column 4 for the christian herald:
The conversation and re-imagining of church in response to the emerging postmodern culture is mainly happening in Western circles - the stories I have touched on in the columns so far have been from the UK, Australia, and the USA. But actually the church is always emerging all round the globe. The real vibrancy and growth in the church is in the Global South.
Colin Smith, a CMS mission partner in Nairobi sent me a story of The Bus Stop Church in Banana on the outskirts of Nairobi. It is a wonderful example of an emerging church in Africa. This is church with a difference: an unselfconscious expression of what it means to be the body of Christ in a very untraditional way, pioneered by local vicar Susan Ndungu. The congregation is made up of matatu drivers and touts, the purveyors of Nairobi's notorious and anarchic transport system. These are the people you don't find in church. But this is their church, out in the road amidst the diesel fumes and the passing traffic. About 70-80 men gather at the bus stop at 8am on a Sunday morning for about 30 minutes for prayers, testimonies, a song and a short sermon. Here is a church stripped to the bare essentials, meeting people where they are at, a sign of the kingdom on route 106.
CMS and the Indian Evangelical Mission recently facilitated a gathering in Bangalore of leaders of indigenous mission movements from round the world. These are movements such as Al-Bashir reaching out to muslims in New Delhi, or Friends Missionary Prayer Band in South India that in the last 37 years has grown from one to 1500 missionaries and evangelists, and planted hundreds of churches with 200 000 believers now in its care. Mark Oxbrow, a CMS director who attended came back very excited. He said 'God is doing a new thing in his Church and he is doing it from the global South, from Africa, Asia and Latin America, from the poor - out of sacrifice and vulnerability - to the rich.'
One of the things I love about working with CMS is having my eyes opened to the global body of Christ and what God is doing in his world. Good mission is always contextual – i.e. the gospel and church is related to and grown in the soil of the local context/culture. It will have very diverse expressions. The ‘emerging church’ we often talk about is church in response to a changing post modern context. The ‘emerging church’ elsewhere in the world will of course look very different. Jesus will be more fully known as we see his many emerging faces round the world.
Bus Stop Church story is on http://www.emergingchurch.info/
Download an article (pdf) on the indigenous mission movements gathering from CMS