“The attraction of Christianity is not simply the promise of a passport to heaven, where they (the middle class) can escape the travails of this world; rather, they are reexamining the life of Jesus and seeing that his teaching was often manifested in his healing ministry and compassion for the poor, prostitutes, and children.” (Loc. 1523-1526)
Some may call it irony, I prefer providence. I read the words quoted above on the loooonnnngggg thirty-six hour commute to South Africa just 17 days ago (which is a lot of time). The words may be written in Dennis E. Miller and Tetsunao Yamamori’s, Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement, but they may as well have been plastered on billboards across South Africa as much as the posters in our home church. The sentiment they convey speaks to the journey that many in our little fold found themselves on over the last few years. More particularly, the four people who accompanied me to Seed of Hope Community Development in Amanzimtoti, South Africa, are the most recent people to embody the reality of this research.
A growing number of people are asking good questions about the way our entertainment-driven-minimal-commitment-nicely-polished, “Christianity” is packaged for us in our western world. Questions that are stirring them to reconsider God’s call to Kingdom living and the intentional, personal call to extending the Kingdom to all the nations of the earth. In an age where our capacity to travel is only exceeded by our capacity to share information, there is an opportunity that exists like never before for those who are willing to follow Jesus’ commission. Our greatest obstacle is likely that despite our relative richness in technology and economics, we are “time” poor.
Throughout this book there seems to be a consistent idea that presents itself and challenges us to re-examine the way in which use our time: that of being personally involved in coming alongside someone else, either near or far, for the purpose of seeing them transformed by the grace of God. The authors state this in differing ways, all conveying the same message:
- “People need an internal transformation that realigns their moral compass. When this occurs, there is a lifestyle change that, over time, provides the basis for potential upward social mobility.” (Loc. 745-748)
- “And addicts have a lot to confess; they have inevitably alienated nearly everyone in their path, especially family members. They also tend to have very low self-esteem: they have stolen from friends and society, women have often turned to prostitution to support their habit, they know that many people think they might be better off dead. And so the Christian message has a considerable amount to recommend to them because herein they find a message of forgiveness, transformation, and hope.” (Loc. 1296-1300)
- “A much better strategy, he said, is to confront the problem without judgment, minister to those who are sick, and educate people…” (Loc. 1432-1433)
- “First, one thing that keeps poor people stuck in their circumstances is their lack of a sense of self-worth.” (Loc. 2023-2024)
- “The truly successful visits are those that result in a genuine partnership between congregations, where there is mutuality in the exchange rather than a one-way transfer.”(Loc. 2392-2393)
We need to be those who go and extend the gracious invitation of God. It’s a message that helps to restore the lingering and deeply embedded effects of sin, which destroys peoples self-image, their relationships with others, their relationship to creation and their relationship to God. It’s a message that requires time, not short time, not quick time, but long-consistent time.
That’s what our team went to learn about from Seed of Hope. They have been actively engaged in serving and empowering the locals of their densely populated HIV positive community. They have a growing number of local people serving in key roles. They have all experienced suffering and yet they all have a great love of God and a deep compassion to serve their neighbours. They are time rich and they use their time to serve the desperate needs of others.
Our team had the privilege of accompanying them as they engaged their daily tasks; our goal was simply to learn and serve according to their needs not our agenda (big shout out to Patrick Murunga for his presentation on Short Term Missions that reinforced this posture). In so doing our team members were themselves transformed (and are being transformed – which takes time).
How? Because they found themselves living out the Spirit-Breathed Transformational words of Jesus, as recorded by Dr. Luke (ch. 23:15-24). Instead of waiting to see if people would respond to the invitation to the Kingdom, they became the attendants who went out into the streets and alley ways and personally guiding the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame to recognize their value as ones whom God loves and with whom he desires to share Himself.
While in Capetown, some of us, from the LGP Advance, attended the JL Zwane Church Centre in Guguletu. We had the privilege of hearing from Reverend Dr Spiwo Xapile. At some point, he addressed the idea of discipleship. While I can’t remember his exact wording, he communicated that the greatest way they have found to help people grow in their faith, was by encouraging them to give themselves in service to those in need. It is in serving, beyond our convenience or natural capacity, that we then need to look to God’s wisdom and lean on His Spirit; and that’s when growth takes place – in the classroom of real life with real people in real time who need to know that Our God really loves them.
If you read these two blog posts by one of our team at Seed of Hope, one during our trip and one following our trip, I think you will find that there is an ironic, no, a providential consistency in the concepts of Global Pentecostalism, the heart-wrenching learnings of our team, the words of Rev. Xapile and the message of Jesus’ parable.
May those lessons learned not be easily forgotten and may they be eagerly shared. There’s plenty of room at the table and the time for the dinner bell to sound is getting closer. This is no longer the time of waiting by the door to see who may come in, this is surely the time of going out with the Transforming Message of Kingdom Hope, to guide “the forgotten” of our world to the feast we will share together.