World Renew in Southern Africa has taken this observation to heart. It is not a new discovery. Our national church partners are doing excellent work in communities around the country; but the local church is still seen as either a beneficiary or a spectator in the development work that is going on in their communities.
World Renew Southern Africa plans for, and expects, hundreds of local churches to initiate Church in Community programs, benefiting thousands of vulnerable people in their communities who are not members of their churches.
Much of this comes from years of dependence on missionaries or handouts. This dependence has resulted in an assumption by many local churches in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia that they do not have the ability to do anything for themselves besides evangelism in the villages where they live.
World Renew is, together with our church partners, developing a local church empowerment program that aims to put local churches in the driver’s seat of local community development. In a country such as Malawi, where 85% of the population is Christian and every community has at least one church or congregation, the potential for local church-initiated change is huge.
This program will combine the biblical and management training of local church leaders (focusing on deacons) with the provision of small micro-grants for programs initiated by the church and community. The program is called “Church in Community” because this is not about the Church “and” the Community, but rather it is a realization that the Church has an integral part “in” the community.
Churches are already being transformed by this process of empowerment in several pilot projects in Zambia and Malawi. Once a congregation and its leadership realize their potential and responsibility in making a difference in their communities, it is difficult to contain their enthusiasm! In one church in Malawi, the church leaders even reached out to other external partners to raise resources for some major projects in their community.
In another church in Zambia, one of the pilot project committees decided to finish building their pastor’s house, which had been under construction for years, and they completed it in just a few months. These early successes are just first steps toward local churches taking responsibility for change in their communities. Certainly the church itself will have problems that also need to be addressed by the committees, and it is hoped that these needs will also be met in the process.
We plan for, and expect, hundreds of local churches to initiate Church in Community programs, benefiting thousands of vulnerable people in their communities who are not members of their churches.