Justo Mwale University - December 2015 Update
Dear friends and partners,
Greetings from Lusaka, Zambia. It is always a joy to hear from former students who are thriving in pastoral ministry. I invite you to read this recent email interaction I had with one such pastor now serving in Malawi. The subject line reads, “Extension of my ministry area.”
Jankens: I just wanted to inform you that my ministry area has been extended to eight congregations from five, with 1,600 members as the minimum number of congregants.
Ellington: You must be a busy man! I don't know how you manage, but you must be depending heavily on Jesus Christ. Are you still the only ordained pastor for all of these people, or do you have an associate pastor?
Jankens: I am the only ordained minister for all these people and [there is] no associate. It's true that I must totally depend on Christ. I must [be] an associate pastor to him. Grace and peace be yours. Amen.
The African church has grown to be massive in size, and it’s full of life. Rev. Jankens graduated two years ago, and now serves as solo pastor to eight Presbyterian congregations – the smallest of which has 1,600 members. Imagine how many lay leaders he trains, and the countless funerals and weddings he must officiate! I'm touched by his perspective, that he must be an associate pastor alongside Christ.
With so few trained leaders, the church here in southern and central Africa is vulnerable. Two current challenges, which go together, are proliferations of "prophets" and of the message that Jesus Christ is the ticket to wealth on earth. We are encouraged that Justo Mwale University is daily in the thick of working to equip Christian leaders to face these challenges.
In Zambia and neighboring nations, newspapers keep eager readers up-to-date on the latest whereabouts of prophets. People hang their hopes on powerful "men of God" who come to town announcing blessings and prosperity. In contrast to Rev. Jankens, who rides a bicycle between his eight congregations, the last such article I read said the visiting prophet arrived in Zambia from impoverished Malawi by private jet. Zambian military and police escorted him to a large stadium, where he allegedly worked miracles of healing and foretold the future. Another prophet promised in the past month that everyone who came to the stadium would receive an automatic deposit in their bank account. Sorry, but Sherri and I didn't attend, so we can't really say whether it happened!
Meanwhile, the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), an organization of some fifty or so Christian denominations working together, has been leaning on Justo Mwale for assistance in thinking through the church’s challenges. Recently the CCZ asked us to provide, during their biennial conference for church leaders, a panel discussion on the prosperity gospel. Our head of school, Dr. Zulu, spoke from various Old Testament passages to say that God will help Africa to prosper, but that this does not mean it will occur without suffering and hard work.
I spoke about the need to avoid using key Bible verses to defend one side, but instead to interpret verses in light of the whole chapters and books of the Bible in which they are found. This clarifies the meaning of particular verses and enables us to gauge the prosperity gospel responsibly. I thought I made some good points, but a bishop quickly stood up to claim Jesus had promised that anyone who follows him will have their material possessions in this life multiplied a hundredfold (Mark 10:29-30).
Unfortunately it seems the church in our part of Africa has largely swallowed the idea that Jesus will make people rich in this life, and many pastors and congregations market themselves with promises of wealth. Recently a colleague visited a church and heard he was very welcome – but that if he stayed and wasn't getting rich within three months, he should probably look elsewhere.
Please pray for Justo Mwale University as we seek to train teachers and preachers for Africa’s church – people who will be genuine disciples and faithful preachers of truth from Scripture. Many of our graduates face overwhelming needs; like Rev. Jankens, may they be faithful "associate pastors" to Jesus Christ, the head of the church and source of its life. May Justo Mwale be a center of discipleship and intellectual activity for the sake of the gospel in Africa.
The church in Africa is in great need of Christian leaders like those trained at Justo Mwale. For those of you who support scholarships at Justo Mwale, we want to say thank you and ask you to continue. For those who’ve not yet given for such scholarships, we invite you to give. Such gifts are a significant investment in the future of the African church.
May the light of truth shine upon you this Christmas season and in the year to come.
Yours in Christ,
Dustin and Sherri Ellington
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