Hebrews 12:29, ‘for our God is a consuming fire’ Luke 12:49, ‘I have come to bring fire on the earth’
In my last blog (Times of Refreshing from the Lord) I wrote of meeting some ‘organic church’ leaders in Cape Town, hearing their story of what God is doing in the suburbs and townships of the Mother City, and feeling prompted to invite one of them to share his personal journey with our organic church network in Port Elizabeth. That visit took place this past weekend. About thirty of us gathered in the Hattingh’s ultra-spacious Summerstrand home on the Saturday with forty plus on the Sunday. We inter-acted very informally, sharing in some profound moments together. ‘Brother F’ gave input from the Scriptures and personal experience, which inspired and challenged each one, young and old, from the well-off to the poorest of the poor. Many thanks to the many who prayed for this event, both in South Africa and around the world – your prayers were abundantly answered! Herewith some ‘snippets’ of the weekend…
F shared the early beginnings of God’s dealings with him. As a young man from a non-Christian home he used to go and pray for hours on end in the bush adjoining Kwanobuhle (Uitenhage). One unforgettable day, during one of these prayer times, God fell on him with ‘tangible fire,’ imparting a vision of fire spreading everywhere. In 2003, finding no answers in local churches (in fact only misunderstanding and rejection), he broke with the institutional church to heed God’s command to ‘go to the nations.’ In this journey God directed him to Cape Town where he knew nobody, however he sensed that God’s fire would begin there and eventually spread from the southern tip of Africa to Cairo, Jerusalem and all the earth.
When I first met F, I challenged him about the Eastern Cape, not knowing that God was already busy! In 2014 he had been offered a trip to Zambia and Cairo, but while busy preparing his visa he felt pressed to decline in order to visit his ‘Jerusalem,’ to start the fire in the communities’ of Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth before being released to the nations.
Meanwhile in Cape Town, beginning in Gugulethu and continuing on into Philiphi, Harare and Khayelitsha, the Good News of the Kingdom was taken from house to house, community to community. While being unfamiliar with the organic church movement around the world, God was busy using F in accordance with its most basic fundamentals, viz. the headship of Christ, the proclamation of the kingdom, the priesthood of believers, meeting from house to house (Acts 2ff), and signs accompanying the proclamation of the Kingdom. People were converted, various ailments were miraculously healed, ‘shebeen queens’ (illegal liquor and witchcraft outlets) were delivered from the demonic, marriages were healed and homes filled with God’s glory, a community development centre was opened, and so on. In one instance in Harare Township a young boy who was lame and had a dumb spirit was instantly healed, beginning to play and talk with the other children. In it all, no glory was taken for themselves but given to God alone.
F touched on his prophetic journey. He personally does not claim to be a prophet but God has graciously used him prophetically, speaking through a vivid picture perhaps, or a word of knowledge (it is interesting that he was prayed for earnestly by godly prophetic grandparents over many years, that he might follow in their train: note parents/grandparents). In our discussions we agreed that God can use anyone to bring a prophetic word, as the occasion requires.
What about leadership? In a township context one has to understand the culture of leadership by the chief/induna: it’s a one-man leadership style, and the subjects must simply follow. People are always seeking a Messiah or a Moses or a ‘Man of God’ who will lead them into the Promised Land [see my blog critiquing ‘Prophet’ TB Joshua of Nigeria, ‘So What Makes a Prophet?’]. In the organic church in Cape Town all leadership bows to Christ as Head (Col. 1) and is in its essence ‘servant leadership’ (Jn. 13).
Regarding ‘the Kingdom message’… F pointed out how this was the focus of Jesus from beginning to end, i.e. the Messianic King and his domain: Mt. 4:17, Mt. 24:14, Lk. 4:43, etc. I found one sentence challenging, i.e. regarding our role in the kingdom, ‘Before we can become custodians to the keys of the Kingdom, we must have an encounter with the King of this precious kingdom and experience the Kingdom.’ On the Sunday morning we spent a brief time worshipping the Lord, and then under the Spirit’s prompting, prayerfully laid hands on a number of folk with different medical conditions – God’s presence was powerfully evident among us, and we look forward to hearing the testimonies of those prayed for in the months ahead. All was conducted without ‘histrionics,’ everything took place quietly, sensitively and in order (1 Cor. 14).
While we ran out of time and did not deal with the ‘Cape to Cairo’ vision, herewith some pointers from F’s notes:
- God is visiting South Africa in many ways, but presently he is not using the strategies of the past, he is doing ‘a new thing.’
- The coming revival will not be man-made or ‘organised’ but will break out in small gatherings and groups on the ground.
- God is no longer using the ‘one-man model’ of an Elijah (1 Kings 19) to bring down the fire. He is busy raising up the hidden 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.
- This fire is not going to be the ‘big ball of fire’ that is in one place but will be like little fires spreading across the country, combining to become a spreading fire across the land.
Three final, personal impressions on the part of my wife and myself:
- We were encouraged by the maturity of our local believers as they participated in the weekend activities: great questions asked, insights and scriptures shared, spontaneous song, serving one another, talking to one another (there were many cultures present), encouraging, exhorting, breaking bread, etc – a taste of NT church life as described in Acts 2:42ff, 1 Cor. 14:26ff, Heb. 10:19ff.
- Organic groups must avoid becoming in-grown, with ‘birds of a feather flocking together.’ We must reach out to believers different to ourselves, especially to those broken people outside of the Church who need him most [cf an excellent blog, Beware the homogenization of church life, http://www.insearchofthecity.com/ ]
- Unlike the consumerist attitude in traditional churches (‘feed me, pastor’) each one must take responsibility for his/her own spiritual life. Each branch must see to it that it remains connected to the life-giving Vine (Jn. 15). To change the metaphor, yesterday I was buying a roast chicken for supper at a supermarket. While the lady at the counter was packaging the hot chicken, I decided I would have a sandwich to keep me going until the evening. I asked for the cheese and salami sandwich pack on display, and she just stared at me. Only then did I realise that there was no glass between me and the sandwich pack, all I had to do was reach out and take it!
As I write, the Cape Peninsula is on fire with enormous, life-threatening veld fires. The destruction is enormous, but this kind of fire must happen every decade or so to burn out the old ‘fynbos’ and resurrect the seed underground, producing the kind of flora that wins the Chelsea Flower Show in England year after year! God’s cleansing fire is painful, but the resulting renewal is out of this world. Pursue and spread God’s fire, wherever you are and no matter how insignificant you feel – God is abundantly faithful.