarding the Bible as the authoritative – or all sufficient Word – rather searching for another revelation to speak to the people.
You say North of the border. What border? What do you mean by that phrase?
When you consider countries like Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and maybe Tanzania, you find that they have few theological institutions. As a result few men are exposed to theological teachings, even if there are institutions, those institutions are very expensive, so many men cannot afford to go to those institutions. The result is what they see on TV is what they do in church.
What TV are guys exposing themselves too?
Free to air Christian channels that people that side of Africa have access to. Emmanuel TV, TBN and Kingsway International Christian Church.
That’s a little negative, anything positive that you observed while serving in Zambia?
The people are hungry for God’s Word. They show interest, they write notes, they ask questions. They show genuine response by freely admitting shortfalls that they’ve been conducting in their churches.
When you look at the church, God has preserved his church, there’s still a remnant. Men who are faithfully preaching God’s Word without compromise in such context, in such environments, men like Conrad Mbewe and others, even in the rural areas, of low profile.
Thanks Gideon, tomorrow it’d be great if we could chat a little about the Church in Malawi.