A Tale of Two Churches

It was spring of 2010 in Greensboro, NC as I was driving on Wendover Avenue when I saw something that caught my attention. I saw the sign, which read, “CHURCH FOR SALE.” This sale sign left me with many questions because I wondered what happened to the congregation that used to worship in that building. Has this congregation been declining to the point no one uses the building? Did the congregation grow and relocated to the larger building? Who knows? What I know is the church building was for sale.

As an African Christian, I was familiar with people who prayed and sacrificed so much to have a church building they could call home. Churches have been blooming and growing to the point that some Christians held their worship services under the trees out in the fields.

I have been puzzled by why I found some church buildings for sale in my new community in the U.S. It took me some time to understand what was happening when I continued to see some big “First Churches” in Downtown Areas. I saw magnificent buildings located in heart of large cities, but their parishioners occupied the first few pews and the rest was empty! These churches were called “First” for a reason. They were first in their cities and most of them are paid off, but they are not fully used because they have been declining.

I wondered why people lost interest in worshiping together as a community. I thought if the older generations died out, why were the new generations not interested in coming to church? Maybe those churches resisted change and did not want to forge their services into what could be relevant to Gen-X and Millennial generations. Whatever happened, it broke my heart and the only thing I could do was pray for those faith communities.

I wish my heart breaking would have ended with those magnificent church building that were being sold or not used, but then I learned about the story of another church called the Family of God Ministries. This ministry was very worried that their incomplete church building could be destroyed by rain if nothing is done.

The Family of God Ministries is a church located in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Their name describes who they are because they are very diverse, but what they have in common is the daily experience of extreme poverty. The church is made up of refugees who fled to South Africa due to unrest in their countries of origin. Those refugees found a sanctuary in one of the disadvantaged communities of South Africa.

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As a Family of God, they focused on what they have in common, which is being children of God despite their countries of origin. It’s not common in South Africa’s townships for local South Africans to have such a harmonious relationship with fellow Africans who came from different countries due to xenophobia. What struck me most was how this small congregation managed to raise R 80,000 {$5,410} to buy the piece of land, make bricks and build their church building to where it is today. The total budget to complete their church building is $19,258.91, but they are stuck financially. This is the amount of money some of us in the U.S. may spend to renovate our kitchens, but for the Family of God they will use that amount to complete a church building that will serve as the very heart of their community.

When I saw the church building for sale and the big downtown churches that were declining, as an outsider I could do nothing other than pray to God for the spiritual renewal that could bring new people and bring back those who abandoned their church. More than praying, there is something you and I could do to help the Family of God to complete their church building. We are raising $13,848.91 which is the balance needed to complete their church building. Would you please consider joining us to support the Family of God who desperately needs our help? It is my passion to see the Family of God finish their church building. Their building will serve as the center for hope to their impoverished community.

This project is only the beginning. We pray you will join us in building bridges of hope in South Africa.

Innocent Justice