January 16, 2020 by Lee DeYoung
(Including Christianity’s Cross-Cultural Translatability)
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a ripple effect as “a series of things that happen as the result of a particular action or event.” The Malawi Reformation Network’s primary work is to promote the growth and multiplication of solid Reformed churches in Malawi through the gospel ministry of godly and well-trained men.
By God’s grace, Rev. Confex Makhalira represents the firstfruits of MRN’s original efforts—completing his seminary degree and pastoral internship in Michigan and promptly returning with his family to Blantyre, Malawi last summer. Confex’s initial church planting and mentoring efforts have already impacted a growing circle of interns and fellow pastors. Based on my own experiences partnering with church leaders in other parts of East Africa, I’m convinced that the gospel-advancing ripple effects of Confex’s MRN-enhanced ministry will continue to multiply exponentially in many directions.
Since 2003, for example, the 8-million member Church of Uganda has greatly benefited from a series of indigenous ministers who earned graduate divinity degrees from a Reformed seminary in Holland, Michigan. When they returned to their homeland, these young leaders positively influenced their Ugandan peers in myriad ways. Beyond their augmented pastoral ministries, several also served as teachers, lecturers, and/or chaplains in Uganda’s Christian universities. One led denominational departments of mission and evangelism at the national level. Some have participated in media-based outreach ministries. One alumnus will soon be installed as his denomination’s next Archbishop and Primate. Each returning pastor has prioritized the supremacy of scripture over culture and human rationality. Their combined efforts have broadly advanced the Great Commission throughout East Africa and beyond.
Some graduates have multiplied their impact by authoring insightful Christian articles and books. In this information era, faithful Christian communicators need to engage in theologically sound writing to counter the mushrooming influence of false preachers and anti-Christian voices on social media and other areas of public discourse. This ripple effect could signal the beginnings of a welcome change since the impact of this past century’s global Christianity’s dramatic demographic shift to the Global South has lagged cross-culturally. This largely one-way directionality of Global North to South impact is a valid missiological concern which need not persist. In his 2019 article The 100-year shift of Christianity to the South, researcher Dr. Todd M. Johnson of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in Hamilton, Massachusetts observed:
Christianity has been generally accepting of scriptural, liturgical, and cultural translation throughout its history, with the translation process of the Christian message going back nearly to its inception. Christianity is the only world religion for which the primary source documents are in a different language than that of the founder (the New Testament is in Greek, while Jesus spoke Aramaic). Cultural and linguistic translatability are some of Christianity’s greatest strengths; strengths that, in light of its recent demographic shift, ought to be seen more readily in the diverse communities of Christians worldwide. The kind of cultural translatability needed today is similar to that seen when first-century Christianity moved out of its original Jewish setting.”
Please join us in praying that the ripple effects of MRN’s future ministry efforts will include two-way (Global North-to-South AND South-to-North) cross-cultural interactions among future church leaders from Malawi and their North American mentors and colleagues. May the spiritual vitality and zeal evident among many in the Global South bear fruit in the Global North as well.