Towards the end of last year (2008) Cecile and I announced to our cell group that the time had come for us to leave the church and embark on a journey to discover where God was leading us. It was not a simple, easy good-bye. We had come to know people really well and we still have an emotional bond with many of them.
Since we joined Kempton Park West Christian Community Church in 2007 we had been mentioning that God was calling us to plant a new church / fellowship / ministry or something but that we didn’t know what it would look like, how it would work or where it would be.
Kempton Park West Christian Community Church was part of the Dutch Reformed denomination but over the past few years its identity had gradually changed so that by the second half of last year it left the denomination and joined the Christian Network, of which Hatfield Christian Church, Maranatha Community Church and others form part.
The church sent us out for our new ministry one Sunday morning in November. They blessed us and prayed for us and asked that we keep in touch. We are planning to visit our old cell group again on Tuesday night to share with them our experiences so far. Here’s the online version for those who can’t be at the cell group:
Starting a new church isn’t just a brigth idea one simply gets one Saturday afternoon when you have nothing else to do. It is perhaps best described as a very long and sometimes painful birth process… and the baby hasn’t even been born yet!
For us it is the result of many many years of working hard in the church (including seven years of theological study in my case), serving in different capacities in the church: as youth worker, church administrator, youth pastor, cell leader, organiser of mission outreaches etc. It is the result of reflecting on all the energy being poured into programmes and activities that often don’t lead to changed lives and transformed societies. It is the result of prayer over many years, a yearning for God to radically change the church so we can fulfill our calling and live up to our identity in Christ.
Let me make it very clear that we have no intention of starting a new denomination. We have simply arrived at the point of no return where we believe that there must be a better way of being the church of the Lord Jesus Christ than the way we have always been doing it.
Also we are not throwing stones at the established church. Up until last year we have been a very integral part of the established church. It is exactly because we take joint responsibility for the failure of the church to impact society that we are moving into something new which at the same time is something old.
Since the end of 2008 we have tried to use our week-ends to visit as many different ministries as possible. We were looking for ministries that are making an impact on society, Christian communities who are reaching out to the poor in meaningful ways, who are impacting families, the workplace, social groups, who work inter-culturally and are empowering ordinary believers to be disciples of Jesus in their everyday lives.
We first visited the Tshwane Leadership Foundation, a powerful ministry in the inner city of Pretoria working with street children, homeless people, women in prostitution and many other people in need. Next we met with a group who was preparing to go and plant a church overseas. They referred us to Floyd McClung, former leader of YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and founder of All Nations, an international church planting movement.
We met Floyd for coffee while on holiday in December in Cape Town. I had read some of his books and was really looking forward to meeting the man behind the stories of working with disillusioned young people on the hippie trail between Afghanistan and Amsterdam in the sixties and seventies. The gentle giant made an enormous impression on me and I will never forget his simple, humble demeanour.
He referred us to David Broodryk who is the founder of another church planting network, Kingdom People. We visited David and Michelle at their home in Midrand. I was fascinated by his journey from evangelistic preacher in Bophuthatswana with large trucks and sound systems to pastor of a “successful”, growing middle class church in Midrand, to founder of a simple missional house church planting network.
We attended a Kingdom People leadership gathering in the form of a Sunday morning braai and this week-end we attended David’s FEET 1 training on missional discipleship. I hope to write a separate post about that soon but suffice to say that it was sound, simple powerful and practical discipleship in a nutshell.
About a month ago we spent a Saturday night and Sunday morning with Mynhardt and Lisha van Pletsen who started a community known as The bread and wine. (Update: The bread and wine has since merged with another community to form Omni – Church everywhere). We joined them on the Saturday night for an alternative movie night. We were a small group who visited an orphanage in Mabopane and watched a movie with the kids, taking along pop-corn and cooldrinks. They have built a relationship with this orphanage over time and are investing there for the future.
We slept over at Mynhardt and Lisha’s home and had breakfast together on the Sunday morning, reflecting on the previous night’s experience and chatting about how to be the church.
Another stop on our journey was the Vespers service at the Greek Orthodox Church in Brixton. I blogged about it in my previous post. Some week-ends we just stayed at home as a family, praying, reading and enjoying each other’s company, going for a walk with the kids and the dogs.
We visited our good old friends in Centurion, Francois and Marelize du Plessis. One Sunday morning I went mountain biking with Francois and a couple of his buddies.
Last week Sunday morning I went with my brother to the Wanderers and watched day 4 of the second cricket test between South Africa and Australia.
After this week-end’s discipleship training I can sense that the time to launch a new house church type of fellowship is drawing closer. We will be moving into a new house by the end of March so much of our energy will go into that in the coming weeks. I am excited because I know that God is taking us on a journey with Him!