earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Posts from — October 2016

Gospel of Mark in TZ Today

Sunday Morning Service in Lusolelo, 25 Sep

Sunday Morning Service in Lusolelo, 25 Sep

After completing the basic teaching which prepared the way to form a church membership in Usagara, I’ve shifted my focus to preaching through the Gospel of Mark. In this context–like the one in which Jesus ministered and just about any other outwardly religious society–people may know about Jesus without truly knowing who He really is. Mark’s Gospel is helpful as an especially hard-hitting confrontation of wrong thinking about who Jesus is.

Mark writes the “good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” (1:1). What makes the “good news” good may be lost on as many people today as it was in First Century Palestine. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus can be both Messiah and sacrifice for sin, argues Mark. He is humble enough to bless children and bold enough to challenge the religious establishment. Jesus is both Son of God and friend of sinners.

Gospel of Mark in TZ


Preaching through this Gospel presents the chance to address certain commonly misunderstood notions about our Lord. For instance, God is more concerned with the condition of our heart than our pockets. Jesus is more interested in your repentant faith than your status, title, or ability to wow crowds. The following table shows the ideas we’ve been considering as we walk through the Gospel of Mark in broad strokes:

Passage Sermon Theme
Mark 1–3 Let’s get to know Jesus as He really is, not as we want Him to be
Mark 3–6 Those who know Jesus as He really is will be radically changed
Mark 6–8 Loving God as He is more important than keeping traditions
Mark 8–10 Without the death of Christ, there is no good news
Mark 11–13 Prepare for Christ’s return by loving God with your whole heart
Mark 14–16 TBD

October 18, 2016   No Comments

October 2016 Ministry Update

The rains are making things green here once again. Corn and jackbeans are sprouting in our conservation agriculture field. There is also growth in other (spiritual and ecclesiastical) ways.

Spiritual Growth and the Word of God

Pastor Elias leading review in our class on spiritual growth

Pastor Elias leading review in our class on spiritual growth

The Bible institute was in session last week for a class on spiritual growth. We wanted students to finish the week with a desire to know God more through His word, believing that those who know God more will want to be more like Him. Like February’s class on the gospel, we intended the teaching format and material to be accessible to all church members and help each student determine how to better obey God outside the classroom. God gave us an excellent week.

Church Number 6

A church was born in Usagara, Tanzania, on Sunday October 2. With the blessing of their mother church in Shadi, the believers in Usagara–including those baptized just two weeks ago–formally organized themselves as a church under our Lord Jesus Christ. They began gathering, evangelizing, and encouraging one another months ago. Last Sunday’s decision means they are now doing these things as a self-governing body with a statement of faith and a constitution. As their first order of business, the church in Usagara called William Samweli to be their pastor. I feel privileged to have been involved.

Prayer Update

  1. The Bible institute class of last week was blessed with good attendance and excellent interaction. Since this class is about spiritual growth, the assigned homework involves reading or listening to the word of God and responding in prayer. Let’s pray that they may be challenged to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).
  2. As a new church our brothers and sisters in Usagara are now bearing the weight of more responsibility. Deliberately or not they are now forming lasting traditions and priorities. How will they decide to serve one another? Will they commit their resources to God’s work? How will they decide to worship God? Since habits are easier to make than break, we pray that they may make traditions that truly honor God.
  3. As we encourage our Bible institute students to be growing in godliness, we pray that we ourselves may be good examples of what it means to follow Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. May God help us as we humbly pursue holiness and love.

October 5, 2016   No Comments