I honestly cannot believe it’s Thursday already. This is the first time we’ve had internet access since Saturday.
For the past 3 days (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday), we have been meeting with about a dozen pastors and leaders from some of the most influential churches in South Africa. They were intrigued about our Innovative Church Network. So, we led and trained them on our experience, what we’ve learned, and also had a chance to dialogue about leadership and the future of the church.
It was truly a remarkable experience. They flew in from as far as 800 miles away to be here with Hank, Jeff, Mike, Mark and me. Most were senior pastors of churches. All of them are passionate about reaching unchurched, non-christian people. Their churches are that way because these guys have that heart and passion. Most were educated, well read, and relatively well resourced (for South Africa). They were the sharpest minds and most passionate about The Church.
We talked about ICN a lot, but it only took a few minutes for the S.A. pastors to see the value of coming together, and why it would make them more effective. So, after half a day of introductions, I told the story of ICN, Jeff shared about a typical monthly meeting format, etc. And then, on Tuesday morning, I led a case study I had developed that was pretty effective, and received a good bit of affirmation at the end of our 3 days when each person shared about their take-aways.
Some of these pastors are people with whom I could be good friends. They told stories that broke my heart. ‘Apartheid’ is basically South Africa’s version of ‘separate but equal’. Of course, both are simply racism with a thin veil over them. But Apartheid only ended in the 90’s here. So, they are still trying to figure out what it means to have racial and cultural equality.
And cultural is a key word. There are 11 different languages spoken here, and it is much more culturally diverse than where we live (at least in Virginia, but I think in the States altogether). So, figuring out what it means to be culturally equal is as important as working through issues of color. Some of the pastors said things like, “White people (they call them ‘whities’ and it’s not a derogatory term) are used to being in charge. We don’t know how to be a minority.” There were black and white men at the table, and there was a genuine spirit of love and mutual respect. There was a huge chasm in terms of economics, too. But there was also a great passion for unity. God is working here in South Africa.
At the end, one of the pastors said, “I feel the freedom for the first time in my life to take my church and just go for it! You have inspired me to do that.”
Another said, “These three days have been a blessing for me – not because of what I take away, but because of what I’ve been able to leave: my struggle and my pain.” Wow.
Another one sends you a message: “You can go back to your churches and say that you’ve been a great blessing to us!”
I’m missing PCC and my family. Susan and I are so grateful to Mary Ashleigh and our parents and some of you, our friends, who have cared for our family while we’ve been gone. It’s been the trip of a lifetime!
Looking forward to coming home. Thanks for continuing to pray for us. I’ll blog again when I can.
Love to all of you.