CMS out of Africa

There are no more CMS missionaries in Johannesburg but the city is wide open for more gospel workers to serve, says recently returned CMS church planter Mark Grieve.

Mark (pictured right with creche students in Roodeport) and his South African wife Carol have spent the last seven years working among students, homeless youth and families in Johannesburg, planting a new church in the suburb of Sophiatown in 2008.  They’ve now returned to Australia to take up a chaplaincy position in the Illawarra.  Ans van der Zwaag, who worked with marginalised women in inner-city Hillbrow, has also come back.  This leaves no CMS missionaries in a city with a strong history of Australian partnerships.

Despite South Africa’s long Christian history and high church attendance – 56% of people attend once a week – Mark has found that the gospel is not well understood and that nominalism is rampant.

‘When we used to survey people on campus, we’d ask if they were Christians, and they’d say ‘yes’.  But invariably they’d say that they belived they were going to heaven because they went to church and were a good person, almost without exception.

‘Every now and then, you’d find soemone who understood the gospel – it’d be like a shining light.  But they were few and far between.’

Mark calls South African gospel work ‘older brother’ ministry – referring to the self-righteous brother in the parable of the prodigal son.

‘People have heard the message, they’ve been to church, but it’s good works and what you do that saves you. [Ministry in South Africa] is just teaching people what the true gospel is, and I think there’s a very small network of churches actually doing that.’

Mark sees it as a strategic place, ripe for further Australian mission partnerships, and he believe that his experiences there will enrich his ministry here.  Working with Johannesburgers in poverty has deeply ingrained in him the gospel imperative to care for peoples’ physical as well as spiritual need.

‘CMS think of it as a field they’re happy to send more people to,’ he says.

‘I’ve been trying to… encourage people to think about it, to let people know that there are good opportunities to serve as a children’s worker or a student worker,’ he says. ‘Including the short-termers, there’s been a presence of Australians there for seven years in Jo’burg, and I think the churches there have really appreciated… the Australian input.  It would be a shame if it just dried up.’

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