Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Starting a new church at Lavumisa

During February I posted two items concerning the possibility of starting a new church in an area known as Lavumisa, on the south-eastern border of Swaziland. In the one post, From the Society to the Church, I also mentioned a post by Bob Roberts, Start with the Society – Not the Church, and said that we had been invited by the local member of parliament, on the grounds of our involvement with the community in caring for the sick and the dying, to start with a church. In a follow-up entitled , I told how we had met with members of the local community one Sunday morning to Planting a new church start with our first church service.
This past Sunday I went to visit the people again. We had about 35 people who attended the service. At times nearly 70 people attend, but because of funerals being held on Saturdays and Sundays, the number of people attending fluctuate constantly.
Instead of having a formal sermon, I attempt to have a more informal discussion with the group on certain topics. This isn’t easy. The Swazis are so used to being preached to, that they find it fairly difficult to respond during a church service. But basically I think it went fairly well. After the service I asked them how they saw their future as church members. At the moment they are still an independent group of people meeting on a Sunday. On their request I am visiting them whenever I am able to (which cannot be more than once every four to six weeks). But I wanted them to start thinking about the future. Would we continue meeting in this way as an independent group of people (I’m willing to help them if so) or did they want to start considering joining up with another church?I wasn’t really surprised, as I had been watching their body language closely, to hear that they wanted to join our church. Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about this. Obviously, on the one hand I’m excited about it. This is a first for our church. For decades our church had been stigmatised, because of our South African origin, as the Apartheid Church. Although our church is held in high regard throughout Swaziland because of its strong Biblical foundation, many people never wanted to join our church because they did not want to be connected to the legacy of Apartheid. To suddenly find a group of people wishing to join our church en masse is therefore something which is really exciting. We never started our home-based caring work with the intention to grow our church, but I did anticipate that it may happen. But definitely not on this scale.
The reason why I have mixed feelings is because we don’t want people to join the church for the wrong reasons. For too long people have joined the church (and not only in Swaziland) mainly because they believed that they would benefit from this. Now that at least a portion of our church (I’m still striving to make this universal) believe the Biblical principle that we belong to a church not mainly because of what we could get from it but what we can give to others, I want this new group to understand this before they join.
It’s almost like the story in the Bible of the rich young man who came to Jesus to ask what he needed to do to be saved. Most evangelists would think (even if they don’t say it out loud) that Jesus missed the chance of a lifetime with this man. But Jesus knew that this young man had issues which still needed to be dealt with. So I’ll really have to put my thinking cap on about this issue. It’s inevitable that they want to join our church. How to handle this in the right way is the question.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008 - Posted by | Bob Roberts, Church, Home-based Caring, Mission, Social issues, Stigma, Swaziland, Theology

1 Comment »

  1. […] And then, in 2007, I received an invitation from one of Swaziland’s Members of Parliament in an area known as Lavumisa, to start conducting church services in his area. He opened his home to us, invited people to come and things started happening. I myself went there on various Sundays and when Tim Deller was still in Swaziland, he also went there regularly. He mentioned this a few times in his own blog, and I also blogged about it, amongst others in Starting a new church at Lavumisa. […]

    Pingback by And what if revival comes? « Mission Issues | Friday, June 12, 2009 | Reply


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