TABLE OF CONTENTS
– Significance of the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
– Caring & Protecting Older Persons: An Involved Church & Community
– Trends Affecting the Church in South Africa: During & Post-Pandemic
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The Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa (AFM) is part of the classical Pentecostal Churches that emphasises the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christian believers. We recognise the Holy Spirit as part of the divine Trinity. The role of the Holy Spirit, as part of the Trinity, can be traced back to the Biblical creation narrative in Genesis 1:2 where we read: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (ESV). In Matthew, the Holy Spirit is associated with the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:18) and with Jesus’ water baptism (Matthew 3:16-17). Regarding the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, those who become disciples from all nations should be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Past. George Mahlobo – President of the AFM of SA
The Committee for Doctrine, Ethics and Liturgy (DEL) is currently considering the question of whether speaking in tongues is the only initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
This is an important discussion because it touches on our Confession of Faith. Paragraph P.3.7 of the church’s Confession of Faith states: “WE BELIEVE in the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as promised to all believers. We believe in the manifestation of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit in the life of a Christian. We believe that a Christian should be a disciple of Jesus Christ living a consecrated and holy life.” We are looking forward to the recommendation of the DEL and the action by the National Leadership Forum. Whatever decision is taken, I do not believe that it will undermine the significance of baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Balancing the Spiritual Gifts with the Spiritual Fruit
During Pentecost week, AFM International organised a virtual conference with the theme: “Balancing the Gifts of the Spirit with the Fruit of the Spirit”. The Gifts of the Spirit are aimed at competency in ministry whereas the Fruit of the Spirit is aimed at the development of a Christ-like character. The two should always be coupled together.
The Gifts of the Spirit were grouped into three, namely (1) Gifts of Revelation (Word of Knowledge, Word of Wisdom & Discerning of spirits); (2) Gifts of Utterance (Prophecy, Different kinds of Tongues & Interpretation of Tongues) and (3) Gifts of Power (Faith, Gifts of Healing & Workings of Miracles).
The Fruit of the Spirit was also grouped into three. The three groups were (1) Personal relationship with God (Love; Joy & Peace); (2) Personal relationship with Others (Patience; Kindness & Goodness) and (3) Personal development (Faithfulness; Gentleness & Self-control).
On Pentecost Sunday we reflected on the significance of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
It is John the Baptist who spoke about Jesus as the one that would baptise with the Holy Spirit. All four Gospels bear testimony to this, namely Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:7-8, Luke 3:16 and John 1:33. Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gave His final instruction to His Disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). This was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost as stated in Acts 2.
There are three occurrences of Baptism with the Holy Spirit which are associated with speaking in tongues in the book of Acts. These are Acts 2:1-4; Acts 10:44-46 and Acts 19:6. In Acts 8:17 we read about new believers who received the Holy Spirit when Peter laid hands on them. The evidence of them receiving the Holy Spirit is not mentioned as speaking in tongues. However, something extraordinary happened when they received the Holy Spirit. This caught the attention of Simon who offered money to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18).
Power for Ministry
According to Acts 1:8, the main purpose of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was to empower the disciples as witnesses of Jesus. Acts 1:8 (ESV) reads: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
“Baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers us to be effective witnesses of Jesus.”
Baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers us to be effective witnesses of Jesus. Being witnesses of Jesus requires enablement from the Holy Spirit. When writing to the church in Corinth Paul said: “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 ESV). This power is manifested through the Spiritual Gifts as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. Through these Gifts, the church receives insight (Gifts of Revelation). The Gifts of Utterance enable the church to hear from God and to speak to the saints. Through Gifts of Power, the church demonstrates God’s power.
Development of the Christ-Like Character
It is expected that God’s children should develop a character that is compatible with Christ’s character. In many instances, this aspect of the Christian life is ignored. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 are indicators of the formation of a Christ-like character. We need development in our personal relationship with God (Love; Joy & Peace). We also need to grow in relationship with other people (Patience; Kindness & Goodness) and our personal development (Faithfulness; Gentleness & Self-control). In Luke 2:52 (NLT) we read: “Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all people.”
We must Guard against the Misuse of the Spiritual Gifts
We read about the misuse of Spiritual gifts in Corinth. Paul addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. We sometimes tend to rate certain Gifts higher than others. Although Paul rated prophecy as a preferred gift in comparison with tongues, this does not mean that the proper use of tongues adds no value (1 Corinthians 14:3-5). Both tongues and prophecy are for edification. When tongues are interpreted, they equate to prophecy.
CARING & PROTECTING OLDER PERSONS: AN INVOLVED CHURCH & COMMUNITY
Ashley Theron (Acting CEO of AFM Welfare)
The Abuse of Older Persons
Older persons are somebody’s parents, our parents, our grandparents, they are in our churches – they took care of us when we were growing up, now it is our turn to care for them in a dignified manner and to protect them. We should not only say it takes a village to raise a child, we should also say it takes a family, a church and a community to protect and care for older persons. Sadly, the abuse of older persons remains a major challenge in South Africa – it continues in families, communities and even in Facilities for older persons.
“…it takes a family, a church and a community to protect and care for older persons.”
The care and protection of older persons should be one of the focus areas of AFM Assemblies and the practical implementation of the Community Involvement driver (as one of the drivers of the One AFM Game Plan). Some important definitions to consider in this discussion, are:
Older Person – is any person who is 60 years old and above.
Older Person in need of care and protection – means an older person contemplated in section 25(5) of the Older Persons Act (Act No13 of 2006).
Abuse of an Older Person – is when someone with power over an Older Person intentionally harms them or puts them at serious risk of harm, their action, or lack of action.
Forms of Older Persons Abuse
The six types of older person abuse include (1) physical abuse, (2) sexual abuse, (3) emotional or psychological abuse, (4) neglect and self-neglect, (5) abandonment and (6) financial abuse. Each one of these forms of abuse has a definition and specific warning signs that empowers a person to possibly identify when abuse is taking place. Regardless of type, the abuse of older persons can have devastating consequences, including great emotional suffering, serious physical injuries, and even death.
The Role of the Pastor & other Church Leaders
Psalm 141:8-10 states: “My eyes are fixed on you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; do not leave me defenceless. Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by in safety.”
“Pastors and other Church Leaders can play an important role in preventing abuse because they are often the first stop for help.”
Pastors and other Church Leaders can play an important role in preventing abuse because they are often the first stop for help. In many cases, the Pastor or Leader of older adult ministries may be the only other person (except the abuser) in the victim’s life. The abuse of older persons is a crime and all responsible leaders working with older persons MUST report cases of older person abuse to the authorities.
Allow me to share ten recommendations for Pastors and other Church Leaders to consider in their management of Older Persons Abuse in their respective churches and communities (note that these recommendations can also be applied to gender-based violence and child abuse):
Pastors and other Church Leaders should:
- Recognise the signs. Generally, look for any signs of mistreatment: physical and verbal abuse; neglect of personal hygiene, living conditions, or medical needs; and exploitation, such as someone taking advantage of an older person’s finances and property. Some older persons are unable or afraid to talk about these kinds of situations, so Church Leaders need to keep a watchful eye on their care.
- Give the consistent message (in the form of a sermon) that the abuse of older persons is wrong and contrary to Christian teachings.
- Increase awareness and discussion of the abuse of older persons within the church (through regular teaching and training). Educate the congregation on the subject of different types of older person abuse – including fraudulent incidents related to elders.
- Reach out to and work with external agencies, including local older person abuse support services, the police, children’s and family services, health services, social services etc. Tackling abuse and helping those who are abused requires a multi-sectoral approach.
- Create a safe place for older persons by making your church a place where elderly victims can come for help. Provide confidential (within the boundaries of safeguarding policies), non-judgemental listening and prayer support for anyone who discloses that they have been abused.
- Contact the proper authorities. In South Africa, the first call you make is to your nearest Department of Social Development office and if they are not available, report the abuse to the South African Police Service. If the person is in immediate danger, call 10111.
- As part of your Community Profile, create a database of all vulnerable persons including older persons living in the local community you serve – including their names, phone numbers, address, next of kin.
- Establish a Friendly Visitor Program where members of your congregation regularly visit homebound and elderly members. Also, encourage those with family members in old age homes to visit them often. If a family member is a caregiver, encourage and support the caregiver in getting some time off by arranging with trained church volunteers to offer their help.
- Start a Parish Nurse Ministry in which a knowledgeable and professional health care worker can help educate the congregation as well as be an observer of the needs of homebound members.
- Help prevent abuse in your community by teaching older persons and their families how to report abuse and or fraud (especially telemarketing fraud), informing them about the types and signs of older persons’ abuse.
“Create a safe place for older persons by making your church a place where elderly victims can come for help.”
To further support Pastors and Church Leaders in the task of caring for and protecting older persons, I developed a more detailed resource that can be accessed from the AFM website: https://afm-ags.org/category/articles/. Download this article to learn more about:
- The Legal and Policy Framework in South Africa (The Older Persons Act).
- Six types of older person abuse (Learn to Recognise all the Warning Signs).
- Managing older person abuse (Understand the Roles of every Stakeholder).
TRENDS AFFECTING THE CHURCH IN SOUTH AFRICA: DURING & POST-PANDEMIC
Dr Henri Weideman (General Secretary of the AFM of SA)
Somewhere during this year, or early next year we will move into a post-Covid-19 pandemic world. No one can say exactly what the future holds, but we do observe certain trends around the world, some of which are also relevant to South Africa and should be considered as we plan and pray about the future. Some of these are:
Trend 1: The Importance of Ministry in the Digital Realm
I persist with an observation that I made previously, that the church will remain an in-person entity but should not miss out on the opportunity of developing an online presence. Many congregations are developing a permanent online presence and are maximizing the opportunity for digital outreach. In doing so, they reach new people but also retain existing members who currently prefer the safety of online engagement.
Some leaders advocate a “digital-first” strategy while others focus on an “in-person first” approach. Strategies where these two approaches are blended in a complementary fashion are also rising. Cutting-edge church leaders understand that the church must be present on the internet in ways that go beyond streaming Sunday morning worship and facilitating online giving. Options like online Bible study groups, online new member- and pre-marriage courses, and the formation of new faith communities that exist solely online, should also be explored.
Trend 2: A Bigger Focus on Connecting and Fulfilling the Mission, than on Gathering
Historically, the church has done almost everything to gather people in one building. Growing churches are now starting to focus much more on connecting people to each other and to God and less on just gathering them. Connecting people on Sunday mornings will stay important. It will however not necessarily only be in one building anymore. Outward focusing gatherings would consist of micro-churches in people’s homes and other buildings on Sunday mornings, as well as on other days. If you can accept the fact that micro-gatherings, distributed gatherings, and people watching from home are all connecting people to one another, you will be able to mobilise those people in the same way you would the people who are in the church building.
“The size of your vision should be bigger than the capacity of the building you can fill.”
One of the opportunities for connecting people will be accommodating the demographic shifts and increasing cultural diversity in our communities. It is also important to realise that individuals outside the church connect more readily to the impact a local congregation has on its community than to the denominational label of that church.
Trend 3: Movements, Moments And Mission
Around the world, people seem to have no trouble pouring out onto the streets for political or social protests or gathering for critical moments. The church, at its authentic best, has all the characteristics of a movement on a mission, characterised by some very profound moments. Too often though we miss those critical elements because so much of the current church model has been based on content delivery on a Sunday morning.
Content used to fill a building because it was scarce. You had to attend to hear a message, but in a time where content fills the internet, content alone no longer fills a room. The abundance of content and information needs moments of insight to bring meaning out of the content.
“People do not just want information about God, they are hungry for an experience of God.”
Emphasising moments, movements and mission are more critical than ever. People do not just want to know what is true; they want to know what is real. And what is real is deeper than just an idea – it is an experience. People do not just want information about God, they are hungry for an experience of God. We must include moments in our gatherings that go beyond information and engage people’s senses and heart, especially during worship and times of prayer. Churches that ignore an encounter with God and just hope that a decent message will fill the room, will most likely be shocked by how it no longer does.
Trend 4: Succession is Becoming more Important
We see several older leaders of Assemblies who realise that it is time for them to move on – but they do not know how. We also see younger leaders leaving because older leaders are not moving on when they should. Every year that an Assembly is led by a leader who has lost vision, lost passion and lost focus – the mission of that church suffers. However, the succession crisis is only a crisis if you make it one. Instead of just hanging on, great leadership renews itself.
The drawback is that the older you get, the less likely you are to innovate around methods – and innovation drives growth and connection with emerging generations. Data points to a trend that growing churches tend to be led by younger leaders. Many leaders talk about reaching the next generation, but they seldom include the next generation in their planning. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is going to take the leadership of the next generation to reach the next generation.
Trend 5: New Staffing Patterns
One component of the changing nature of the religious workforce is an increase in part-time and bi-vocational clergy and more “laity” in substantial ministry roles as paid staff or volunteers.
The pandemic has forced some churches to downsize their staff for financial reasons. And it has put a premium on electronic communications skills that are vital to virtually every aspect of the practice of ministry. Some congregations are starting to appoint individuals who have technical knowledge but must be helped toward a better theological grounding. Congregations increasingly look for staff with specific skills in communication, marketing, fundraising, and other needed specialities.
With Acknowledgement to Doug Powe, Ann A. Michel and Thom Rainer.
As we emerge into the post-pandemic world, leaders who see opportunities instead of obstacles will thrive. The church is sometimes missing out on spiritual entrepreneurship – something the New Testament calls Apostleship. It is a kind of profound willpower, innovation and intensity shown by the Apostle Paul. Spiritual entrepreneurs are the kind of leaders who will find tomorrow’s solutions when most leaders can only see today’s problems.
“Spiritual entrepreneurs are the kind of leaders who will find tomorrow’s solutions when most leaders can only see today’s problems.”
One of the most important observations regarding the time that we are living in is that it invites all of us to be innovative, flexible and to practice endurance.
Past. M.G. Mahlobo
(President of the AFM of SA)