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Issue #188

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Building a Strong Church for Africa

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TMS Alumnus and Missionary Brian Biedebach (M.Div. ’96, D.Min ’07) is partnering with TMS graduates Steve Plodinec (M.Div. ’96), David Beakley (M.Div. ’02), Robin Ayliffe (Dip.Th. ’02), to reach believers in Malawi and South Africa. 

When U.S. missionary Brian Biedebach left Malawi for South Africa in 1999, he hoped it wasn’t for good. His love and compassion for the Malawian people runs deep. But God was opening doors elsewhere. Grace Christian Church in Johannesburg needed a pastor and Biedebach was the right man for the job. “When I left Malawi, I hoped to come back,” Biedebach says. “I saw the need for the church there.  People were coming to Christ and I had nowhere to send them. I couldn’t plug them into a sound church because there were so few.” What Biedebach didn’t know then was that he wasn’t truly leaving Malawi, not from a ministerial perspective, anyway.

Certainly, God blessed him with a thriving ministry in South Africa – Grace Christian Church has more than doubled its attendance and since 2000, moved to elder rule and planted Zulu-speaking Mercy Bible Church.  But at the same time, the Lord worked through Biedebach, Grace Christian Church and Christ Seminary in Polokwane, South Africa to further the work in Malawi.

“Christ Seminary contacted me in 2002,” Biedebach says. “They wanted to know if our church took on students as interns.” Biedebach, who was looking for men to serve his growing congregation, didn’t hesitate. His first intern, Vuyisile Qiki (Vuyo for short), began a children’s ministry, which grew into a Bible study, which grew into Mercy Bible Church. Vuyo, now a graduate of Christ Seminary and a veteran servant in Grace Christian, serves as pastor. “Several men from Christ Seminary now serve as interns,” Biedebach says. “The men go to school 10 days a month and serve at the church for the other 20.  It is essentially a live lab for them.”  Biedebach meets with the men each Tuesday to begin preparing for his next sermon. The men open the text at hand and together  form a working outline. It’s the perfect complement to what the men are learning at Christ Seminary. “The interns learn how to do sermon prep and they learn about discipleship,” Biedebach says.  “At the same time, I’m being discipled and I’m getting work done, so it kills about four birds with one stone.  After four years of this, these guys can take any text and get a working outline from it.  It’s subject to exegesis, of course.”

Biedebach says the leaders at Christ Seminary notice the difference when their students return. “The men at Christ Seminary understand how important the structure is,” he says. “It’s a great relationship. I want to have a continual flow of Christ Seminary students coming down.”  And they are coming. Grace Christian Church has become a lab in which Christ Seminary’s students prove what they are learning in class. Some of those interns come from Malawi and, after they graduate, are taking what they’ve learned back home.

Biedebach’s vision is to settle in the Malawi capitol of Lilongwe, a city of 450,000 people. There, more than 100 believers are already meeting regularly, just waiting for a trained pastor. A pair of Christ Seminary graduates, Kondi and Kwacha, will help him establish a church: International Bible Fellowship. “We’re hoping it can be a model church,” he says. “A training church.”

Biedebach is also hoping to take advantage of the system he helped establish along with Christ Seminary and Grace Christian Church. “We want to identify 20 Malawian men who can go to Christ Seminary and get trained for four years (including an internship) and then return to Malawi to go out and plant more churches,” he says. “It’s very much a part of the strategy in Africa – to replicate working churches.  We want to use Christ Seminary and churches shepherded by The Master’s Seminary graduates. We’re excited because this is the second stage in missions. “South Africa is becoming a launching ground for churches in other countries.”

So far, Biedebach has found four of the 20 men he seeks. Kondi and Kwacha make two, and there are two new Malawian Christ Seminary students: Nafe and Jeverson. “Sixteen to go,” Biedebach says. “That’s what we’re praying for.”

Biedebach may not have to pray much longer. He has been asked to teach a class at Lilongwe’s African Bible College, which serves 180 resident students, 40 of whom are already interested in a mentoring program. “That’s a large pool from which to draw men for Christ Seminary,” Biedebach says. “I see a very intricate relationship with Christ Seminary. We are cutting a new path in places where there is very little of anything—and very few sound churches.

“We’re there because we desire to give the African man the best possible biblical education.” 

Brian can be reached at bdbach@gmail.com.

Bob White
Vice President for
Development and Operations
818-909-5624 phone
818-909-5725 fax

bwhite@tms.edu

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