Our church’s sermon series on faith is continuing, with a woman preaching yesterday. Imelda is the wife of Pastor Patrick, and he introduced her before stepping off stage and sitting down to listen. This is the first time we have heard a woman preach, in the year we have been attending this church.
I’ve never heard the issue of gender in ministry preached on in our church, just an offhand comment that the TAG does have women pastors one time when a woman pastor/church planter who was visiting was introduced, and some remarks about children’s ministry flourishing under the leadership of women.
As with other women we have observed in this kind of role over our 6.5 years living here, Imelda was self-assured and had plenty to say. She spoke at a rate of knots, forcefully without being aggressive, in what I have come to term ‘the mama voice‘. It’s accompanied by a certain way of standing and gesturing as well, recognisably and uniquely feminine, and authoritative. I really love this aspect of Tanzanian culture, how when women do exercise leadership, they do it in a noticeably different way to men.
Imelda was also warm, with well chosen illustrations that shared from her life without being self-indulgent. The university students in the congregation were particularly engaged. And her content was fantastic!
The thesis of her sermon was: faith guards us, so we must guard our faith.
Human beings are engaged in a battle in the spiritual world against Satan and other powers. Satan is constantly trying to take your faith, to destroy you and all that you have; he is trying to make you give up, so that you do not endure to the end. And we also know this battle in our own selves, as we struggle against our our flesh to be faithful, like the disciples falling asleep when Jesus asked them to pray for him. Faith is the shield that protects us from these attacks.
Faith is valuable: it comes from God, you can’t get it on your own, and without it you can neither please God nor follow his ways. So, having received faith, we must nurture it. The first way we do this is by taking the opportunities we are given, that is, to recognise that anything good that comes to us as a gift of God, because we are his beloved children who will never be turned away. So, we gratefully take what he has given us and work with it rather than taking it for granted. The second way we build our faith is by listening to the word of God. As we do this, we are changed. We are able to be less anxious, to trust God more that he will raise us up and protect us.
Imelda held in very delicate balance our agency and the provision of God. God is the source of faith, and its foundation, but He is not only there at the beginning, as if He gives us faith and then everything else is our responsibility. He is also the one who builds our faith. This is the reason why we can be confident in our pursuit of faith. She ended by saying that if you are experiencing challenges in your faith, you are not alone: God is with you! And He has not finished his work in you yet. He cannot forget you or leave you, so keep pressing on in faith!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.