Every Sunday, innumerable churches open their doors to the public and gladly invites everyone to fellowship with them. A lot of church-seeking folks and adventurous people will definitely attend.
But, how do they know what they’re walking into, things like what will the clergy talk about, the kinds of people who attend the church and most vitally, the things they believe in.
Well, we help you on that with our weekly Church Service reviews dubbed His House Review. With this, we share the unvarnished truth about a church from the perspective of an outsider, paying particular attention to its History, Doctrine, Reception, Punctuality, Service proceedings, Offertories, Praise & Worship and any other things that may come into the surface during our visit. This will help churches to better understand how to reach outsiders and grow in a major way.
Thus, this Sunday we made a call to a 3-year-old mushrooming parish in the small township of Epworth, near Harare called Christ Life Church. We sat down for the entire two-hour service, following intently to the proceedings, and in a bid to do things differently from our usual clandestine reportage, we were privileged to secure an interview with the founding cleric and social architect, Simba Manyika.
In the exclusive interview, Hallelujah Magazine’s Chrispen Charamba (CC) and Simba Manyika (SM) spoke at length about the Church’s three-year trek, its stunted growth, its evangelistic approach and its role in the grossly underdeveloped dormitory of Epworth situated on the eastern periphery of the metropolis Harare, among other things.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
CC: During your service sermon, you said that the growth of the church isn’t necessarily in the numbers of people, but in the maturity of the few people that you started with or that are in the church. Please explain that.
SM: I think, to me, that’s an effective leadership style. For the first five of the ministry, I would like to have a foundation and equip the few that I have as leaders of the congregation, not merely as congregants. Now, when you have a strong leadership base, even if you have a thousand followers, this will sustain. Imagine, we are just starting, maybe we have a 1000 followers in our first or second year. We don’t have structure, leadership base and we don’t have a foundation. Normally, that’s when you realise that most churches come down crumbling. It is because they are doing inverse pyramid where it‘s heaped at the top but very narrow at the bottom. At the end of the day, that weight will always come down crushing. So my approach is a little bit tray and broader in terms of quality. We start at the foundation, then we can build going up, using that foundation.”
CC: So many evangelists and preachers have toured and established their citadels in Epworth since the better part of the millennium. In your expedition of three years, how have been the natives receiving Christ Life Church?
SM: One thing that I have noticed is that the people here are polarised religiously. They have a pattern in terms of what a church should offer. Being a community that is a little bit developing, people are used to be given handouts. When they join the church, they expect the church or the pastor to help them somewhere, somehow. Normally, you don’t realise that. When we started the reception was a wow. Our venue (a sizable room that could house 50-60 people) was a bit smaller. Then people started dropping out because my approach was not the handout one. Mine was, ‘You have got to know Jesus Christ and have a relationship with him and then we will start from there’. So, it was a bit of a challenge, but I liked it because the pruning and trimming left us with real convert, the skeleton of the church. Then we said, let’s focus on the skeleton.
CC: How have you been able to deal with believers backsliding? Didn’t you at one time felt the need to compromise on your approach to maintain the flourishing numbers, and how did you also arrive at a stage of not really worried about the dropping numbers, but the equipping of the fewer?
SM: Actually, it’s not easy at all. Just imagine, you’d fifty people, for example, and the next 12 months down the line they are fifteen, in another six months you’re left with five or eight. It pours to me a lot of pressure. In the first place I thought I was doing something wrong, but then I went and sat back, and I said, “Do I have a future with this church? Is this something that I need to do for the sake of doing it? Is it a hobby, a project or a lifetime thing that needs building?”
So, that’s when I realised that if I’m really serious about this church, and its future generation, why am I rushing? If it’s something that shall proceed my life, why not start by doing the real thing of building a proper foundation with the fewer right people?
The other thing that also brought me to be sober in terms of the numbers is that I realised it’s better to test yourself with fewer people. If you manage five, you can manage a thousand. It’s quite understandable when you make mistakes with five people than a thousand. But if you make mistakes with thousand people, imagine how many lives would’ve been jeopardised. That was how I thought about it, that we want a foundation. I said I need to test with a few as I have never led a church by myself. I have been under other people’s leadership all my life, so I need to test my ability. I can’t test my ability with thousand people, bring them in and say let’s start. In my first five years, if I can manage to keep these five people, then I can be away and they will be able to run the church.
CC: What have been the highlight of your 3-year journey into the ministry? Any standout experiences, miracles or wonders?
SM: We have had many, mostly to do with health. I do not know, but it’s something we need to look into our community. People are not well, especially when someone decides to join a church, it’s either they are not well or are looking for help and solutions. Rarely these days would you find someone who just comes because they are ok and just want to fellowship. Somebody has got an issue, somebody is looking for a solution, whatever their problem is. See, most of the people that are in our church, especially the ladies who were seated up front, had problems when they joined. The other lady was shilly-shallying on the bed and bleeding. It stopped since she came in and we prayed with her. She has not lost a single drop to this day.
As such, the healing wonders could be striking, but the standout for me was making people who couldn’t pray at all know how to. We could say let us pray, and they didn’t know how to, so we had to teach them. That’s the best experience for me.
CC: A mere mention of Epworth often evokes images of crime, drugs and filth. Like the biblical Bethlehem, many people think nothing good can come out of it. How essential is the Church in the Epworth community and do you think Churches are doing enough as far as moulding the underdeveloped dormitory?
SM: It pains me so much that the Church has successfully made people more or less to be, without using big words, like zombies. Why? Because people are not given the capacity to think for themselves. Somebody comes and tell you, in order for you to a Mercedes Benz, you have to give me this money and I give you a face towel or a piece of cloth and you go do something around the car, and you will get it. By doing so, the preacher or pastor has successfully killed your innovation, anything that you’re able to do. They can’t bring the best out of you. So that’s one side.
I have realised that in our community poverty is a rampage because of the philosophies that the church has brought into the people. As far as religion is concerned, it’s quite sad that we are very religious in our community, even as a nation but, we are still struggling with small day-to-day issues. It is because people are not taught how to tackle usual daily life, the reality. Pastors come only one day a week and tell you something. They do not tell you how to confront reality. The reality is, he or she needs to capacitate you so that when you leave that Church building, you can go dressed up, be competitive in your market, meeting other people, arguing in your meetings and have your way out to do things. So, that’s one thing I’ve seen.
The Church has a big role in the community especially when we are talking about bringing people together. When I was looking around issues to do with how the church and the society or community can be merged, I then realised that I had a struggle trying to separate Christians and the community. I had a little bit stint politically and then people said, “You’re now doing politics and the Church”. But then, I gave them an example that if you go to a political rally, say today, the ladies that are dancing before everyone and the party chairpersons are the same people who hold positions of influence in the Church. So, you can’t successfully separate believers and the community. It is, therefore, the work of the Church, then to bring all the people together, people with different opinions, working towards having a good standing morally upright community.
But, now, when it comes to the development of that community, the church takes a step back or excuses itself, it’s like they say these are the community things, and these are the prayer or church things.
CC: Thank you Pastor Manyika and all the best with Christ Life Church.
SM: Indeed, same to you. Kindly join us again next Sunday and don’t be left behind or stay away from it.
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