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From the mouths of the diverse, interesting, challenging people either working for or linked to The Warehouse

Friday 04 September 2015

Nkosivumile Gola

What if we are leading people to a distorted view of God?

In many cases people who oppose Christian involvement in politics say that politics, in a way, fixes peoples’ eyes on ‘temporary things’ instead of on eternal things. My question is: what if the ‘temporary things’ lead to people having a different and distorted view of God? Many atheists are people who have their roots in Christianity, but our continuous neglect of all the possible injustices may have lead them into walking away from a God who does not care about the suffering of the world. They are like the prodigal son of the New Testament.

Every prodigal son is drawn back to the father’s bosom as they see the goodness of the father, as they see that there is no father’s servant or son that sleeps without food, as they see that there is no lack in my father’s house. As long as the church acts with the status quo the prodigals will never return to the house of the father for the father is malevolent. Anything that has the potential of painting God in a way other than who He really is sounds the bell for the Christian to speak up, act, change and transform. And so it is for politics. 

We have to be clear that there is no apolitical being; we are all involved in politics whether consciously or unconsciously. The most unfortunate part is that those who are unconsciously involved in politics are unconsciously part of the status quo. Therefore, if there is oppression in the system they are siding with those who oppress (often unaware of their complicity). Most of those who are consciously involved are against the status quo because they get to see that the ‘norm’ is unacceptable.

With all of the above said, we have the great commission which has been turned into a vision of many churches. My own church put it like this: “His last command is our first concern”. But the question is: have we truly seen what is entailed in that great commission? The great commission tells us that “as we go we disciple, as we go we teach and as we go we baptise” Matthew 28. This means that the evangelism of the nations is not an event for a Christian (like evangelism in Khayelitsha, for example), but it is a life of a believer. Therefore, how you spend your money is evangelism, how you treat your workers is evangelism, how you live your life is evangelism, how you treat the next person you see is evangelism. That is why Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

In the gospel of Matthew it is said “Let your light shine before all men, so that people may see your good works and give honour to your father in heaven”. This verse in simple terms says that in our daily social and public lives, we are to be the model of what God intended for people in the beginning. It is in them (the people who are seeing the good works) seeing what God had always intended for them that they will be transformed and come to know the Lord Jesus.

The mere point of politics has always been about the question of ownership. Now is the bible quiet about this? The question that is asked in politics is often related to who owns and runs the means of production? The church is called to model and proclaim who should own the means of production. Our proclamation is our speaking of the truth to power, and our modelling is found in the book of acts where it says of the church, “No one was lacking amongst them”. Why is it so easy for our church to speak against abortion, to speak against or stand for same-sex marriage but yet we fail to speak against policies that continue to side-line the majority of our people in South Afrika? Just as no one was lacking amongst them, so it is our church that will demonstrate that there is a possibility of no lack in our churches today (Acts 2). Politics is Zaccheus being reconciled with God and also reconciled with his own community through the act of restitution. The Church’s core mission is the ministry of reconciliation (Luke 19, 2 Corinthians 5) – politics, again.

In anything that concerns humanity, God is involved. Anything that concerns the “neighbour” is an area in which the Christian should be involved. May we stop side-lining God in His own affairs! The church is the opinion of God in all matters of life.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Luthando Tofu

The State of African Theology Address: Part1

Decentralising Theological Education

In its most basic form, theological education translates to the “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” as the writer of the book of Ephesians indicates in chapter 4. This equipping was never meant to be reserved for certain individuals but rather the expectation is for all saints to be involved in the work of ministry. Now how we define the various aspects of the “work of ministry” is a topic for another day. Even Christ commissions his disciples in Matthew 28:19 to “teach all nations” all that He has taught them. This role of teaching was meant to be accessible, free and mobile in order for it to advance the purposes of God’s kingdom. Professionalising this function reflects more how the church has given into being influenced by the models of this age rather than the kingdom.

Traditional African educational and learning processes have historically been centred on community and family circles. This is not a strange concept either to the biblical narrative as Paul’s church planting strategy was predominately that which is called ‘house churches’. People learn more within circles of people they value the most. Theological formation is no exception because true discipleship happens mostly in relationship.

The great Xhosa Prophet Ntsikana, who is revered for his pioneering incarnational model to missions ran his church services around family kraals. Though missionaries came and built isolated church related facilities which were removed from the centrality of the home and that required people to dismantle their association between family and religion, Ntsikana maintained the ancestral legacy of the family kraal a sacred space for religious activity.

The Western concept of theological education has thus maintained the pattern of the university which is removed from the centrality of the church as a sacred space for discipleship. Though there is some value to a dedicated group of people who engage at the intellectual level of theologising, the true heart of the Gospel is and will always remain formation by and through the local church.

The Huffington Post just recently published an article by Dr. Philip Clayton called Rebooting Theological Education which looks at the current crisis of theological institutions and the need for a new approach. It raises such issues as financial affordability, the generational shifts taking place as well as the new approaches to doing church. All these have a direct impact on the format and relevance of traditional ways of approaching theological education. As the fundamental understanding of the role of the church in the 21st century broadens and as the world around us changes, we are compelled to bring training more to the ground rather than higher to the halls of elitist institutions particularly in Africa.

By returning theological education to the local church, we not only open access to the equipping of all believers for the work of ministry, but we are also enabling including those who would otherwise not afford to financially go to theological seminaries. We would also further reduce the high volume of ministers who are seemingly preaching non-truth because of what we perceive as lack of theological training.

Christ commissioned his disciples to teach the nations what he had taught them. This mandate still rings true today and cannot be achieved through an elitist approach to theological education.  The Church can no longer afford to outsource its mandate to multiply discipleship and raising leaders because theology needs to be done in context and in relationship.