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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CALLED TO THE MISSIONAL FRONTLINE IN A TURBULENT WORLD
EVANGELISM & DISCIPLESHIP FOR GENERATIONS Y & Z
WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES ASSEMBLY: REFLECTIONS
Dear AFM Family,
We were blessed to be part of two interesting events over the last few weeks. Many of us attended the AFM International (AFMI) Triennial Council and Conference in Gaborone Botswana, and the National Office Bearers also attended the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Karlsruhe, Germany.
During the AFMI Council meeting Past. George Mahlobo and myself were re-elected as the AFMI President and Secretary General respectively. The following AFM of SA leaders were also elected to AFMI structures: Mama J. Mahlobo as Chairperson of the AFMI Sisters’ Fellowship, Past. T. Savhasa as the AFMI Youth Director, Past. A.K. Khoza as the AFMI Children’s Ministry Director, Br. T. Kanyani as the AFMI Children’s Ministry Treasurer, Past. S. Makaudi as the Chairperson of the AFMI Men’s Ministry and Dr D. Andrew as a member of the AFMI Theological Education Association Committee.
Pastor Thandanani Savhasa, our National Youth Director and I were amongst the individuals who made presentations at the Council. Our presentations are shared here as the first two articles of this Pastoral Newsletter.
CALLED TO THE MISSIONAL FRONTLINE IN A TURBULENT WORLD
Dr H.J. Weideman (President of the AFM of SA)
The AFM International (AFMI), consisting of 28 member countries, had its 9th Triennial Council Meeting and Conference in Gaborone, Botswana from 22-28 August 2022. The theme of the conference was: CALLED TO THE MISSIONAL FRONTLINE IN A TURBULENT WORLD. I had the privilege to be the first speaker and to set some context for the theme.
When we look at the effects of the prolonged Ukraine war, the economic and political uncertainties, the ecological chaos with extreme temperatures, droughts and floods across the world, as well as the occurrence of gender-based violence, and psychological- and gender confusion – we must agree that indeed we are living in a turbulent world.
“…we are called into this world with the same calling Jesus had.”
The French Artist Henri Rousseau once said: “God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favour.” Is the Jesus that we portray our own man-made version of how we would like Him to be or the Jesus of the Bible? We need to study the Scriptures and be confronted (again) with the uncomfortable truths about what Jesus really stands for. What were His views about relationships with friends and “enemies” as well as with people of other cultures and social classes? How did Jesus talk about and view wealth and power? Did He talk more of letting go of things, life and self, or more about accumulating?
As the church, we are called to the frontline. That is the part of the army that is closest to the enemy. We are not called to hide away somewhere in our churches, chapels, or auditoriums. We are not called to just talk, preach and pray – but to do! C.T. Studd, a British Cricketer and Missionary in the 1920s said: “Some want to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard from hell.” We must remember that “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12 (NIV). In this turbulent world, we are called to reach out and touch the lives of the people in our spheres of influence. We are called to share the Gospel of Jesus.
“In this turbulent world, we are called to reach out and touch the lives of the people in our spheres of influence. We are called to share the Gospel of Jesus.”
Past. Thandanani Savhasa (Presiding Pastor of the AFM Naledi Assembly, Soweto)
Generation Y is the Millennials born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 26 to 41 in 2022) described as “optimists” who embrace variety and inclusiveness with a desire to be discovered. Generation Z, the Zoomers, also known as the social generation, are those born between 1997 and 2012 (ages 10 to 25 in 2022). They are “realists” who are success-orientated and live in a world of more imagery than words – with an average screen time of 7.5 hours+ per day on either their mobile devices or television screens.
These two generations can be considered jointly as a generation of “followers”, with social media becoming a tool of great influence in the times we live in.
The Empty Tomb was Trending
In the famous text about Jesus and two travellers who were walking to Emmaus, Luke 24:13-35 tells us that while these two travellers could not recognise Jesus, they heard about the empty tomb. As Jesus asked them what they were talking about, they responded and said: “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” It is in this response that we can say that the resurrection of Jesus was “trending” (something that is currently popular or widely discussed).
Evangelism: Packaging the Message
Reaching out to Generations Y and Z means ensuring that the clear message of the resurrection and its significance in human history is not lost. Even the youngest in Generation Z (10 years old), must grasp and continue to be in awe of the greatest love story of all time. Evangelism is the presentation of the “Truth” who is Jesus, in a world of darkness and despair. In the times we are living in the term “truth” receives its definition by phrases such as “owning your truth” and “no one can take away your truth”. So the “truth” is now undefined.
“Evangelism is the presentation of the “Truth” who is Jesus, in a world of darkness and despair.”
We learn from Paul in Acts 17: 16-34 that he had to take time to observe and listen to those in Athens in order for him to minister to them from their beliefs. Some of the post-Covid-19 challenges are that many young people are experiencing discouragement, mental health diagnoses and pressures of financial strain and stagnation. The church needs to align the message of Hope into these trending themes and respond by releasing the following opposite words and how they are obtained in Christ, for instance: peace, rest and sound mind.
If the principles of discipleship are that the church is to teach, baptise and raise “followers” of Jesus, it may not be an easy task for a generation that is already following different movements, ideologies, lifestyles and personalities. Judges 21:25 reveals that the ending of the book of Judges reads – that in absence of a king; every man did what was right in his own eyes. In other words, there was no clear responsibility taken by any of the 12 tribes after the death of Joshua in ensuring that the teachings of the ways of the Lord would be passed down from one generation to the other.
“Jesus takes a group that He trains for the sake of many.”
Jesus Model of Discipleship
The focus of the Jesus-model of discipleship is a focus on móre than one. Jesus takes a group that He trains for the sake of many. On the contrary, it is no longer one leader who is raised for one position, it is now a pool of leaders for a Kingdom-purpose. It is important to highlight that the disciples had an opportunity to be taught and to observe:
- They saw Him speak in crowds and to individuals of all kinds of backgrounds, ages and gender. It will be imperative for Generations Y & Z to see the church reaching all kinds of people.
- They saw Him challenged and interrogated. The way that the church handles challenges plays a role in teaching Generations Y & Z to uphold the Gospel.
- They saw Him as compassionate – feeding the hungry and caring for the vulnerable.
- They saw Him in the storm. The way the realities of life are presented to these Generations will be fundamental in assisting them to apply the Gospel in their everyday lives.
- They saw Him serving them too. Jesus took time to teach some lessons through service, which is also important for the Generation Y’s and Z’s to know that they are valuable in the sight of the church and that they are entrusted to show value to others through service.
It is important for discipleship in a church to be tracked (or monitored) and scheduled (given an allocated time):
- A Spiritual Growth focus.
- A Discipleship Team – a designated group of people should be tasked with discipleship.
- Family Discipleship – when a Generation Y or Z or any one member of a family is saved, there needs to be training and tools for them to learn to minister to their whole family.
- Discipleship-Centred Departments – each department in the church needs to present and be trained in discipleship.
Feedback & Insights
Jesus gave the disciples feedback and asked for their insights, “who do they say I am”. This teaches us the importance of understanding that these two Generations have different vantage points (the point from where someone views or sees something). Engagements are important in how they are discipled. In the same way, church leaders should ask their Generation Y’s and Z’s about the views of their peers about the church, about Jesus and about Christianity.
WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES ASSEMBLY: REFLECTIONS
Dr Henri Weideman (President of the AFM of SA); Past. Barend Petersen (Deputy President of the AFM of SA); Past. Selby Khumalo (General Secretary of the AFM of SA); Past. Rudi Coertzen (General Treasurer of the AFM of SA)
Dr Henri Weideman:
The first few days of the 11th World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly from 30 August to 8 September 2022 in Karlsruhe, Germany was a very interesting experience. The diversity of the 352 member churches – who together represent more than half a billion Christians around the world, is evident in the way some people dress and in the different ways they sing and pray. We experienced some of this during the evening prayer sessions where different Christian traditions were given the chance to lead us in song and prayer.
Some of the issues that were discussed include the Church’s response to the worldwide refugee crises, climate change, the war in the Ukraine and the challenges in Syria and the Middle East. The opening session where the AFM was also welcomed as one of the new members was historical in many ways. For the first time, the Pentecostals also had our own Confessional Meeting. The AFM was asked to shortly share our journey of involvement with the WCC – from the involvement of Past. David du Plessis from 1951, Dr Frank Chikane from 1980 and up to now where we are full members of the WCC. It was good to meet and pray together with other Pentecostal churches and -leaders from as far as Norway, Sweden, the USA, Argentina, Australia and even Russia. We had the privilege to participate in different Ecumenical Discussions and Home Groups, where we shared our testimony and views as AFM Pentecostals and as South Africans on the matters at hand.
Past. Barend Petersen:
We experienced the hospitality from the warm reception by the Welcoming Team as we disembarked from the aircraft to the welcoming refreshments by the Chaplains, taken directly to the train and warmly received at the Karlsruhe train station and thereafter transported to our hotel.
We were sincerely welcomed as a new member of the WCC at the first sitting on Tuesday morning. The organisation of the various activities were excellent and the content of the various sessions was well planned. The diversity of the attendees is reflective of the power of the Gospel in the world. The theme “Christ’s Love moves the World to Reconciliation and Unity” reflects the hope that the Conference has for a broken and divided world of 2022.
“The diversity of the attendees is reflective of the power of the Gospel in the world.”
Past. Selby Khumalo:
The AFM of SA, as a full member of the SACC (South African Council of Churches) since 2003, has been accepted as a full member of the WCC on 14 February 2022. We are honoured that in the year of our acceptance, the AFM leadership attended the WCC Assembly and Conference in Germany. This level of exposure and engagement offers the AFM a significant opportunity for strategic meetings, collaborations and partnerships for advancing a Pentecostal prophetic voice, initiatives and projects – adding to the representation of the Pentecostal Confessional Stream of the Christian Church in the WCC community. The AFM represents the changing landscape and growing diversity of Christianity within the WCC practically. The AFM, as a united Church has more capacity and institutional foundations to raise Pentecostalism on these strategic forums.
Past. Rudi Coertzen:
It is a real privilege to have represented our great church at this meeting of the WCC. As we have been accepted only in February 2022 – it took a lot of arrangements. The people are as diverse as can be expected at such an international meeting and the discussions passionately heated at times. This is an event that reflects the people of the world and all their diverse viewpoints.
A few outstanding moments were the Opening Plenary Session where the Federal President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke and welcomed the delegates. The first evening prayer session was memorable as different prayer traditions were displayed and songs from very traditional to nearly Pentecost were sung and celebrated. Discussions in the different groups gave me an opportunity to express our own viewpoints on certain matters.
The AFM of SA is currently the biggest Pentecostal Church and the first member of the World Pentecostal Fellowship, to be full members of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The DNA of Pentecostals since our establishment on the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is to be ecumenical in reaching out and sharing the Gospel with all nations. In describing his ecumenical involvement, Past. David du Plessis referred to himself as an “ecumaniac.”
During this sitting of the WCC I had the honour to be elected as the first-ever Pentecostal member of the Central Committee of the WCC. I see this as an opportunity to represent the Pentecostal beliefs and values in this global ecumenical forum.