It is time for the Church to lead! South Africa is facing rising political, social and economic problems. This is also true globally, with inequality, unemployment and poverty the main drivers of social unrest. As Brazil faces a downgrade in their credit ratings South Africa also faces the possibility of having a similar downgrade to “junk status”. The consequences of this is to make our debt more expensive and further pull the country into economic stagnation. As our youth become more vulnerable to fascist political rhetoric we run the risk of having our commitment to human rights eroded by a general belief that democracy has been unable to deliver on economic rights with the gap in inequality continuing to make South Africa the country with one of the highest GINI coefficients globally, a nation at risk and a nation in decline. We therefore need a fresh perspective on our narrative that God has a dream for our nation and that together we must manage the threatening nightmare.
A “fresh expression” is therefore needed, while innovation addresses something new, a fresh expression also looks to the ancient paths. These relate to the common good, with leadership embracing a downward reach to accepting the responsibility for the most vulnerable in society. The indignity of the dust remains an effective tool to shaping servant leadership. Furthermore, as we all embrace our own weaknesses we begin to be free to realise that the local Church was never intended to be an institution, but a relational expression of community and justice where power is devolved and decision making shared. This is particularly relevant as we face an increasingly complex world where truth and love need to be held in equal measure.
Jesus said that the Gospel is the “Good News”. The Good News is that the “Kingdom of God” is near. The Kingdom is about righteousness, peace and joy. Derek Prince argues that these are sequential, each requiring compliance of the other. There can therefore be no joy in our Church if we do not have “shalom”, which Timothy Keller describes as the “webbing together of God, humans, creation within equity, fulfilment and delight”. By extension there can be no shalom without righteousness which in both Hebrew and Greek is the same root word for justice. Our journey towards shalom and joy begins therefore with getting all our relationships right. This is not just an event but rather a deep rooted attitude of the heart where we allow Christ in each other freedom of expression with the understanding that our frail humanity and inherent self-interest requires gentle discernment. It takes collective responsibility and mutual respect as we translate through each other, prophetic direction.
The local church remains the building block of the body of Christ and as such needs to protectively guard both her rights and responsibilities. My own journey has taught me not to criticise the church but to be the church. In this regard, I am very influenced by the need for sound doctrine, uncompromising love, embracing the pursuit of truth and accepting inherent conflict, as well as ethical stewardship of power, money and talent. The ever present reality of the seat of appraisal for all believers and officers of the Church remains a constant call for humility and commitment to listening and searching for wisdom. The sobering thought is that as God has given the local Church authority and a mandate to steward its member’s gifts and callings He also holds the Church responsible for creating an enabling environment in which members can find their dream and fulfil their vocation. My deep conviction is that unless we all leave our comfort zones in order to find Jesus in the dust we will not understand how to do this. Our greatest risk remains that we may find ourselves unable to effectively build the temple because we are too burdened in building the cathedral.