“Seed Stories: Part III”

Colombian Marketplace Churches

“A true transformation is taking place in Cali, starting with the church itself!”” reports Berna Salcedo, a member of the DAWN [Disciple A Whole Nation] Ministries staff in Colombia. “Christians in the city are spreading literally explosively by leaving their walls behind them.

Statistics show that some 60% of the city’s 2 million inhabitants live in poverty. Necessity is the mother of invention, particularly in difficult times, and Christian churches are springing up in all sorts of places and in all forms. In Cali, people no longer ask ‘what is a church?’ but ‘what is actually not a church?’ That overcomes the greatest obstacle to church planting in South America, that a church is equated with a church building. We tell them ‘the church is the people’, so a church can be anywhere where people are.

It is astonishing to see the potential released once people realize this. Today, Cali is at the forefront of planting socially relevant churches,” says Salcedo. “Targeted studies brought more and more of the city’s pastors to the conclusion that traditional models of church don’t really work in difficult social settings. Christians recognizing their social context means that a growing number of churches are planted where the people really are. The trend is clearly in the direction of house churches, cell churches and so-called ‘marketplace’ churches; in poor neighbourhoods, social and communal facilities are becoming Christian churches.”

“Ironically, the threat from the guerrillas is a significant factor encouraging this change,” he says. “Cali lies at the foot of the mountains in which the guerrillas hide out. In the past, the guerrillas have kidnapped entire churches, so it is no longer advisable or practical to erect church buildings — the people simply do not come. This also emphasizes the relevance of house churches. The well-off inhabitants of prosperous neighbourhoods need little convincing to meet as a church in their houses in discreet and safe places. The poor are attracted to house churches and fellowships in social centers, where their practical needs are taken care of.”

Source: Berna Salcedo, Dawn Ministries, Colorado Springs

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