Title page for ETD etd-04222009-113828

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Mutavhatsindi, Muthuphei Albert
URN etd-04222009-113828
Document Title Church planting in the South African urban context – with special reference to the role of the Reformed Church Tshiawelo
Degree PhD
Department Science of Religion and Missiology
Advisor Name Title
Prof P G J Meiring Supervisor
  • Missio Dei
  • urbanization
  • biblical theology
  • Heidelberg Theological Seminary
  • dimensions of mission
  • Missio Ecclessia
  • Reformed Church Tshiawelo
  • Synod Soutpansberg
  • urban church planting
  • urban mission
  • partnership
Date 2009-04-18
Availability unrestricted
If urbanization is one of the most important social realities in Africa today, it goes without saying that Christian mission must take full account of it. The church has turned her attention to African towns and cities none too soon. Her own historical and theological inclinations have led the church in the past to favour the rural areas, where success has been widely achieved. Yet the Christian enterprise in Africa is threatened by urbanization, and a half-hearted approach to the towns will not save it.

The research rests upon the hypothesis that the younger churches on the African continent – especially in Southern Africa – are indeed awaking to their missionary obligation, of moving from the position of receiving churches to sending churches. Especially in the growing cities of Africa the churches need to be informed and empowered to play their part in this regard. With a proper understanding of the Biblical mandate for mission, as well as of the urban context in which the church has to function, a comprehensive strategy for mission in the cities of Africa may be developed. The congregation of the Reformed Church Tshiawelo in Soweto was used as a case study in the research.

The biblical theology of urban mission was firstly attended to. The focus was on the way both the Old and the New Testaments view urban mission. From the biblical point of view, it was clear that mission of the church always concern sending. The Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the prime Subject of Mission (Missio Dei), sending His church into the world (missio ecclesia). The biblical theology of the city showed a negative and a positive image of the city – the city of Satan and the city of God.

Jesus Christ had a great concern for the repentance of the city dwellers. He preached in cities (Mt 9:35-36), cried for the city of Jerusalem for her repentance (Lk 13:34-35), sent His disciples to preach in cities (Mt 10:5, 7, 11, 14, 23). He instructed His disciples to witness to Him from the city of Jerusalem, all Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Ac 1:8). He also showed His great concern to the seven churches resided at the seven cities of Asia Minor (Rv 2:1-3:22). Paul’s life was mainly centered on preaching, and planting churches mainly in urban areas.

Cities all over the globe are growing at an astonishing rate. People are forced to migrate from rural to urban areas because of push and pull factors. Natural growth in the cities is rocketing. A third cause of urban growth is immigration. The problems that immigrants are encountering in are xenophobia and unsettlement, as recent events in South Africa demonstrated. Other vexing problems to be faced in the cities are urban poverty, prostitution, street people, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, crime, etc.

The development of a comprehensive definition of mission in an urban setting is required. Christ called the church to be His witness (martyria) to the world (Ac 1:8) by proclaiming the Word of God (kerygma) to the people, by serving people (diakonia), and by entering into fellowship of love with people (koinonia). The main goal of witnessing Christ in urban areas should be the glorificatio Dei, “to glorify God”, this is the liturgical dimension.

The ministry of the Reformed Church Tshiawelo (Soweto) was used to illustrate and test the above. With the co-operation of the Synod Soutpansberg, the congregation developed a comprehensive mission programme, sending and equipping their members to undertake mission campaigns, seminars and conferences. Leadership training, as well as proper budgeting form an important part of the programme.

The strategies can be utilized to plant churches in metropolitan cities outside Gauteng Province, e.g Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, East London, Durban, Kimberley, etc. The strategies for urban church planting were grouped into four phases which are: Visionary Phase (Step 1), Planning Phase (Step 2), Preparation Phase (Step 3), and Establishment Phase (Step 4).

© 2008 Author

Please cite as follows:

Mutavhatsindi, MA 2008, Church planting in the South African urban context – with special reference to the role of the Reformed Church Tshiawelo, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-04222009-113828/>


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