Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Breaking down church barriers

Before I write any further: I just love technology. I came upon a program which shows where people come from (or at least where their service providers are located) who read this blog. This is so neat. You can see it on the right. Someone from Kiev in the Ukraine (I was in Kiev two years ago so at least I know how beautiful that city is). People from Washington and Melbourne. Someone from Tijuana in Mexico and another from Spokane in the USA (I’ve got no idea where these places are!) Thanks so much for using your precious time to read this. I deeply appreciate it that you think it is worthwhile to read what I write.
Now on with the topic:
Where I grew up, virtually all the children in our school belonged to one of a few Reformed churches. At one stage we had a girl in our class who came from a Pentecostal background, and we thought she was totally WEIRD! (If I ever have the opportunity to see her again, I will have to apologise to her for thinking what I thought). At university, while studying, things were pretty much the same. Then in 1981 I had the chance to visit Zimbabwe. This was shortly after the war in Zimbabwe and my wife and I (technically she wasn’t my wife yet, but I had asked her to marry me a few days before we left for Zimbabwe) were part of a group of students who visited various congregations in Zimbabwe with a concert that we presented. The aim of this was to bring some humour back to people who had gone through a terrible time due to the war. In one of the towns we visited we were told that ex-patriot pastors were not allowed to renew their residence permits and were therefore forced to leave the country when their permits expired. In this particular town, it was only the Dutch Reformed Church which still had a pastor. As the pastors from other churches were forced to leave, so the members started joining other churches and at the time when we were there, the Dutch Reformed pastor was ministering members of a number of different churches. Within the circumstances, they suddenly realised that doctrinal differences were not nearly as important as they had thought before.
I have had the same experience in Swaziland. Fresh from seminary, I thought that I had to do everything in my ability to ensure that our church would remain doctrinally “pure”. But it didn’t work. There is an amazing openness between people of different denominations. People do tend to have a particular church which they normally choose to attend, but we often have visitors from other churches and our members also frequently visit other churches, and people seem to be comfortable with this. I’m not propagating the eradication of different denominations. We still have a tradition to be proud of as other churches also have their traditions. But the harsh feelings and accusations that I had often experienced when I was younger, have seemed to disappear. People are accepted as fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, regardless of their church affiliation.
When we started with out home-caring project, I realised that it would be impossible to find enough people in our church to do the work. Our next option was to look for people in surrounding evangelical churches who would be willing to become part of the project. Eventually we decided to have no restrictions on the ground of a willing person’s faith. However, what we did say was that the project will be run as a Christian organisation and all people in the project will be expected to respect this. Members of our own church form a fairly low percentage of the total number of care-givers, but there has been absolutely no tension whatsoever among them concerning faith issues. I think I’m just realising more and more that there is no way that church barriers will restrict Christians from mixing with each other. Obviously there are going to be problems because of this, but the advantages are much more (in my humble opinion) than the disadvantages.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007 - Posted by | Mission, Swaziland, Theology

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