Robert Manda from Malawi on Valuing Your Relationship with God Above Everything Else


robert_manda_podcastWelcome to this week’s unSeminary podcast and thanks for joining us today. We have lead pastor Robert Manda with us from Eastern Light Presbyterian Church in Malawi in the southern part of Africa.

Eastern Light was started by South Korean missionaries in 2006. It is a church that is still growing and very focused on the Word of God. They continue to reach out to whole families in their community because the family unit is so important in Malawi.

Malawi was first colonized by Britain and gained their independence in 1964. The first missionaries in the area were British and they planted the gospel in many parts of Malawi. But when the missionaries left, there was a gap in the preaching of the Word. Robert explains that people today are very spiritually hungry and interested in hearing the gospel. But this has lead to the rise of false teachers leaving the people of Malawi vulnerable to individuals who claim to be preaching the Word and actually aren’t. The church is at a crossroads where the people may stop pursuing Christ because they are listening to these false teachings.

  • Build the church through families. // Eastern Light started as a group of about ten people and now has over 500 members. They believe strongly in using families to build the church, which is the primary way they’ve grown. Invite someone in and let them hear the truth about Jesus. Then that person will tell their family about the gospel and invite them to church. In turn, those families will reach out and share the gospel with other families and the good news spreads.
  • Cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus. // A pastor can’t give the people what he himself doesn’t have. Robert explains, “We’re living in a world where everyone is busy—there are so many needs—but as church leaders we need to deliberately slow down and have time with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Robert maintains his relationship with God through private time involving prayer and reading scripture on his own, and encourages his staff to do the same.
  • Work as a team. // Sharing the gospel was never meant to be the responsibility of just one person. Robert knows there is no way he can shoulder all the responsibilities of the church so it’s imperative that he works with a team. He’s blessed to work with a team of pastors, deacons and other ministry leaders in serving the community in a holistic way. Every month all the departments at Eastern Light meet for a time of discipleship and team-building. The key leaders come together to pray and share reports about what God is doing in their ministry and their part of the church. That interaction between the lead pastor and the other leaders within the church allows God to lead them one step at a time and discover how they can pray for each other for further grace and guidance.

You can learn more about the discipleship program Eastern Light provides at their website www.ptimalawi.com.


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Episode Transcript

Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to the podcast, my name’s Rich, the host around here and I’m just so glad that you’ve joined us today. We’re in for a real treat, we’ve got Brother, Pastor Robert Manda with us. He is from Eastern Light Presbyterian Church in Lilongwe, Malawi on the continent of Africa. Robert, welcome to the show today.

Robert – Thank you so much Rich for having me today on this show.

Rich – I’m so excited to have you and just excited to hear more about your church. Why don’t you tell us about Eastern Light? Tell us about your church as we get started.

Robert – Great, this is a church that was started by Korean missionaries from South Korea in 2006.

Rich – Interesting.

Robert – It started about that time when I was in college in Bible School. It has been in this community since 2006 to the present. It’s a church that is still growing. We are much focused in the word and we are reaching both young people, dads and children, because we believe that the church, it has to be the whole family.

We are located in the capital city of Malawi, which is in the southern part of Africa. So yeah, that’s who we are.

Rich – Very cool. Why don’t you tell us about Malawi, why don’t you kind of give us the sense of the spiritual climate of your country, give us a sense of what’s happening in your country as a relationship to the gospel and the message of Jesus.

Robert – Great. Maybe before I come to that question, maybe people who are watching us are maybe wondering, “Where is Malawi and what is Malawi like?”

Rich – Right, yes. Sure yes.

Robert – Malawi is popularly known as The Warm Heart of Africa. It was colonized by the British Government and we got our independence in 1964. The missionaries who first came to Malawi were from Britain and when they came they planted the gospel in many parts of Malawi but then after they had gone there has been that gap.

Now coming back to your question, what is the spiritual climate of Malawi at the moment, I would say Malawi is like a pregnant woman who is ready to give birth. What I’m trying to say is that [Inaudible 00:02:32] to hear God’s word. I’ve been to many parts of the world and I’ve never seen a place where people [Inaudible 00:02:38] and for God’s words like Malawi.

Rich – Very cool.

Robert – Some people say that’s a [Inaudible 00:02:43], but it also makes the church and the people to be vulnerable because some of the people are preaching this so called gospel, it’s not even the gospel, but because they know that people are [Inaudible 00:02:57] for God’s word.

I’ll give you an example. If you and I today we go down town, we just sat preaching along the road, people are going to stop, they’re going to listen to us, whether we preach the bible or we preach something else, they will stop and listen to us. So we are at that crossroads, like I say that people are [Inaudible 00:03:18] for word and I cry because there is a movement right now in Malawi where people are so taken up into prophetic ministry.

Rich – Okay.

Robert – These are false prophets, they are just misleading innocent souls and that’s how I look at my country, but of course, on the other hand, there are those people who are passionate to preach Christ and Christ alone to the people. But by and large we [Inaudible 00:03:47].

Rich – Oh that’s amazing. It’s interesting that obviously the spirit is doing something to make people available for the gospel but then there are obviously some negative, false teachers that are stepping in to try to take advantage of that.

Robert – Yeah.

Rich – So describe that situation, if you’re, let’s say, at your church, people are willing to come, they’re willing to come and hear you, to listen to the word. Do the people that go to your church, do they invite their friends to come, their family? What does that look like, how do people hear about your church?

Robert – Well it’s more like, when we started we started small, it was like a small group of people.

Rich – Right.

Robert – We started with maybe 10 people but now by God’s grace we have about 500 plus members.

Rich – Wow.

Robert – So basically we do have this strategy whereby we teach people the truth. Our scripture says, “They shall know the truth and the truth is going to set them free.” So we preach Christ and they take that message to their families and once they share what they have learnt from the church, their families, they also come because they are looking and searching from the truth.

Rich – Interesting.

Robert – So basically, if you talk about my church, how do we reach out to people, well we use like families you know, and the families reach to other families.

Rich – Right.

Robert – Because as a pastor I can’t reach everybody all the time, but when people come we preach them the gospel and then they get the gospel and they get it to their families and importantly to the community and then they’re happy to know what God is doing the community.

Rich – Now would most of the people who come to your church, are they in the city center there, are they from Lilongwe, are they in that community, like more urban folks?

Robert – That’s an interesting question. Our set up is a bit different because we are between the city and the village, so we are in between.

Rich – Oh okay. So in the States we call that the suburbs, they call that the suburbs in the States.

Robert – That different because your suburbs have different people, but this suburb is like, the average kind of people.

Rich – Okay, interesting.

Robert – You get what I’m saying?

Rich – Sure, yeah that’s really interesting. Your church is between the urban center and out in the villages, you’re in kind of a transition zone. So do you draw from both the urban and from rural, or is it just from that kind of zone in between?

Robert – The majority are from the rural area.

Rich – Okay.

Robert – Then there are a few people from the urban side.

Rich – Okay interesting, interesting. Well what is God using to make an impact in your culture? Obviously within your church or even within other movements that you’re seeing in Malawi, what is he using there?

Robert – Brother Rich, to be honest with you, the experience that I’ve had over the time is by God’s grace to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Rich – Amen.

Robert – What I meant by that, as a pastor, as a God [Inaudible 00:07:14] that God has called me, I can’t give the people what I don’t have and I can’t have if I’m not connected to the master, you know? In John Chapter 15, where Jesus was saying, “You are the branch and the branch has to be connected to this thing,” and it goes on to say, “There is now way the branch can product a fruit if it is not connected.”

So the first thing that I have discovered by God’s grace, is to maintain my relationship with my God through private time of devotional time, reading scripture, that’s one way that has maintained what we have done so far.

Secondly, it’s not only about my intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, but also this is God’s work, it was never meant to be a one-man show. So we work as a team. I do have people, men and women, that God has brought us together, so we work as a team. So even though I’m the lead pastor, but I do have some pastors surrounding me, I do have some leaders, deacons and other elders and we work together as a team. It’s my job to make sure that these leaders, the team that I’m heading, they should also be [Inaudible 00:08:40], so I deliberately do what I call discipleship time with the people that I work with.

Rich – How often do you do the discipleship time, this training experience with your leaders, what does that look like? Is that like weekly, monthly, how do you train your leaders? Because I think one of the things leaders all over the world, church leaders all over the world, they struggle with that like, “I want the ministry to go beyond me but I want to train these people,” how are you doing that?

Robert – The method that [Inaudible 00:09:12] is that we meet every month end.

Rich – Okay.

Robert – So if God gives us a time every month end, we come together, all departments from the children’s ministry, from women’s ministry, from the adult ministry, I’m talking about the key leaders. We come together, we pray together and we get reports, what is God doing in our ministries? How can we pray for them?

So through that kind of interaction between the lead pastor and the people who are surrounding the whole ministry, we have seen that God is leading us one step at a time.

Rich – Very cool. Are you involved in meeting practical needs in your community? Are you kind of using that as a way to build a relational bridge out to your community, any social services, any of that kind of thing?

Robert – Yes we do, yes we do.

Rich – Tell me about that.

Robert – One of the things Rich, when you talk of the church it’s not only about coming together on Sunday.

Rich – Right.

Robert – The church, in biblical words, it’s supposed to be the light and the salt of the world.

Rich – Amen.

Robert – So as a church we have deliberately made ourselves to have a holistic kind of approach. We are involved in a healthy sector. We have got a hospital, we have got education, we have got a university that is training young people in IT and we are also training nurses for that matter.

Rich – Wow.

Robert – Yeah, we are involved in social services, we are involved in the education sector but by and large all of those things are surrounding what the mission of the church is supposed to be. So yes, we are also involved in other activities apart from preaching like on a Sunday.

Rich – Right, absolutely. Well you know, one of the things we’re doing as we’re talking with leaders around the world is we’re asking them to speak as friends and brother to the church in America. What would you say to leaders here, what can we do to reach our culture and to think about how we disciple the people in our communities, what advice would you give us?

Robert – Well I think it would go back to what I had already said, like leaders and churches, whether in the States or wherever in the world, I think leaders must know that first of all we need to maintain that relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s another thing to graduate from seminary and to get all the doctrine that we have all gone through in seminary. But it’s another thing to use that information, by the grace of God, and be connected to God.

So what I’m trying to say is that we’re living in a world whereby everybody is busy. There are so many needs, a lot of people are [Inaudible 00:12:29] but I think as church leaders we need to deliberately slow down and have time with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am always fascinated with how Jesus Christ did his ministry. Scripture says that every day he isolated himself. I mean, this is Christ, the master, the savior, God himself. What about us leaders?

Rich – So good.

Robert – So dear friends, whoever is watching this episode, I would encourage you, if you are a leader take time to communicate the fellowship with God.

Secondly I would also say as a church in the [Inaudible 00:13:17], I think we should not limit ourselves when it comes to empowering others to help with ministry. Pastors, we can’t do everything by ourselves.

Rich – Right, so true.

Robert – There are some people in churches, there’s some women, there’s some men, there’s some young people in the church that we need to empower and to [Inaudible 00:13:41], by God’s grace, God can use them for his own glory.

Rich – That’s very good, I appreciate that encouragement. Definitely I think as we lead we have to have a vibrant growing faith, we have to stay connected to Christ for, ultimately to lead people there, we can’t do it out of an empty well, for sure. I appreciate that.

Anything else you want to say before we wrap up today?

Robert – Well, for me it’s just to say thank you so much Rich for having me. I mean, I don’t take this for granted. Every day for me is a miracle, every day is a gift and every day I’m excited when I wake up in the morning. I begin the day, by the way, by having my time with my daddy, with is God himself. I mean, I wish leaders, I wish church leaders, we could get to that place where we value that relationship with Jesus Christ more than anything else. You may have a mass purpose, like you may have a big church, but if you lose that connection with God, what benefit?

Rich – Right, what have you gained? Absolutely. Well thank you Robert for being on the show today. Does your church have a website, or if people want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

Robert – Well our church, it doesn’t have a website but we are in the process, we’re going to have a website very soon. But we do have a website for the Discipleship Program which we started, so people can log in on the www.ptimalawi.

Rich – Okay, ptim…

Robert – www.ptimalawi and they will be able to see some of the Discipleship Program that we have.

Let me finish by saying this. The world is dying and they are seeking, you and I will be called by the grace of God. They are looking for answers. God has called us to be the light and to be the salt. In Malawi for instance, the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. Whoever is watching this, I [Inaudible 00:16:06], pray for Malawi. Pray that the gospel [Inaudible 00:16:09], I mean the whole country of Malawi, that men and women may know the truth and only truth shall set them free.

Thank you brother for having me.

Rich – Thank you so much Robert.



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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.