How can you Pastor a Township church with no meetings, no internet and in some cases no electricity? The move to online sermons is not a viable option for Sibusiso Mlotshwa, lead pastor at The Church in Mamelodi. His congregation are simply not online in that way. Planted just two years ago, the church is now facing an enormous challenge as COVID-19 and the national lockdown implemented by the South African government keep people in their homes.

COVID-19 Challenges & the Township Church

“We are naturally in community. You know. Doing life on life and all that stuff. And so we rely a lot on face to face. So limiting our communication to calling and online – it’s gonna take some time for our people to kind of grasp that. And so I’m wrestling with that. How do I shepherd my people well? You know? In light of that. And so I think that’s gonna be a challenge that we have to grapple with. But also economic challenges… For some it might be a blessing to be at home. But for many of our people it is not a blessing to be at home.”

“When the lockdown started my heart almost broke as we went to one of the places and I could just see it was dark – with no electricity. You know I was like man, this person needs to be confined to this for 21 days.”

A Liturgy for Lockdown

Like every Township church TCM is faced with the challenge of pastoring to the congregation’s needs and continuing to grow their people spiritually – without many of the resources that wealthy churches have. But this does not spell the end for this flock. On the contrary – with a little innovation and a lot of prayer Sbu is seeing encouraging growth in his people.

“The scripture in the book of Acts said “daily they started to read.” I started to emphasise on that. Saying “you know guys, this is an opportunity for us to actually now start daily connecting. Daily connecting with the Lord; daily connecting with each other. Daily praying. So I started to develop a liturgy for people via WhatsApp. And actually this was good for us.”

Focusing on Family Worship

One of the most encouraging developments in the church is the growth in family worship:

“It’s very difficult to think of a nuclear family. Our people always have, you know, a child headed home, a mother with kids, or somebody who doesn’t have a father and stuff. And so a lot of us didn’t grow up – you know – with a father and a mother opening the Bible, praying, and leading worship. And so through this here we are very encouraged to see people now that are gathering around the table and getting the sense that they are just doing family worship.”

Sbu meets regularly with other Township church pastors from around Gauteng, South Africa. He tells us that it’s not only in his church that there are encouraging developments  such as these during this challenging time. Praise God! He will grow His church.