We have a house church gathering in our home on Sunday mornings at about 10. I love to quietly ready myself to facilitate (note) the gathering, trying to be sensitive to the Spirit’s direction until folk drift in. Sometimes I like to listen to a 30 minute broadcast ‘service’ on RSG, an Afrikaans radio program, at 9 am. Without being too judgmental, the broadcast services often don’t scratch where it itches. But a few Sunday mornings ago I tuned in to a service from Villeria Dutch Reformed Church in Pretoria. What a refreshing change! Sensitive worship in song, no parsonic voice, and a powerful and relevant message from Ds. Jaco Strydom. I wrote to encourage my colleague, and the result is that we have promised to have coffee sometime should I visit Pretoria or he Port Elizabeth.
Here’s a rough summary of the message’s points, in no specific order, with apologies to Jaco if I have misrepresented him [I will include the odd personal comment in square brackets, for which he is not responsible!]:-
- He based his message on Jesus’ self-humbling in Phil. 2:5-11 and on his inclusiveness in Col. 3:11, “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
- Jesus in his life and ministry always set out to overcome divisions, and tried to build unity. He came as peacemaker, and calls his followers to be peacemakers. The anomaly is that are so many ‘peacemakers’ in South Africa, and yet there is often much turmoil in our nation.
- Churches often minister to the poor, but do we know them?? We cannot effectively minister to the poor if we do not know them! [Think twice when you open your wallet. When we know those we give to, it doubles the blessing]
- Jaco related the story of a man who was serving the poor on the streets. God then challenged this man: if you really want to relate to these people, you must go and live on the streets with them. Which he did, with amazing stories of sharing a morsel of bread and rare community. [my own research has revealed that one of the greatest needs in the Church today is community. We need to commit to ‘community’ (sharing at the deepest level) even if we don’t live on the streets with street people. We’re talking about the ‘community’ of Acts 2:42ff, etc. Where do you experience such community? Find it or start it!]
- In fact this same man shared a pearl of wisdom with Jaco: ‘You have to be poor to help the poor… it’s not only the rich who can help the poor!’ [Before you dismiss that, think about it for a moment… In my own ministry among the poor I often witness both coming to the party, and what a blessing it is]
- [Here’s one for grumbling S. Africans] If you take the time and trouble to reach out cross-culturally, you will be a much happier person living in S.A. And if you don’t, you will be very miserable…
- Let us walk in Jesus’ footsteps: be like taxis (SA minibus kwela-kwela), There’s always room for more! [I tell you what, some years ago I witnessed even ‘more room’ in Peruvian taxis in the high Andes, 5,000+ metres up. Providentially for our mission team, the taxi’s steering-wheel came off in the driver’s hands before we left Ayachucho for Cangallo, and we could pray for a safer taxi to convey us. God directed us to an empty (!) taxi which was wonderfully safe both ways, and which our resident missionary couple had never seen before in their village nor ever again. You explain that…] [I have almost finished reading Michael Cassidy’s hot-off-the press ‘The Church Jesus Prayed For,’ based on Jesus’ prayer in Jn. 17, where he supports Jaco’s call for inclusivity, without compromising the gospel. A good read].
- Jaco related a wonderful experience in visiting a hospital where he had been called to give an address. When he arrived there, one lady started to sing a vigorous praise song, soon the other nurses joined, and then cleaning staff with their brooms and mops, and the patients with their walkers and drip-stands, and the very strict matron led the dance down the passage, even a psychiatric patient from the psychiatric unit came flying in to join the happy throng… [All I can say is, Hallelujah! I don’t recall if Jaco actually got to give the address]
- He recommended a book, Floyd McClung’s ‘How to Love People You Don’t Like.’ Now that sounds interesting![Floyd and Sally have been based in Cape Town for some years now, training African tent-maker missionaries in the townships for Muslim Africa].
I may add that Jaco’s church is profoundly involved with a group of homes living in ‘community,’ meeting the needs of people usually thrown aside by the Church. The ministry is called ECHO. Maybe google it some time…
Heartfelt thanks, Ds. Jaco and congregation, for surprising me (and now many more) with an extra-ordinary challenge, joy and hope – we do give all the glory to God!