Global Conversations on Discipleship: Evangelism, Discipleship, and Publishing in Zimbabwe
By Mighty Rasing
In this episode of the Global Conversations on Discipleship podcast, host Mighty Rasing interviews Rev. Gift Kudakwashe Machinga, who is the Pastor-in-Charge of Cranborne UMC in Zimbabwe. He also serves as the Chair of the Board of Discipleship in the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference and as the leader of the Discipleship Resources International (DRI) - Publishing Team in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.
Through this podcast, United Methodist leaders from the Central Conferences share how God is moving in their midst; how they engage community, and make disciples of Jesus Christ in their context. Hosted by Mighty Rasing, Director of Central Conference Relationships at Discipleship Ministries.
Here are the highlights from this conversation:
He grew up in The United Methodist Church through the influence of his mother. Attending children’s Sunday school helped him deepen his faith and eventually make a personal decision to follow Christ.
After the war of liberation in Zimbabwe and the country achieved independence, Methodist churches sent teams to rural areas to preach the gospel and reopen churches. Gift was one of the youngest preachers sent as part of these teams.
He was ordained as a deacon in 1984 and then as an elder in 1986.
Books and Christian Education
One of the books that profoundly influenced him was written by Rev. Lameck Zhungu, an African pastor and Christian education director.
In every annual conference since the 1990s, The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe has expressed the need to produce and publish resource materials for Christian growth.
Creation of the Zimbabwe Publishing Team
In 2009, Steve Bryant and Kara Oliver, from Discipleship Ministries, came to facilitate a leadership retreat for the conference leadership. Conversations started to help the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area in writing and publishing materials for Christian education. These conversations eventually led to the creation of a publishing team in Zimbabwe through Discipleship Ministries’ Discipleship Resources International (DRI) Project.
More information about the Discipleship Resources International (DRI) Project can be found here: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/about/dri.
The types of resources that the Zimbabwean church needed are those resources that would capacitate the clergy in their work . . . resources that would help and assist the lay leadership in the church to train others. We needed resources that would help in our Christian education ministry. . . In our worship, we needed worship resources. The Zimbabwean church needed resources even for the educational institutions of the church. . . We have students in those schools, and we needed to have a positive impact in the lives of those students.
The following books and booklets have been published by the Zimbabwe Publishing Team to respond to those needs:
- Lessons on stewardship
- Prayer and fasting
- Christian faith sharing – translated in Ndebele and Shona
- The Christian seasons
- A Guide to Candidates for Baptism and Confirmation (This was the first book published by the publishing team.)
- Braille hymnbook
The publishing team’s goal is to make Christian materials available and affordable.
Evangelism and Discipleship in The United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe
Evangelism and discipleship are taken seriously in the church. Members form sections or cell groups composed of ten families. These sections learn and grow together in their faith and invite their friends and neighbors, too.
The sections or cell groups become a training ground for members to conduct ministry.
What happens in the sections or cell groups?
- Bible study
- Receiving a lesson or teaching
The Impact of the Publishing Team’s Ministry and Challenges They Face
Through the resources produced by the publishing team, the congregations have written materials for their church school programs.
Hymnbooks and other resources translated to local languages such as Ndebele and Shona help in evangelization, as people can understand the gospel message in their own languages.
Translatability of the Christian Faith
Theologian Lamin Sanneh has said that one of the greatest strengths of the Christian faith is its translatability.
Lamin was also one of the first to try out a definition of “World Christianity.” He promoted the growth and development of this field for a quarter century. Lamin’s masterwork, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (1989), showed that the genius of Christianity was its translatability, its ability to make its home in hundreds of different cultures. The most powerful aspect of this trait was Christianity’s repeated honoring of local languages as media fit to convey the Word of God [emphasis added]. – “Remembering Lamin Sanneh,” Christianity Today (January 8, 2019),
Challenges Faced by the Publishing Team in Zimbabwe
- The lack of reading culture
- The economic challenges in Zimbabwe, high inflation rate of about 480 percent, which leads to very high publication costs.
Sustainability of the Publishing Team and the Church in Africa
Rev. Gift Machinga expressed his deep hopes for the African church to become sustainable:
What I want to see the African church do is moving toward self-reliance, self-sustainability. We need to come as African church to a point whereby we are independent financially. To a point where we are able to finance the publication of our materials. To a point where we are able to finance for our ministry programs. A point where we are able to support our pastors financially—to remunerate them so they are able to do their work. It is my dream it is my hope that one day, the African church will be able to stand on its own.
Mighty Rasing is the Director of Central Conference Relationships at Discipleship Ministries.