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TABLE OF CONTENTS
– A FOCUS ON SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION
– PRAYER & FASTING WEEK: 16-20 JANUARY 2023
– LOOKING BACK ON 2022: REFLECTIONS
– CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
At the heart of the conversation on being a missional Church lies a challenge: To recover and deepen our Spiritual identity and life as Christians in a post-Christendom world. This is especially relevant for us as a church, living and operating in diverse communities – surrounded by cultures that can no longer be assumed to produce Christians. Join me in this edition of the Pastoral Letter as I share more on the Spiritual foundation of a missional Church. I also urge our members and Assemblies to actively participate in a Church-wide week of prayer and fasting from 16-20 January 2023. Lastly, we reflect on 2022 and the most important highlights of the year.
A FOCUS ON SPIRITUAL FOUNDATION
Dr H.J. Weideman (President of the AFM of SA)
This phenomenon which is also widely present among American adults and certainly in South Africa as well describes a spirituality in which:
- A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
Unless our AFM Missional Strategy and its five drivers: Discipleship, Empowerment, Community Involvement, Ecumenical Involvement and Good Governance are based on an authentic Holy Spirit- anchored Spirituality, it will only produce nice sounding slogans and academic exercises, but no real fruit and Life. “The core Christian practices, such as worship, prayer, service, fellowship, and witness all have missional dimensions. Through them God shapes us into a called people who are sent to testify to the inbreaking of God’s reign in a world of many faiths and no faith. That testimony unfolds in part through the public practices of the Christian community as it lives a way of life marked by mercy, forgiveness, generosity, reconciliation, and hope. Through the Holy Spirit this community offers a living, visible alternative to a society rent by enmity, division, greed, injustice, and hopelessness.” (Dwight J. Zscheile, “A Missional Theology of Spiritual Formation” 2012, Pg. 26.)
As a missional church, we must view mission as definitive of what the church IS, because the church is a product of and an active participant in God’s mission. All our members are missionaries, not just a select few. Every believer and every local Church are central to God’s mission and must discern where and how He is moving in their specific context and join up with Him. Without continuously cultivating a renewed spiritual identity and life as a community of Jesus followers, we will lose our ability to witness to salvation in Christ and to be of service in God’s world. This will cause us to be a Pentecostal Church only in name.
The National Office Bearers felt led to focus on the strengthening and impartation of the Spiritual Foundation of Missionality in 2023 and to spend time on who we are and how we live as Holy Spirit-filled people and church.
During the 2023 Regional Empowerment Visits, we will focus on the theme: “Keep the Fire Burning” and share more on (i) Our calling as Believers and Pastors; (ii) Daily time with the Word and in Prayer; (iii) The Character, Values and Norms of Holy Spirit-filled People; and (iv) Our Family Life and Future Planning. We are looking forward to seeing you there!
Dr H.J. Weideman (President of the AFM of SA)
Prayer is foundational to our faith as Pentecostal believers. History clearly shows that all Spiritual deepening, revitalization or revivals were birthed in the context of prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (NIV) instructs us to: “…pray continually, (and to) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Prayer is sometimes only used as a way to bring our list of requests to God. Philippians 4:6 certainly teaches us not to be anxious about anything but to make our request known to God by prayer and supplication. Prayer is however intended to be a way to build a relationship with God. A way to be in conversation with Him and to listen to His voice.
“We must be praying for spiritual deepening and strength and not for things or ease of living.”
Prayer should not be used as a technique to try and escape from difficulties but rather be a stimulus to growth. We must be praying for spiritual deepening and strength and not for things or ease of living. Fasting and prayer can play a significant role in restoring and strengthening our intimacy with God. Many long-time Christians find that fasting helps them to reinforce their commitment to God and to humble and submit themselves to the Word and will of God.
As the leaders of the AFM in South Africa, we are calling on all our Pastors, Assembly Leaders and members to make a determined effort to revitalize and energize our traditional focus on prayer during the month of January. I ask you to lead your Assembly in prayer and fasting during the week of 16 to 20 January 2023. Five short video clips will be made available on social media from Friday, 13 January 2023. This can be used as a point of departure during prayer meetings, or in WhatsApp communication over the five days – as a tool to guide and empower.
The following topics will be covered:
PRAY: What and Why.
PRAY: And Fast.
We acknowledge the fact that our Assemblies function within diverse contexts and therefore we do not want to be prescriptive on how you should structure this week of prayer and fasting. As the National Office Bearers, we however urge you to give attention to this crucial matter and to find a way that will work effectively in your context. We believe that the promise made in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV) is still true today: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
LOOKING BACK ON 2022: REFLECTIONS
Past. Barend Petersen (Deputy President of the AFM of SA)
When we reflect on the global and South African events in 2022, the first post-COVID-19 year, one is almost bewildered by the state of flux and crisis the world is in. The global pandemic has taken many lives and was the greatest threat to global health in more than a century – with devastating consequences on lives and livelihoods. It led to a global economic recession, uncertainty and irreversible change. It brought home the interconnectedness of all countries and people and may change the way economies operate.
Just as the world was beginning to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war has triggered uncertainty about the recovery of the global economy. The war is having an outsized impact on the global supply chain, impeding the flow of goods, fueling dramatic cost increases and product shortages, and is threatening the supply of key food resources like wheat – raising the possibility of global famine.
South Africa is plagued by multiple challenges including the damaging consequences of the pandemic, eroding trust in the political system, corruption, poverty, inequality, a lack of social cohesion, poor service delivery, the weakening capacity of the state to improve the lives of the citizens – in fact too many to mention. This together with a lack of social cohesion, the relentless pursuit of narrow self-interest and the erosion of the value of common good conduct could, if not adequately addressed, have devasting consequences for South Africa.
It is important to remember that it is not the first time that the world is facing turbulence, uncertainty, wars, famine and corrupt rulers and recognising that ultimately God prevails – that all of our help cometh from the Lord. Be reminded of Lamentations 3: 22 -24, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”
On 5 April 2022, we celebrated our church’s 26th anniversary of the historic day on 5 April 1996, when Dr Isak Burger and Pastor Frank Chikane, prompted by the Holy Spirit took to the stage in the presence of many and on live television. A historic reconciliation between our racially divided church was witnessed. On 3 April 1996, the AFM of SA achieved structural unity when the joint Workers Council overwhelmingly adopted a new constitution and elected National Office Bearers for the united AFM. We are not yet what we ought to be, but we are no longer what we used to be – to God be the glory.
During January 2022, the newly elected National Office Bearers considered the strategic positioning and impact of the AFM in South Africa as we endeavour to inspire and mobilise our whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world and in particular to our country. We firmly believe that the Spirit of God is given to believers to live dynamic and overcoming lives and that believers can demonstrate the character, love and power of their Lord, Jesus Christ, in their daily lives. In March 2022, after prayer and reflection, the National Leadership Forum (NLF) approved the Strategic Missional Focus Areas developed by the National Office Bearers to respond to the challenges of our time. The Strategic Plans were approved during the July 2022 NLF meeting to realise our desire to saturate our communities with the presence of God and the principles of His Kingdom – to be the salt and the light of the world.
“The National Office Bearers pray that you will experience hope and great joy as we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ our Saviour.”
Luke 2: 9-14
“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
It seems to me that the retail world, especially in the shopping malls in the bigger towns and cities, as well as electronic media, are displaying Christmas decorations and promotions earlier and earlier each year. There seems to be no end to the commercialization of one of the key events of the Christian life and calendar. We are again entering this so-called “silly season” where many people are buying gifts for their children and loved ones – gifts they actually cannot afford and often do not really need. I urge you not to fall into the trap of the commercialization of the birth of Jesus and the idea that gifts are mandatory and must be big and expensive.
“Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour and should be celebrated as such.”
Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour and should be celebrated as such. There is some controversy around the origins and date of Christmas festivities. However, it is one of the cultural occurrences that Christians sanctified and use to celebrate the birth of Jesus – confirming our faith. If gifts are involved, they should serve as reminders of the greatest gift of all: Salvation through the birth, life and death of Jesus.
I wish all our members, Assembly Leaders, Pastors, Regional- and Departmental leadership, and Committees as well as all NLF members, a blessed and peaceful celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. May you experience pleasant times of togetherness with family and loved ones, and may 2023 be a year of new growth and fruitfulness for us all.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a son is given: And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” Isaiah 9:6-7a (NKJV)