One of the challenges of partnering with the local church in Myanmar is understanding the local context, which is rapidly changing. As a result, training programs and ideas that work in other contexts, or used to be valid in Myanmar, are now less useful.
Migration affects at least one in five rural households, and this is dramatically changing the landscape of the local church. As young people migrate from rural areas, previously strong rural churches face dwindling congregations and a lack of youth from which to draw and shape the next generation of leaders.
At the same time, city churches are growing numerically stronger and there is an increasing emphasis on urban mission to the large industrial areas around the cities.
Overseas migration is a double-edged sword: remittances sent home are often a financial lifeline to smaller rural churches, but overseas Christians face life’s challenges and temptations while away from a supportive community. However, the church is also growing rapidly amongst migrant populations in places like Thailand and Malaysia, where non-Christian migrants seeking a sense of community are drawn to the church.
So how should we partner with local churches in mission and church planting?
One of the requests from the church in Myanmar is to conduct more research on migration to better understand the dynamics and challenges. This will hopefully lead to more missional migration, where the church will actively work with people on the move. The goal is to grow leaders and churches that can minister in places where people are migrating and enable Christian migrants to be active evangelists where they end up. This requires a re-thinking of old ideas and structures and a willingness to think theologically in the midst of social change. Our role in partnership is to ‘walk together, talk together’ and to think of new ways to see the kingdom grow.
Will you pray for Myanmar?
- Please pray for honest, humble dialogue with local churches.
- Pray for open-mindedness from both local church and foreign workers to new ideas.
- Pray for effective discipleship amongst migrant churches, and development of leaders who can undertake ‘missional migration.’