Part Three: How Creative Building Solutions are changing Oceania to Philippines
We need each other. God’s intent was that the church would be a global family, a global entity to reach ALL people, in ALL locations, at ALL times.
The Church is a group of global people connected in local ways that can change the fabric of our world through interdependence and collaboration.
When we look at how different the region of the world known as Oceania can be, from Australia to Indonesia to Papua New Guinea to the Philippines – it can be overwhelming because it is a diverse group of nations and people groups. These countries are often separated by politics, religion, and language and yet find themselves vastly reliant through their political and economic interdependence. Finding commonality can be difficult, even for the Church, but is so vitally needed.
Most churches in the Philippines face poverty daily. Their leaders have no shortage of people wanting to gather together, but they often lack the affluence that would allow that to happen in a building, and services often fall prey to the elements. Talking to leaders from Frontline Worship Centers, they emphasize that new churches in poor areas or rural areas are formed under trees or around the railroads, where shantytowns are built on government land to provide rent-free housing for the country’s poorest.
The Filipino church and its leaders will not be stopped by a shortage of buildings, yet in the face of so much material poverty, it is often difficult to get people mobilized because the need is overwhelming. Yet these believers remind us that buildings are just structures that facilitate the people of God to meet. They aren’t as necessary as the more affluent areas of the world like to think. Creative solutions yield huge results.
Meanwhile in Australia, mainline denomination churches are diminishing because while the country’s demographics have shifted, the established church’s demographics have not, becoming skewed toward people over 60 years old and majority white. This inability to reach the new, immigrant populations has led to older churches closing in record numbers.
Meanwhile, these new immigrants speak other heart languages and do not feel welcomed in older, mostly white and English-speaking church spaces. As a result, increasing numbers of these believers have formed house churches centered on culture and language groups. These churches have vibrant, young life but are separated from each other by language and culture, forming barriers to seeing the whole diversity of the church in Australia utilized in changing their society.
Gathering spaces can be a barrier for many churches to grow and thrive – we see this globally, but the example of the Philippines and Australia provides interesting examples of what can happen when Christians get creative.
In the Philippines, despite economic scarcity, buildings are slowly being built to house and shelter these exposed churches through new partnerships with churches across the world. Through the sharing of global economic resources, we see lives and whole churches changed.
In Australia, a movement of ethnic house churches are partnering with the older white churches, bringing life and vibrancy to each. This partnership between Nairobi Chapel-sent Ken Kamau and the Baptist Association of Australia uses already existing buildings to help facilitate growth as established church leaders are taught how to be bridges. Using the experience of immigrant church leaders to show how to form welcoming and inclusive multi-ethnic churches strengthens the global church, providing blueprints for other countries who are experiencing a similar demographic changes.
God is at work in these collaborations, showing us how the whole Church can benefit. Their examples remind us that churches are the people, not the buildings. We can and should get creative about meeting together. Churches are unstoppable when we utilize the full expression of our God-given gifts of ingenuity, creativity, and financial stewardship.