Book Review: Pastoral Preaching, by Conrad Mbewe
Conrad Mbewe, Pastoral Preaching: Building a People for God. Langham Partnership International, 2017. 208 pps, $17.99
For those of us ministering on African soil, Conrad Mbewe’s new book is a long-awaited resource, a great asset, and now an essential textbook for training pastors. For too long on the mission field, we’ve had to make do with imported, Western literature. That has its place, and we are deeply grateful for the wealth of books available from generations of Christianity in the West. But we also need African pastors doing theology for Africa, in Africa—precisely as Mbewe has done.
I’ve had the privilege of a personal friendship with Conrad for many years as fellow pastors in the same association of churches in southern Africa (www.sola5.org). I can testify firsthand of his love for the church and his shepherd’s heart. For a long time, we in South Africa have been admiring the example and reaping the fruits of the vibrant Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia. Who better then to write this book on Pastoral Preaching for the next generation of shepherds that are desperately needed in the African church?
In less than 200 pages, Conrad covers much ground in his Scripture-saturated arguments. First, he covers what pastoral preaching is. Here’s his definition: “shepherding God’s flock through God’s Word.” He also talks about where this should be done, and how we train men to do it well. Then he looks at common challenges, and at some of the major biblical genres that should be covered in a pulpit ministry and why. Finally, he richly counsels us on the true sources of spiritual power behind pastoral preaching, as well as the promised rewards.
Conrad tackles these subjects as only a veteran African pastor could. Every chapter is packed with colourful African illustrations and relevant, pointed applications that will uniquely resonate with African pastors, but also prove useful for any pastors worldwide. He doesn’t sidestep some of the biggest challenges we face today in the African church, challenges like the prosperity heresy, the “man of God” myths, syncretism, poverty, and laziness.
Here are but a few examples of my favourites quotes from Conrad:
- “Preachers who do not proclaim the whole truth produce slanted and half-baked Christians who fail to live God-glorifying lives.”
- “Christians need regular soaking in the Word of God for that godless culture to be washed out of their thinking.”
- “If God allows you to reach old age after years of faithful pastoral preaching, the joy of seeing a people built for God and filling the land with the fruit of righteousness will make you say, ‘It was worth it!’ Then when the final trumpet sounds and all of life is brought to an end, the sight of all the results of your pastoral preaching ministry will truly cause you to shout, ‘It was worth it!’”
This delightful book reads like a 21st century pastoral epistle from a seasoned shepherd. I loved how Mbewe boldly calls the local church back to the high calling of training pastors and not abdicating this duty to Bible schools. He affirms that academia has its place, but there are many aspects of pastoral training that only the church can provide. For too long, we have been passing the buck instead of passing the baton. Conrad notes, “Pastoral preaching is caught before it is taught”—and the best place for it to be caught is the church, not the classroom.
I hope that Pastoral Preaching will be followed by subsequent volumes from Mbewe, perhaps a pastoral ministry trilogy? The African church needs wisdom from African men like Conrad in other vital areas. To name a few: evangelism and church planting; pastoral counselling and the private ministry of the Word; pastoral leadership and church administration; the tentmaking pastor; a vision for Christian education in Africa; female pastors, and the outworkings of biblical complementarianism in the African context—and more.
What a joy to see the African church finding its own voice through books such as this. Thank you, brother Conrad. May your tribe increase!