For years our Acts 29 church in Lilongwe, Malawi, Reformation Bible Church, has been praying for a piece of land and an opportunity to start a building project. By God’s grace, we began construction in February of 2022 and finished the project in September. We’re indebted to the faithful prayers and support of many friends. This project revealed God’s kindness in ways that were unexpected. At times it seemed impossible, but God carried us through the process.
As I reflect on the building process, God used every moment to show us his great worth, but there are a few lessons that stand out.
Here are five things I learned during our building project in Malawi.
1. God provides.
A few years before we acquired the piece of land that houses our church, some friends had promised to help with financing the construction. When we obtained the land, I reminded them of their promise, but painfully, they did not respond. In the beginning stages, no one came forward to help financially. In the midst of this disappointment, God raised a single individual to fund the majority of the project. Our only responsibility as a church was to raise funds for classrooms and offices. God is a great and trustworthy provider.
2. A building isn’t everything.
As I preached the first sermon in our new building, many expected a message to match the mood of celebration. However, I decided to preach on the fact that God is not impressed with buildings. Solomon’s temple was designed by God himself, yet it was destroyed because of the rebellion of his people. I learned that, although we are excited about the building (and rightly so), God dwells in his people, not in buildings. If our church thinks we are something because we have a building, then we are deceiving ourselves. God is seeking true worshipers (John 4:24). This taught me not to make an idol of our church building. It is simply a tool our gracious God gifted us so that he may receive the glory.
3. The building isn’t God’s affirmation of our work.
My first sermon in our new building focused on Isaiah 66:2, “All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”
Having a building is a huge temptation to think we are doing something amazing in our city. But Isaiah reminds us of what actually catches God’s gaze—those who are humble, contrite in spirit, and tremble at his Word. Having a building is a blessing, but it doesn’t define our work or mission.
4. The building project revealed people’s attitudes toward the church.
A friend who is a member of our church gave me a tight hug at the grand opening, sincerely congratulating me on the building. I think this is sad in many ways. My well-meaning friend was giving me credit for something that was a team effort. The building project presented opportunities for our youthful church to contribute toward the cost of the classrooms and office. I realized there were some who do not truly love this church; they are only excited when all is in place. We had many who did not have much to offer materially, but thankfully, were eager to offer their time to ensure the needs of the building were met. The day before the grand opening, some individuals went home at 3 a.m., working tirelessly so the space was ready. Having a building is a blessing, but it doesn’t define our work or mission. Click To Tweet
5. Trials will come, but God is greater.
In the past year, I have seen God’s amazing blessings upon our ministry, but at the same time, I have never had a more difficult year. Severe trials came when I was finalizing details with our major donor. But instead of derailing the building project, this hardship actually fast-tracked it.
Opposition is inevitable. It may be in the form of indifference or in a lack of cooperation from others. Or it may be unkept promises by people you thought you could count on. Either way, I learned that God’s plan is never derailed by our setbacks. In fact, he uses those setbacks for our good and his glory. The enemy of our souls will not yield easily, but thankfully, victory belongs to Jesus. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
As Reformation Bible Church serves in Malawi, we pray our building is a blessing to those in our community. For many years we asked God to answer this prayer. He did so in his perfect timing and gave us an abundance of blessings along the way. We’re thankful for the support of Acts 29, and ask that you continue to pray for our congregation as we seek to make much of Jesus in Malawi and beyond.