Making disciples in current missionary practice in Malawi : an empirical-theological study of religious workers

Biedenbach, Brian R. (2015-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Central African country of Malawi has a population of over 15 million people and more than 500 Protestant missionaries. In spite of an overall sense of partnership and community among missionaries in Malawi, a significant tension exists between the approaches that various Protestant missionaries have taken in their attempt fulfil The Great Commission of Matthew 28. This tension is not limited to Malawi. Missiologists worldwide have identified several different models of mission work. Some of these models emphasize the verbal proclamation of the gospel message while other models emphasize social action and acts of mercy as an equal or primary focus. The purpose of this dissertation is to determine what the dominant models of mission work in Malawi are in practice. Is the emphasis more on gospel proclamation or social action and how does that relate to the commission in Matthew 28? In order to determine this, the researcher 1) investigates the growing tension between various models of missionary work, 2) analyzes various Protestant missionary models as they relate to key passages of Scripture, 3) examines qualitative theological perspectives surrounding the issue of evangelism, social action, Matthew 25, and Matthew 28, 4) conducts empirical quantitative research among missionaries currently serving in Malawi, 5) conducts empirical qualitative research among Christians in the West that have an interest in Malawi’s missionary work, 6) explores normative perceptions of the traditional prioritism model of missionary work, 7) develops a revised praxis for churches in the West that send missionaries to help them become more effective in developing their models of mission. Traditionally, missionaries have focused on gospel proclamation and social action has been a secondary, but important, emphasis. Today, some missionaries elevate social action as a co-priority with proclamation while others practice social action almost exclusively. Many missionaries in Malawi are so focused on social action activities like medicine, general education, and orphan care that they have little time to devote to Bible teaching, baptism, and church strengthening. Christians in the West who have an interest in missionary work in Malawi are naturally concerned about both gospel proclamation and social action. They desire that the physical needs of Malawians would not be neglected, but they also desire that the gospel message would be proclaimed in Malawi and that missionaries would make disciples by teaching all that Christ has commanded. This is why a research project that involves a theological study in relation to an analysis of the praxis of religious workers in Malawi will be useful. It should help both Christians in the West and missionaries in Malawi to maintain priorities that will sustain both gospel proclamation as well as social action in a needy country like Malawi. One of the desired outcomes of this study is to determine the factors that contribute to missionary activity which neglects neither gospel proclamation, nor the physical needs of others. In order to determine these factors, it will be beneficial to ascertain a more thorough understanding of different missionary models and evaluate their potential deficiencies and strengths. The main research question this study addresses is: What are the current models of missionary practice among missionaries in Malawi today and how do those models relate to key passages for missionaries, such as Matthew 28:18-20 and Matthew 25:31-46?

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Malawi, 'n land in sentraal Afrika, het 'n bevolking van meer as 15 miljoen mense en meer as 500 Protestantse sendelinge. Alhoewel daar goeie samewerking tussen Sending-organisasies is, ervaar hulle wel spanning rakende hulle onderskeie benaderings tot die Evangelisasie opdrag van Mattheus 28. Hierdie spanning is nie beperk tot Malawi nie. Wereldwyd het Sendingkundiges verskillende modelle vir sendingwerk geïdentifiseer. Van hierdie modelle beklemtoon die verkondiging van die Evangelie, terwyl ander die sosiale uitleef van die Evangelie verkondig deur middel van barmhartigheid. Die doel van hierdie proefskrif is om te bepaal wat die dominante modelle van sendingwerk in Malawi in die praktyk is. Is die klem meer op Evangelie verkondiging of op sosiale aksie, en hoe hou hierdie verband met die opdrag in Mattheus 28? Om hierdie vas te stel, gaan die navorser, 1) die toenemende spanning tussen verskillende modelle van sendingwerk ondersoek, 2) die verskillende Protestantse sending-modelle ontleed volgens hulle verwantskap aan kern gedeeltes van die Skrif, 3) empiriese kwantitatiewe navorsing doen onder huidige sendelinge in Malawi, 4) empiriese kwalitatiewe navorsing doen onder Christene in die Westerse wereld wat belangstel in sendingswerk in Malawi, 5) normatiewe begrip van die tradisionele voorkeur model van sendingwerk verken, 6) verbeterde praktyke ontwikkel wat kerke in die Weste, wat sendelinge wil uitstuur, kan navolg om hulle te help met die ontwikkeling van hulle sending-modelle. Tradisioneel het sendelinge op Evangelie-verkondiging gefokus en enige sosiale aksies was wel belangrik, maar van sekondêre belang. Vandag het sommige sendelinge sosiale aksies verhef tot 'n mede prioriteit gelyk aan Evangelieverkondiging, terwyl ander amper eksklusief sosiale aksies bedryf. Vele sendelinge in Malawi is so gefokus op sosiale aksie soos mediese hulp, algemene onderwys, en die versorging vir weeskinders, dat hulle min tyd het om hulself toe te wy aan Bybelse onderrig, doop en die versterking van kerke. Christene in die Weste, wat belangstel in sendingwerk in Malawi, is van nature besorg oor beide Evangelie verkondiging sowel as sosiale aksies. Hulle wil graag hê dat die fisiese behoeftes van Malawiers nie verwaarloos word nie, maar hulle begeer ook dat die Evangelie boodskap in Malawi verkondig word en dat sendelinge dissipels sal maak deur hulle alles wat Christus beveel het, te leer. Dit is die rede waarom dit nuttig sal wees om 'n navorsingsprojek te hê wat 'n teologiese studie insluit rakende 'n ontleding van die gebruike van godsdienstige werkers in Malawi. Dit behoort Christene in die Weste sowel as sendelinge in Malawi te help om prioriteite te handhaaf wat beide Evangelie verkondiging sowel as sosiale aksies ondersteun in 'n behoeftige land soos Malawi. Een van die verlangde resultate van hierdie studie is om die faktore te bepaal wat bydra tot sendingwerk wat nie Evangelie verkondiging verwaarloos nie en ook nie die fisiese behoeftes van ander verontagsaam nie. Om hierdie faktore te bepaal sal dit waardevol wees om 'n deegliker begrip van verskillende sending-modelle vas te stel en hulle potensiele tekortkominge en sterkpunte te evalueer. Die hoof navorsings-vra wat hierdie studie aanspreek is: Wat is die huidige modelle van sendingpraktyk onder sendelinge in Malawi en hoe hou dit verband met kern Skrifgedeeltes vir sendelinge soos Mattheus 28:18-20 en Mattheus 25:31-46?

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