Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Divinity (MDiv)




The general purpose of this study has been to select and pre­sent contextual factors from the past and present in Malawi that provide insights into the process of the growth of the Church in Malawi and in particular the growth of the Free Methodist Church. The study is done with the understanding that it is preliminary to a field study which will provide the basis for decision making by both the Church and Mission.

Past contextual factors discussed are the geographical setting,the acculturating agents and effects of acculturation with emphasis on the four major intrusions of the 19th century, and the influence of Dr. Banda himself. Present factors discussed include the social structures, religious structures, economic structures, education, population patterns, public health, and theological and spiritual factors. From these background discussions numerous questions are raised to be answered in additional research.

A history of the Free Methodist Church in Malawi based on original documents and the author's personal participation is included both as a contribution to knowledge and as further background for understanding what is happening in the Free Methodist Church.

Available statistical data on Church membership in Malawi is presented in tables and graphs and analysed in the text. The picture of slow growth and the apparent boundaries between the Christian, Muslim and Traditional communities are quantified.

Tentative conclusions of the study suggest that the positive call of a particular man by God and intervention by the Holy Spirit have combined with the spiritual vacuum created by undershepherding in the larger denominations and the leadership opportunity vacuum created by the cutting off of traditional opportunities plus the high degree of control in both the political and religious spheres. Small receptive pockets of population are being discovered and led to Christ. Half or more of the membership appears to be by conver­sion from the non-Christian population reservoir. Mission intervention should take seriously the fact that the Church began with a black man whom God called. The offer of resources to help should not be­ come the assumption of control and responsibility.

The final result of the study is a proposal in detail for a field evaluation study utilizing a team comprising students pastors and professional consultants.

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