Ripple Effects (Malawi Reformation Network)

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.

Doug Wilson on Children in Worship

Many of you are here as parents of little ones and, in some cases, many little ones. For you, the worship of the Lord is a far more arduous task that it is for the rest of us. All of us are engaged in the work of worshiping the Lord, but you are carrying young ones in your arms as you perform the same labor that we do.
The work includes great things, like keeping everyone in fellowship throughout the whole service, and trivial things, like finding your place in the psalter. The work is daunting, and it is sometimes easy to forget why you are doing it. There are three things for you to keep in mind as you continue
The first is that while you sometimes need to be reminded why you are doing this, God knows exactly why you are doing it. Do not grow weary in doing good. God sees, and your labor in the Lord will bear good fruit. Your labor is before the Lord—He sees, and He rejoices. When you need to be reminded, there is one who can always remind you. You are here with your little ones because God calls you to worship Him together with all the children He has given you.
This means, secondly, that God receives, as true worship, every distracted shush, every dropped hymnal, and every time you have to take your child out to have a little word with him. You are not taken away from true worship by these things, but farther into true worship than most of are privileged to go. If Christian discipleship consists of “my life for yours,” what is worshiping with four to seven little ones?
Third, do not think of this time as the time of distraction, but rather as a time of fruitful planting, and trust God to be kind. He will bestow a time of fruitful harvest. The sun is hot and the soil is hard—but it will all come back to you, thirty, sixty and a hundred fold.

With the Precocious Jojo Rabbit, Waititi Proves his Chops Once Again

Film Review By Hamilton Richardson

I recently went and checked out the new and potentially controversial Taika Waititi film, Jojo Rabbit.

Before I jump into my thoughts and reactions to the movie, I need to explain myself a bit, mostly because this review will find itself before a new audience.

Over the last several years, I have gotten the great opportunity to review a lot of movies. Many of those reviews were written for two print publications and some were for publication on the web. Now to be clear, I haven’t reviewed as many films as some prominent critics and I would never claim that I have. But I’ve reviewed a good many and for the most part, I’ve loved every minute.

With so many critics out there, why would I even attempt to join the ranks of those who share their thoughts and opinions on the latest films? Simple. I love movies. And its not just that. I love great movies. Movies that stir the heart. Movies that make you feel courageous, hopeful and that point you to something bigger than yourself.

But the only way to find those rare films is to, obviously, watch them and to try to sift through the rubble to find the gems.

Jojo Rabbit is just such a gem.

The new Taika Waititi film is the latest creative endeavor from the director of Thor: Ragnarök (2017). Waititi is also well known for co-directing the strange but hilarious cult classic, What We Do in the Shadows (2014).

Jojo Rabbit is a period piece set in WW II Germany, which is part drama, part parody and in an unexpected way, part tragedy. The mix of those three genres is what makes this movie so remarkable. One moment you’re laughing out loud, the next you’re brought to tears.

Jojo, whose full name is Johannes Beltzer, is a smart, thoughtful young boy who dreams of becoming a Nazi. He even talks everyday to his own personal Hitler, played to hilarious perfection by Waititi, and asking for advice about how to succeed in Hitler’s Youth. Jojo is played so well by young actor Roman Griffin Davis, who after this could have a bright future in films.

Jojo’s mom, Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansen, is a funny, tough and devoted mother. As the film unfolds, we learn that Rosie, although appearing to support her son’s love of the Fuhrer, actually has other plans in the works. Johansen may have given the best performance of her career here.

So what does a young precocious Nazi boy do when he discovers a Jewish young lady (Elsa played by Thomasin McKenzie) living in the walls of his house? Well now you see the unfolding crisis in this well-told, superbly performed motion picture.

Although a very serious topic is on display in Jojo Rabbit, it is interspersed with kooky comedy and parody beyond compare (I mean who doesn’t want to see Adolf Hitler running around the forest with a boy screaming the benefits of being a Nazi?). And let me not neglect to mention the hilarious Sam Rockwell who plays Captain Klenzendorf, the one-eyed (and recently demoted) Nazi officer tasked to train Jojo and a group of German youth to be good soldiers. We find out early on with Klenzendorf that he has just about had enough of the war and is killing time until it’s over.

I must interject in the midst of all this hilariousness, that there are some painful, truly tragic and even shocking parts of Jojo Rabbit. It’s a war movie after all and the devastating truth of what the Nazis did to the Jewish population is not lost on Waititi. And he’s not afraid to show it, which also makes the film so moving.

Now I can already hear the complaints and moans from those who see this film as a travesty. I can hear it now. How can you make Nazis look funny? How can you laugh while people are being killed? How could you fall in love with a young boy who just wants to be a good Nazi?

That’s the beauty of this project. You’re able to laugh in the face of death, yet never forget that death is terrible. Never forget that Nazis were evil. Never forget that boys can get awfully confused about life.

But in this rare gem of a film, we are forced to choose– in the midst of war and abuse and injustice—to take a few minutes to laugh.