MISSION AND EVANGELISM
In responding to the great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel to all Nations (Mt. 28: 19-20), ELCT deploys the department of Mission and Evangelism in coordinating, facilitating and building capacity of the servants of God in the entire church and beyond, to ensure that Gospel reaches all people, and that all members are nurtured to grow godly.
Mission and Evangelism is indeed the back borne of the church without which church will remain like any other charity organization. It is the DNA of the church through which church identifies itself. Yet, as a spiritual institution, ELCT serves human being in a holistic approach ensuring that all human needs are met, thus it renders evangelism ministry, education ministry and health ministry accompanied by diakonia and other supportive activities.
As it has been throughout the centuries, ELCT as part of the global church is envisioned a Christ Centred communion of people focused on eternal life. This vision can be reached through mission: To enable people to know Jesus Christ and have eternal life in its fullness based on Biblical teachings and Lutheran identity guided by the constitution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. This vision and mission statements impel the church to reach out, with Good News of Jesus Christ, all people in Tanzania and respond to the Macedonian call from the neighbouring countries.
More efforts are now put to make each member Christian aware of his/her involvement in the Mission activities as it has been down the history that the involvement of members of the congregation in Mission work has enabled the Church to grow tremendously and have stabilized Church leadership founded in the leadership patterns of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ELCT is the church in which the lay persons play a very significant role for propagating the Gospel.
- The Growth of the Church
By the year 1938, there were already 7 independent Lutheran Churches in Tanganyika (which later changed its name to Tanzania) under the umbrella of the Federation of the Lutheran Churches in Tanganyika. These 7 Lutheran Churches merged into one Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) with about 500,000 members in 19th June 1963, with steady growth to cover all parts of the country with more that 8.5 million in 2023 in population of more that 63 million of Tanzanians. Several factors contributed to this growth, including but not limited to evangelism mostly done by individual members, social services, marriages, groups activities, open air spiritual conferences, teachings radio and TV programs, health and education ministries.
- Mission outreach
Since Mission and Evangelism is the backbone of the Church, all other activities of, and through the church need to focus on supporting Mission and Evangelism. Such a Focus is not only a positive response to the Great Commission of our Lord to proclaim the Gospel to all Nations but also sustaining the Church and making it more visible to the community around.
The Department has been coordinating the Mission work within Tanzania, and it also involves Mission work of the Lutheran churches in the neighbouring countries, thus, it has been participating in sending pastors and evangelists, offering scholarships to the indigenous personnel to study in ELCT theological institutions and attends consultative bodies that are also known as Joint Mission Boards.
Through its dioceses, ELCT continues to create space and facilitate mission activities in specialized areas such as Seafarers Mission work (also known as Mission to seamen program) at the ports of Dar es Salaam and Tanga, etc. Some Dioceses have been assigned by the Church to be caretakers of these Missions working in cooperation with the Mission Department as the Coordinator, facilitator and advocate, and one Mission area – the Zanzibar Island.
The Department participates in Mission outreach programs to the neighbouring countries of Congo, Mozambique, and Uganda, also accompanying Churches in Burundi and Kenya. Through ELCT Diocese, there are close cooperation with Church of Rwanda, Malawi and Zambia.
- Main Activities of the Department
Other activities of the Department include but not limited to the preparation of the Church Literatures such as Hymn Books, ELCT Bible Calendar, Books of Confirmation classes, and guidelines (lectionary) for family groups (community) Prayer and Bible study guidlines. It also deals with Christian Education and Theological issues of the Church and Ecumenism questions. Radio Voice of the Gospel, inter-faith and coordination dialogue on inter-faith relationship is part of the work done in Mission and Evangelism Department. The Youth Desk established in 2010, is one of the arms of this Mission and Evangelism Department to coordinate and facilitating youth in building unity for the future church.
- Outreach extension
There is a clear need to extend outreach to areas that were previous not considered as mission areas- these are new emerging groups such as motorbike businessmen mostly young generation (know as bodaboda), who due to their business could not come to normal Church activities and services. Others are the neglected Communities such as fishermen along the lakes and rivers; solders in the Army barracks; prisoners in the prisons; people or other faiths, minority African tribes (Barabaig, Tindigas etc), the sick in the hospitals; workers in industries and factories, street youths and children of whom the growth is becoming high and most of them are alcoholics or drug abuse; The tourists flocking into Tanzania; etc. For these groups and many more that may emerge, Department need to prepare programs to reach them.
- Mapping new areas
The ELCT new Strategic Plan (SP-022-2026) prioritised growth and sustainable church as number one. As such, to attain this objective, department will work in collaboration with dioceses in mapping new mission areas and designating possible new dioceses for close supervision and leadership development. Each diocese can designate and map areas of operation as focal point for Mission work for the period of three years 2022-2026 (within the timeframe of- SP)
Department will visit dioceses and translate SP and, in consultation with the responsible diocese, determine the best operations for the designated areas on mission and evangelism and ultimately leadership for development of such areas to later become diocese. Already in Zanzibar the progress is encouraging as the Eastern and Costal Diocese has taken serious initiatives for evangelization. More churches are built to enable people to attend services as they may need and as required. The church in Zanzibar direly need support from outside since the area of operation is pre-dominantly people of the other faith.
- Strengthening of Christian Faith
Christian Education is of paramount importance in building and strengthening Christian Faith. This is one of the two aspects in the Great Command of Jesus – “Baptize and Teach”. ELCT SP has put Christian Education as on of its priorities in sustaining the church. Department is now reviving centre for training of Christian Education at Lutheran Junior Seminary Morogoro. This centred will provide an opportunity for all dioceses to train her tutors who can then teach Christian education at their home diocese. This task will also need a close collaboration with the Bible and theological colleges in an attempt to improve curriculum and methodology of teaching Christian education at levels of the church structure.
- Mission in Neighbour Countries
The mission of the ELCT is not bound by boundaries but crosses beyond them. Thus, this church has long participated in mission work in the neighbouring countries to establish Lutheran churches and most of them are now fully fledged independent churches with episcopal leadership. These are churches in Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, DRC, Burundi and Kenya and Rwanda which has been under the guidance of ELCT North Wester Diocese. ELCT is still accompanying Lutheran Church in Uganda which is also growing especially after the Ebenezer congregation of Kampala joined the Uganda Lutheran which formally had her head office in Mbarara. These churches, especially, Uganda and Burundi need support in human capacity building and finance for acquiring and setting up infrastructure
ELCT is so gratitude to her partners through whom most of the mission work have been executed successfully. The expenses for missionaries while in the mission fields are always requested from our partners. The following deserves to be mentioned that include ELCA, NMZ, MWB, COS, LWF, ZMO, NLM, FELM, SEM, but these just few to mention. We are very grateful for the generous support offered to our church to enable it foster in her mission.
The Church proclaims the word of God, both within the country and across borders through mission work. Mission work is done by dioceses within Tanzania. The Church had mission work in Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia which have now become autonomous Churches.
Now, we have received a request from Burundi for Mission work.
The Church has also been involved in mission work in other neighbouring countries.