01/03/2020 (Episode 1 of 25 weekly episodes)

For the longest time now there has been this phenomenon called the church.

The phrase "the church" has many meanings but for the purposes of this book, whenever it is used it refers to that group of individuals who gather regularly (mostly on Sundays) to give expression to their spiritual beliefs through, among other, prayer, worship and listening to the Word of God. These regular meetings may take place in facilities ranging from large cathedrals and stadiums to temporary shacks, even under trees - with many other types of venues in between.

This group of people who gather (mostly on Sundays) have often been accused (fairly or unfairly) of being inward looking, that is, focussed on and with some exceptions, concerned only about those within their own circle - those who believe like them. sound like them, look like them and dress like them. While there may be some evidence of concern about the situation in the external environment, by and large, those outside the four walls of the church are regarded as "the others".

Consequently, being part of a conversation about taking hands with "the others" in an effort to make a positive impact on the cities and communities where the church is located, is not necessarily high on the agenda of the weekly gathering of the church. Very often, when approaches are made to local church leaders to come alongside such efforts or participate in community impacting projects, the slowness and reluctance in the responses reveal what could be seen as a lack of concern.

Over the last decade or so there has been renewed interest and focus on the aspect of discipleship. An entire discipleship movement has exploded over the internet and on the social networks. Far and wide, within the church community, this is welcomed as a very positive development. At last, it seems, there is a movement that could get the church out from within the confines of the four walls and into the streets or as is it is often described - into the market place.

While all of this has been going on within the four walls of the church, the world outside is changing and changing at a breathtaking pace. On the one hand, in the name of progress, the world is moving from revolution to revolution, through the industrial, digital, information revolution to what is now termed the 4th industrial revolution. Then, on the other hand there are those stubborn facts that militate against this so called progress, including, but not limited to the impact of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Add to this the rapid rate of urbanisation across the globe and the impact of this influx on the cities of the world then the challenge for the church of becoming part of making a difference in our communities and cities increases exponentially. How is urbanisation impacting the content of Africa and the cities of Africa? What will African cities look like over the next three decades? But more importantly, what is the church doing during all of this - is the church making a difference?

Margaret Mead said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has". Jeremiah encouraged the exiles to work towards the peace and prosperity of the city where they lived and worked. If what Margaret Mead said is true, imagine the possibilities if more and more church leaders take their stand with those who are committed to make their cities a better place, and in so doing, make the world a better place. (To be continued)

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