welcome to the warehouse!
The Warehouse was established in 2003 through the parish of St John's, and exists to serve the South African church network in its response to poverty, injustice and division. We work with local churches in all communities, helping them to implement sound, effective and practical acts and renewed attitudes, to see transformation in our communities.
One day I will look back on 2015 and say to myself that was the year we had our minds blown and perspectives shifted as we studied the book Money, Possessions and Eternity. Some may suggest I live a fairly boring life but it is rather that the experience has been so life changing that it will no doubt form part of the highlights package of 2015!
The journey began when friends of ours invited my wife and I to join them as they re-read Money Possessions and Eternity, which had profoundly shaped a great deal of their thinking about money and generosity. We agreed to meet over 10 weeks. Each week we would prepare by reading two to three chapters of the book in order to discuss the issues that particularly challenged or inspired us. The benefit of reading, praying and studying the book together meant we could not only hold each other accountable to what God was saying to us personally, but also that we could share stories of our journey with money and generosity.
Money is often a topic which we shy away from, it is something which we keep a secret and often do not discuss. But money is important as the book reminds us in the first chapter - the author, Randy Alcorn, points out that 2,350 verses in the bible speak on the topic of money (more than any other topic in the bible by a long way). This showed us that God does not shy away from the topic and our fruitful and transformative discussions reminded us that we, as the church, need to continually engage with the topic of money.
As the name suggests Money, Possessions and Eternity is about money – but more than that, it is about power, control, it is about faith, it is about pride and greed, it is about the danger of materialism as well as our attitudes and mind sets which we have been fed by the prevailing culture of our time, often without even knowing it. Randy Alcorn reminds us that money is just a valuable piece of paper. So when we started unpacking our motivations and attitudes towards this piece of paper, only then, did we start having the real, honest and challenging conversations needed, for us to be changed through the process.
Randy Alcorn has written a gem which is not only littered with quotations and scriptures but is also filled with personal stories and practical advice which makes the book easy to follow and very applicable. But be warned the book is also incredibly challenging, and can leave you at times a little uncomfortable. After all how do we sugar coat Jesus allowing the rich young ruler to walk away from salvation because he could not give everything away, or how do we hear the call not to store up for ourselves treasure on this earth but rather in Heaven? With chapters like; Tithing: the training wheels for giving, The dangers of materialism, Giving: Reciprocating God’s Grace, Helping the Poor and Reaching the Lost, you will be left feeling sufficiently challenged to at least look at your own life and start asking some pretty honest questions.
Randy Alcorn is not scared of attempting to answer some of those really difficult questions which include things like; should we give everything away, should we as Christians have insurance, go into debt, save our money and have retirement plans? What does storing up our treasure in Heaven actually mean? Who does our money belong to and what are we leaving behind?
There were times when, my wife and I, whilst reading through the book needed to put it down and discuss what was written and what God was saying to us. One particular moment was after having read this quotation by CS Lewis, “I do not believe we can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
What we have realised through this journey is that we need to allow the questions to guide us and that we cannot walk this journey alone. The questions are important in lifting the lid on the things we would prefer to hide and the relationships are vital in helping us stay on course.
My only regret is that I had not read this book sooner.
Mark van Deventer
Trustee and friend of The Warehouse
There has been a lot written lately about privilege, power structures and wealth, but I am not sure (maybe I have missed it) whether there has been much on social media for Christians specifically and how and why we can approach the topic of restitution through the lens of our faith. There are, of course, the broad sweeping narratives through the bible of God’s heart for justice and the poor, the laws in Deuteronomy which protect against unshackled accumulation of wealth and perpetual poverty, and the entire New Testament which ushers us in to a new Kingdom and a new way of being – no dividing walls of hostility, no difference between slave and free, a body where, if one part hurts, the whole part hurts.
But, for an active way to start engaging, I thought it would be helpful to put together some thoughts which have come through various conversations at the Warehouse. These reflections on, and practical guidelines around, Zacchaeus’ story have helped me, and so I offer them to you. Have a read quickly if you have forgotten the story: Luke 19: 1-10.
1. Nurture a courageous curiosity for who Jesus is
Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector (not the person who would actually collect the taxes from people, but the one who would collect from the collectors) – a very important man in the system which ruled the land at that time. He had clearly heard something about this Jesus and the bible says “he wanted to see who Jesus was”…the rest is made famous by the Sunday School song. But, before you gloss over that familiar strain, think about how counter-cultural that move must have been: he didn’t demand to get to the front of the crowd (perhaps he was a bit scared of some well-timed elbowing), he ran ahead of the crowd and climbed up a tree! Clearly, his status and reputation were not as important to him as his urgency to see this Jesus. I wonder how counter-cultural our curiosity actually is: how eager are we to see, to know, to experience Jesus that we would be willing to look plain silly to do this. Are we running ahead of the crowd, or are we in the middle of the jostle, OK with just seeing the tip of His head as He walks past, and perhaps hearing what He is saying and doing via a broken-telephone of passed-down reports?
2. Acknowledge and accept the identity Jesus calls out in you
There are (at least) two points around Jesus using Zacchaeus’ name:
Firstly: The meaning of the name Zacchaeus is “pure, clean, innocent” – not a terribly good description for those who knew him and what he had been party to. BUT, if we are Jesus-seekers and followers, this is perhaps the most important starting point we could ever have when examining our possessions, power and privilege, where we have perhaps benefited from unjust systems, and working to rectify this: we start from a point of innocence, of purity, of having been made righteous through Jesus. We need to accept what Jesus says about us and our relationship to Him and our relationship with God through Him. This is a starting point of freedom and joyful abandonment, not one of guilt, fear and shame. Our actions need to be in response to this, first and foremost. Secondly: Zacchaeus was called by his individual name – not as part of a crowd, not “the chief tax collector of Jericho”. Where do we need to acknowledge that we, as individuals, are being addressed – not just as a part of a general narrative or in our roles in a greater system of injustice, but as individuals who seek to be responsive to Jesus calling us out by name?
3. Know the deeper meaning of Jesus inviting Himself to eat with you in your house
This relates somewhat to the point above. In Jesus’ time, to eat with people meant full acceptance of them – it meant community, knitted-in-ness and equality. That’s why people were so upset that He ate with tax-collectors and prostitutes: because He wasn’t eating with them in order to “win them over” – His act was one which said they were already won, they were already acceptable to Him. Zacchaeus was accepted by, and precious to, Jesus before he had done anything to make right. Again: we need to know this deeply before we engage with generosity & restitution – if we act out of guilt or coercion, rather than the joy of belonging to Jesus and being citizens of His Kingdom (on earth as it is in Heaven), then our actions will only lead to more hurt and injustice. KNOW you are accepted, loved, that you belong.
4. Accept the invitation for Jesus to come right in to your home
Allow Him to come in to the deepest parts of your sanctuary. Allow Him to give you new eyes for looking at your life, your choices, your priorities and your actions.
5. Be humble enough to listen to the mutterings of the crowd
Can you imagine the commotion as the crowd heard this and passed the news down through the jostle? It must have been difficult for Zacchaeus, in this time of affirmation, to hear it. A white, Afrikaans, male friend who is passionate about restitution told me, “I have to love the person enough to listen to their perceptions of white people, even if it is really difficult to hear”. A LOT has been written about those of us in places of power and privilege learning to listen to the anger, to the pain, to the daily struggles of people who have endured generations of systemic and personal oppression – without getting angry, defensive or fragile in the face of it, or telling people that their way of expressing their pain is not in keeping with what we think protest or expression can look like. Zacchaeus must have been deeply humbled by Jesus’ act of acceptance: he didn’t lash out at the crowd, and nor did he hold back on his actions because it would be “giving in” – he was all in with a radical commitment to allowing Jesus to transform every part of his life.
6. Acknowledge the multiplying nature of (your) privilege
I remember reading the story of Zacchaeus when I was younger and wondering how on earth he was able to pay back four times the amount of money he had stolen! I wondered where he got the extra money from. This is before I understood the multiplying nature of wealth and privilege. Again, there has been a lot written about it, so I won’t go in to that here, but it is so important – after continuing to develop courageous curiosity for finding out more about Jesus, accepting that we have already been made righteous, already been fully accepted, being humble enough to listen to others’ perceptions of us, and accepting Jesus’ invitation into the fullness of our lives – that we grow in our consciousness of where our privilege, power and wealth comes from and that we get to grips that we had much BECAUSE other people didn’t. (I know – it is hard to think hear that, but think of South Africa’s education system alone: I was able to go to a school with all sorts of incredible advantages BECAUSE the money was not being distributed fairly to all other children of my age – my school would not have had the state budget allocation it did if all people of South Africa had been treated fairly).
I want to point out that Zacchaeus didn’t actually personally collect any taxes – he was not responsible for physically taking money from the poorest of the poor while looking them straight in the eyes. But he knew he was part of system which did this. And acknowledged that he had been part of the theft. He also gave away half his wealth — even the wealth he had gained “legitimately” (not stolen), he realised was far more than others had, and that this needed to be remedied.
7. Act: Just. Do. It
(relationally, humbly, with love, with Holy Spirit-breathed creativity, from a place of true identity and acceptance…but just do it!)
Now: Imagine with me what the world would look like if all of us, operating in our true identity and acceptance in and through Christ, would allow our lives to be transformed in this way! Imagine what a witness the global church would be to the transforming power of Jesus – power to transform our hearts, our relationships, our systems and structures. People would look and see that truly Jesus came to seek and save all that has been lost, and put their hope in Him.
By Wendy Lewin
From 17 to 20 August, an international group of about 200 people will gather at the University of Johannesburg to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Kairos document. Since the launch of that document, several other Kairos documents were launched across the world, the latest two being the Palestine and Swaziland Kairos documents.
The Greek word “Kairos” means “God’s moment” or a “moment of truth”. It is a special time and is the opposite of ordinary “chronos” time. It is used several times in the New Testament in texts such as Luke 19:44, Mark 1: 14 – 15, etc.
While many people think of the Kairos document as a “challenge to society”, the Kairos document was actually sub-titled “a challenge to the churches”. It challenged the Church to ask itself whether it is a sign of hope, an Easter sign of resurrection (which it should be as the risen body of Christ), in a particular time and place for all God’s people. It also then analysed the church as divided amongst itself and not being united by the Spirit of Truth and Love.
These questions and analyses made some people very uncomfortable, but to this extent it was thoroughly prophetic, if prophecy is understood in its original Biblical sense as “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable”. It is said that former President PW Botha had a copy of the Kairos document on his desk and would challenge any church leader who went to meet with him. For Kairos theologians, Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. And if Caesar is particularly oppressive and not a servant of all God’s people (as we analysed the apartheid system to be in the 1980s), then it cannot be obeyed by Christians. This is why the Kairos document called on the churches to engage in non-violent civil disobedience against apartheid.
Kairos theology is particularly potent when some people of faith use the Bible and the name of God as justification for their oppression and evil, as happened in Germany and in South Africa and as is happening today in Palestine and Israel. There are many situations of injustice and oppression in the world, but as Christians we take special notice when our Bible and our God is misused in situations of oppression, and when the Church is either silent or wants to be “neutral”. These two stances of the Church only benefits the oppressor and not the oppressed.
The first step in Kairos theology is to “discern the signs of the times” and to ask whether this moment we are living in is a moment when God is speaking to us in a special way. This is some of the work of discernment those gathered at the Kairos conference will begin to do, but whatever is discerned there would need to be tested with a wider group.
The week before the Kairos conference has been declared as a week of prayer, fasting and discernment and everyone is invited to join in this week of prayer. The question for discernment during that week is: Is there today an equivalent to the 1985 “Kairos-moment”, in which God is challenging us?
Kairos theology is generally not done by individuals but is typically done in small groups across the country, who then discern together whether this is a “Kairos moment” we face, either in South Africa or globally.
Please pray with us and please keep the Kairos conference in August in your prayers.
by Edwin Arrison, Kairos SA General Secretary
For further reading, please see
Most of the Kairos documents at http://ujamaa.ukzn.ac.za/Libraries/manuals/The_Kairos_Documents.sflb.ashx
A 2012 Kairos SA letter to the ANC: https://kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/kairos-logo/
The Palestine Kairos document: http://www.kairospalestine.ps
Kairos SA response to the Palestine Kairos document: http://www.voltairenet.org/article164794.html
As we consider our beloved country, the words of Paul to the Galatians come to mind: You were doing so well. Who stopped you from being influenced by the truth? Gal 5:7 (God’s Word Translation).
While we never stop celebrating the fact that apartheid is gone and we are living in a democratic South Africa with much that we give thanks for, we cannot deny that there is much of grave concern. Mounting frustration with slow service delivery, increasingly violent protests, unrelenting poverty and unemployment, continued inequality, crime, substance abuse, domestic violence, school dropouts and teenage pregnancies leave us reeling. While it may be true that such challenges are common to young democracies and developing nations, and even understandable in a nation still struggling to extricate itself from a heritage of appalling statutory inequality and injustice, there remain even greater concerns:
• Government is struggling to find workable solutions to the challenges, and much of their response is reactive rather than pro-active; patching up rather than addressing root causes. Criticism or confrontation on the issues is more often met with denial and self-protection or even counter-attack, than acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility. Those institutions that question or challenge government or in any way seek to bring it to order are subject to vilification or attack.
• Party interests are overriding the interests of co-operative governance, so that community needs are taking second place while the parties engage in blame and mudslinging.
• Racism, rather than declining, is growing, becoming increasingly prevalent among young people and public servants and officials. It is also becoming a convenient scapegoat for any type of conflict that arises, so that the real issues in the different cases are being skirted.
• Bribery, corruption, negligence and seeming disregard for the rights of citizens have caused growing mistrust in those institutions that are meant to protect and uphold civil society.
• The type of violence we are seeing, particularly among young people, is of a type that shows total disregard for generally held societal norms and values. The rape of elderly people and young babies and acts of brutality display real socio-pathological tendencies.
And what of the church?
People from various church affiliations are speaking about South Africa being at another critical point in history, a “kairos moment” as we were before the first democratic elections. Several have made reference to the national prayer movements and concerted action on the part of Christians that helped pave the way to a peaceful transition. Many are in agreement that the church needs to make a similar stand now; that we need to pray, make our voices heard, as well as taking action where needed.
It is of great concern that the church is not rising to be the voice, hands and feet of Christ at this time in our nation; that we are joining the voices that blame and complain instead of standing and proclaiming God’s way. It is the church that needs to highlight areas of rot and laud areas of righteousness, and especially demonstrate God’s righteousness in all that we do and say – be the light in the darkness and salt where there is rot. Our country needs a mindset change, hope, direction and role models of righteousness. Much healing is still needed, and the church should lead that.
But in order to get to that place we need to look to ourselves first. The truth of 2 Chronicles 7:14 still stands. We, as the church, need to pursue unity among ourselves, seeking forgiveness and letting go of offense. We need to put down self – our programmes, our achievements, our agendas. We need to seek God’s face in all that we do, not only seeking his direction, but also to lay down all in ourselves that is not of him; to acknowledge, repent and return – turn from our wicked ways. And we need to pray.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children… Let the priests who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the alter. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord”. Joel 2:15-17
By Colleen Saunders
Many South Africans are asking how they can become more relevant. Here are some first steps that may help ...
1. Read the bible with people who are not the same as you and allow the reflections that emerge to change the way you understand your cultural reading of the bible.
2. Take a look at your lifestyle - how you spend your time, treasures and talents. Do you live in a way that changes the way things are in the South Africa? How do you live in ways that keep South Africa the way it is?
3. Listen! To other people, to your own heart, to the world around you and to God. What are you hearing? What do you need to take notice of? What are the first simple steps you can take in response to what you have heard? Who can you talk to about this?
4. Speak! Tell your story. Our faith is a story-telling faith. The richness of all our stories make up our hope for a different South Africa. Talk about what you have learnt from other people’s stories. Weave your story and others’ stories into God’s big story and share this with everyone you meet. We need more than a single story about our country and each other.
5. Ask yourself this one simple question: “Do I believe that all South Africans have been created equal in the image of God?” If your answer is yes, then ask the following question: “Does the way I and my family and community live, reflect this truth?” Start making small changes where it is obvious that what you believe is not reflected in how you live.
The Warehouse inspires, equips and connects churches to better respond to poverty, injustice and division. There are many ways The Warehouse can serve you this year.
Click here to see some of what is on offer during 2015.
South Africans live very different realities - mostly due to our unjust history. How does the Church enter into this reality and move beyond simplistic answers and relief, to more sustainable transformation of communities?
How do we share well with those in our city? Many people are generous and want to share with others, especially during times of crisis. However, sometimes this giving is done without the care and dignity that people in need deserve.
We have put some tips together to help us give well, in ways that enhance dignity.
• Ensure that all items, whether clothing, household items or toys are newly washed, smell fresh and are not stained, torn, chipped or blemished.
• Donate items in a well-packaged, attractive condition: folded or well stacked and protected in sturdy cardboard boxes or see-through plastic bags (avoid using black refuse bags) and if possible, pre-sorted and labelled into genders, sizes and ages.
• If an item is in generally good shape but has something that needs fixing (e.g. a button sewn on, a hem cleaned up or toy fixed) please spend the time doing this before giving the item.
• Consider buying additional gifts such as brand new underwear to accompany clothing.
• If you would like to spend money, contact the organisation you are planning to give through to find out what current needs are, especially during disaster relief. The Warehouse and churches will also have this information on websites during specific responses
• Ensure that you donate seasonally appropriate items: this may mean that you go through your cupboards at the beginning of each season and donate what can be used immediately, or if you have items for a different season, store them until the correct season.
• It is difficult for relief organisations to store excess items and often causes them to become mouldy or stale smelling.
• Ask yourself these questions: Would I give this to someone I love? Would I be blessed to receive this? Does this give someone the message that they are made in God’s image?
• Please see the insert regarding what Urban Gleaning at The Warehouse is able to help you distribute, and our website during disaster responses.
In a country that is in turmoil around race, xenophobia, inequality and divisions of every kind, there are people choosing to live another way ... Meli Moyo is one of those people ... listen to some of his story here.
If you would like to donate towards The Warehouse making more movie clips like these, please click here http://www.givengain.com/cause/1976/projects/15498
Do you want to see the Church responding well to the South African context?
Join us for our three-day Winter School from July 28 to 30.
Venue: the warehouse, 12 Plantation Rd, Wetton
Who should attend?
All church- and ministry leaders
God sees, God calls, God equips
The following questions will be addressed over the three days:
When God sees the church in its context, what does he see?
How does God call the church to respond?
With what does he equip us?
Some more detail on the three days:
Day 1 ~ God Sees
Day 1 explores God’s heart for humanity, his concern for the suffering that exists, and his desire for transformation in all aspects of human life. We examine how poverty expresses itself in different ways, affecting not only people’s material circumstances, but also their personal, spiritual and social life and their perception of the power available to them. Participants will be invited to reflect on their own communities (wherever they lie on the economic spectrum) and identify those aspects of their contexts that God would be concerned about.
Day 2 ~ God Calls
Day 2 introduces God’s call on the church to be a transformative presence in the community in which it is placed, challenging participants to view mission and evangelism as something that not only transforms the spiritual lives of individuals, but also impacts the context, desiring to transform all that does not reflect the character of God or his design for human existence. Together participants will identify principles of development and social involvement that bring about transformation.
Day 3 ~ God Equips
Day 3 offers some practical tools for finding, understanding and addressing the areas of need in communities, and also reminds participants of the ways in the Holy Spirit has equipped the church with wisdom, discernment and power to do God’s work, and also with the hope needed to inspire us in all that we do.
The Winter School offers an excellent opportunity to think, pray, talk and act on things to which God is leading you and your Church.
or you can sign up here:
The primary focus of our work is engaging churches in longer term transformation strategies addressing poverty, injustice and division. In this context inappropriate crisis based relief can actually do more harm than good. However, there are times of crisis when relief is required due to a disaster incident and in these times appropriate relief should be effectively delivered within an appropriate time period.
Over the past two years we have been working with the Consultation of Christian Churches in Cape Town to increase the effectiveness of the collaborative response of churches in the City of Cape Town and surrounds to larger scale disaster incidents. The core working group now has committed participants from 15 different church networks and denominations along with key NGO support partners. The scope of this network is as follows:
1. Provide an effective centrally coordinated church response to disaster incidents affecting more than 500 people within the City of Cape Town (CoCT) and Stellenbosch areas that interacts effectively with government and civil society partners.
2. Improve collaborative church based responses to smaller incidents within this area through increased capacity and communication networks.
3. Increase the disaster mitigation and preparedness capacity of churches within its impact area.
Over the past month sadly we’ve had to activate the network for two separate incidents each impacting just under 1000 people. A fire in the community of Masiphumelele destroyed 250 homes and very shortly thereafter approximately 235 households were evicted and their homes destroyed in the community of Nomzamo. In both these incidents those impacted had to face severe Cape winter storms in the days after the event. It was tremendously gratifying to see the church network responding rapidly and appropriately providing incident coordination support, large amounts of clothing and blankets and food support.
If you’d like to support our work in developing this network you can find out more here:
Or you can click here
Jayakumar Christian, in his book God of the Empty Handed, grapples with the question: How can the kingdom of God transform the powerlessness of the poor?
Christian worked among the poor in India for over thirty years, exploring the relationship of poverty to powerlessness. Within this exploration he integrated a vast range of subjects into his studies including anthropology, sociology, politics, and theology. He avoids the easy solution and offers a new paradigm within his book, which can shape our responses to the poor and provide a workable framework for grassroots organizations.
In this book, Christian begins with a narrative approach: stories that capture the human dimensions of poverty. He then examines and analyzes secular development theories, including Liberation, Dalit, and evangelical theologies as well as several historical responses to poverty. He questions the meaning of powerlessness and describes challenges facing the modern church. Finally, he explores the fundamental understanding of power according to the theology of the Kingdom of God. He concludes by stating: “only when we realise that we are all empty-handed before God can brokenness in relationships be fully restored.”
For those who work with impoverished communities, this book will challenge, inspire, and hopefully impact your worldview and understanding of relationships in regards to poverty and power.
By Rachel Self
Rachel Self is a new intern with The Warehouse. She is currently studying studio art with a concentration in graphic design at Wheaton College in Chicago, Illinois. She is excited to be a part of a team of individuals who also desire to see transformation, justice, and shalom become a consistent reality for the vulnerable in their city.