Sunday 3rd Mar. 2013…
We gather in Marthinus and Heidi’s huge Summerstrand home for our quarterly informal get-together as house groups in our Metro. All the generations are represented, and many cultures – Western, Xhosa, Zulu, Zimbabwean and Malawian. There’s animated conversation and interaction over coffee and sandwiches. The younger children and teens enjoy the large garden and the trampoline outside. Slowly we make our way to the large lounge for a time of spontaneous sharing, children on the floor, close on 50 of us. A local pastor shares his concern for our country and the lack of Christian out-spokeness in terms of Ezek. 33. His teenage son follows up in prophetic vein, quoting the well-know Jn. 3:16 and commenting, ‘Why is that we Christians love heaven but we don’t love the people of the world?’ My wife leads us in intercession for our beautiful but sometimes violent country. We underline the importance of ‘life and deeds,’ ‘community and witness,’ which go together like the proverbial ‘horse and carriage’… (see Jam. 1 & 2)
I introduce a senior couple, Brian and Beryl, to the gathering. In our previous pastorate, Brian had served as an exceptional elder in terms of integrity and loyalty. They had stood with us throughout a major church crisis, which we believe God sovereignly engineered as an exit from the institutional church and introduction to the organic ‘house church movement’ springing up in so many parts of the world. I honour them as ‘spiritual parents,’ to us and to our children (then in their teens). With us also is a young woman in her thirties, Siphokazi – she shared how she had the privilege of mentoring the teen, referred to in the last paragraph, in her children’s group. We go on to illustrate the principle of ‘spiritual fatherhood/motherstood,’ engaging with Paul’s intimate mentoring relationship with Timothy and the Corinthian believers (1 Cor. 4:14-17). Together we recognise the truth that in the contemporary Church we have ten thousands of ‘teachers’ but a handful of spiritual parents who impart the ‘life’ and truth of Jesus. Hence the thousands of ‘orphans’ in traditional church pews across the world Sunday by Sunday.
Two of the Malawians sing a song about heaven. Next, 4 of the men baptized on Wednesday sing two beautiful worship songs, again in magnificent harmony. I look around, many eyes are bright with tears. Marthinus leads us in the Lord’s Supper, served informally. He expresses our mutual joy at sharing Jesus and his life with brothers and sisters not met before.
We break for a final time of getting to know each other over coffee. Two young ladies, recently discharged from a TB hospital where Marthinus leads fellowship groups, come up to me. They thank me for the gathering, the one adding ‘We will feed on this for many weeks!’ We say our goodbye’s and leave by car and Kwela-Kwela (South African slang for a mini-bus taxi) for our homes, scattered around the Metro – I am sure, all looking forward to ‘next time.’
Never a dull moment when, however humbly and falteringly, we follow Jesus!
[This morning, 11 days later, I stumble across a quotation from the great South African missiologist, David Bosch, in which he states “If the Church is ‘in Christ,’ she is involved in mission. Her whole existence then has a missionary character. Her conduct as well as her words will convince unbelievers and put their ignorance and stupidity to silence.” (I am both shocked and puzzled by Bosch’s final clause)]