Last week, I spent three nights and parts of four days in Mwakiwasha village, teaching a seminar on CPM. [To read more on what I taught and the nature of that seminar, see cpm training: a turning point in my ministry.] This is an initial report on how I believe that seminar went — both the good and the bad.
There were 15-20 people in attendance at each of the sessions, representing three churches. The group was about half men and half women, with the Mwakiwasha church (the host church) represented far better than the others — as was expected. We spent roughly 20 hours in class and also ate most of our meals together, sometimes discussing further what we’d studied that day.
I won’t go into detail concerning what I taught or which texts we studied (much of that, again, you can find here, or you can feel free to ask questions in the comments section).
- Everyone appreciated the challenge for us to rely on scripture during our times of study, and not to go beyond what was actually said in the text. This was commented on many times throughout the week, particularly outside of class.
- There was much interest in the church as one body with one head (Christ) but many parts; spiritual gifts of “leadership” being about function and not office or position; and proper shepherding of God’s flock by service and not lording over.
- Related, one of the most repeated phrase during the week was something along these lines: “It is not the church leader’s responsibility to mature the church. This is the responsibility of the Holy Spirit, and he does so by Christians using the gifts he’s given to build up one another. “
- It seemed to be a new idea that drawing men to Christ is God’s responsibility and not ours. I think there was buy in as well; many seemed relieved.
- The concept of Bible study for obedience rather than knowledge was very much already present to a large extent. [I've found in Tanzania the belief that obedience is crucially important is common; it's the practice that often is not.]
- Those present participated well in the study of God’s commands versus the traditions of man. We spent a fair amount of time discussing church and cultural traditions that might not go against God’s commands, but either 1) are barriers to the spread of the gospel or 2) water down our understanding of particular Christian practices.
- There was one particular preacher present who was formally trained (for a time) in a pentecostal seminary here in Tanzania. Much of what he has been taught was incredibly extra-Biblical, and — in the beginning — I was concerned his questions would cause problems and/or confusion for all the others. In the end, though, I think the group as a whole benefited from us being able to look at scripture to answer some of his questions. [And from us looking at scripture other times and being forced to say, "Yeah, there's just no way we can know that answer from what's written here."
- The group loved using Luke 10 as a model for evangelism and being sent by Jesus.
- In the end, I believe the women present might form a women's Bible study group of some sort. There are probably 3-4 men who might be involved in using this process for evangelism, though I am only really confident that one of them will.
- His name is Yohana, and he's already been by far the most active in evangelism and church planting. I believe he had several "aha" moments throughout the course of the seminar. One of them had to do with not assembling large groups for preaching (by way of inviting a choir to sing), and instead going into someone's home and giving a small group the tools they need to study the Bible.
- On the first day I found it difficult to explain well some of the deeper concepts in Swahili. After speaking only Swahili for 36 hours or so, it did become much easier. Still, I had the most trouble explaining (on days 2 and 3) the "core values of church" and how we can include them in a Bible study process for small groups.
- The time was not enough for all the training and study I'd set aside.
- The use of smaller groups for Bible study didn't seem to be of as much interest to everyone; they really wanted all of us to study together. [However, participation was very good when we did indeed study together as a group of 15.]
- There were lots of rabbits to chase. Of particular interest were the subjects of alcohol, sadaka (weekly offering), and the Holy Spirit. I’ve listed this in the not-so-good section, though taking time to address these subjects probably went a long way in building relationships with those present. Also, we were able to really test our willingness to trust scripture and scripture alone.
- I went to Mwakiwasha on my bike and so had to leave a little earlier on Wednesday than I would have if I’d gone by truck. Early that morning, then, I went over a study with three men who were to be responsible for teaching that session after I left that day. I discovered yesterday that they did not in any way even attempt to teach it after I left. I feel I failed in that respect, because the last session was an important one. [And I was thinking I'd done a great thing by delegating out to others and lessening dependence on me.]
- I found my pre-arranged order of materials for the seminar was not great. I altered it a bit as I was going, but will change more before I present the same seminar to another group in November.
Tomorrow (or the next time I post) I’ll share with you guys the list the attendants came up with when we talked about the ideas of importance we learned during the week.