After a year or so’s dreaming of an ‘open day’ for those in our Metro (Nelson Mandela Bay, SA) who have commenced a journey with Christ outside of ‘religion’ and the institutional Church, this desire became reality on Sunday 10th June 2012. About 40+ gathered in a large home near the sea front, reading Col. 1:15-20, spending some 4 hours together getting to know one another, relaxing, sharing a meal together, sharing some more.
Is it an exaggeration to describe the day as ‘a little Pentecost’? In some ways ‘yes.’ Yet, bear in mind the following. A sense of the Lord’s presence prevailed throughout, especially once we started to share a generous meal, comprised of different home-made soups and a table-top covered with home-made bread kindly baked by our hosts Marthinus, Heidi and children (Acts 2:46-47a). People grouped together in animated conversation, exchanging life experiences and contact details. Some had read and been provoked by Wayne Jacobsen’s, ‘So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore?’
While we had experienced violent wind (Acts 2:2) and rain the day before, Sunday was sunny and the children had a whale of a time, indoors and in the spacious garden. We didn’t have Parthians, Medes and Elamites (Acts 2:9ff) – we did have English folk, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Malawians and even a young woman from Japan. They did share the wonders of God in their own tongues (Acts 2:11).
The ekklesia covered every age-group (Acts 2:17ff): toddlers, young children, teens, young singles, young married’s, middle-aged singles and married’s, grannies and grandpa’s. There was no allocation to a different department or activity, as some of us were used to in the more-than-organised-Church.
We were a gathering of those materially well-off, professionals, business entrepeneurs, average John/Mary Citizens, employed and unemployed, the poor, and the poorest of the poor. Academics mixed with the not-so-educated. We mingled with some who have nothing, and no-one to care for them. One Afrikaans young man had spent his whole life on the streets, until radically converted to Christ a few years ago, baptised by Marthinus (yes, by a ‘layman’!) and nurtured by his family – somewhere he had developed an awareness of William Shakespeare’s writings and now composes his own little essays and poems, for his own and others’ and God’s pleasure. Another young man had just been released from prison – his case had been thrown out, he has shed his drug habit and is involved in a long-term rehabilitation program with a friend he had brought along.
And yes, we didn’t observe any visible and individual tongues of fire descending on people (Acts 2:3-4). However, there was the gentle persuasion of Rom. 5:5, ‘And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’
Was it smooth sailing, without any culture shock, etc? I don’t think so. Our country’s history carries many hurts and divisions. For those who found it a little ‘different’ at first, let’s remember that Jesus spent the bulk of his time and ministry with ‘sinners’ and those on the fringes of society. Paul once counselled, ‘Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!’ (Rom. 12:16 NLT) We can serve Jesus on our terms or His – the choice is ours. It’s a learning curve for us all, isn’t it? But it is glorious!