Me: “Midland is a church planting graveyard.”
Chinyama: “Yes, but we know what Jesus can do in graveyards.”
What a comeback! I had just meet Zambian church planter Chinyama in one of the few places that passes for a cafe in Midland when he came out with that killer line to my slightly wry observation. One slightly rubbish coffee later (burnt the coffee, overfrothed the milk – urban coffee snob Ed), I had decided that Chinyama was going to be the kind of bloke who just might stick around in this hard-to-plant-in place.
It has been remarkably hard to find people from Perth to plant churches in our less than salubrious eastern suburbs. Out here in Midland it has been doubly hard. So imagine my astonishment today to meet Chinyama, a Zambian church planter who decided to come to Perth to plant churches, and more specifically to Midland to plant churches.
We caught up sorta by accident after we started the process of booking a building in a local Midland street for our weekly gathering next year, only to find that another church was meeting in the building literally opposite. In a stiff breeze our signs might have touched, forming an archway of confusion for anyone turning up. Even though they are a slightly different flavour to us, we decided to give up on that building for the sake of gospel unity. I am glad we did.
Chinyama is mid-thirties, knows the Bible really well, has a sharp cultural eye, and, although he lives miles from Midland at the moment, comes in three days a week to meet people and be here. “Midland needs church plants,” he said to me with conviction, and I am not about to argue with him about that. We talked Bible, swapped gospel stories, arranged to catch up next year, and prayed.
But what was most striking was his understanding of the Western context. Listen to what he said:
For two hundred years the West sent missionaries to us and it was exactly what we had been longing for for all those years. Jesus broke the power of the created things, the idols that we bowed down to and worshipped. He gave us light and safe communities to belong to. The church has been going from strength to strength. But then we looked at the places from which the light had come to us, and saw that they were very dark. So we are coming here to bring the light back.
Collective holding of breath – all say it together: “Wow!”
He then made this killer observation:
Now the West is worshipping and serving the created things in a more sophisticated way, yet I can see that all of these feelings that you are in control of life, and have security and power has left you with a deep emptiness at your core.
Looking forward to more coffees and more conversations like that.
P.S – Anyone want to come to Midland from somewhere within Australia and help plant churches?