Two years ago, Tim Harlow––Senior Pastor of Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park Illinois––was having lunch with Pastor Rick Warren and several other church leaders. At that time, Tim was following Saddleback’s efforts in Rwanda to help it become a Purpose Driven (PD) nation. With an ongoing commitment to missions, Parkview’s congregation had regular teams serving communities in Dominican Republic, Kenya, and Brazil.
But on that afternoon in 2014, Pastor Rick challenged Parkview to take on an entire nation to help take the Good News to the last 3,000 unreached tribes on earth. “It was in true Rick fashion,” recalls Tim. “Over chips and guacamole, he told me that the president of Malawi had phoned him about bringing PD to their country, just like they had in Rwanda. But with Saddleback’s ongoing work in Rwanda, Rick turned toward me and said, ‘Why doesn’t Parkview take on Malawi?’”
And just like that, the mission became engrained on Tim’s heart. Parkview Church was officially selected as the first non-Saddleback Church to serve as an international partnering church in Africa. They had been commissioned to launch the PD strategy in Malawi, and to train hundreds of local pastors. Immediately Tim accepted the honorable task, not only because he respected Rick’s ministry, but also because he was excited about what God was already doing in Rwanda through PD.
Bob Bradberry, Pastor of Saddleback’s Global Team, says recruiting partnering churches is key to completing this mission that cannot be done alone. “After hearing what we were doing in Rwanda,” he explains, “many African countries wanted Pastor Rick to do the same thing for them. But he knew Saddleback couldn’t go to every African country. So we’ve started recruiting churches around the world to get involved with us in Africa.”
Taking this bold step of faith, Parkview Church set up their ministry in Malawi, and began laying the groundwork for Purpose Driven churches to flourish. Following the multiplication model of missions, they worked through local pastors and churches to impact communities for Christ. They also leaned on Master Trainers in Rwanda to share their knowledge with pastors in Malawi.
Sean Mixson, Director of Missions at Parkview Church, explains, “We wanted to allow them to be a catalyst of change for the Malawian people. Because of the incredible change that Rwanda went through, those Master Trainers would be the best to share experiences along the way.”
By the end of 2015, Parkview had partnered with 55 pastors in Malawi. Today, they have over 300 Malawian pastors committed to PD. Over the past nine months, Parkview missions’ team has trained church leaders from three Malawian provinces. Completion of the training will be marked by a graduation ceremony held in September, followed by a commissioning of those leaders eager to train others in the PD model.
Pastor Tim says their dedication to the PD principles has allowed them to effectively train pastors, build healthy churches, and equip people to transform communities. The lasting impact of this process in Rwanda has helped Tim see the possibilities in Malawi.
“I was blown away when I went to Rwanda,” says Tim. “The economy is doing better, there’s electricity, streets are clean, and there’s a whole infrastructure in place––all because of Christians working together. It’s about connecting people, with the church serving as the vessel.”
From introducing micro-finance programs to health education, PD is helping solve national problems through the local church. “I never saw the importance of the local church until now,” adds Tim.
As an extension of the people, the local churches represent the entire country. They know the people, the language, and the culture, and can use outreach to draw people to Christ. This philosophy is the heart of the PEACE Plan–– partnering with local churches to address the five global giants: spiritual emptiness, self-serving leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy.
As more PEACE Teams head to Malawi, the local people continue to receive them with open arms. They are ecstatic to welcome the volunteers, learn new skills, and make a difference. Local Malawian pastors are eager to learn PD and implement the tools.
“We are seeing a vibrancy of transformed churches,” Tim says. “PD is about giving them the basics and mobilizing the people, not the pastors.”
Malawi is already turning out a fruitful harvest for Purpose Driven Churches. As one of the most underdeveloped countries on earth, Malawi’s needs are real and often unmet. Now more than ever, Parkview Church is poised to step up and make a tangible difference in local communities.
“The people are so gracious,” Tim explains. “They want Jesus to win. But we still have a lot of work before we’ve reached all the unreached tribes in Malawi. We have to make the system strong enough so that the people––through the local church––can reach them.”
To learn more about becoming a Purpose Driven Church, visit pdchurch.flywheelstaging.com/start.