It was nice to hear reports from last manual of Sunday school teachers being trained and Sunday Schools being started. Unfortunately many of them did not complete their action plans that they set out to do. I think fatigue is starting to set in since we've been meeting for TLT every 3 months and then they do action plans after each one. (Keep in mind they already are extremely busy in their day jobs of being farmers, and in their normal ministries). Now that we are finished, they are going to make sure in the coming months that they complete their old plan from manual 5 ("Teaching") as well as their new one for this manual, "Work and Worship."
Here are some of the topics we discussed that I found interesting:
- What does it really mean to say "Praise God!" while preaching? When should we use it and when should we not? Is it better to say "Amen!?" instead? Are people giving praise to God in the middle of the sermon when we say it? Or is just a habit that we say it?
- We had a discussion about how so many Christians or even whole Christian families do not own a single Bible. I asked if people had money to buy them. I was told that most people do have money to buy them, but it's a matter of priorities. They said people would rather spend that money on airtime, school fees, or other things they want. Many people are waiting for a missionary to give them a Bible and so they spend their money on other things instead. And then some people don't really have an interest in reading. I'm not making up these answers. This is what I was told by a whole group of pastors. Let's be more cautious in handing out Bibles. It can create dependency rather than good stewardship.
- We had a long discussion about confession, and whether and when it's good to share about our sins to other people. One lady said, "the problem is, when you tell someone about one of your sins, someone will call you on the phone and tell you about it before you even finish the conversation!" Meaning that it's hard to find people who you can trust who won't quickly share the information with others. A lot of people have got themselves landed into church discipline when they shared their struggles with someone who was not good at being confidential.
- We had some discussion about worship wars. Here one of the struggles is new music from America versus traditional local language songs. Also, another struggle is that many churches are moving to using a keyboard instead of the traditional instruments of Ugandan tribal cultures. Some of the skills to play these instruments are slowly dying out. And the older Christians aren't all big fans of the super loud electric keyboard with speakers.
- We discussed the lyrics of many popular worship songs in Uganda, and how some of the lyrics have little to no meaning, such as things like, "now we are all clapping, now we are all dancing," etc. They are excited to write new songs, and use the Psalms as inspiration.
- We discussed baptism. This time a pastor pressed me to find out my view on baptism and what my denomination does. I was hesitant to share but didn't have a lot of choice. I informed my Pentecostal brethren that I was baptized as an infant, and I was sprinkled, and gave a very brief explanation of why we do that. For many of them, these practices are clearly wrong and I've heard Pentecostal pastors here in Uganda say people aren't saved who practice baptism this way. So I was hesitant to share. But I was very glad to find that they didn't condemn me, and in the end I think it was good for broadening their understanding that you can be brothers and sisters in Christ even with differences of belief on important things.
Some of their new action plans:
- Most people are going to train their fellow pastors and worship leaders in this new manual.
- One pastor is going to make sure he and his family rest one day a week (something that most of the pastors thought would be impossible, even if God did command us to rest).
- One leader is going to plant 200 trees to help show people in his community the value of work.
- One pastor is going to teach his church about confession and start a practice of communal prayers of confession.
- One pastor is going to teach about the value of hard work as a way to glorify God, and hopes to see a 10% increase in church offerings.
- Some worship leaders are going to write new worship songs for use in church.
- A couple pastors are going to teach their church how to keep pigs and chickens so that people can increase their incomes.