Hedgehogs and Foxes Cont…

One or two things I want to add to my previous blog…

Coming back to the chat show on the SA economy. A number of small business owners phoned in to say that they were only too glad to give employment to people, seeing it as their contribution to nation-building. However, the amount of red tape and paper-work to get around on an almost daily basis was so discouraging, if not slowly strangling their businesses  to death.

In a social setting, in attempting to serve Jesus in a poverty-stricken township/squatter-camp community for several years, I have had  similar experiences. For years now we have wanted to re-establish a small, informal ‘half-way home’ for HIV Aids sufferers who, by virtue of extreme poverty, abandonment by family, etc., need a place where they can be nourished with good food to receive medication or at least die with dignity and something of the ‘tlc’ of Christ. However the red tape from our city council plus governmental social departments has made this impossible thus far – consider this in the light of caring social workers, nurses and community members pleading for such a facility. It’s certainly not for lack of trying on our part. Of course we believe that with prayer we will succeed.

From my dealing with institutional churches over a lifetime, I have found things almost equally frustrating. By the time you have got a pressing need past church constitutions and regulations and committee meetings, people have suffered unnecessary misery and often despaired of life itself. All this when Christianity is essentially the life of God in the soul of man and the extension of Christ’s incarnation. After all, the Church is ‘His body’ on earth (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4).

Some years ago we hosted a Pastor Zuccharelli from Argentina in our city. Together with Ed Silvoso and others he had seen revivals break out in Argentinian prisons, to the extent that in a certain prison 80% of the inmates professed faith in Christ, they virtually guarded themselves, and they tithed some of their meals to feed hungry street kidz outside. He related to us his experience of his first visit to Africa/South Africa. As his plane approached Cape Town airport he was asking God for some understanding of the needs of our continent and country. One word dropped into his spirit, ‘CONTROL.’ Makes you think, doesn’t it? Why is it that Christians (and particularly Christian leaders) find it virtually impossible not to organise/control everything?

By the way, there was another sentence I recall from Pastor Zuccharelli’s visit at that time:  ‘You can’t change what you don’t love.’ As my seminary professor used to say, ‘Put that in your theological pipe and smoke it!’ 

Hedgehogs, Foxes and the Church of Jesus…

Sleeping in a tad yesterday (my ‘day off’) I overheard a radio chat show featuring South African politics and economics. Input came from Clem Sunter (Anglo American Chairman, Strategist, Futurist) and Andre Duvenhage (Political Scientist, Social Transformation Researcher). Sunter punted the need for foxes rather than hedgehogs: hedgehogs have just one mind-set, never change their minds because they like to think they are in control; foxes are quick-witted, adaptable (to changing environments), embrace uncertainty and know they are never fully in control.

Against the backdrop of the momentous events that have rocked global financial markets since September 2008 and the uncertain future of current SA politics and economics, Sunter calls for the empowering of multitudes of business entrepeneurs (a-la-Nigeria) to overcome the challenges of huge unemployment and poverty in our country. He reminds us that China opened the door to entrepeneurship in 1978 to rapidly become the second largest economy in the world! For the hedgehog (read SA ideological economic control versus participative economy) anything that does not somehow relate to the hedgehog idea holds no relevance. Sunter warns in the words of Marx: if the masses are ignored, expect a revolution!

On a personal note, whenever I get to chat to those in business, they tell me of a shift from the heavy top-down ‘my way or the high way’ approach to communicating with their employees on a shop-floor level and leading them with personal integrity. My very limited reading on this subject seems to confirm this trend.

I guess the Church of Jesus Christ, biblically speaking, should be ‘hedgehog-like’ in her proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom, discipling all nations so that God may be glorified in His universe. However, in spirit and strategy and practical adaptability (not theological), the Church should be ‘fox-like.’ Think of Jesus and his servant-leadership mentoring of twelve ragamuffins (not forgetting the women who followed him closely): not for Him highly organised structures or a cooky-cutter approach. Think of Paul the apostle to the Gentiles in 1 Cor. 9:19ff, ‘Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became a Jew to win the Jews… to the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.’ Think of the early Church which, as described in Acts, became a revival ‘out of control’: ordinary people by all kinds of ordinary means under the Spirit achieving the impossible and turning the world upside down (for the first 300 years there were no hierarchical structures, specialist leaders and buildings and controlled environments). Think of the 18th century evangelical awakenings under George Whitefield and John Wesley, the open-air preaching, the fellowship of small class meetings, the spread of the gospel through butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers. Think of the modern-day Chinese revival, where the house church movement has resurrected the Church from near-death (under Chairman Mao) to a vital Body numbering one hundred million ‘plus’ and fast becoming an incubator for the evangelization of the least-reached nations of the world.

And yet the institutional-traditional Church bumbles along, with massive membership losses year after year, banging her head against the same walls while expecting a different result. Often this body does not even consider that ‘authentic’ Church can actually happen outside traditional, denominational and hierarchical boundaries.

Praise God for and pray for the acceleration of organic, simple, family-centred, Christ-headed and empowered churches burgeoning across the globe! I believe with all my heart that this, under God, is what will win the day in the face of our common enemy and a tsunami of evil.