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A Tanzanian sermon on building Jesus’ church

Jesus will build his church. Not sin or corruption or poor leadership will stop Jesus building it. This was the message brought to us at church on Sunday from Matthew 16. Jesus will be triumphant. His glorious church is not dependent on you because he is the master. He can even do it despite your failings.

Is this an excuse to continue to sin? Absolutely not. It’s the mantra that you tell to your doubts and to your sin. The gates of hell and all that goes with them will not prevail. Make sure you are on the right side of the victor. Wake up in the morning and report for duty to your Lord. He’ll do it with or without you, but let your prayer be, ‘Please Lord, do it with me.’

The sermon took on an encouraging and warm tone, with some surprising (to me) moments of application.

What are the materials Jesus uses to build his church?

They are people, but not the strong or well presented ones. They are not the state of the art steel posts, but mangy bits of driftwood. Jesus says, bring to me the broken, the rejects, the nobodies, and I will show you what sort of carpenter I am. I will clean them with my blood until they shine. They will have no spot or wrinkle.

Who does Jesus work with?

People like Peter. Now, in my context I’m used to hearing Peter’s weaknesses in terms of his simplicity (just a fisherman) or his lack of education. That wasn’t where the preacher went with it. To him, Peter’s unlikeliness for leadership was his temper – he spoke of Peter cutting off the man’s ear in the garden of Gethsemane.

What about James and John? Not only are they politicians, working for their own aggrandisement, but they are shameless – they even involve their mother! Of all their faults, this last seemed the most grievous to the preacher. Then there’s the whole calling down fire on others thing.

The preacher asked: would you want these men to be your elders? We’d be calling the fire brigade all the time and matching ears to heads! (Incidentally, while I was chortling quietly to myself about this line, everyone else was taking it very seriously.)

Then there’s Thomas, the kind of person who you talk to about revival and who replies we ought not to pray for revival because things are going to get better before they get worse before Jesus’ return so praying for revival is counter-productive. This was seen as using the Bible against the mission of God, the very essence of a pharisaical heart rather than one that seeks God. How can this man be a witness in all the earth?

Will you join?

This was the appeal, aimed mainly at younger people. Will you join Jesus as he builds his church? The fascinating point here was when he told a story of a Christian woman who had grown up in a Christian family and continued to be dedicated to Christ. He said you don’t need to backslide, as if this was controversial, as if backsliding or walking away from faith and coming back later on is an accepted rite of passage. He called for dedication on our part because God saves and uses available people.

Categories: Grassroots theology Tanzania Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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