Zambian mission church growing

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – After attending class in Zambia this July, Southwestern Seminary church-planting students were encouraged by the growth of Chifuema Baptist Church, a village congregation started by a mission team last year.

A trip in May 2008 resulted in the planting of two churches in the “urban fringe,” a part of rural Zambia that is accessible by a few hours’ rocky, four-wheeled drive out into the bush from the cities, said Art Savage, associate director of the World Missions Center at Southwestern.

The initial “leg-work” for this mission trip occurred during the overseas modular class in Zambia that year, Savage said. These classes, held for two years in the same location, are part of the degree requirements for the Master of Divinity concentration in international church planting.

Chifuema Baptist Church is located deep in the urban fringe. It was the less accessible of the two plants in 2008, but this year’s class re-visited the village through use of GPS coordinates.

“When we drove up on the church,” said Savage, “we saw … what our students did last year has really amounted to this church lasting.” A new building to house the church, made out of sticks and elephant grass, was a recent addition to the village, and represented one of several signs of the people’s commitment.

They wanted others “to come to their Baptist church because they believed that this was the real deal,” Savage said. “So they’re out evangelizing, going out and sharing and encouraging people to come, and doing stuff with kids, and that’s what we want to see happen.”

Savage said the church was really encouraged by their visit. “It really impressed these folks that they saw the same faces and that we were genuinely concerned. And we wanted to see them, [to say] ‘we rejoice with you in this new building that you built’ and to see their passion for worship, their passion for evangelism.”

Savage said the growth of the church, as well as the new building, encouraged the team as well. The Bible training performed by Southwestern professors, students and the local missionary a year ago made a lasting impact.

The team spent Sunday in the bush with the church, attending service in the new building where William Goff, professor of Christian ethics, had the privilege of preaching. “The spirit of God was there,” said Savage, and nine more villagers made professions of faith.

These trips and classes through the World Missions Center have resulted in many people coming to Christ. “We’ve seen churches started and churches that have lasted,” said Savage. “And we’ve seen Southwestern students get called to the field. It’s our heritage to produce a lot of missionaries.”

The pastor of Chifuema Baptist Church was “a young guy that helped translate last year” for the team who had been mentored, trained and then picked by his church to serve in this role, Savage said.

A follow-up trip is planned for this December to assist local ministers with additional church planting efforts and will be open to all Southwestern students, with course credit available.

More information about the future trip can be found by accessing the 2009 Opportunities to Serve page for the World Missions Center at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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