The evangelical population grew from 2.4 million in 1990 to over 9 million in 2020, in mainline Churches (Lutheran, Anglican), in Pentecostal denominations and in African Initiated Churches. New church-planting agencies came about since the 1980s, as did partnerships between nationals and expatriate missionaries. Praise God that the commitment to plant new churches and to reach the unevangelized peoples of Tanzania bore good fruit in recent years among both animists and Muslims!
Widespread and systemic poverty is both a challenge and an opportunity. Many areas require development assistance - schools, universities, hospitals, roads, drinking water and agriculture. Half of all secondary schools are privately funded. Rapid urbanization and endemic corruption intensify the problems. Holistic ministry is necessary and a wonderful way to bring transformation to all levels of Tanzanian life. Most foreign Christian agencies at work in Tanzania already minister in this capacity; pray for more projects to be started and to be finished effectively.
Tanzania's Christian population, though numerous, needs discipleship. More than half of Tanzanians might be "Christian", but church attendance runs around 8%. Many see lack of biblical knowledge as the greatest challenge for the Church. As immature Christians are discipled, lifestyles and worldviews will change, and this in turn will impact the social, economic and political life of the nation.
Tanzania's young population makes ministry to youth and children essential. Religious education in schools is an open door that requires trained instructors; Christian teachers can and do have a big impact. Scripture Union's Aid for AIDS programme educates and encourages young people toward pure lifestyles. TAFES(IFES) groups operate on 37 university and college campuses. Many students are being converted, including Muslims.
The unfinished task in Tanzania. Great growth among Christians must not obscure the real needs. Peoples of the coast, Zanzibar and some southern provinces are largely or almost entirely Muslim. Although conversions among Muslims have increased, the majority are still unreached. Pray specifically for:
- Zanzibar, which is famous for its spices but infamous as an Arab base for its centuries-long African slave trade.
- The Muslim peoples of coastal regions live under the curse of the historic slave trade. They are among the least evangelized of Tanzania's peoples. Their numbers have rapidly grown in recent years; their increased influence also presents a challenge to Christians. The most urgent challenges: the Digo (AIM), Zigula, Somali in the northeast, Rufiji, Ngendereko and Zaramo (CoGWM) in the central east and Machinga, Mwera and Ngindo in the southeast. Pray that Christians from other ethnic groups among them may be used of God to bless them with the gospel.
- The Inland peoples. AIM/AIC have small church plants among the largely animist Datooga and Barabaig. They also have started work among the Rangi, who are mostly Muslim. Continue to pray for the Muslim Chasi/Alagwa and Kami, among whom there is no work yet started, and the animist Nilamba.
- The peoples on the Mozambique border. The Brethren see some fruit among the Makonde and Yao. The Makhuwa are also in need of a breakthrough.
- The South Asian community speaks a range of Indian languages, predominantly Gujarati, but Hindi and Punjabi speakers are also present. Most are Hindu or Muslim, with few Christians. AIM is looking at possibilities for ministry among them.
Bible translation is an urgent need finally being addressed. Widespread use of Swahili masked the need for further translations. Still, 51 languages have no Scripture at all and a further 32 have only portions. Several agencies focus on translation: The Bible Society, Pioneer Bible Translators and Word for the World among them. Pray for more translation teams, including Tanzanians and foreigners, for projects to be finished quickly and well, and for the necessary literacy programmes to accompany the translations.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.