Rooted in Jesus was created in 2002 for the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania at the request of its Diocesan Missioner, Stanley Hotay. In 2011 Stanley was elected as the third bishop of the diocese, and in 2014 he became the National Director for Rooted in Jesus in the Province of Tanzania.
Over the last 18 years Rooted in Jesus has been introduced to twenty of the twenty-eight dioceses in the Province. Each diocese appoints its own coordinator, usually the Head of the Mission or Christian Education Department. Every couple of years a National Coordinator conference is held, and the fourth of these has just taken place at Munguishi Bible College near Arusha.
Set in its own grounds and surrounded by a 90 acre farm, Munguishi provided a relaxing venue for the conference. The Principal of the College, Joseph Bea, and his wife Martha, gave a wonderful welcome to the ten delegates who were able to attend, many of whom had travelled long distances to be there.
The Challenge of discipleship
The conference was hosted by Bishop Stanley, who opened with a rousing talk on the ability of the Church in Tanzania to take responsibility for its own growth and development. He pointed out that almost half the world population is African, and that Africa is home to a staggering 400 million Christians, more than anywhere else in the world. “We must understand the Word of God, believe it and live it, use the resources given to us by God, and invest not just in adults but also in children,” he said.
Stanley went on to explain how Rooted in Jesus was created as a resource to help people understand and practise their faith. “We had no resources to teach with,” he said; “our culture is to talk. We needed a suitable course for Africa, which permits people to talk, not read. Sometimes we can think we do not need God. We come to church, but we want to get on with our daily lives during the week. We are not rooted. We need to repent and change our perspectives. If we are rooted in Jesus, the church will be healed.”
Each Diocesan Coordinator had been asked to present a report on the progress of Rooted in Jesus within their diocese. For some, the programme is well established both among adults and, using Rooted in Jesus Junior, in Sunday schools. For others, various factors had inhibited the groups and growth had slowed. Each presentation was followed by careful discussion, and suggestions and proposals for the best way forward were made.
Some highlights from the reports:
Canon Jacob Robert of the Diocese of Mara reported that there are currently 72 groups meeting in 26 parishes. Rooted in Jesus was first introduced to the diocese in 2009, and many of those who have previously completed the course have become active in ministry, preaching, church planting, and prayer. The older teenagers who have completed Rooted in Jesus Junior are now teaching the younger ones, and many children are now actively sharing their faith with others. There has been considerable church growth across the diocese as a result of Rooted in Jesus.
Revd Clement Manyatta of the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro explained that Rooted in Jesus Junior is used as a two year programme to prepare young people for confirmation; 57 groups have completed the first four books of the Junior programme. The children learn very fast, he said; they are like sponges. There are 15 parishes using the adult programme, but the real need is to introduce it to the many new churches – over the last 5 years no fewer than 300 churches have been planted, mostly in Masai areas, with one among a previously unreached people group, the Tatoga, who had never heard of Jesus; 900 people from this community have now welcomed him into their hearts. We are revising the old Masai translation of Rooted in Jesus so that the new Christians, who often have only untrained local evangelists to care for them, will be able to learn about their new faith in their own language; and Clement will look at the possibility of translating it into Tatoga as well.
Canon Anderson Madimilo of the Diocese of Mpwapwa explained that he is new in post following the retirement of Dustan Mtoro, but reported that “this ministry is in all 13 deaneries in our diocese. For us it is a success everywhere. In these deaneries we have 123 Rooted in Jesus Junior groups with 1108 children, and 154 adult groups with 1284 members.” He went on to explain the impact that Rooted in Jesus has had in all the churches of the diocese; “it has raised the giving, it has established the faith in our Christians, because many now like the programme and love the church. The number of Christians has grown, because we no longer lose people to other churches as we used to. Because the groups pray together, many people have had their problems solved, their lives changed.” Anderson went on to outline his plans for the future, which are to see two new groups planted in each church, and to hold a big seminar for all the group leaders.
Canon George Mbago of the Diocese of the Rift Valley – which had held its second Rooted in Jesus training conference just the week before – reported that in the first year many groups have started, with 40 of them doing particularly well; all these have now moved on to the second book. Others stopped during the cultivation period, but he hopes they will now resume. Groups are led by pastors, catechists and Mothers Union members. Perhaps the most striking testimony came from Bishop John Lupaa, who had himself led a group for just four people in a small rural church with a dilapidated building and very few members. Having taken those four through the first book, he encouraged them to start groups of their own. Just under a year on, that church has 84 members and a new building!
Other reports were more muted, with the most common challenge being changes in leadership within the diocese – the bishop himself, or the coordinator; continuity in leadership, everyone agreed, is a key factor for the success of Rooted in Jesus. Canon James Tuli reported that the Diocese of Shinyanga has been without a diocesan bishop for four years, which has resulted in an inevitable slow-down in ministry; he brought a request for further training from the newly appointed Bishop Johnson Chinyong’ole.
Revd Anderson Daudi of the Diocese of Kiteto had come straight from an Evangelism Conference in Dodoma. Kiteto has used Rooted in Jesus from its beginning – indeed many of the practices which are now standard were first developed in Kiteto under the leadership of Bishop John Hayden. The present bishop is Isaiah Chambala, formerly the Coordinator for Rooted in Jesus in Arusha deanery; Isaiah has himself taken part in a number of Rooted in Jesus teams both within Tanzania and internationally. Anderson reported that further training is planned in the diocese at the end of the year, focussing on Rooted in Jesus Junior.
Mrs Josephine Semwenda leads the Mothers Union in the Diocese of Morogoro, and has direct responsibility for the Junior programme – but not the adult programme, which has lost some of its impetus following the retirement of the diocesan coordinator. Josephine had however been able to invite Canon Dustan Mtoro from neighbouring Mpwapwa to provide further training for the deanery coordinators, and she suggested that it would be helpful for them to visit other dioceses for mutual encouragement and support.
Finally, Canon Lameck Masambi from the Diocese of Kondoa was attending for the first time, his diocese having just hosted their first conference. He reported that 126 people had been trained, and expressed his hope that Rooted in Jesus will help with the daunting task of evangelism in this predominantly rural diocese, in which over 90% of the population are Muslim. Rooted in Jesus will be launched across the diocese on 30th November.
Looking to the future
One of the great benefits of drawing together all the Diocesan Coordinators in this way is that it creates a strong team atmosphere. All of the Coordinators have leadership responsibilities in their own dioceses, and they had much to offer one another by way of encouragement and advice. As Rooted in Jesus becomes ever more firmly established across the Province, this is the group from whom the training teams are now drawn.
The second major benefit of the conference was that it enabled these leaders to pool their experience and think strategically about the future. How can they strengthen Rooted in Jesus in their own dioceses and in those not represented, as well as introduce it to those not yet using it? What are the factors which make for success, and what are the pitfalls to avoid? Should Rooted in Jesus be introduced to the theological colleges? How can they ensure it becomes truly self-sustaining within the Province?
Rooted in Jesus has a long history in Tanzania, and although the task of evangelism and discipleship is of course never ending, Tanzania can be proud of its own track record, and of the gift it has offered to other countries in Africa:
- RinJ was commissioned and pioneered here
- Over the last 18 years 20 dioceses have hosted 59 conferences, in addition to conducting their own internal training
- 4,863 people have been trained to lead groups
- There have been 4 National Coordinator Conferences
- 23 people have served on teams to other dioceses
- There have been many reports of people coming to faith and experiencing life-changing healing, of churches growing in strength and numbers, of increasing confidence in ministry among members, and increased financial growth.
There have of course also been many challenges, and the call to make disciples and teach them so that they too can make disciples is never complete. So far there have been 8 requests from within the Province for further training in 2020, either to introduce Rooted in Jesus or Rooted in Jesus Junior for the first time, or to strengthen the programme and train another generation of leaders. There is a need for more books, and the latest edition of the Team Manual is currently being translated into Swhaili.
So the journey continues, and like the first disciples of Jesus we continue to learn as we go. But the task remains the same:
“Go, and make disciples of all peoples, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28.18-20
Rooted in Jesus is published and supported by the Mathetes Trust.
Posted 23rd November 2019 by Alison Morgan