More Information
ISBN: 9781783689200
Imprint: Langham Global Library
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 7
Publication Date: 14/02/2015
Pages: 126
Language: English

Reading Romans at Ground Level

A Contemporary Rural African Perspective


Many pastors in the provincial towns and rural villages of Malawi struggle to find practical relevance in the letter to the Romans. While the majority of church leaders have received little or no formal Bible and ministry training, they often face formidable challenges from African traditional practices, folk Islam, poverty and poor education – creating barriers to authentic Christian discipleship. Reading Romans at Ground Level uses field research to characterize pastoral ministry in provincial-rural Malawi. By examining current preaching practice, it shows that Malawian pastors mostly use individual verses from Paul’s letter within inductive needs-driven sermons or gospel calls for conversion. In this book, a three-horizon contextual approach is used to investigate how the letter might be applied biblically to address contemporary African socio-cultural and pastoral issues. It demonstrates surprisingly rich parallels between the way Romans might have been heard by its original recipients in the slums of Ancient Rome, and its potential meaning for Christians living in poverty in rural Africa today.

Author Bios

Jonathan D. Groves

JONATHAN D. GROVES, MA, MSc, MTh, PhD, is a founding trustee and the Mission Director of The Kerusso Trust (, a UK-based mission charity that supports Christian education in rural Malawi. Dr Groves also serves under The Kerusso Trust as a part-time training consultant and missionary Bible teacher in Malawi. Formerly, Dr Groves held posts in biomedical science research and information technology consultancy. He completed his MTh in Biblical Interpretation at International Christian College, Glasgow, UK. Jonathan and his wife Ruth have lived in North-East Scotland with their two children since 1999, and have served in a variety of church ministries over the years.


Dedicated and determined teachers and preachers will benefit hugely from this highly significant and exciting study of the one Pauline letter that we all thought we knew inside out!

Dr Derek Newton
Former MTh Programme leader,
International Christian College, Scotland

This is a pioneering and important contribution to our understanding both of the Book of Romans and of grassroots biblical hermeneutics in the African context.

Kenneth R. Ross
Formerly Professor of Theology,
University of Malawi

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
  2. Preface
  3. Abstract
  4. Acknowledgements
  5. 1 Introduction
    1. 1.1 Research Questions
    2. 1.2 Educational Context: Need for Biblically Trained Leaders
    3. 1.3 Cultural Context: African Traditional Religion and Worldview
    4. 1.4 Ecclesiastical Context: The Church in Malawi
    5. 1.5 Hermeneutical Context: African Biblical Interpretation
    6. 1.6 Kerygmatic Context: Preaching in Malawi
    7. 1.7 Literary Context: Romans in Malawi
    8. 1.8 Outline of Study
  6. 2 Research Methods
    1. 2.1 Introduction.
    2. 2.2 Basic Questionnaires at Conferences
    3. 2.3 Supplementary Questionnaires at Conferences
    4. 2.4 Detailed Interviews with Senior Pastors
    5. 2.5 Small Groups Discussions
    6. 2.6 Contextual Bible Studies
    7. 2.7 Summary
  7. 3 Modelling the Third-Horizon
    1. 3.1 Introduction
    2. 3.2 Profile of Church Leaders
    3. 3.3 Socio-Cultural and Pastoral Issues
    4. 3.4 Discussion
  8. 4 From Rome to Malawi
    1. 4.1 Introduction
    2. 4.2 Between Three Horizons
    3. 4.3 Using Verses in Preaching
    4. 4.4 Reading Romans in Malawi: Popular Verses
    5. 4.5 Discussion
  9. 5 Romans and Ministry
    1. 5.1 Introduction
    2. 5.2 Using Paragraphs in Preaching
    3. 5.3 Reading Romans in Malawi: Paragraphs
    4. 5.4 Summary
  10. 6 Conclusion
  11. Bibliography
  12. Tables
  13. Figures
  14. Appendix A: Basic Questionnaire
  15. Appendix B: Supplementary Questionnaire & Interview Sheet
  16. Appendix C: Chichewa Bible Translation