Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, who received the word with goodwill, every day examining the Scriptures if these things may be so. Acts 17:11
This verse compares the Jews in Berea with the Jews of Thessalonica, both of whom Paul spoke the message of the Messiah suffering, dying, and rising from the dead realized in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 17:1-3). The Bereans are commended by God through the inspired pen of Luke for their testing Paul’s message by the Scriptures. Even Jesus’ special emissary to the nations, the Apostle Paul, was subject to the scrutiny of the Scriptures! How much more the preacher who stands in the pulpit to deliver his message!
At CAPA, this is a key theme that is hammered on again and again. The authority is in the text; the preacher is the faithful herald of what God has said in the Scriptures. Ideally, the situation for the preacher should be just the same as it was for Paul in Berea. The congregation should have the Scriptures in their hands, following and examining whether the points the preacher is making are coming from the text itself. The preacher can be said to be delivering an authoritative message only if that message is indeed contained in the Scriptures. John Piper puts this well in his book The Supremacy of God in Preaching.
We are simply pulling rank on people when we tell them and don’t show them from the text. This does not honor the Word of God or the work of the Holy Spirit. I urge you to rely on the Holy Spirit by saturating your preaching with the Word that he inspired. (p.47)
A recent incident highlighted the need in Malawi for the work of faithful Bible translations so that the congregation has the opportunity to see the preacher’s message in the pages of Scripture.
Recently, I asked Maya (a 3rd year MDiv student at CAPA, an intern at International Bible Fellowship, and a dear friend) to translate Psalm 90 for me from Chichewa (the most common of the many mother tongues for the various tribes in Malawi) into English. The standard Chichewa Bible available was translated from an English translation around 100 years ago. Above is a picture of the Chichewa Bible….Can you guess what book it’s from? As he translated for me, he not only wrestled to translate into English, but he struggled to understand the Chichewa itself. This incident opened his eyes and mine. He explained to me that this is why many Malawian preachers avoid preaching from the Old Testament, because they cannot understand the Scriptures contained there in their own language because of the poor and old translation work. And if the preacher (often more educated than his congregation) cannot understand the Bible in his mother tongue, what chance does the average Malawian have sitting in the congregation? How can he see that what the preacher is saying is truly God’s Word?
We know that God is in favor of people having the Scriptures in a language that they can clearly understand since the Old Testament in Jesus’ day had been translated into the common language of the day (Greek from the Hebrew and Aramaic), and Jesus and the Apostles often quote that translation as authoritative Scripture, the word of God. The implication for Malawi then is the need for translations, not just in Chichewa, but in many of the other languages that people have as their mother tongue in this country. These translations should come from the original biblical languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into translations that are readable by the common person. Why not just go from the English? Think of a faithful translation like a photocopy. Some aspects of the original will be lost in the translation process to English even though the translation is a faithful one. If now I take that translation (the photocopy) and then translate that into a different language (photocopying the photocopy), I’ve lost more information yet.
This work is not currently in process. But our heart’s desire at CAPA is that some of the fruit of training the men in the biblical languages will be faithful men who will work on this massive project for the sake of their nation. It cannot be simply a work that is done by foreign missionaries either. Our Malawian Dean of Students at CAPA, Gideon, says, the churches of Malawi will have to see the need for such translation work in order for it to be supported and accepted by the church in Malawi at large.
This is just one of the needs that the church in Malawi is facing and that CAPA is either directly or indirectly addressing. Join us in praying for God to use CAPA to address the need for translations for the sake of the church in Malawi!
In other news, we have set our target return date to return to the US. We plan to leave after the end of the CAPA school year (graduation happens on April 20th) the third week of May. This is less than four months away and will result in us being here a little over eleven months total. Please pray for several things:
- That we would be “all here” with servant hearts and would be useful to CAPA and the long-term team here.
- Pray for my replacement(s) (unknown as yet) to handle administrative, IT, and teaching (Hebrew) work.
- Pray for the construction of CAPA’s new campus to go ahead quickly and smoothly. The goal is for it to be ready by the beginning of the new academic year!
- Pray for wisdom for the team in discerning what the next steps forward for CAPA as a school should be.
- Pray for us as we anticipate facing some reverse culture shock returning to the US.
- Pray for the Lord’s leading regarding our future ministry and whether we should seek to do overseas pastoral training center work like this in the long-term.
We greatly appreciate your prayers and hearing from you! Drop us a line or call us up on Skype! You can comment below if you’d like to schedule to Skype with us and we will email you to set that up.