A Crucial Theological School

Josophat Mwale Theological Institute (JMTI)


 The Presbyterian Church in Malawi is a giant. But, she's a sleeping giant. Thankfully, every Presbyterian pastor, unlike most other African pastors, must go to a theological school. However their training may or may not be all that good, and they are often overburdened with massive congregations which average 5000 members. Combine this with multiple funerals to conduct every week (a result of Malaria, AIDS, and famine), and you can see the challenge pastors face. More pastors are needed, discipleship in congregations is desperately needed, and current pastors need to be supported.

     This is what makes the health of theological institutes like Josophat Mwale Theological Institute crucial as they:

  • shape an entire denomination
  • support current pastors
  • strengthen a small faculty
  • value academic excellence as a faculty
  • are a truly African institution

-Shaping a Denomination: To become a Presbyterian pastor in this central region you must go to this school. From over 200 applications every year, the Synod selects 10 students to admit into their fully funded pastoral training program. Upon graduation every one of them will be placed by the Synod into a church. This means that they train almost every single Presbyterian pastor in this central region of Malawi. The quality of the faculty, the instruction, and the culture of the school will have a direct impact on the future of the Church in Malawi.

- Supporting Current Pastors: JMTI also hosts free in-service training retreats for current pastors. These offer a means of encouraging and further forming current pastors and their churches. This is a great doorway for blessing our overworked brothers.

- Strengthening A Small Faculty: 
I was able to sit in on a JMTI faculty meeting. While they have some visiting instructors, to my surprise there were only five full-time lecturers (including the Dean and Principal). Each was overloaded with teaching responsibilities.

Additionally, the Synod is already strapped for money, so the lecturers are required to raise funds from local Malawian churches to supplement their income. We could be an enormous help in taking on some of the teaching load and raising our own support from the US.

- An Academic Faculty: The picture above is their library display of all the research papers written by their past and current faculty members. Most of the full-time faculty have research master's degrees, and are looking into doctoral studies. It's clear that they want the best for their seminaries and pastoral training, just like we do. Joining their faculty with a Ph.D in hand would go a long way to bolster the institute itself, as well as honor their desire to become an excellent faculty.

- Truly African Institutions: The Malawian Church of Central Africa Presbyterian has been run by local Malawians for 50 years now. Joining the work here at JMTI would be the opposite of Western Paternalism; we'd be going to work under the authority and oversight of the Malawian Church, doing our best to benefit her on her own terms. Of course working with African institutions brings its own challenges. But here we have a real opportunity to partner with and invest a denomination, and seek its revival.

A Crucial Work. 

Humble? Certainly.  Tucked away in a corner of one of the poorest countries in the world, not likely to gain much attention? Certainly. Important for the kingdom? Without a doubt. Its schools like this one which faithfully serve and powerfully shape the Church for ages to come.