WHAT IS GOD CALLING THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHURCH TO DO?
8 November 2016
Every generation of Christians have to discover the specific call of God for their community with in the nation in which they sojourn. The church in South Africa must now hear the call of God for this generation, at this time, in this nation. By the church we do not mean the Catholic church, or the charismatic Pentecostal church, or the Methodists, or Anglicans, or independent churches. We mean the entire community of Christ-following, God-fearing members of the Christian community.
For the church to hear it’s calling it must undergo two movements in reflection. The first movement is an outward movement, one of exploration in solidarity with the people of the nation in which she sojourns. This is a movement which, like Jesus, seeks to enter into the plight and reality of those whom he loved when they were still His enemies. The second movement required in the church is an inward movement, a theological movement of listening to the Lord in person, in scripture, and in the manifold grace of the voices of Christian community. This is a movement aimed at hearing the response of a holy, righteous, And merciful God to the brokenness, in equity and pain among His creatures.
In the crucible of these two movements, the calling of the South African church can be heard.
If one listens to the voices among us that all already articlating the pearls gleaned from such depth of faith one can begin to discern three calls to the church with distinct and interdependent purposes. These are; a call to faith and spirituality, a call to community and unity, and a call to social activism and social justice.
A Call to Faith and Spirituality
The South African church has a rich legacy of faith and of spirituality. Notwithstanding the errors committed in the name of Christ by the church in different decades, Christians and Christian institutions have on many occasions sown the seeds of righteous living, family values and vibrant expressions of spirituality in prayer, worship and humility. In this age of consumerist materialism many of these deep wells have become covered over with the lust for earthly things. There is a call to the South African church to re-invigorate its faith and its spirituality. It is a call for the bride to once again prepare herself for the bridegroom. It is a call for the disciples to once again leave their nets and follow Jesus. It is a call for the unfaithful woman to return to her faithful husband. This call is primary, because no other work, no fruit, and no power or authority can be exercised in the church without this first call to her First Love.
A Call to Community and Unity
The South African church is a rich and textured tapestry of diverse languages, practices and communities. This diversity is a strength but can serve as a hindrance to the fundamental need for unity of spirit. There is a call to the South African church to return to community and unity. Community between church families is not automatic. As the Apostle Paul had to remind the churches to concern themselves with one another’s well-being, so the church in South Africa must be reminded to concern itself with the well-being of its brothers and sisters in the family of Christ. Such community must not be forged only among the leaders in the church, but by way of their example among the followers. It is upon this communion and fellowship that a call to unity must be heard. The spirit of God, which provides wisdom, strength and discernment is best welcomed through unity. This call to the South African church requires that the sin of pride, the sin of service of self and the pursuit of worldly agendas be set aside that the church may seek first the Kingdom of God in the unity of the faith and do so under the headship of Jesus Christ alone.
A Call to Social Activism and Social Justice
The third discernible call to the South African church is perhaps the most difficult to hear and to follow. This is because like the rich young ruler, the South African church has confidence in herself and her wealth. It is a call that goes to the heart of national injustice, strikes at the roots of South Africa’s particular idolatries and requires of the church to enact her prophetic message – that God is concerned with the least among us, with the widow in the orphan and the stranger. It requires that the visible sin of gluttony and the invisible sin of hardness of heart be repented of. It requires that the church take up the task of loving her neighbours, the fellow members of the society in which she finds herself, and seeking to serve, to bless and to heal them. This is a call that gives substance to the church’s faith.
As the powers that be battle for the spoils in our nation it is time for the church to separate herself and reflect. We know that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. We know that victory, the rule of God, is not by power nor by might, but first and foremost by the Spirit. The South African church must therefore separate herself, not for in action but for right action. As the Lord who climbed a mountain ahead of his disciples in order to teach them and then to feed the multitude, so the church must ascend in prayer and humility, in compassion and unity. The peaceful and prosperous future of our nation is not inevitable. There is a contest over the future of our nation. There are those who would desire victory for themselves at the expense of others. There are those who would desire comfort instead of justice at the expense of others. It is for the church to rise as a voice of justice, as a broker of peace and as a builder of the walls of our nationhood. The time is now for the church to seek the peace of our nation, so that in its peace we may have peace.