Conrad Mbewe has pastored Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, since 1987. He earned his Ph.D. in missions from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and he was the founding chancellor of Zambia’s African Christian University. He was the founding chancellor of Zambia’s African Christian University. He shared the insights below in an interview with American Family Studios’ M. D. Perkins, director of the documentary The God Who Speaks. These remarks reflect or extend beyond the video’s content. Part 1 focused on the authority and power of the Bible. (http://www.conradmbewe.com/)
Conrad Mbewe: History has shown that the strength, the stamina, the progress, the achievements, and the victory of long-term missions have been tied up with the church’s view of Scripture. In many ways that’s the bedrock that enables the people of God to wrestle with the unbelief they’re confronted with, not only as they go onto the mission field, but also as they find the unbelief that is there.
If we are going to train missionaries with a robust faith, missionaries who can go into the darkness of the world with all its belief systems and break through that with the precious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must anchor them in the truth of what the Bible really is.
Whatever traditional religions they will find where they go, it’s been a departure from the true God of the Bible who created the universe.
Read the book of Acts, and see how those men turned the world upside down because they believed what the Bible said. Today, God … is now commanding all men everywhere to repent. That’s what we need today. That’s what we need in missions.
MDP: Is the Bible sufficient for missionary work in any cultural context?
CM: Yes, because it is the Word of the Creator, God. Clearly, the one who made the universe is the one who knows how to fix it when it goes wrong. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in Africa or Asia, Latin or South America, the North Pole, the South Pole. Ultimately, we need to realize that it’s the maker of the universe who has revealed Himself in Scripture. He is the one who tells us who He is. He is the one who tells us how we as a human race have fallen away from Him.
He tells us how we can be reconciled to Him in a way that upholds His honor and His glory as the God of justice and at the same time, a God of love. He has put it all there for us through the person of His son the Lord Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter where we go, we have but one message.
MDP: What are some unique challenges you face ministering in Zambia?
CM: One of the greatest difficulties … which undermines the authority of Scripture, has been the view that God is still speaking today independent of His Word in the authoritative sense.
We’re finding a lot of self-styled “prophets” who are literally released upon especially the African continent, always wanting to speak something in God’s name into your life, so to speak. … It’s really undermining true preaching of the Word of God, and consequently hardly anyone is taking the time to open that ancient book, read it in its context, study, meditate upon it and then ask, “In the light of this, what is God saying to me?”
We want to hear men of God who’ve just heard straight from God speak to us. That has undermined the Scriptures, the authority and the sufficiency and the supremacy of the Scriptures. And invariably, it’s leaving us with a very weak church, if a church at all.
MDP: Why is there such a desire for people to feel that they need to hear additional revelation from God?
CM: I’m not too sure how the whole issue of God speaking to men directly independent of His Word would become popular on the American continent. Clearly, in the African context, it’s often related to African traditional religions because you had the medicine men or the witch doctors who were supposed to be a notch higher than the rest of us.
That is then transported into our modern-day Africa. The pastors move away from being expounders of the Word of God. Individuals are somehow [supposedly] discerning God’s voice on their own. It’s almost as if to suggest if that’s your lifestyle, then you are truly godly, if you are not thinking … you just have a blank mind and you’re waiting for the first impressions that come upon you. I think in Africa, it’s closely connected to that, but I’m not too sure where that might be coming from.
MDP: Did the higher critical movements in Europe have any impact on the African church?
CM: Yes, liberal theology made its way especially into the mainline churches on the African continent, especially through the Bible colleges and seminaries to the point where [many] churches are there in terms of buildings [only]. I’d dare say they have people in them, because Christianity, at least south of the Sahara, is still very much the religion of the people since the missionary efforts of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Having said that, spiritual life and spiritual vitality are gone. Dead. Much of today’s evangelical work is independent of the mainline churches and their Bible colleges and seminaries. Yes, we’ve been affected.
MDP: How would you define spiritual ignorance as cited in Hosea 4:6?
CM: After my conversion in Africa, around the end of the 1970s … there was a general culture in evangelicalism of studying the Bible. I remember in those days, there was at least some effort not only to read a passage but to limit my preaching on what that passage is bringing out, instead of using it as a bouncing board into everything else I want to say. Therefore, there was a greater knowledge of Scripture.
Now in the 21st century, there is a lot of just pulling out a verse from the Bible by a preacher, and then he says everything else he wants to say. Every so often he’ll throw in a verse or two, sadly often out of context. Hence Hosea 4:6 is appropriately applied: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
It’s a sad day that we’re living in, and there is a desperate need to bring the Bible back to center stage so that God’s people can begin to know what the Bible says.
Editor’s Note: The God Who Speaks Special Limited Edition and an accompanying Sunday School Kit are available at thegodwhospeaks.org.