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God's Design for the Church: A Guide for African Pastors and Ministry Leaders

By Conrad Mbewe, Foreword by Glenn Lyons

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What Is the Church? Foundational Truths from God’s Word

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Christians in Africa numbered approximately nine million—by the end, that number had grown to more than 380 million. As the number of Christians continues to grow, African pastors are often overwhelmed and in desperate need of guidance.

Drawing from three decades of pastoral experience in Zambia, Conrad Mbewe has written a comprehensive handbook specifically for African pastors and church leaders. Structured around twenty commonly asked questions about God’s design for the church, this helpful resource covers topics ranging from the definition of church and the role of church members to the importance of doctrine. Through this book, Mbewe aims to equip pastors and leaders with biblical principles that will “permeate the landscape of Africa and transform its churches for generations to come.”

Published in partnership with the Gospel Coalition and 9Marks.

Read Chapter 1


Conrad Mbewe

Conrad Mbewe (PhD, University of Pretoria) serves as pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, and founding chancellor of the African Christian University. Conrad has authored over nine books and contributed to many others. God blessed him and his wife, Felistas, with three children and three foster children. 

Product Details

Category: Church Ministry
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 288
Size: 6.0 in x 9.0 in
Weight: 12.46 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-6642-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-6642-4
ISBN-UPC: 9781433566424
Case Quantity: 40
Published: October 06, 2020

Table of Contents

Foreword by Glenn Lyons

  1. What Is the Church?
  2. Who Is the Church’s Founder and Head?
  3. What Is the Church’s Task in the World?
  4. Why Is the Gospel So Important to the Church?
  5. Who Should Be in the Church’s Membership?
  6. What Is the Role of Church Members?
  7. Who Should Lead the Church?
  8. Why Practice Baptism and the Lord’s Supper?
  9. What Should Happen during Worship Services?
  10. How Should the Church Raise Its Money?
  11. Should Your Church Be Involved in Missions?
  12. Should Your Church Be Involved in Training Pastors?
  13. What about Church Discipline?
  14. Does It Matter What Your Church Believes?
  15. How Should Your Church Grow Spiritually?
  16. How Should Your Church Grow Numerically?
  17. How Should Your Church Relate to Other Churches?
  18. How Should Your Church Relate to the State?
  19. How Does the Church Offend or Please God?
  20. How Can You Help in Reforming Your Church?

Index of Scripture References


“This book is Conrad Mbewe’s equivalent of Paul’s pastoral letters. It is the wisdom of the Scriptures steeped in decades of personal experience. It is delivered in fresh African illustrations and applications that help even this North American pastor understand God’s Word better. Having known Mbewe for a quarter of a century, having been in his church and he in mine, I could not think of a better person to write such a volume. This book well reflects the teaching of the Bible in ways that both encourage and challenge today’s readers. Mbewe’s writing is clear and simple, elegant and gospel-celebrating. This book is delightful. Enjoy and be edified. The last chapter is gold.”
Mark Dever, Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC

“It’s the subtitle of this book that explains its vision: Conrad Mbewe is not only laying out a biblical and practical exposition of the church but is doing so for ‘African pastors and ministry leaders.’ Mbewe, longtime pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, points out that he writes as ‘a son of the African soil,’ and therefore he has earned the right to challenge his fellow Africans in frank ways that missionaries could never deploy without being dismissed as foreigners. In twenty short but probing chapters, Mbewe writes with such clarity and prophetic faithfulness that the book deserves wide study not only in Africa but around the world.”
D. A. Carson, Theologian-at-Large, The Gospel Coalition

“I love Conrad Mbewe, and I love this book! This is a faithful, readable, and practical exploration of the doctrine of the church. As a Presbyterian, I might quibble with a Baptist point here or there, but that doesn’t take away from my overall enthusiasm. Mbewe has written an excellent book that is attuned to the cultural dynamics of Africa but beneficial for Christians everywhere. I hope this wise and accessible work finds a wide audience.”
Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, North Carolina; Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte

“With biblical insight and down-to-earth illustrations, Conrad Mbewe’s God’s Design for the Church takes us on an insider’s exploration of the nature, character, and challenges of the rapidly expanding church in Africa. His comprehensive but easy-to-read analysis confirms much of what is visible and does not shy away from often hidden ‘hot potatoes,’ such as money matters, issues of discipline, and other trends that define, enhance, or undermine the life and witness of the church. His perspective has implications for the future of the body of Christ, not only in Africa but also in other parts of the world.”
Femi B. Adeleye, Director, Langham Preaching Africa, Ghana

“This is a timely book! It addresses with clarity the confused identity and practices of the church in Africa. As a grace carrier, and as a bold, honest, and effective communicator, Conrad Mbewe has vindicated the concerns of the leaders of the church on our continent by addressing the elephant in the room. He has called by name what appeared to be a no-go area and described it as unacceptable. But he has also demonstrated that there is still a remnant who have not ‘bowed their knees to Baal.’ Above all, Mbewe has offered practical, Bible-based solutions to the current weaknesses and problems of the church. A thoroughly readable and thought-provoking book, it has left me with renewed hope for the church in Africa. I enthusiastically recommend it to all church leaders on our continent and especially to our leadership training institutions.”
Paul E. Mususu, President, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia

“The church is the bride of Christ. It is God’s plan ‘A’ in his work of redemption. As such, it is paramount that we know and understand God’s design for the church. In this volume, Conrad Mbewe has done yeoman’s work in that regard. In an age when pragmatism and innovation are held in higher esteem than doctrine and theology, this book is a breath of fresh air. With the accuracy of a theologian and the tender heart of a shepherd, Mbewe weaves a tapestry that combines timeless truths and contemporary insights into a helpful resource for Christians of every stripe. In this time of biblical and ecclesiological illiteracy, the usefulness of this book cannot be overestimated.”
Voddie Baucham Jr., Dean of the School of Divinity, African Christian University

“Some books I enjoy recommending. A few I’m honored to recommend, as with this one. Conrad Mbewe has labored in faith and love for decades, studying the Scriptures and then leading his flock to follow them. This book shows the accumulated wisdom of all that study and work. It’s wise, pastorally conscientious, rigorously biblical, and excellent. And I plead with pastors to read his book slowly, carefully, prayerfully, with your Bible open, and looking for ways to apply Mbewe’s instruction in your own congregation.”
Jonathan Leeman, Editorial Director, 9Marks; Elder, Cheverly Baptist Church, Hyattsville, Maryland

“Conrad Mbewe’s ministry at Kabwata Baptist Church has been the example of faithfulness and fruitfulness that I have pursued in my own ministry for more than a decade now. His was the first preaching that I heard that was shrouded in African style, illustrations, and application, while at the same time communicating faithfully and powerfully the glorious truths of our great God. Kabwata Baptist Church and other congregations that belong to their family of churches were the first to expose me to the idea of a healthy church. The compelling witness of members of Kabwata, who loved selflessly and pursued God in the Word fervently, helped me see the beauty of God’s plan for his church. In a time when the truths of God’s Word are labeled as Western, and error is defended as African, Mbewe has sketched for us a biblical portrait of the church that comes accompanied with a historical witness of fruitfulness in the African context. Read this book with your Bible open. Let him convince you from the Word. Where you see a need to correct course, in prayer, patience, and humility, join in pursuing God’s design for the church.”
Kenneth Mbugua, Senior Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Nairobi, Kenya

“With keen biblical insight, deep faithfulness to the Scriptures, and refreshing African illustrations, Conrad Mbewe sets his sights on the needs and concerns of the African church and hits the bull’s-eye. He makes it clear that Africa needs gospel-centered, Bible-drenched churches made up of true believers, covenanted together in gospel love, who unflinchingly know, live, and proclaim the gospel of Christ. Christians around the world should offer urgent prayers that African pulpits would be filled with African men who understand and apply the truths in this book—especially as the locus of gospel vibrancy moves more and more to the Global South. Any non-African who reads this book will gain insight about Africa and Africans, but don’t miss that Mbewe’s clarion call is not for an African church, but rather for a biblical church. This book is not just for Africans—it is for all cultures and contexts. It’s for anyone who desires to anchor themselves in the Bible’s design for church.”
J. Mack Stiles, Director, Messenger Ministries Inc.

“What is an ideal church and how can you tell? Conrad Mbewe seeks to address God’s design for the church. He writes in a vivid, concise, and penetrating way, exalting the supremacy of Jesus Christ in the church. Mbewe is a living testimony of the biblical principles contained in this down-to-earth book. While it is still today and the opportunity is ours, we need Christian leadership that is spiritually and intellectually incisive. It is this leadership that is evident in this book. Mbewe is a voice that must be listened to, and this is a book that must be reckoned with. May the Lord use it to keep his church—particularly the church in Africa—strong and true to the faith.”
Joe Mundamawo, Bishop’s Chaplain, Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church in Zimbabwe; Former Board Chairman, Harare Theological College