Natural disasters and the necessity of preaching

Times of devastation remind us that preaching prepares us for the new creation.

Natural disasters remind us of just how powerless we are on this earth that’s broken by human sin. God didn’t create the earth to hurt or destroy us. God created humans to rule an earth that was good, fruitful, protective, and merciful. But when we sinned, we entered into a new reality. The earth was now against us, and we must all one day find ourselves in submission to it: “For you are dust, and you will return to dust” (Gen 3:19).

In December, we woke up early to take a guest to the airport, and we discovered that our home region of west Kentucky was getting hammered by tornados. From the other side of the world, we watched our local television station broadcasting on Facebook Live and prayed. Then we followed carefully the reports of the devastation experienced by many of our friends, supporters, and partners in Kentucky.

About one month later, we experienced a natural disaster in Malawi in the form of a cyclone (the equivalent to a hurricane) and the flooding that followed. So much has been lost by so many here where the safety net has much wider gaps in it than what we are used to in the U.S.

During such times, we may be tempted to believe that the preaching of God’s word has lost its relevance, or that it at least must take a backseat to the immediate, temporal needs caused by disaster. This way of thinking, however, is completely wrong. Not only do God’s people need the comfort of God’s word in times of disaster, but it is the preaching of God’s word that is actually bringing about a new earth. It is the preaching of God’s word that is actually preparing us for the reversal of the curse caused by sin.

In Revelation 5:10, we read that 24 elders praise Jesus for purchasing a people from every nation who will be a kingdom of priests and who will “reign on the earth.” The preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s means of gathering his kingly priests who will do what Adam failed to do — rule over creation under God’s ultimate authority. 

The times are changing. God is renewing his people through the preaching of the gospel, and one day soon God will renew all of creation.

Meeting immediate needs in the Lower Shire

When we care for those affected by natural disasters, we give testimony to the greater comfort that is coming when God makes all things new.

Last month, we shared about the devastation from Cyclone Ana that affected all of southern Malawi and bordering areas in Mozambique. The Lower Shire, where we serve 85 churches, was the worst affected area due to major flooding of the Shire River. This month we were supposed to meet with these pastors for training, but since many of them were busy rebuilding and replanting from the floods, and others were still living in temporary camps, we decided to cancel our week of training.

With your help, however, we were still able to give gifts to the affected pastors. Each pastor in the region received a bucket filled with a new Bible (many lost theirs in the flooding), soap, and plastic sheets that can be used for rebuilding or for temporary shelters.

Our director in the Lower Shire, Michael, and his assistant, Friday, traveled throughout the region to deliver these supplies. Continue to pray for these pastors who have lost so much, and pray as we have 1-2 months more of rains and storms to come before rainy season ends. Some areas have already been affected again by local flash floods.

Training pastors to preach

Because God uses preaching to renew the world, preaching is a matter of utmost urgency. For this reason, we are so thankful that Pastor Zack Thurman from Overland Church has been able to serve here this week. Zack has been teaching the principles of preaching and how to prepare a biblical sermon. Despite the difficulties that many of these pastors have faced due to the cyclone last month, 67 pastors were still able to gather.

Each morning, I started the day by preaching from Revelation 4–5, reminding us that God and Jesus are still in control and worthy of worship. After Zack’s teaching, the pastors broke into small groups to practice preparing sermons together.

The pastors were emphatic that they had learned a lot, and they were eager to start putting what they learned into practice. I’m hopeful that this class will really improve the quality of preaching found in our partner churches.

Heading into a busy few months

On Sunday, the Shepherds Academy students will return for their final term of the year. Isaac will finish his course on Bible survey by teaching through the New Testament, while I will be teaching evangelism and discipleship. Last term, the students took our preaching course, so this term they will practice delivering the sermons they have prepared. This is an important term as we prepare students, especially those graduating, for their ministry projects in June and July.

In April, we will be serving through medical clinics before doing some more pastor training and church planting in May and June. Then we will be heading to the US for our 7 month furlough. As our furlough approaches quickly, you can continue to help us with the special expenses involved. If the Spirit leads you to give, you can give to our furlough fund online or through mail. Or if you’d like to learn about specific needs, please email me.

We praise God for your constant prayers for this ministry, and we look forward to an eternity with you in the new creation, where we will marvel endlessly about all that God has done for us, in us, and through us.

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Joshua Hutchens

Joshua Hutchens

Joshua Hutchens (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a missionary to Malawi and president of Gospel Life. Before becoming president of Gospel Life, he served as a pastor in Kentucky. He is married to Stacy Leigh, and they have five children.

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