Mission Month 2020 – English

Click or tap here to see the Ndebele language version of the booklet.

Click or tap here to see the Shona language version of the booklet.

1 – 31 JULY, 2020
(Esther 4 vs 13-14)
Beloved in Christ we once again meet in Spirit after Wesley Week, this Month of July to do God’s mission. Many things have changed since we met last year. This year the whole world has been forced to shut down due to a global pandemic. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic that has decimated religious life of many systems, cultures, institutions, individuals and communities. As a result churches, shrines and sanctuaries across the world are closed. Christians and other religious people are unable to congregate because of the indispensable but upsetting social distancing measures that have forced many people to stay at home. Responses to the COVID-19 have essentially changed the way of being church that may have effects on ecclesia beyond the pandemic. The church further urges its members to stay at home as a preventive measure to stop the spread of COVID-19. Despite the havoc paused by the pandemic the church has to continue to be relevant and minister to its people as such innovations of becoming the Church in a Digital Milieu. Good News to the poor is the mission and goal of all pastoral communications (see Luke 4v18). Through signs, gestures, words, books, moving images, audio, and social communications, the Church has sought to proclaim her message so that all people will hear it in their own native language (see Acts 2v11). To be faithful to this mission of evangelizing communications to the Methodist community we will need participation, dialogue, and collaboration and one that speaks to the heart, soul, and religious imagination of our Zimbabwean people. We need a new way of being Church. It is the Lord who sends: Go proclaim—communicate the Good News ‘and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…’ (Matthew
28v19). Jesus Christ himself communicates, in his mission, on all levels of human interaction. Evangelizing communication builds on this example of Jesus Christ, always trying to meet people where they are at their level of knowledge, feeling, and understanding to bring them from their own life experience closer to the Father and eternal life”. “It is the Church’s ministry and mission to communicate the Good News of salvation and God’s love to all of humanity. The Church’s call to evangelize and her prophetic mission provide the Church with the challenge and opportunity to seek to influence the values, judgments, and actions of Zimbabweans.
The Church’s mission must therefore be understood as participating in the mission that God the father entrusts to His Son and to the Holy Spirit in the world. This we read in the Gospel of John in chapter 21 where the Risen Christ appears to His disciples and shares His divine life and salvation with them as He says: “Peace be with you”. He then shows them the marks of the suffering and sacrifice He willingly accepted on the cross for our salvation: He is the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and who delivers us from the mystery of evil. Then the Risen Lord speaks these important words: “As the Father sent Me, so am I sending you”. With this call to mission, He breaths on the apostles and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit’. Just as the life of the Holy Trinity is a mystery of love and self-giving between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so too we are all called to share in this same dynamism. “As the Father sent Me, so I am sending you”: the mission for the Church is not a mere option –one among many –but the very reason for which Christ wanted her. To accomplish this mission, the Church received and constantly receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is why the mission is part of her very nature as such. The mission reflects that which the Church is in the depth of her being. And for this reason Christ entrusted to the disciples the same ministry of reconciliation that He died for on the cross: “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven” (John 21: 19-23).
There was a time when we were looking forward to 2020. I remember Methodist Conference 2019 sitting at Hillside Teachers College approved the theme “For such a time as this” to be used in 2020. We all smiled without an iota of what the year 2020 holds for us. It seemed such an exciting theme, For such a time as this. Even when 2020 came upon us, we had no idea what it held for us. Now we understand more and more why the Holy Spirit gave us this theme. We are powerless against Covid-19 as human beings but our hope is only in our Lord. All that used to matter, matters no more. We have cancelled all our meetings, we no longer meet for prayers in our sanctuaries; we hardly ever see each other either. We cower in our houses while the enemy roams the streets, free to continue instilling fear in us, invisible and silent but deadly. We must remember that Jesus is in the boat with us. He will speak to the waves, Peace be still! and it shall be so.
Be blessed
Rev B. Chinhara
Mission Director

Matthew 28:19-20
The last words of a person who is dying or leaving this world are very significant. Matthew records Jesus final words to his disciples in which he instructs us to go and make disciples of all nations and to teach them. He concludes by promising that he will be with us even to the end of the age. In other words, Jesus promises that through his Holy Spirit, he will always be with us as we try to fulfil God’s mission in the world.
The purpose of God’s mission (Missio Dei) is to restore the relationships which were in the original creation; to seek and to save that which was lost. His desire is to see all people living in communion with each other and with Himself. Mission arises from the heart of God and is communicated from his heart to ours. It is the global outreach of the global people of a global God. Our God is a missional God, mission isn’t what the Church decides to come up with or decide to do, it is the reason for the Church’s existence. Christopher Wright, in his book, The Mission of God says, ”Mission was not made for the Church; the Church was made for mission”. God is on a mission and every believer is privileged to be part of it.
The people of the world are drifting apart from God. With the advent of technology and civilization people are now seeking scientific answers to problems; relying more on the opinion of the majority than on the will of God. Is it not the time to redefine Christianity, to go back to the historical era of apologetics?(Apologetics refers to making a defence against objections and preserving the Christian faith with gentleness and respect.)
As we commence this year’s mission month, the call upon every believer, all structures of the Church, organizations and committees is to have an introspection into our day to day activities and see whether our values and priorities relate to God’s mission. What are we doing in order to spread the good news of salvation to the people around us? Jesus said “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me”, (John 4 v 34) therefore let us think carefully about how we can reach out to the lost, the poor, the marginalized and those contented with the standards of this world and bring them to Christ.
If God created his Body the Church for mission, what are we doing, in our local community, to reach out to others with the Gospel?

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Ambassadors are the highest-ranking representatives of their governments abroad, and their primary responsibility is to represent their country and work towards the best interests of their government or head of state and it is a huge honour to be chosen as one. We, too, were given an enormous honour when God called and chose us to follow Him (I Cor. 1:26). As Christians we are ambassadors of Christ and we should be easily distinguishable from the people of the world around us, yet not withdraw from society and live as hermits. We are to interact and live in the world and yet remain God’s representatives
Our relationship with Christ is not for our own benefit, but for the benefit, expansion and furtherance of God’s kingdom. When the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, they were not just mere second- class citizens, they were representatives (ambassadors) of Almighty God. That was the reason why: Daniel, Shadreck, Meshack and Abednego refused to bow down to the king’s image. Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman. They firmly held on to their faith that only the Lord God Almighty was worthy to be worshipped. They were mandated to stand their ground and God’s will prevailed. Through the many centuries of Jewish and Christian faith God’s people have been willing to suffer and to die for their faith.
With the advent of modern technology and the pandemic of the Corona virus, our faith has been put to test. Many questions are being raised at such a time as this and we need to be able to give answers which will show God’s love, power and mercy. We should therefore be serious in our study of God’s Word and should seek the leading and guidance of his Holy Spirit every time that our faith is challenged.
What are the most challenging questions that our local church is facing today when we try to share our faith with others?

Isaiah 40:28-31
Isaiah was preaching to weary, discouraged people who were in captivity in Babylon. He reminded them that Yahweh (Jehovah) is the everlasting God. He created everything in the world, even the viruses that are so small that they can’t be seen by a light microscope which magnifies 1000 times but only by an electron microscope which magnifies 1,000,000 times. This God of ours will not grow tired or weary. He is not controlled by time as we are. We can’t understand his thought processes, but we know that he gives us strength even when we feel weary and weak. He promises that he will give us the strength to run and not grow weary, to walk and not get tired.
The book of Esther is unique due to the fact that it is one of only two biblical books, (the other one being Songs of Solomon) that do not mention God by name. Questions have been raised regarding its place in the biblical canon, but, in reality, the absence of the name of God was due to the fact that the Jews were under the Persian empire where false Gods were worshiped. Names of people are found countless times in this book but here we see how God works behind the scenes. There is no record of miracles, neither is there any direct intervention of God. Instead the Lord redeemed His people through the faith and courage of some members of His chosen race.
The mission of God cannot be suppressed, retarded, blocked in any way by whatever force seems invincible to us. In the midst of pandemics, war, captivity, hunger and starvation, economic meltdown and recessions, the invisible hand of God is at work.
There are times in life when God seems to be invisible, when we are subjected to turmoil and situations in which we feel that cannot even call upon His name. Times when the future looks bleak and the things that surround us are taking us in the wrong direction. In such situations, God is personally involved in the lives of those who belong to Him. Paul said, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).
Encourage each other to pray for the courage to hold on to our faith in all situations. Pray for local situations that are troubling you.

Esther 2 v 5-7
Mordecai adopted Hadassah (Esther) an orphan who was his cousin and had lost both her parents. He raised her and treated her as his own daughter. In this contemporary world, where we have lost our loved ones through pandemics, accidents and in various other ways, we have many orphans in our families. We also have relatives who are working in the diaspora who left children in our hands. There is a call to give them the same treatment, opportunities and care we give to our own biological children.
The issue is two sided, the guardian should be non-discriminatory, fulfilling the biblical command of love, and the child should be well behaved, a good listener who takes advice, slow to speak and quick to hear. Esther took her uncle’s advice with humility and she became a queen. In as much as issues of abuse are rife in our society, every step should be taken to ensure that there is harmony in an extended family setup. As we raise these children, we will be nurturing them to become tomorrow’s kings and queens. A message to the orphans and the destitute, when opportunity arises, grab it and make history, do not be short sighted, be far sighted and focus on the bigger picture.
Are there families in our community where parents are caring for children from the ‘extended family’? Are there any who need the help and support of Christians?
If we hear of cases of abuse or domestic violence, what would we do about the situation?

Reading Esther 3: 8-9
When Haman hatched a plan to annihilate the Jews, he approached the king with an offer of a fortune, which some scholars have equated to two thirds of the Persian empire’s GDP, during that time. The devil does not bring destruction to humanity with empty hands, satanism is sponsored. Drug and human trafficking schemes are sponsored, advocacy of same sex unions is sponsored. Some people claim that if you remove money, all evil transactions will come to a halt! Besides teaching a word of blessing to the giver, Christians should know that when you give your offering or tithes, you are not only equipping the kingdom but fighting a war for the kingdom’s existence.
Therefore, as we give it is not just a matter of giving our leftovers. Haman promised a fortune to the king. Dear child of God, the enemy we are fighting is well organized in terms of resources. I used to be very disturbed when I watched unpleasant and destructive programs on television channels, until it dawned on me that someone paid for those programs! As we speak today, Scripture Union was banned in schools. Let us invest in Church programs or one day we wake up being marooned without any more space or right of worship. Invest in the Kingdom of God
.Discussion. Talk about John Wesley’s teaching, and practice regarding money.
The headings in John Wesley’s sermon on the use of money are:
a) Earn all you can – in ways that are honest and give service to the community.
b) Save all you can – Make sure that you and your family are properly housed, clothed and fed, but don’t waste money on luxuries.
c) Give all you can – He didn’t limit his giving to tithing but gave all he could.

Esther 4:16, Luke 17:33
The Christian faith is not about having a life without challenges and problems. Most of the times we are not taken out of problems, but the Holy Spirit helps us through problems. There sometimes arise situations when your faith is tested, where you are expected to stand for what you believe as a child of God. Esther was confronted with such a scenario, either to save the Jews by going to see the king without approval, or to stay and watch all her people being annihilated. She declared “If I perish, I perish”, but God saved her life. Earlier on Mordecai had refused to bow to Haman (3:1–4). Daniel and his three friends also face the same predicament. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol (Daniel 3:1– 12). King Nebuchadnezzar cast them into a fiery furnace, and the Lord saved them from death (vs13–30).
In our contemporary world who is prepared to put his/her life and resources on the block for the sake of the kingdom? If we are not careful as children of God our next generations will have nothing to hold on to, as we watch all that which defines our faith going down the drain. As long as we take the Church as our church, and not my Church, it will not survive the turbulences of this harsh world which is on a campaign to secularize everything. God is looking for those people who do not count themselves as worthy, and say ‘If I perish, I perish’. The lost are languishing in sin today, stand for what you believe and go into the jungle to recover the lost.
Share what you know about someone who gave his or her life for the sake of the Gospel. [Examples from Zimbabwe are the lives of Mudumedi Moleli (Waddilove), James Anta (among the Zvimba people) and Job Mamukwa (Siabuwa).]

Esther 4 v 16.
Scripture is filled with examples of prayer and fasting e.g. the Ninevites fast in Jonah 3 v 5,Nehemiah’s fast (Nehemiah 1 v 3-4), and Daniel’s fast (Daniel 1 v 12). Although prayer is not mentioned in Esther, because of the account is so restrained, most believed it occurred. Jesus fasted and implied it would be part of our lives (“When you fast….” Matthew 6 v 16-18). Historically, great revivals were preceded by fasting and prayer. John Wesley, George Whitfield, John Calvin, John Knox, Andrew Murray and many more fasted regularly to draw upon the wisdom and power of God and to ask for the power of God to sweep their land. The fast in Esther 4:16 is reminiscent of Nehemiah’s fast, when he needed wisdom and grace before he approached the king.
Collective fasting has been neglected in our generation, we have every reason to seek the face of God at such a time as this, where we have a politically fragile economy, a nation under sanctions, unemployment is high, corruption is rife, we are tormented by national disasters and worldwide pandemics. Fasting helps us to concentrate in our personal devotions, putting aside the temporal to seek the spiritual. Read Isaiah 58 vs 6-9 to appreciate the teaching on true fasting and its benefits.
Compare Matthew 6 v 16-18 and Isaiah 58. What do we understand by fasting?

The book of Esther is a book of feasts. In chapter 1 there was the extravagance of a six-month long drinking feast for the army and the princes of the 127 provinces (Esther 1:3-4). This was immediately followed by a seven- day drinking feast for the inhabitants of the palace (Esther 1:5), with a separate feast for the women (Esther 1:9) – this latter being the occasion of the demise of Queen Vashti. Then the king held another feast upon the accession of Queen Esther (Esther 2:18).As the plot unfolds, we next find the king and Haman sitting down to eat and drink (Esther 3:15).
Although we should enjoy life and give this earthly body a good treat, we should remember that we have the needy among us. We should examine our contemporary lifestyle. Are we in danger of becoming like the Xerxes generation? Feasting and extravagance are a sign of self- centeredness. God, in the Old Testament, instructed the Israelites not to harvest all the crops in the fields, so that the poor would be able to pick up the leftovers. (Deuteronomy 24 v 19-22)
The gospel we preach should take Jesus from the Bible into practical life, e.g. What is the good news to a prisoner, is it more blankets or to be pardoned? That is the reason why Jesus said, “I was hungry, and you did not feed me, thirsty and you did not give water to drink….” (Matthew 25 v 41-46) He was exhorting us to think about the needy. He even went further to give the parable of the Good Samaritan after He was asked the question; “who is my neighbour” (Luke 10 v 25-37). As individuals, families, corporates and Church, we need to reach out to the needy in our community, share a meal, and all that we have at our disposal.
Christian Social Responsibility is one of the four pillars of MCZ. What are we doing in our own community to help those who are in need?

Esther 4:1-3, Philippians. 1:12
When we face challenges in life, they can either paralyze us with fear, or cause us to seek God and see Him work in our lives. When Mordecai faced this challenge of a death threat, he remembered the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the One who had delivered the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage with a mighty hand. He found strength and believed that the same God would fight on the side of His chosen people.
King David is also faced life-threatening challenges, but he had the courage and strength to endure, did not give up, but overcame the challenges. One thing he did over and over again when challenges arose, was to seek God in prayer. Whenever a challenge arose, David would ask God what to do and when God gave him an answer, he listened and followed the instructions. “(2 Samuel 5:19)
Following Jesus doesn’t mean our lives will be free from challenges and problems. It means that we have the Lord Almighty with us in our challenges, whom we can lean on, trust, ask for help, and who will provide for us and comfort us through it all.
When we face challenges in our lives, we have the same opportunity presented to us that King David had. We can either let the challenges paralyze us with fear and dread, or we can trust God, ask for His help and wisdom, and work towards an outcome. If we chose the latter, it will lead to personal growth and seeing the Lord work in our lives. May your challenges not overwhelm you, but may you see them as opportunities to see God working in your life.
Discussion. What challenges are we facing in our lives today?

2 Chronicles 20:14-15, Esther 3:8-9, Psalm 105:12-15
God watches over His people. The first specific example of this comes from Genesis 20:1-7,when Abraham stayed in Gerar. When the king of that place took Sarah to be his wife, it would seem to have put at risk God’s promise to give Abraham a son from Sarah, but He protected the promise. From the book of Esther, we also see Haman hatching a plan to totally annihilate the Jews, but little did he know that the invisible God was on the side of Mordecai, Esther and all the Jews.
Those who believe in Christ are God’s chosen and when the enemy attacks them, God fights for them. As a child of God, the good news is, you don’t have to fight battles using your own strength. The challenges and circumstances you’re up against may seem bigger and more powerful, but greater is he who is in us than the one who is in in the world. (1 John 4:4)
May be our major question could be, how do we let God fight for us? (1) by realizing the battle is not ours, but God’s; (2)by recognizing human limitations and allowing God’s strength and power to work through our fears and weaknesses; (3) by making sure our battle is for God and not just our own selfish desires; (4) by asking God for help in our daily battles
Which battles are worth fighting for in life and how should we fight them?
How does God take care of our battles?

Esther 2:21-23, 6:1-3
There are times when we question God’s sincerity in keeping His promises in terms of rewarding us for doing service in the vineyard, but He is a promise keeper. As Mordecai sat at the king’s gate, he overhead Bigthana and Teresh planning to assassinate King Xerxes. He reported them and foiled the assassination attempt and the eunuchs were put to death. Mordecai was neither thanked nor rewarded. Instead his good deed was recorded in Xerxes’ book of Chronicles. The phrase ‘after these events’ (3:1) suggest that several years passed. Esther is also a book of reversals, the time came when the future looked at its very bleakest for God’s people, the king providentially had a restless night and called for the book of records to be read to him. The choice of passage was surely something more than mere coincidence (Esther 6:13) – and the promotion of Mordecai saw Haman in mourning, and with his head covered (Esther 6:12).
The moral lesson is that God is a promise keeper. As Christians we are exhorted to continue to do good and we shall reap in due season if we don’t get tired and give up (Galatians 6:9). Many of us have faithfully served God and we have done good things in his sight but have not received the expected reward. Be encouraged that God is a promise keeper, delay is not denial! He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) As a child of God continue to serve Him in everything. His ways are not our ways, in the fullness of time, our respective rewards will mature.
Discussion. Which of God’s promises are you expecting him to fulfil in your life?

1 CORINTHIANS 10:23-24
Paul was not concerned with what he liked best but with what was best for those around him. Even Christ said that He came to do the will of the one who sent Him (John 5:30). Unfortunately, not all Christians have servant attitudes and hearts like Paul’s. Some are insensitive towards others and do what they want, no matter who is hurt by their actions. The second commandment among the two as summarised by Jesus instructs us to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:3738). Unfortunately, because of lack of knowledge, some Christians do the exact opposite and are not sensitive to people’s welfare being more concerned with gaining approval of people rather than of God.
What Paul meant is that we should make the welfare of others one of our primary goals. Remember that Christ has called you to live for others. When Paul faced many trials, he stayed strong for the sake of the gospel; writing letters from the prison and embracing the gentiles, without regarding his Jewish culture as being supreme. Jesus advised his disciples that the greatest of them was to serve the rest (Matthew 20:25-28). Big and famous names are the ones made through service to others. As a Christian , seek to serve others, aspire to inspire before you expire.
How should church leaders seek to exercise ‘servant leadership’?

Psalm 51, 1John 1:8-9
The bible teaches us that God does not condemn His children (Romans 8:1). Each time people sinned and they would repent and admit their sins to God, and He would pardon them. As people called for God’s purpose, the process of restoring a broken relationship is fundamental before we can participate in His mission. He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces his sins finds mercy (Proverbs 28:13). Genuine confession is forfeiting one’s ego, agreeing with God’s verdict and it results in restored confidence. So, true repentance does not end with words of confession- that would be mere lip service. It must lead to corrected behaviour and changed attitudes. When you sin and are truly sorry, confess your sins to God, ask His forgiveness, and accept His Grace and Mercy.
Scripture is full of examples where confession was made. Psalm 51 is a prayer of confession done by David after he had committed adultery and murder. Nathan the prophet had confronted him. He repented and said, “behold I have sinned against the Lord” and God restored him. Do not be haunted by the past, confess your sins to one another and forsake them. God is faithful and just to forgive you (1 John 1:9). One thing I have desired is that we should all know that God, through His Son Jesus Christ, is always prepared to give a new start to anyone who repents without condition.
Discussion How difficult do we find it to forgive those who have hurt us? (Matthew 6:12)

1 KINGS 19:3-18
Elijah experienced the depths of fatigue and discouragement just after his two great spiritual victories: the defeat of the Prophets of Baal and the answered prayer for rain. Often discouragement sets in after great spiritual experiences, and many a time people quickly forget. The secret, children of God, is that it is not over until it is over, we are in a warzone as Christians and there is no time to rest. Our yesterday victories should be our references for tomorrow’s battles. When David was facing Goliath, he remembered Jehovah who rescued him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear. (1 Samuel 17:37). In other words, your testimonies should give you strength and courage to confront the next battle.
One thing to take note of is that the enemy does not rest, after the victory on the mountain top. Jezebel was waiting to kill Elijah! Even the temptations of Jesus came in series, one after the other, after his baptism. Do not despair when that happens to you in life. After every step there is another and the same God will take you through. Elijah’s battles were not over, and so your battles could be like those of Elijah. There was still work for him to do. When you feel let down after a spiritual experience, remember that God’s purpose for your life is not yet over. The experience came to encourage you to continue into the next battle!
Let someone share an inspiring spiritual experience. Did life become easy after that? Or did the experience give the courage to face the next trial?

James 1:12-16 Count it all joy
“I always try to turn every disaster into an opportunity”. If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere! Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles. (unknown) Everyone encounters things in this journey of life that threaten life, impede progress, or one’s achievements. You have two choices, either to let those challenges prevail against you or to turn them into opportunities to move forward.
Mordecai and Esther’s response to Haman’s death threat is a very important lesson to us. To them it was an opportunity to seek God’s manifest presence. Mordecai rent his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted as a sign of humility. He went further to approach the centre of the challenge, sending a message to the Queen, who in turn commanded all Jews to fast. It was a time to remind the Jews that there was a way not only to get closer to God but to provoke His intervention. It was an opportunity to enhance their identity and a common purpose amongst them in captivity through prayer and fasting.
Many times, people cry and lament, sit down and entertain negative meditation when faced with challenges. Paul says finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10).If there come situations when you lose your job, marriage, or finances, quote scripture and declare that “He removes the first and establishes the second” (Hebrews 10:9). As Christians we should ask God to show us opportunities in every situation we face and He is ready to open our eyes .

Acts 1:8 ‘You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.’.
The New Testament is insistent that every Christian is a witness. ‘In churches positioned to evangelize, members have confidence in the church and feel comfortable inviting outsiders to the services. Growing churches have built a culture that views evangelism as the norm’ (Calvin C Ratz). Witnessing to the truth of the gospel can only be effective if every believer takes the radical stance of being evangelistic. The business of bringing people to Christ should not be left in the hands of certain individuals, organizations or interested people. There is a song which says, “Yours actions speak so loud that I can’t hear a word that you are saying.” We all need to witness to the love, joy and power of the Gospel in our daily lives.
The first church was promised power, not to do anything dramatic or to fulfill any church requirement but to witness. Today power in church is too often is related to structures& positions, instead of the Holy Spirit who gives us the power to witness.
How do our members develop the confidence to invite others to a service or a Bible study group? Make your church a place to be, where things happen. This is not enhanced by the gift of a single person; it is the duty of every believer. Lay people are the best witnesses, mostly because they are more strategically located to minister than the clergy. They live and work among people who are not yet Christians. If witnessing is left to or limited to the specialists, the platform personalities, then the efforts of witnessing will be doomed. Therefore, the challenge to every believer is that he or she should be bold and share the gospel. Paul says preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4 v 2).
During the Church services, simple duties like ushering, hospitality and keeping up the outlook of the Church can make a difference. Every member should make an effort to reach out to a stranger at every service. It has been called “friendship evangelism”. The goal of any Christian should never be to find a church you like and sit in the back row. The goal should be to fully engage the mission of the church. Discussion Points
Share stories of people whom you know whose lives radiate the integrity, joy and power of the Holy Spirit. Are they more effective witnesses than those who talk about Jesus but don’t live lives that reflect his presence?
Why are so many of us reluctant to share our faith?

Esther 4:16a Go and gather all the Jews ….
The directive to include every Jew was a call for inclusivity; this is the policy of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc. It is one our core values as a church as stated in our Mission statement. The Methodist movement believes in the priesthood of all believers. This principle does not only relate to the clergy and laity but also transcends gender and age barriers. All those who believe in Christ, have a right to the same ordinances and privileges of the Gospel, and share in the same blessings of grace. Neither the male nor the female has any special advantages for salvation (Galatians 3 v 28). This is also demonstrated by the existence of organizations which accommodate youths and children, men and women married as well as singles.
The call by Esther was to involve every Jew in the fight against annihilation, every individual effort counted. The work of God needs the participation of each and every member. There should be no spectators, neither should there be big or small contributions, each and every one should fit into his/her position. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 v 12-27 that the body is one although made up of many parts. No one part is ‘more equal’ than the other. The challenge for every believer is to take his/her part in the Body of Christ; in this journey of faith.
Discussion Points.
Do we accommodate all Zimbabweans in our services, and into positions of leadership? Shona speaking? Ndebele speaking?
English speaking? Tonga? Kalanga? Nyambia? Etc.
Do we welcome single mothers into our fellowship groups? What about people who have had the Covid 19 infection?

Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
What made the early Church different from other religions was the tremendous growth in numbers as well as in the knowledge of Christ. Today the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe is growing very slowly. The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe had 66,305 full members in 2009 and 72,957 full members in 2018. This means that on average our membership grew by only 740 per year!! Alas, the church of today is made up of believers who are not concerned about the fact that the church is not growing significantly.
The church is not an organization but an organism, it should grow! It should multiply! The MCZ strategic document came up with four pillars and Pillar number 1 is improving church growth. The Bible is in favor of church growth. Theologians affirm that the central purpose of Jesus’ coming was to die on the cross for the redemption of all people, everywhere! Jesus Himself said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19 v 10)
Growth has to do with both quantity and quality. People should not be satisfied to attend worship without new believers coming into the fold. Is our Congregation one that is growing, or it is declining? Church growth is not cheap! It is not automatic! It takes a lot of effort by all the members! It is high time that as a Church we make sure that the orientation of every Jack and Jill includes the subject of church growth. If the Church has to be missional in theory and practice, church growth should be the major Key Result area. Take a snapshot survey of your congregation, is there some growth taking place? Move out of your comfort zone. Be prepared to go an extra mile. We have existing structures and committees which when fully utilized will enhance Church growth; Evangelism and Discipleship, Pastoral and Fellowship and Christian Social Responsibility. All our organizations at Society level can be used for both the assimilation and the follow up of individual members. Newcomers and visitors should be well treated, given hospitality and attended to. Our registers should be updated and well maintained as they are the primary sources of information.
 What arrangements do we have in our congregation for the welcome of new people? Do we make sure that someone speaks to each one after them service? Do we invite them to join us in our various church activities?
 Encourage the members to share the ways in which they have encouraged their friends, neighbours, school friends or workmates to come to church or to a fellowship group or other church function.

Acts 14:21-22
The task of making disciples cannot be successful when treated as a simply a church issue or the responsibility of one or two people. We must see it as a personal responsibility. The church is not only made of personal attendance at services but also personal efforts. One area where the Church needs to improve is on the issue of follow up after receiving new converts or visitors to the church. Follow up is the spiritual work of grounding a new believer in the faith. As it was with the early church, they preached the good news and won large numbers of disciples. (Acts 2 v 46-47) Then they returned to cities such as Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.
Follow up amongst other things is done for the purposes of helping the new believer to receive assurance of salvation and acceptance with God, to develop a consistent devotional life and to understand the basics of abundant Christian living.
Follow up is also done to help the new believer become integrated into the life of the church at society level and also to share his/her faith with others.
If not properly handled newcomers are either ‘mentally poisoned’, showered with quick promises of being badged or dumped and the obvious result is loss of the new member.
In as much as we have our structured ways of follow up in the form of committees, there is a very great need for personal follow up. This is the assuming of a one to one relationship by a mature believer with a new Christian for the purpose of nurturing and growth.
At our big societies, or even the smaller ones, have we taken note of people who visit and declare that they have come for good? Of the total number of that category do we ask ourselves if we still have them at the end of the year?
We have also to think of crusades and outreaches. What follow up measures have we put in place to sustain the new believers?
Having discussed this, we need to come up with follow up strategies at society level in our different locations.

Esther 1:10-21
When we talk about families, we often ignore the fact that not all families are made up of spouses. There are some single men and many single women in the church. A person can be single due to various reasons; one has never been married, is divorced, widowed, separated, or dumped. In the case of Queen Vashti, we are not told of the aftermath but within a blink of an eye, she was now a single woman through divorce. It also appears likely that Mordecai was single. (Esther 2 v 5-7)
Singles in general have many things in common. They may feel lonely, isolated and unwanted. They need to connect with others at all levels. They need friendship and an opportunity to share their joys and sorrows. They need to feel that they are of significance and value in the society. These are basic needs that all humans have. Singles who have never been married have many unique needs. They are often regarded as failures even when they have achieved professional success. As they struggle with these needs, they are also often under pressure from family members and from the society as a whole to find a partner as the society views completeness as having a spouse and children. In most traditions and cultures, there seems to be some unspoken rule that unless a person is or has been married, they are not capable of participating in the mainstream of social interaction.
Those who have suffered the pain of divorce have other specific needs. Often after a divorce, all the areas of an individual’s life are in shambles. God seems to be far away, and the feeling of rejection can be emotionally devastating. Financial responsibilities may be overwhelming, and children can become a burden. There are often other intense emotions to deal with, such as guilt, shame, anger bitterness or rage and the future looks bleak.
For those who have lost a spouse due to death, the sense of loss and emptiness can and often does lead to depression. They are subjected to isolation and there can be also financial problems or children to deal with and they can feel abandoned by God. They need support and guidance through the grief process. These two last categories also suffer from indecision, whether to marry again or to rear the children alone. The Church should be a place where these challenges are shared addressed and mitigated.
The widowed and the divorced need hope and to be understood. They need information, role models, commonality and belonging where they can freely discuss the real issues affecting them. Jesus said come unto me all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.(Matthew 11 v 28-29)
What is your congregation doing for those who are single? Are they excluded from certain positions within the Church? Do they find the love and acceptance that they need?

1 Corinthians 12 v 12-27
One of the fundamental principles of Christianity is teamwork. As children of God, we are designed to need God and each other. We depend on each other; our journey of faith is not that of competition but of complementing one another. From the book of Esther, we learn that Mordecai fostered and raised Esther as a child, gave her advice until she was a grown up. When the tables turned and the Jews were facing annihilation Mordecai sought Esther for help to approach the king. No one has all the skills, gifts or wisdom necessary for a successful life. Instead we are exhorted to use the gifts we have received from God.
A team comprises of two or more people who have a common goal or a common opponent. They win together or fail together. In a team there is no superior or inferior position, but all are equally important. In 1 Corinthians 12 v 12-27 Paul says there is one body made up of many parts. The foot is not inferior to the hand; the ear is not inferior to the eye. Each person in the team is important. In John 17 v 20-21 Jesus in His prayer requested that the disciples be one family as He and the Father are one. We also witness teamwork at work in the Trinity; The Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together at creation(Genesis 1:1-3).
When the opposite situation exists and there are divisions among God’s people, such divisions are detrimental to the growth and progress of God’s work. We all belong to one God and we should strive to work together and contribute to the work of the kingdom in the place to which God has called us. Therefore, in our various committees and at all levels, we need to work as a team, and advance towards the goal, having one enemy, the devil.
Sadly, the devil often succeeds in dividing the people of God. If there is competition and conflict between members of the Church, then God’s work is hindered. In 1 Corinthians 3 v 1-9 Paul addresses a situation of conflict within the church in Corinth and he says that we are fellow workers engaged in working on God’s building.
How should we deal with situations of conflict and division within the Church?

1 Timothy 4 v 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.)
Our conviction that children and youth can be agents of God’s Mission and Transformational action in God’s world is based on the teaching of Jesus concerning the place of children in the Kingdom of God. He placed children at the centre of the Kingdom (Matthew 19 v 14).Further, Jesus presents a child as first, the model of entry into the Kingdom of God and second a model of greatness in the Kingdom. Jesus was continuing an Old Testament tradition that sees children as God’s gifts and signs of his promise and blessing. (Jeremiah 1 v 4-8 and Luke 1 v 11-17)
Children and youths have been the targets of the devil from time immemorial; when Pharaoh wanted to stop the numerical growth of the Hebrews, he ordered the killing of the baby boys (Exodus 1 v 1617). Herod wanted to kill Jesus at infancy (Luke 2 v 13-15). In Matthew 18 v 5-6 Jesus teaches that a child can be subject to spiritual danger. The sin that human society creates and nurtures places children in mortal peril. Christ will protect his little ones but will also deal most harshly with those who cause children to sin.
Some contemporary cultures corrupt children using the language of freedom, rights and empowerment that adults have designed for their world. The abnormal becomes the normal; darkness is treated as light. The enemy targets them because they still have the energy and the future belongs to them.
Children and youths therefore need to be jealously guarded, taught and used as agents of God’s mission. They can share the gospel as they interact and play. Unless they are abused, youths and children are not focused on power and other benefits. We need to support the Youth and Children’s ministry at all costs in our Church. Never to leave them in the hands of the few. It is our responsibility to usher them to the front so that they partake in the expansion of the kingdom of God. Give them space, let them make mistakes and be corrected. A word to the youths is that you should make room for advice and learn from the adults as you execute your God given mandate. Discussion
In what ways could our children take an active part in our Sunday Services?
Share examples of young people leading others to Salvation.

Matthew 13:14-23
Life is full of distractions which result in the loss of focus for visions which we are trying to pursue; family, school, business ventures etc. may become such distractions. Jesus told His followers that spiritual distractions begin with hearts that have grown dull, ears that are hard of hearing, and eyes that are closed. (vs 15). Using the illustration of the farmer scattering seed, Jesus compared the seed that fell among thorns to a person who hears God’s word but becomes distracted because his or her heart was focused on other things. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and, as a result, he or she becomes unfruitful in God’s kingdom.
There is great value in having times throughout each day when we turn off the distractions of mind and heart and focus on the Lord. Distractions can be physical, mental, social or even spiritual. “There is a way that seems right unto a man …” (Proverbs 16:25).It is of utmost importance to know and be aware of the distractions we may usually face in life. They can vary from one individual to another; from one generation to another. Some distractions may be racial, ethnical or tribal. For example, in the case of the Jews in captivity in Babylon, they were not free to worship the Lord God exclusively. These days a common distraction is technology! Many are so glued to their phones or laptops that it affects things like their productivity at work, their worship in Church, their learning at school and even their driving on the road. Each individual should therefore look carefully at his or her lifestyle and deal with any distractions.
Identify common distractions which take your mind off your daily devotions or your worship in Church. Share your own experience of things that are distractions in your spiritual life and find ways of dealing with them.

Psalms 30 v 4-10
A story is told of a couple (Minnie and George Lacy), who were deployed as missionaries in the early 1900s. They lost five children in succession due to Scarlet Fever! Writing a letter back home to the mission board the husband said, “Sometimes it seems more than we can bear, but the Lord is with us and wonderfully helping us”. In their darkest time, they found that Jesus was near to them and He was enough for their needs in their time of anguish. Like David they learnt to “Sing to the LORD. … and praise his holy name.” (verse 4) They discovered that “His anger lasts only a moment, but his favour lasts a lifetime.” (verse 5)
Many people today face times where they wonder if God is present. In 2019 as a nation we experienced the cyclone Idai which wrecked families and left people helpless, causing loss of many lives. In 2020, the Covid 19 pandemic has caused the loss of lives throughout the world, the loss of jobs, and has affected economies across the continent of Africa and the world. In such perilous times the psalmist reminds us of God’s presence and faithfulness. When he was deeply depressed, he cried out ‘Hear O Lord and have mercy on me; Lord be my helper (verse 10).
God cares for each one of his children. He is ever available. He does not change. As believers, we will never lack, we only need to persevere because God is always near. (Romans 8 v 28)
Share with one another your stories of how God has helped you to cope with tragedies and problems in your lives.

Exodus 23:16-17. Leviticus 23 v 15-21
“Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the first-fruits of the crops you sow in your field.” “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.”
The Harvest is an occasion we celebrate annually as an act of thanksgiving to God who is the provider of everything we have. It is a period when we give to the work of God realizing that it is God who gives us the strength to work and it is Him who provides the fruits of our labour. We do it with a thankful heart that releases a thanksgiving prayer and a thanksgiving offering. In 1 Chronicles 29:11-14 David acknowledges God as the provider of everything, as the source of harvest. Scripture warns the Israelites that they were not to forget the Lord who delivered them from Egypt through the wilderness into Canaan. They were supposed to remember that is not their strength or wisdom that produces wealth but God’s provision.
Harvest is therefore a service to remember the providence of God. It is for the redeemed, those who have a testimony to share. Just by giving us Christ, we have that testimony that God rescued us from this world of darkness. However, darkness pursues God’s children and blindfolds them so that they fail to realize that God has blessed them. We should observe this period and give willingly in proportion to the blessings that God has given us. Let us therefore take this opportunity to meditate and prepare to celebrate the harvest. We do this in the midst of earthly challenges, but God remains faithful.
Should people living in towns concentrate on giving money at harvest time, or should we also try to decorate our churches with fruit, vegetables and flowers to remind us of God’s continuing goodness to us?

Matthew 9:35-38
This statement was made by Jesus Christ to His disciples, using the harvest as an illustration and challenging them to see lost people as the harvest of the kingdom of God. This was after He had seen that the people were weary; that the multitudes who followed him were like sheep without a shepherd. Today many people have become self- dependent. They are blind to the love of God and lost in wickedness. God is looking for people who stand up like Isaiah and say, ‘Here I am, send me’ (Isaiah 6 v 8). The ministry of evangelism is not only for the Itinerant (full time) clergy. The early Church had people like Lydia,
Priscilla and Aquilla who enabled the mission of God to prosper and Paul was able to move on to new places. We are all called to be evangelists in the places where we live and work. To enable the spread of the Gospel is to participate in the mission of God.
The MCZ has a strategic plan and the Pillar number 1 is focused on improving church growth. The target is 12% annual growth of our membership, and also to plant at least 4 new societies per District. This means it is time to go out. We are all called to be involved in this endeavour. The harvest is plenty, currently we are plus or minus 120 000 who call themselves Methodists, in a country with about 12 million people. God says to Joshua at the time of his retirement, there are still more territories to be conquered. (Joshua 13 v 1) We have a tremendous challenge before us.
What plans does your circuit and society have to reach out to those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour?
Have any of the members present a testimony of trying to share the love of God with those outside the church?

Mark 10:45, Luke 22:47
The Church and the secular world are made up of people some of whom have been leaders in the past;
Some are leaders currently and others who are planning to be the leaders of tomorrow.
If these three categories take note that they exist for the purpose of the kingdom of God, the Church and the world will prosper. No-one who is self-serving, proud, lazy, or hypocritical will be a good leader of God’s people. God’s creation needs careful management. The world we live in is suffering from selfish leaders who have enriched themselves and didn’t care about the welfare of the created world, or the people living in it. The Apostle Paul said, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). Jesus gave us the example of his ministry. He reached out to all the people of his community with love and compassion. ‘For even the Son of Man Did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Jesus demonstrated the servant ministry during his earthly lifetime.
Esther gives us another demonstration of sacrificial leadership. She put her neck on the block for the lives of her fellow Jews. (Esther 4 v 11 & 16) In order to serve God , we must be willing serve others as Jesus did. He laid down His life for us; and we ought to be willing to sacrifice our time, resources, gifts and all that we have for the sake of our brethren and sisters. As life progresses, we discover that our lives consist of a succession changed circumstances. Where you are sitting today, someone else will be in that place tomorrow. Jesus came and reversed the direction of hierarchy in service without giving up his leadership role. ‘You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, but it shall not be so among you. Whoever want to become great among you, must be your servant, whoever wants to be first, must be your slave.
Proverbs 6 v 6 teaches us to learn from the ants, where every individual is busy doing something for the common good. The Church of God needs such people today, where Christians do not compete but complement one another, where people serve one another in the spirit of meekness.
Why do people so often compete for positions of leadership in secular society and in the church?

Psalm 139
Many people get to watch History, very few people make it. (Rick Warren). History makers are those who have dared to step out of the boat to walk where many have drowned. For one to be a world changer and history maker you will have to break the chain of maintaining the status quo, stand for what you believe, never fearing to make mistakes, ceasing to represent yourself but being able to stand for others. You have to defy the odds and break out of your limitations. Mordecai and Esther did exactly that and made history. The Bible is full of people who made history; except for a few who are identified as ‘a certain man or woman”. Today we are called Methodist because someone made history and changed the course of life for many in the 18th century and his name was John Wesley. In Matthew 5 v 13, Jesus said “you are the salt of the earth”…meaning to say that your contribution to the kingdom should be visible, it should be felt. You should not pass unnoticed on this planet earth; you were created to contribute to the kingdom. People should make reference to your time of influence.
In order to be a world changer, you need to have certain attributes;
Have a purpose- know what you were meant to be. World changers know who they are, so do not wait for the world to define you. You need to pursue and tackle your goal, and in the process, you will cause change.
Have a conviction; world changers have an unwavering sense of conviction. It is what you believe about yourself that will give you a sense of conviction. You need to believe that Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. God made you for a purpose (Psalm 139 v 13-14). You also need to have a vision and take appropriate action.
How can we become world changers in today’s complex world?

Philippians 4 v 11-13
When the things that Haman had planned against Mordecai and the Jews changed, the course changed to benefit the later and the Jews. He was given all that which had belonged to Haman. In other words, Mordecai became instantly rich and famous from being a mere Jewish eunuch at the king’s gate. This was really a story of the saying ‘from rags to riches’. Many people have walked the same path but when they became rich and powerful, they despised those who remained in poverty. People have a weakness of being quick to forget where they came from.
God sternly warned the Israelites that if they had crossed Canaan, they were not supposed to quickly forget but to remember their God who had delivered them and rescued them from the jaws of Pharaoh. (Deuteronomy 15 v 15) Signs of forgetfulness include boasting. You hear someone say I have worked for this wealth! Even in positions of leadership people are quick to disengage themselves from others. Instead we should thank God who created us poor and transformed the course of our lives. The decisions we make with our fortune determine who we are. Have we maintained our Christian values of love and compassion? How we use our influence is very important. The Bible records that there came a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph and life became unbearable for the Hebrews. (Exodus 1 v 8) Some people choose to amass more wealth, expensive vehicles, clothes and live luxurious lives at the expense of the suffering. When God blesses you, remember the less privileged; remember the house of God.
Does God always bless his faithful followers with riches and great influence? (Matthew 6 v 19-21)

We continue to unpack our annual Theme in the midst of challenges which include the continuous economic meltdown fuelled by the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic. The life setting of the book of Esther was that the Jews were under the Persian rule, and by God’s design and providence Esther was elevated to be the Persian Queen after the dethronement of Vashti. At the same time Haman was appointed to be in command of the whole empire. Drama unfolded when Mordecai refused to bow down to him, and Haman sought to have him killed and totally annihilate the Jews. This prompted Mordecai to seek the assistance of Esther as she was the Queen. He asked her to approach the king for a reversal of the decree. It was a difficult task for Esther since gaining access to the King without his invitation attracted a death penalty, and Esther had last seen the King about a month earlier. Mordecai challenged Esther being a Jew to remember that there was a reason why she had been elevated to that position at such a time.
The theme challenges us as a Church and as individuals to stand for what we believe against all the odds. Each and every Christian is strategically positioned to serve God in this perverse generation. We live at a time when Christianity is being threatened by counterfeit ministries. There are many preachers who twist the Word of God to suit themselves and gain popularity. While the situation we are in is difficult and it seems impossible to serve God, we should soldier on, using the positions of influence and the resources God has given us for the furtherance of the Kingdom.
Prayer Time.
Let us ask God to show each one of us what it is that he wants us to do in the current situation.

ACTS 2:37
After Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, those that heard asked for a way forward. At the conclusion of the Mission month, the call is for us to invest in God’s work. Haman promised to pay a very large sum of money into the royal treasury (ten thousand talents of silver) in order to achieve his mission. (Esther 3 v 9)Esther seeded her life and God preserved her. Support the mission of God through giving and availing resources to the kingdom of God.
As a Society, identify vulnerable or underprivileged communities or groups and extend a helping hand to them. Remember to give the good news to a street person, to the prisoner.
On the Island of Malta, Paul gathered a bundle of sticks to rekindle the fire because he was feeling cold. (Acts 28 v 3-5). The fire was not for an individual but for all who had escaped from the sea, but that’s where he was also going to get warmth. The MCZ is our Malta, let the fire continue to burn, but it requires you to put in some sticks. Make your contribution, it is worthy before the Lord. It will go a long way to enhance the work of God here in Zimbabwe.
How are we planning to improve our witness to the people in our own environment?