Something we’ve been confused about here in Tanzania is why so many Christian women marry Muslims. We asked our student friends, one of whom has a sister who got married to a Muslim. They said it’s not family pressure. Instead, for most girls, it’s seeing the money the Muslim guys have and thinking that this means that they will be taken care of (since a man’s primary role in the family is provision of needs). There is very little teaching in or outside of the church to combat this view but some Pentecostal churches are teaching on it.
In a place like Tanzania, half the people you meet will be Muslim, so there’s a real need to help young people to navigate this. They spoke with admiration of a Pentecostal ministry in Dar Es Salaam run by a TAFES graduate in which they have what we Aussies would call a youth group. They loved the idea of a place where you can meet other Christian young people, in part because it provides a place where you can find a potential partner who is a Christian.
This led us to asking about our observation that Pentecostals are often better at applying the Bible than Protestant churches, which I’ve previously mentioned here and here. They agreed that in towns this is true, but added the caveat that in villages, the Protestants (Lutheran, Anglican, Moravian, etc.) are often much better because they have deeper roots and are better at caring for people. However in towns, where life is changing so fast, it is the Pentecostals who move with modernity and thus are able to show the Bible’s relevance and teach skills for life God’s way.
The guys said, any church in a town which has young people is basically Pentecostal in style. They cited university chapel as an example of doing things the Protestant way and they said, ‘See? No one wants to go.’ Yet all the fellowships, no matter their denomination, as Pentecostal in style. For many university students, this bring problems down the track, because they experience a lively and relevant spirituality while at university in town, but may fall away when they return to the village as that church experience doesn’t connect with them.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.