Tomorrow I’m going to Mwakiwasha village to teach the Discovery Bible Study process and Church Planting Movements. I’m posting today, partly to (as per usual) let you guys know what we’re up to in Geita, but mostly to ask you to pray over the seminar.
[If you don't care to read about my plans for evangelism in the villages surrounding Geita, I understand -- this is a long post. But please skip to the end and pray over the requests I've listed. I very much would appreciate that.]
There will be representatives present from four or five churches in the area, totaling 12-20 people. We will begin the seminar with worship on Sunday evening and then three days of classes, likely four classes per day with a time of worship each evening.
The first things I’ll teach (and briefly) are:
- Why group Bible study is important (vs. a lone teacher)
- Why obedience-based Bible study is important (vs. knowledge-based)
- How to do an oral inductive Bible study (a sort of 3-column Bible study)
The reason I’m wanting to teach the above subjects quickly is that once we’ve worked through the above material, the remainder of the seminar’s studies will be done in small groups using the inductive Bible study method. I will very much limit my actual teaching beyond initially touching on these three subjects.
Some of the topics we’ll be covering in our times of small group Bible study:
- Scripture as Authority
- Obedience to God
- Godly Leadership
- Meaning and Responsibilities of “Church”
We’ll then place our inductive Bible study inside an “order of worship” for group meetings of Christians. The goal here will be to take all of the core values of church community and place them inside our plan for group meetings, so that we’re spending our time together doing what it is we ought to be doing. Each core value of church will be represented in this plan.
From there, we’ll move the subjects of our group Bible studies to:
- Service and Ministry Accompany Preaching
- Importance of Family
Then, as a group, we’ll take those same core values of church and put them into a plan for evangelistic Bible studies. Each core value will be represented in the Bible study, despite the fact that those participating are not Christians and that the facilitator himself will, after a very few weeks, be a non-Christian from within that group. In this way, as the group of seekers move toward obedience to Christ, their meetings will — keeping the same order of events — embody everything it is that a church should be. [For more information on this, see church planting: the discovery bible study and dna.]
Rather than convincing people to become Christians, then teaching them “how to do church, ” and then some years later — after they’re “mature” — teaching them how to do evangelism… we will have started the group with evangelism already present as one of the core activities. Seekers in our Bible studies will be asked (expected, even) to share what they’ve learned with someone else during the week.
A Broader Plan for Evangelism
After piecing together our plan for evangelistic Bible studies, we’ll use the following texts to create a broader plan for evangelism in order to answer the question, “How will we begin these small group seeker Bible studies?”
- Luke 10:1-2
- Luke 9:1-9
- Matthew 10:1-16
- Mark 6:6-12
The seminar will end with me assigning homework to the participants. Each student will be asked to begin a small group Bible study (for Christians or non-Christians) using our Discovery Bible Study format at some point in the coming weeks. Then, over the next few months, I’ll be following up with each student (either individually or in smaller groups of 2-3 people) to discuss how (and whether or not) those studies are going. I will then enter into a deeper mentoring relationship with those who are actively using our small group process, as we focus our efforts on reaching villages in which no churches are present.
A Brief History of My Own Church Work in Tanzania
When I moved to Tanzania, I expected I would be going into villages where churches are not present and working in evangelism from the very beginning. However, I quickly learned that 1) everything happens slowly here in Africa and 2) there were four congregations (relatively near us) already existing from previous Church of Christ mission work. I opted to spend the bulk of my initial time there, then, forming relationships with these churches and working in church maturation, all the while planning to lead them towards a Church Planting Movements system of evangelism.
Along the way, there have been six other congregations started in our “area” (a radius of about a 2 1/2 hour drive) — one by those four churches already present and five in a completely different location through relationships with Christians in the Mwanza area. These churches were begun almost entirely without missionary effort or influence — which is terrific! [...our goal even.] At the same time, though, as missionaries in the area, there was great expectation that we would work with these churches in maturation upon their starting. So my time has also been used there.
An Ultimatum of Sorts
The reason, then, that this seminar stands out to me as a marker of my time here is that the amount of time I will spend with these local churches is largely dependent on whether or not I’ll be mentoring groups or individuals from within those churches. From this seminar forward I will either greatly withdraw my time from these existing churches in efforts to reach the unreached, or I will continue my time with these churches in order to mentor them to reach the unreached. I prefer the second option, as I believe it’s healthier, more sustainable, and more reproducible for Tanzanians to do the actual work of disciple-making in new areas.
Either way, though, this seminar is a huge turning point for me in that my time going forward will be focused on evangelism in unreached areas of Sukuma land. While I believe what I’ve been doing up to now is important, I feel that I’m finally getting to begin the work I came here to do.
My Prayer Requests
So please pray for me and for all the participants in our seminar this week. Pray that:
- I will only speak what words are required of me, that I will allow God to do the teaching through his Word and the Holy Spirit.
- Students will be open to a new way of looking at Bible study and evangelism.*
- God will be glorified in our meetings and discussions.
- The results of this seminar will not be limited to my own abilities as a teacher or mentor, but that God’s Spirit will move greatly and be active among us and in us.