Thursday, November 26, 2015

Last Amuria TLT - Work and Worship

By Anthony:
Martin and I just finished leading our last week of TLT in Amuria.  It was bittersweet, knowing it was our last TLT as a group, but everyone felt relief and a sense of accomplishment for finally completing all 6 manuals.  During the discussions, the pastors raised so many good questions, and I realized I could spend many more years here teaching these same pastors.  But TLT has given them basic skills in pastoring, and a good biblical foundation to build on as they continue to grow and learn.  My favorite testimony about TLT that I've heard many times in different ways from pastors in all the TLT groups is this: "Before TLT we were just playing games trying to pastor."  "Now that we've done TLT, we no longer feel like we are just gambling as pastors."
My last training in Amuria proved to be my first time to eat cow intestines and chunks of stomach or rumen.  It wasn't bad!
Here is Martin leading below:

This last manual is called, "Serving God in Work and Worship."  The idea of the manual is to help people realize that we are to worship God in all of our lives, not only on Sundays.  So the first part of the manual talks about how to glorify God in our daily work, whether farming, business, or pastoring.  Then the rest of the manual is dedicated to learning about the various parts of a worship service - praise, confession, sermon, offerings, blessing, etc.  In TLT we don't just discuss these topics generally, but we get down into details of how to really do these things well in churches, what things we are missing, and what problems we regularly face in the worship times.

The reports this time were encouraging as always.  So many Sunday school teachers have been trained since the last manual, and so many children made happy.

I'll share with you one report just to give you a sense of the different kinds of struggles people face here in Uganda.  Elizabeth's plan was to train up other women's leaders using the apprentice method, meaning she does the ministry alongside with them, giving them chances to also minister, and afterwards she gives feedback and instruction.  After she ministered together to the church with the other ladies, several Christians came up to give her testimonies about how they were touched through the ministry.  One Christian said he had been planning to kill his brother the next week (perhaps over land disputes?), but through the teaching he was convicted and is no longer going to do that.  Another Christian said she was preparing to go to see the witch doctor to find help for some problem, but now she is going to go to God instead.  A third Christian testified that he was planning to poison his brother's family (guns are scarce, so poisoning is the usual method of getting revenge), but he was convicted and has now repented of such a horrible idea.


I don't want to make this post too long, but we had SO MANY vigorous and interesting discussions about such a big variety of topics.  When you start reading the Bible together, questions come to mind, and sometimes they are important, even if tangential to the manual and what we are supposed to be discussing.  The questions revealed to me how much teaching is still needed even after these pastors graduate TLT.  Some kinds of knowledge we take for granted.  But as these pastors read the Bible, and try to understand it, and try to literally obey it and take it seriously, interesting questions get raised.  These are topics I addressed:
  • Many of them thought that Eden is over in the Middle East, and you can go there and see the tree of life still.
  • There is a teaching in the villages (I don't think any of my students believed this though), that the sin of Eve was not eating fruit but having sex with Satan.  Besides just being very incorrect, this idea helps to reinforce the prevalent belief among Christians that sex is shameful even if necessary.
  • In talking about how the curse has made work more difficult, it was interesting to learn that all but two of the participants said that pastoring is more difficult than farming.  But perhaps this is partly due to their feeling not trained enough to be pastors, in addition to the fact that they aren't really paid to be pastors.
  • We talked about lament, and being honest with God in our prayers and songs, and looked at the Psalms as our examples. 
  • Some pastors thought it was sinful to have sex on Saturday, the day before going to church.  So we had to discuss sexuality, a bit about the OT law, and cleanness/uncleanness.
  • We discussed circumcision, and I found out that some of the participants believe that circumcision makes you weak and completely impotent.
  • We discussed polygamy and if the man has to get rid of a wife when he becomes a Christian.  Polygamy is less common than it used to be, but it still exists in Uganda.  Interestingly, the bishop is very open that he had more than one wife before he got saved, many years ago.  After getting saved, he had one wife leave.  But he took good care of her until she married again.
  • We discussed Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  We discussed whether it's okay to use wine, what kind of foods should be used, how often the Lord's Supper should be taken, and who should be allowed to partake and who should not be allowed. 
  • We discussed whether you should put someone under church discipline in different scenarios.  For example, what if a young unmarried couple confesses fornication and repents, but the young woman is already pregnant.  Here, most pastors would put the young couple under church discipline to "safeguard the testimony of the church" (that they take sin seriously and don't encourage such behavior).  This lasts for a short time, mostly is just a public statement, and they can keep attending church in the meantime.
  • The blessing at the end of a worship service is not a guarantee of riches or good health.
  • We talked a lot about religious rituals, everything from kneeling, to making the sign of the cross, to having a cross necklace.  We talked about how they can be good or bad depending on why we do them, and that it's more important that we are living rightly in the rest of our lives.  We discussed how with some rituals we forget their meanings over time and they become ritual only.  Many of these Pentecostal pastors grew up in Catholic churches and have since rejected many rituals for that very reason.  But they learned that many rituals can still be good if done from the heart and for the right reasons.  In the process, we examined many of the rituals and traditions that we use in PAG (Pentecostal Assemblies of God).  It was very funny when the pastors brought up that too often they say, "Praise God!" or "Hallelujah!" and don't always mean it.  One elderly women's leader in our group said, "we need to stop using praise God as a comma!" Everyone laughed really hard because they know very well that most of them while preaching say "Praise God" in between every sentence. 
Praying for action plans:

The action plans this time mostly involve training others in this manual about work and worship, especially the worship leaders.  Others want to help their Christians take joy in their daily farm work, or see an increase in the offerings given in their churches.  One pastor hopes to see that all of his Christians stop working on Sundays and rest instead.   Please pray for these pastors as they try to carry out their plans.

1 comment:

  1. The discussions you have with the pastors are fascinating. And how exciting to learn that TLT has saved at least two people's lives!