Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe
John Sherriff, after arriving in Rhodesia in 1898, wrote enthusiastically to friends in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand about the missionary prospects. By 1904 he estimated that he had baptized two whites, six African women and 67 African men and youths. The New Zealand Committee agreed in 1905 to take full financial responsibility for the work in the Bulawayo area.
In 1934 R.S. Garfield Todd and his wife, Grace Wilson Todd, arrived as Churches of Christ missionaries in Rhodesia from New Zealand. In the 1940s Garfield Todd saw that he could help by entering into politics. In 1946 he was elected to the Parliament and became Prime Minister in 1953. He was ousted in 1958 due in large degree to his pro-African policies.
Sir Garfield and Lady Grace Todd lived on a large ranch near Old Dadaya. In 1949 they gave 650 acres of the ranch for a school at Dadaya.
In 1989 the Australian Overseas Mission Board (now Global Mission Partners) entered into a partnership with the New Zealand Churches of Christ and the Zvishavane Conference Council of the Associated Churches of Christ of Zimbabwe. The majority of the more than 200 local churches are not self-sufficient. They are being served by 60 trained ministers with an overall church membership exceeding 20,000.
About 800 congregations of American Christian Churches and acapella Churches of Christ makes the number of Stone-Campbell (founders of Churches of Christ) movement congregations in excess of 1000 and growing!
Churches of Christ has numerous churches and pastors in an area of Matabeleland between the cities of Bulawayo, Gweru and Masvingo. Despite all the hardships the churches there are flourishing. Doctors, lawyers, engineers and other highly qualified professionals who once would rarely be seen going to church are now joining regularly for worship.
Because of church growth and the inability to pay a full-time pastor, most pastors serve up to 8 churches. Particularly in rural areas, they have to walk long distances from one preaching point to the next. Motorbikes have been purchased by Australian churches to assist pastors to visit each of their congregations more often. This has also assisted with the many funerals they are asked to conduct.
As yet, many rural churches do not have buildings but meet under trees or in someone’s backyard. The hope is to train young people in building, carpentry and welding by involving them in the building of churches.