Discipleship Rediscovered

By Ken & Mariko, Tanzania

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By God’s providence discipleship training was a key ingredient in my life. First of all, I was born and raised in a missionary family where we were often trained to check first our relationship with God. In fact, my father was trained as one of the first students at the Discipleship Training Centre (DTC) in Singapore before his missionary career. Second, before my theological training in Japan, my university education (first year at Covenant Bible College in Calgary, Canada, and three years at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois, USA) emphasized discipleship training in community-like contexts. This was vitally important to the students’ spiritual training. Last, my wife Mariko was also trained in DTC and was involved with Youth with a Mission before her Christian university education.

When we were first sent to the SIM mission field in Tanzania, we were involved in many existing programmes/ministries, as well as language learning. As young missionaries we coped with the difficulties and struggles, finding joy and satisfaction in what we were able to accomplish. But deep in our hearts we did not have the real sense of spiritual fulfillment in our missionary service. We prayed to the Lord for an answer. The Lord provided us with the answer when we came to know Rev. Ndaro on our vacation trip to Dar es Salaam. He was pastoring a church in Dodoma and had started a disciple making programme called MAPANA. The word “MAPANA” embraces the idea of encouraging the African church to expand its boundaries to reach out to another community in Africa without the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This programme provided answers to some of the basic questions we had regarding our missionary service in Tanzania.

As missionaries in Tanzania we are to preach the gospel of salvation to the non-Christians. With more than 50% non-Christians in Tanzania, there was a need for evangelism by missionaries. On the other hand, there are already over 40% who are Christians in the country (as a result of many missionaries from Western missions over many years). Wouldn’t it be more effective if Christians in this country were trained and discipled for evangelism and church planting in the less reached areas? Why are Christians here not enthusiastic about witnessing or evangelism?

We became convinced of two important aspects of the ministry of sharing the gospel with others. One is the training of so-called Christians to become effective and active witnesses to Jesus Christ in their ordinary lives. The other is to nourish the genuine and inner spiritual desire for the gospel, being constantly motivated to be concerned about the people’s relationship with the Lord. The first aspect would emphasize intellectual information and practical ways on how to share the gospel. The second aspect examines the fundamental inner and spiritual condition of the witness. Examining our inner relationship with God and the outward manifestation of sharing the gospel are both the goal and purpose of what we call “disciple-making.”

Disciple-making is being exercised in our own family – between husband and wife and between parents and children. Constant affirmation of the truth of Jesus Christ, enthusiastic obedience to His teaching, and sincere forgiving and loving of one another are fundamental attributes we demonstrate in disciple-making. In our fourth term of missionary service we would be carrying out this ministry of disciple-making in our church services, visitation ministries, area meetings, etc., in collaboration with the MAPANA Board members as well as Rev. Ndaro, the Director of MAPANA program.

SIM East Asia