She searched for a gospel-focused church for four years before finding one. A University of Malawi medical student had become discouraged since every church seemed to focus on success and the importance of holiness.
After discovering Antioch Baptist Church (ABC) in her college city of Blantyre, Zaithwa Matemvu was amazed by the depth of its preaching. As an Antioch member for a year now she says, “Jesus and what he did for us on the cross came through very clearly.”
Blantyre is the second-largest city in Malawi. This “commercial capital” of the country’s southern region has four universities within reach, so it’s a natural place for young adults to stay for a season. Yet, as Matemvu found, Reformed churches like ABC are scarce—even though 75 percent of the Malawi population identify as Christians.
Antioch Baptist sprouted eight years ago from a college Bible study that met in the home of a former engineer, now ABC pastor, Malamulo Chindongo. Although its congregation started out as a group of singles, it has grown into a church of 66 young members.
Sowing and Watering Seed
Jason Dohm is a pastor at Sovereign Redeemer Community Church in Youngsville, North Carolina, and since 2009 he has partnered with Chindongo through their mutual connection to the National Center for Family Integrated Churches in the United States. Dohm describes ABC as a church with evangelistic zeal and a heavy outreach to local universities.
“Antioch is healthy and growing,” he says. “They have a plurality of qualified elders leading the church, a plurality of qualified deacons serving the church, members who are hungry for the things of the Lord and committed to the church, and many visitors who are learning and loving what they are experiencing.”
Every week, multiple Bible studies take place on college campuses in and around Blantyre, many led by ABC members. Throughout the school year, the church also hosts small conferences to address topics of interest to college students that tie directly to faith, helping them understand what the gospel is and how the Bible should saturate every aspect of their lives.
Many of these students are questioning the prosperity gospel, Chindongo explained. “They want something with more meaning and to address their struggles with sin and addiction,” he says.
Some of the students attend ABC and are invited into the lives of members who actively live out their faith and serve as spiritual role models. Those who move to other cities in Malawi to step into the workforce face the new challenge of finding a biblically healthy church.
To Blantyre and Beyond
The faithful teaching of the gospel at ABC and other Reformed churches in Malawi is slowly taking root after almost a decade, despite the widely proclaimed prosperity message. ABC holds an annual Bible conference, and the pastor receives invitations to speak at other Christian conferences.
“We moved from being a small church tucked in the corner to a voice in the city where people are willing to listen,” Chindongo says. “Other churches are embracing sound doctrine and Reformed theology.”
He reports that other Reformed churches in Malawi are finalizing an agreement with ABC to “establish unity and community.” Also, one South African church partnered with former ABC members to plant two Reformed churches in the capital city of Lilongwe. And a network of South African churches started a Reformed church in Mzuzu and worked to “revitalize” a church in Zomba.
Material in Motion
ABC further fuels spiritual growth by having a bookstore that supplies free or low-cost Christian literature. This provision creates a culture of discipleship as members read through books together.
Chindongo leads an effort to translate gospel resources into the local language of Chichewa. Though many in Malawi’s big cities may know English well, those in smaller towns and villages typically do not. In the last seven years ABC has translated 19 books, and some of these have ended up in neighboring countries.
Dohm has visited Malawi four times now. He participates in preaching and teaching at conferences and he brings books supplied by The Gospel Coalition for free distribution to church leaders. At a pastor’s conference in Blantyre last summer, Dohm handed out Expositional Preaching by David R. Helm.
Regarding these global partnerships, Chindongo noted that American men of faith he meets have come from three or four generations of believers, which is something Malawi churches do not yet have. He says, “This encourages us to see it’s possible to pass your faith along.”