Making discipleship part of the DNA

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Churches and church leaders across Malawi are starting to put more emphasis on discipleship as part of the need for mission mobilisation. Kingsley and Maree Morris are helping to develop this in the Africa Evangelical Church’s Lakeshore Area

 

Leadership Development and Discipleship are the two main areas of work in which Kingsley and Maree Morris have been involved for the two and a half years they have been in Malawi. Based in Nanjoka, outside of Salima, they have been working with the churches in the AEC’s Lakeshore Area Council.

Geographically this is a very big area, stretching from Salima in the south to  Dwangwa in the north and from Ntchisi in the west to Lake Malawi in the east; it has 22 churches which are divided into six clusters. These churches have been established in the last 20 years, primarily through the work of Paul and Marilyn Barr, in an area where there were few evangelical churches amongst firmly held traditional beliefs, a strong presence of Gule Wamkulu and followers of Islam.

Pastors’ retreat: Marilyn Barr, whose husband Paul helped start the Lakeshore Pastors work, speaking at a recent Pastors’ Retreat held in Nanjoka

“Not all of the churches in the Lakeshore Area have a Pastor but every cluster is looked after by one,” said Kingsley.

“This is not uncommon in the AEC as there is a significant shortage of Pastors, and this is what makes Lay-Leadership Training such an important task. Our work here is to train both Pastors and Lay Leaders to help the Church to develop and thrive.”

Kingsley and Maree are helping to deliver a mixture of training, spiritual and practical, for Pastors and Lay Leaders.

“Personal spiritual development and discipling are two of the key areas of work with both pastors and lay-leaders” said Maree.

“In addition to this, we are looking at ‘technical’ areas such as preaching and leading in services, vision for the Church and challenges facing the Church. We are trying to change the mindset of many people who perhaps see church as ‘what we do in our village’.”

The role of Lay Leaders is crucial because they provide the continuity that each church needs, as the Pastor relies heavily on lay leaders as he himself has responsibility for several churches, and pastors may be transferred to a new church on a fairly regular basis.

Important as all of this training is, it is discipleship and disciple-making that is at the heart of the work done by Kingsley and Maree. This work has been given a boost recently, as the Pastor of AEC Nanjoka, Revd Henry Sumbulero has been appointed as the AEC’s Discipleship Co-ordinator for a six- year term.

Lakeshore family: Kingsley and Maree Morris with ther daughters Lydia and Hannah

Revd Sumbulero is being mentored by the Africa Strategic Discipleship Movement (ASDM) as he settles into this important new role, while Kingsley acts as a local sounding board and offers support as he settles in.

“The Malawian Church is good at evangelism and is waking up to the need for mission mobilisation,” said Kingsley.

“What is, and has been, missing is discipleship, and seeing Henry appointed to this new role with AEC is very encouraging. We want to see discipleship become part of the DNA of the AEC.

“But we are not just looking for big meetings and events; we would love to see discipleship training and mentoring done on a one-to-one or one-to-two basis, so people can go deeper into things.”

He cites the way Maree works with three local ladies. She meets with them on a regular basis to encourage, mentor and disciple them; working one on one like this means relationships can go deeper. This is the approach Revd Sumbulero is working on, and this could be important for the development of disciple-making and discipling in the future.

Kingsley and Maree, with their daughters Lydia and Hannah, came to Malawi from New Zealand in 2017. The girls have been home schooled with links back to the education system in New Zealand via the internet. There were some technical problems in the early days but once these were sorted out the girls have been able to carry on their education, linked to the system they were brought up on.

Later this year the family will return to New Zealand for an unknown length of time, so they hope to have things in place to ensure the work they have helped to start will continue.

Prayer Points

Please pray for:

1. Thework of Revd Sunbulero as Discipleship Co-ordinator as he develops this role and looks to get discipleship into the AEC’s DNA

2. For direction for the Morris family while back in New Zealand and for their future – wherever God leads them

3. For Malawian Christians, especially young couples, who could move back into rural areas to encourage local churches and help them grow in faith

One of the main areas is a monthly meeting of Pastors from across the Lakeshore Area. This is normally held at the AEC Sani church and is building on foundations laid by Paul Barr in the early 2000s.

“One of the great things about these meetings is that Pastors are building their relationships and, as this happens, they are becoming more open in their conversations and feel that they are part of a team,” said Kingsley. This has been greatly helped by two week-long retreats for the pastors and their wives together with us and Marilyn Barr where all of us have inputted into each others lives.

“One of the things I am looking to do is to hand over the leadership of these monthly meetings to the Pastors themselves; I hope to have a rota of people who will lead them set up before we go back.

“Another highlight has been identifying and training two ladies to take on the long-term leadership of a Bible Study group which grew out of meeting one on one with a lay-leader.

As Maree looks forward, she is considering the various challenges the family have encountered simply ‘doing life’ in Malawi and the effects these will have on the family.

“We have certainly had some enriching and interesting experiences while we have been here,” she said.

“There are times it has been  challenging for Kingsley and me, but I think it may have been even more challenging for the girls as teenagers. They have seen and experienced things in rural Malawi that are very different from what they encountered in life back in New Zealand. We are thankful for how this has grown character, and wait to see how they process the insights they have gained into life in Malawi when we go back to New Zealand.”

Team building: Kingsley and Maree leading a monthly meeting of the AEC Lakeshore Pastors at AEC Sani