----- This is Part Two of my observations on relationships in Tanzania -----
I paused for a moment and listened in curiosity to the truck blaring out a message over loudspeakers as it drove past our place. This is a common method of delivering advertisements or community announcements in many areas of Africa.
“What’s being advertised this time?” I asked the Tanzanian pastor studying at a desk next to mine in our office.
“They are advertising for a foreign evangelist coming to town for a big crusade,” was his reply.
An idea occurred to me. This was my opportunity to learn what a local church leader’s perspective was on the effectiveness of this type of evangelistic meetings. “So tell me, what do you think about these meetings? Are they useful? Is it a good way to share the Gospel?” I inquired of the pastor.
He looked a bit uncomfortable. “In my opinion, it’s not very useful or helpful,” came his hesitant answer.
I urged him to continue, “Can you explain yourself more? Help me to understand why you have this perspective.”
(What follows is what I wrote down the next day as a result of our conversation.)
When a foreign evangelist comes into town to lead a crusade, they usually spend a lot of money. Many things must be done to insure a good result, and a great many details need to be looked after. All this takes money. All the local pastors and church leaders will be the most enthusiastic supporters of this crusade. There will be many smiles, handshakes, and promises of cooperation. The foreigner will have many friends to assist him. He comes in as a “big man” to do his mission. Big crowds will come and “many souls will be won for the Lord”. The foreigner is so loved, so respected, and so thanked for his great contribution to the spiritual needs of the people. “God bless you for your great service to us!” And the he goes home feeling great about his wonderful work for the Kingdom of God.
When he leaves, the money leaves with him, and all the church leaders melt away. Why should they be interested in a follow-up ministry once there is no money to support them? The people who came to Christ soon fall away from a lack of spiritual support and guidance. You can come back six months later and no lasting results will be evident. Where is the enthusiasm? Where are the great crowds now? Where are the friendly pastors eager to help disciple the new believers? They all disappeared when the flow of money dried up. Meanwhile, the foreign evangelist is back at home, broadcasting what great things he accomplished for the Kingdom of God through this great crusade in Africa.
Think about what was learned earlier; how everything must be done through relationships, and how those relationships must be established. (See the blogpost before this one.) Then you will begin to gain some insight into why these “crusades” are bound for failure from the start. True, lasting results are based on having the right kind of relationships, which were established properly and continue long-term.
As I have said before, I am not an expert on African culture. I have only been on three trips to Tanzania. I really do not know much about what is effective in other parts of Africa. This article is not intended to make a judgment against anyone who has done or supported large evangelistic crusades in the past. There may be the right place and time for such endeavors. However, in our desire and struggle is to find the most effective way to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we would do well to contemplate the observations of this “third world” Christian pastor.
May the peace of Christ be with you,