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Matt Dixon shares about the importance of church development and the role that the Institute of Bible and Ministry has to play in supporting the Tanzanian church to grow, not just in numbers, but in knowledge and depth of insight.
“The gospel is bearing fruit in Tanzania, and the main challenge revolves around the growth of the church.”
The current development
I have been working in construction for around 20 years, undertaking a number of disciplines that have been put to good use here in Africa, including brick and block work, plastering, carpentry and basic joinery. I’m yet to find a use for the years spent living in the Cotswolds learning stone masonry.
For the last four years I’ve been serving with AIM in partnership with the Africa Inland Church of Tanzania (AICT). I live with my family in Morogoro about 200 kilometres inland from Dar es Salaam. We work alongside Tony & Cath Swanson and Ruth & Steve Lancaster for the Institute of Bible and Ministry (IBM). My particular role is overseeing and managing the construction of the Sanga Sanga project, where I apply my skills to the development of the conference and retreat centre which rests upon a gentle slope facing the beautiful Uluguru mountains, about 16 kilometres from town.
Building progress at Sanga Sanga
August 2015: 53 people were needed to pour the concrete into the 290m of foundation trenches – by hand!
October 2015: The foundation walls are coated in bitumen and a damp proof membrane added below the over-site.
November 2015: Concrete columns are built as well as form work for first ring beam.
December 2015: Views across conference hall from the mezzanine.
For more photos and updates on the building work, visit the Dixons’ blog: mattamytanzania.blogspot.co.uk
The continuing need
The IBM is a department of the AICT, Coastal Diocese. It was first envisaged back in the mid-nineties, when a number of AIM missionaries saw the need for continuing theological education for pastors who were already working in the field. The Tanzanian pastors’ lot is not an easy one, dealing with the challenges of poverty, disease and poor infrastructure alongside the needs of a growing church. IBM seeks to enable, mobilise and inspire these men and their wives to a closer relationship with the Lord and greater effectiveness in ministry. Hopefully not only sending them back spiritually refreshed but revitalised to carry the message forward.
In the regional and diocesan-wide training we try to build competency among the pastors through seminars, retreats and specialist courses. This includes Biblical studies, missiology, and spiritual and pastoral studies. The building of the retreat centre at Sanga is already facilitating much learning and growth, and provides a focal point to the Institute’s many activities. When completed it will sleep up to 100 pastors for short courses, seminars and retreats, as well as providing for kids’ camps and various church groups.
The challenging environment
So what impact does this church development have for the gospel? The gospel is bearing fruit in Tanzania, and the main challenge revolves around the growth of the church. How can the many new congregations be led well? How can they be helped to face the challenging environment that faces the Tanzanian church in the 21st Century? How can new believers keep faithful to the word of God and keep the Lord Jesus before them always? IBM seeks in a small way to impact these vital gospel areas, encouraging pastors to be looking outwards, planting new churches among the unreached, training new believers in discipleship as well as developing their preaching and pastoral gifts.
How can IBM reach and train people to reach the unreached? By building and increasing the capacity of the church through physical and spiritual development, we trust that what we are doing here will have a lasting impact in eternity. As the church is envisioned, revitalised in the power of God’s Spirit and directed by his word, it is being enabled to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost. It is our prayer that a great missionary force from Tanzania will not only impact this country but this continent and beyond.