I love the Doctrines of Grace because I love God’s Word. And I’m really excited to be living through a worldwide renewal of emphasis upon these timeless truths.
And praise the Lord South Africa isn’t being left out. Bold men are standing up in pulpits all through our country testifying to the sovereign exercise of a merciful and loving God in saving wretches and bringing glory to Himself.
Now I’m white. Often when I say “All through the country” I’m speaking about people that look like me, sound like me, live like me in suburbs just like mine. Yet South Africa is a tale of two cities isn’t it? Grassed, treed suburbs and dusty, sprawling townships. Is there any kind of reformation renewal happening in the tinned shanty towns down the road that it is so easy to be blissfully ignorant of?
The answer is yes. On Saturday I was blessed to spend the day in Thembisa at the Welamlambo Baptist Mission with friends from a ministry called Township Reformation (find them on Facebook). It was a wonderful time of listening to opportunities and challenges that church plants I could support are facing in South African township settings.
Here’s a high level of what the speakers addressed:
Thapelo Mpai gave a very informative, interesting breakdown of the current state of South African townships. What I really enjoyed was his honest holistic, informed approach. Politics, crime, social degradation, size, other religions… he gave the listeners real insight into the magnitude of the mission field. You can download Session 1 here.
What was great is that after an informative session Irving Steggles drove home an expositional session. Considering portions from the Acts of the Apostles he gave us pause to consider a Biblical strategy for township church planting. I’ve downloaded Irving’s sermons from the Birchleigh Baptist Church website in the past but really enjoyed listening to him in person. You can download Session 2 here.
Then Bheki Bembe listed a number of challenges facing Biblical church planters. He is planting into Olievenhoutbosch (an area I’m familiar with). He contrasted the other speakers well in that he is informal and jovial. He picked out issues like the difficulties breaking in to the township, the false Christianisation of the people, the people first philosophy, a mismatched prioritization, inflated expectations, trust issues, money issues, languages… actually the challenges are endless. I’ve often said that unless God does a miracle (which salvation always is) a conservative evangelical church plant stands no chance of success. You can download Session 3 here.
Finally Tim Cantrell addressed the issue of hindrances prohibiting suburban churches planting and supporting Biblical churches in townships. This is an area which I think we, as suburban churches, are going to need to spend a great deal of more time considering and articulating for the benefit of our brethren that are struggling on the other side of the tracks. You can download Session 4 here.
So, what are my thoughts:
Firstly, White guys didn’t organise the day. This was a group of young black men with a heart for where they grew up trying to mobilise the Church. I’m so grateful I was there to be in the back seat and witness that. I don’t think that white churches have been terribly successful in townships and I’m sure this is a providential move of the Spirit and we’re on the cusp of witnessing the Lord doing great things.
Secondly, it was excellent. We started on time’ish, ended on time, were well fed, enjoyed excellent worship, had really good fellowship. My Saturdays are precious to me as I prep for Sunday. I was really concerned that this wouldn’t be the best use of my time and was ready to leave at half time. I didn’t, the time was well spent. I can say this, when the guys from Township Reformation put on another event I’ll make effort to be there.
Thirdly, I was a little disappointed of lack of attendance of suburban and township churches. There were a whole bunch of churches that are like-minded which would have benefited from being there. Maybe it’s early days for this group but I certainly hope that future initiatives will have greater buy in.
In the 1800′s Robert Moffert, a missionary, once said, “In the vast plain to the north I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been.” The picture of the country has dramatically changed since then yet the need and urgency has never been greater. There is a grave darkness cast over our land yet the first light of dawn has sprung.