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Community Bible study helps church make disciples (UM News)

September 30, 2022

Churches in the Chitungwiza Marondera District in Zimbabwe are making disciples of Jesus Christ in their communities through in-depth Bible study.

The district initially trained 40 class leaders through the Community Bible Study International program, and today has 161 classes functioning. 

Trained teachers emphasize and show the underlying premise of the Bible text, as well as its practical application in participants’ lives.

The Bible program “is a tool for people to learn how to read God’s word, to study God’s word and to apply it to their lives so that it can transform them on the inside,” said Janet Liebe, who serves as Community Bible Study International USA ambassador to Zimbabwe.

Community Bible Study International was started in the U.S. in 1975 and there are now thousands of participants around the world.

As they study Bible chapters in a small-group setting, participants gain fresh insights and enhance their confidence in Scripture. Leaders pray for and encourage students to connect with one another and develop spiritually.

The Community Bible Study outreach mission is an extension of the church’s current discipleship ministry, said the Rev. Alan Gurupira, administrative assistant to Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa.  

“It is so beneficial that they come over, come on board to help us to reach out to more people, to be able to influence our people in desire to study the Bible, in the desire also to understand it and desire to practice what the Bible teaches us,” Gurupira said.

Chenayi Kumuterera, Community Bible Study International coordinator in Zimbabwe and a UM News contributor, said the initiative will help promote the gospel in the episcopal area, while also allowing the church to better know about the community’s needs.

“It will help their communities to have love and caring for each other on whatever they go through,” said Kumuterera. “It is going to encourage each individual personal contact with Christ and understand more or feel the presence of God in each situation.”

The program emerges at a time when the country is suffering economic, social and political crises.

“People have lost hope in the government. People have lost hope even in their Bible itself, querying, ‘Is God still with us?’” said Admore Marufu, a member at St. Barnabas United Methodist Church in Chitungwiza. St. Barnabas and nearby Ebenezer United Methodist trained members to go out into their communities to start Bible studies.

The Rev. Godknows Risinamhodzi, superintendent for the Chitungwiza Marondera District, likes that the Community Bible Study International program places God at the center. 

“It concertizes people to invite God in all our situations and also pray for our leaders, pray for our governance and pray for our communities,” he said.

St. Barnabas member Erica Kashaya, 73, said it has been a wonderful school that allowed participants to have a deeper grasp of the Bible by allowing them to ask questions.

“I’ve learned that God keeps his promises, which has encouraged me to confront obstacles with optimism,” Kashaya said.

Tsisti Murapa, evangelism chairperson at St. Barnabas, said that the instruction has inspired her and she is looking forward to more sessions. “It has opened our eyes to understand how we can apply the Bible in our daily lives,” she said.

The program was approved by the Rev. Sophirina Sign, Zimbabwe East Conference Connectional Ministries director, as an effective method of Bible study with the community. She hopes to spread the ministry throughout the episcopal area. 

On Sept. 27-28, an episcopal area “train the trainer” workshop was held for five leaders from each district. They will serve as class leaders, who will be responsible for spreading the instruction throughout their respective districts. 

Sign said the objective is to reach all people in Zimbabwe, regardless of denomination — including those who are not churched — so that they, too, can have a tool to thoroughly study the Bible.