God’s Design for the Church: A Guide for African Pastors and Ministry Leaders

A Book review of Conrad Mbewe’s Book

Statistics show that Christianity’s point of gravity is shifting to the Global South. Especially the church in sub-Sahara Africa is impacting the church’s narrative. In many African villages, towns and cities, churches of various stripes and shades colour the landscape. On the other hand, there have also been rising cases of various deformities in the Church’s life in Africa, from false teachings, pastoral malpractices and syncretistic beliefs. Dr Conrad Mbewe, the “Charles Spurgeon of Africa” as he is affectionately called by some, is senior lecturer at African Christian University and pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia. He has written the book God’s Design for the Church: A Guide for African Pastors and Ministry Leaders to try “to get the Church in Africa to be more biblical” (p. 16). Mbewe notes the Church’s influence in African societies from the provision of healthcare services and its status as a symbol of the divine. However, Mbewe also observes that while African Christianity illustrates great zeal, he borrows Paul’s description of a “zeal that lacks knowledge” (p. 17).

While Mbewe discusses pertinent issues that unpack “God’s design” for the church in Africa for a new generation (p. 275), as a Presbyterian in the reformed tradition, I would critique some finer points. For instance, Mbewe’s call for leaders to jealously guard the membership of the church by examining conversion, if taken to an extreme, could water down the doctrine of grace, which is central to Reformed theology and practice. Within the Reformed Presbyterian tradition, we distinguish between visible and invisible members of the Church . . .

Outside of these “finer points”, Mbewe’s book provides significant help to leaders seeking to shepherd their congregations God’s way. In my assessment, Mbewe does a great service to the Church in Africa by offering broad principles that explore God’s design for the Church from both biblical interpretation but also with the relatable African imagery and illustrations. While many of us have been blessed by the work of systematic theologians writing for the North American context, Mbewe’s voice is much needed to those who minister within noisy villages and buzzing cities, as well as among postmodern millennials and convinced traditionalists, realities that are a mark of the life within much of African societies.

Read the entire review here : Review of God’s Design for the Church: A Guide for African Pastors and Ministry Leaders , by C Mbewe, African Theological Journal for Church and Society, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 154-157

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