Invisible Presence: Churches of Christ in Indonesia

Dr. Susanto is dean of the Christian Church Theological School of Indonesia (CCTSI) in Salatiga, Central Java

Indonesia is well known as having one of the biggest Muslim populations in the world. Christianity is present as one among other religions which are legally approved by the government. As Christianity is growing, there is a need to show our identity through the distinctive characteristics of being Christian believers. As Indonesians but also a Christian minority, we clearly see the difference between ‘believers’ and true believers in the way we live daily among community. In this generous and social country, Christians should be seen as having genuine hearts and always lovingly people. We recognise that the love of Christ and our heart for people is the impetus for us to sustain our faith while living among our neighbours peacefully.

In Indonesia, the name Churches of Christ is not known as other denominations are. We are invisible but we are present in many ways. Churches of Christ communities have been established in around 33 provinces across Indonesia. Our vision is not to raise the flag of Churches of Christ, but to practice what the Bible says about the dynamic early churches in Acts. The spirit of these churches to share the Good News to everyone about Christ was not motivated by denominational interests, but motivated by the Holy Spirit as a guide, leading them and encouraging them to keep moving and walking towards the goal. Christ centred, genuine heart, gentle spirit: these three words are the core values that we should possess in this mission. Churches of Christ is not a competitor to other churches; we can work together as a team to build God’s Kingdom. Churches of Christ is not built as our own building, but lives to keep up the spirit to build His Kingdom.

Directions for mission in ministry

Our focus is bringing Christ to people. All mission’s efforts are directed to show the heart of Christ for all people. Helping them to grow in their faith, but also helping them in their education, health, economy, and many other things that show the quality of Christ people, who are always connected to God in the whole aspect of living.

Focus on mission also becomes a strong motive for us to reach the goal. In many occasions they (unbelievers) realise that Christians are good, but they don’t want to have the same faith—sometimes they just feel they enjoy being the majority. Being a Christian is always risky. As a minority, there is a lack of facilities from the government. Often, Christians are not supported by their neighbours and families; sometimes they are cast away from their legacy [inheritance] rights. Many people consider being a Christian like being put into a big tornado, rather than enjoying the shine of the tropical sun on the beach. Yet others recognise that being a Christian means finding the truth about salvation that God gives as a grace. So there is a paradox between, on the one hand, the desire to live in comfort zone (as the majority) and allow the truth to be uncovered by multiple expressions [of life and faith]; and on the other, the willingness to become exposed to truth in generosity [through mission] and to actualise faith in the genuine character of Christians who have high resistance to the outside [who live with tenacity and courage].

Restoration Movement

Churches of Christ follows the Great Commission in many different ways and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our churches are about how to bring Christ to people, and not building our own people as our church. So they fit with the Restoration Movement, which is trying to restore the direction of the churches who try to build their own people and make their own doctrines, creating distinction from other churches. All structures that are built should be based on Christ only, not worldly patterns.

We have one phrase in Bahasa, musyawarah mufakat or ‘democracy.’ Everything can be discussed to get to the best solution. Conversation is the primary tool for talking with other people [engaging others], not church hierarchy, not doctrines and not rules. Jesus has shown us how He always uses conversation as the best way to touch human hearts. Within the Restoration Movement, churches have been directed to the concept of movement and organic [structures or behaviours]. A church that is alive is not stuck in itself but moves to reach out, rather than waiting to bring people into the church.

In this regard, I think churches of Christ is on track because it can be morph into many different types of churches, such as church plants, house churches, small congregations or mega churches. It is not about the size, but about the soul of the church. When people are moved by the Holy Spirit, they can work freely to share the good news with others without any pretension to Christianising others or forcing them to join in particular faith. This Good News is given freely, and so also freely received.