A SHORT HISTORY OF THE TANZANIA ASSEMBLIES OF GOD - 75 YEARS
Tanzania Assemblies of God church was birthed as a result of a great revival that happened in AZUSA street, California (USA), at the beginning of 20th century. It was missionary Paul Deer who came as a private missionary, who started a church under the Pentecostal Holiness Association (PHA) way back in 1928 with its first service early 1929 at Igale, In Mbeya Region in the Southern Highland of Tanzania.
In 1938 Paul Deer returned to the USA and the following year 1939 he joined the Assemblies of God church, and so handed over the ministry he had started in Tanzania (then called Tanganyika) to the General Council of Assemblies of God (AG) in the USA. He requested the leadership to send a missionary to continue the work he had started in Tanzania while he continued his vocation in the USA.
In 1940 the leadership of AG in USA got in touch with their missionary in Congo Mr. Nilsen and asked him to come to Tanganyika to nurture the work that Paul Deer had handed over to AG.
Missionary Nilsen arrived and found members of PHA Igale. On learning that he belonged to AG and not PHA, some members dropped, till when Paul Deer returned in 1945 and brought them back with a lengthy negotiation that lasted up to 1948 after which he returned back to the USA.
However, those who accepted Paul Deer’s decision to join AG looked for AG Missionaries in Malawi (then called Nyasaland) and solicited for ministerial cooperation. This happened four years after the departure of missionary Paul Deer. They walked on foot a distance of over 120 miles to get to Malawi where the AG missionaries were in 1952. In 1953 they started consolidating the church and establish it as an “indigenous church”. They started a bible college in Itende Mbeya for the purpose of preparing ministers for the ministry. An indigenous church is one that “self-governs”, “self-propagates”, and “self-supports”.
The main method and strategies they used to consolidate the church was: the Bible College, ICI publications, Sunday school (now Discipleship school), CA’s and WWK departments.
Itende Bible College was a catalyst for revival in the Southern region, while Arusha Bible College that was started in 1959 became a catalyst for Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Dodoma, Mwanza, Tanga and Singida. In fact there were two major centers for revival: Mbeya for Southern Region, and Arusha- Masama for the Northern region, central Tanganyika, Lakes region, Tanga, and finally the whole country.
In 1952, when missionaries took the leadership of the church, they registered the church as The Assemblies of God Mission, but in 1967 they handed over the leadership to native leaders. Since then the church had the first indigenous General Council under the elected Arch-Bishop Rev. Emmanuel Lazaro. This is why Bishop Emmanuel Lazaro is known as the first native Bishop of TAG. There were other bishops such as Rev. Petrosi and Rev Yohana Mpayo who came before Rev Lazaro, but these served under the leadership of the Missionaries while the church was under the Assemblies of God Mission registration.
Rev. Lazaro led the church (TAG) since 1967 to 1992 (25 years). In 1992 Rev. Ranwell Mwenisongole was elected by the General Conference to be the next Arch-Bishop the position he held till 2008 (16 years).
In 2008, Rev. Dr. Barnabas Mtokambali was elected by the General Conference to lead the church the position he is holding to date.
75 years of the existence of the TAG church that was celebrated last year (2014) is counted from the time missionary Paul Deer handed the church over to the General Council of AG in the USA in 1939, which was the official time he was confirmed to be a minister of AG and the church of the USA and nit the time he arrived in Tanganyika under Pentecostal Hloliness Association.