The Story of the (Dis)unity of the Church October 2016
The Story of the (Dis)unity of the Church
Chapter 1 The Origins of Church Unity and Disunity
Chapter 2 Persecution as an Ingredient of a Divine spiritual Recipe
Chapter 3 Jews First!
Chapter 4 Internal Division as Demonic Strategy
Chapter 5 Some special Gospel Tools towards Unity
Chapter 6 Honour for the Despised
Chapter 7 Obstacles to Unity
Chapter 8 Antidotes to Disunity
Chapter 9 The Word unites the true Church
Chapter 10 Uniting Dynamite
Chapter 11 False Alternatives
Chapter 12 Two special Fore-runners of Church Unity
Chapter 13 The Herrnhut Moravians in Church Unity Endeavours
Chapter 14 Evolving International Prayer for Unity
Chapter 15 Unifying Movements and Events
Chapter 16 Fighting Discrimination against People
Chapter 17 Prayer erupts in different Places
Chapter 18 The Road to the Global Day of Prayer
Chapter 19 Challenges at the Cape in Recent Years
Appendix: Some Autobiographical Background
To unite people in any situation is as much part of the nature of God as is the opposite, namely that satan always wants to divide and destroy.
One of the most difficult ‘pennies to drop’ in Church circles seems to be the fact that Christians would not only recognize but also get serious about utilizing the tremendous power which there is in the unity of the body of Christ. (I endeavour to write ‘church’ with a capital C throughout when I refer to the body of Christ and not to a local fellowship or church as an institution.) Why is it so difficult for followers of Jesus to unite in prayer and action? This is the case in spite of the history of the Church that was birthed on that memorable Pentecost in Jerusalem, after the 120 believers had been united in prayer in the upper room! The Holy Spirit joined the hearts together in love, which attracted people in their thousands.
I still have to meet a pastor, any Christian for that matter, who does not agree that unity with believers with other spiritual persuasions is quite important. Why then is it so difficult to implement this? Why is it so difficult to get believers to come together for prayers outside the confines of their own comfort zone? What is the possible cause of this malaise?
In the history of revivals united prayer can be discerned as a common denominator. It sometimes occurred after a season of serious strife and subsequent reconciliation, e.g. in the run-up to the momentous revival in Saxony’s Herrnhut on 13 August 1727.
One of the major issues is that the Church has not honoured its Jewish roots although Jesus was a Jew. For many centuries this fact was not even generally known. In respect of the ‘Old Testament’, Christians have been misled, to regard the Hebrew Scriptures as inferior and viewing the ‘NT’ as superior! The Bible is a unit. The Hebrew Scriptures and ‘NT’ belong together, even though possibly well over 90% of sermons in churches are still taken from the ‘NT’.
In the history of revivals united prayer can be discerned as a common denominator. It sometimes occurred after a season of serious strife and subsequent reconciliation, e.g. in the run-up to the momentous revival in Saxony’s Herrnhut on 13 August 1727.
One of the major issues is that the Church has not honoured its Jewish roots although Jesus was a Jew. For many centuries this fact was not even generally known. In respect of the ‘Old Testament’, Christians have been misled - to regard the Hebrew Scriptures as inferior and viewing the ‘NT’ as superior! Furthermore, I propose in this discourse that serious consideration be given to ‘Jews first…’ (Romans 1:16). I believe that a prominent place of honour and respect needs to be given to Israel and the Jews’. Treating them with respect and repentance in respect of the bad record of the Church, the ‘apple’ of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8) may go a long way in unifying the Body of Christ. This may just turn out to be a strategic step to expedite the spread of the Gospel to the remaining unreached people groups, ultimately ushering in the return of our Lord!
The Church world-wide will possibly only really come into its own if the unity of the Body of Christ in all its diversity is restored across all man-made barriers. Ephesians 3 and 4 give us an extraordinary glimpse of the universal Body of Christ, the whole family in heaven and earth (3:14), rational beings in earth or heaven united under one common fatherhood. Paul prayed for the believers – together with all the saints - to be empowered by the four-dimensional love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-19). In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul gives us powerful practical tips to implement unity in our walk with the Lord and in general interaction with other believers.
We would like to remind believers that the Bible teaches us that foreigners and folk at the lowest side of our social spectrum could be a great blessing to any nation if given the opportunity to do so.
On a personal note, I included in the appendix how I was impacted already as a teenager to give the unity of the Body of Christ a high priority. I highlighted there also how I was encouraged by a multi-racial group of believers from different denominations in Stellenbosch in 1981. I was not a good learner however in this regard. Instead of recognizing that unless the Lord builds the house, I would toil in vain (adapted from Psalm 127:2). All too often I laboured much too hard in attempts to forge some semblance of unity among believers locally or regionally.
Cape Town, October 2016
Chapter 1 The Origins of Church Unity and Disunity
The unity of the body of true believers has been attacked already from Creation. Taking the relevant Scripture in Genesis 3 on face value, without debating whether it is mythical or not, we note that the arch enemy - called in Scripture a murderer from the beginning, a father of lies and one whose native language is lying (John 8:44) – has been causing estrangement already in the Garden of Eden. He brought a rupture in the relationship between man and his Maker, between the first human beings. Friction between man and nature was caused simultaneously. God's original plan for the creation of man was intimate relationship - communion of mankind with nature! Satan, the deceiver, the liar and diabolos (separator), robbed humanity in this way.
From a Christian point of view the Creator's reply to this onslaught was redemption. The Bible explains redemption by using pictures or models such as how God freed the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. The Almighty thus became their redeemer. This exodus event was however only a forerunner of the great redemption still to come. Universally mankind needed redemption as well. The 'salvation' of the small nation of Israel was a demonstration of God's loving nature and care for man. What the arch enemy had stolen – sweet intimate communion with the Almighty - had to be redeemed.
Redemption has been defined as 'to recover possession or ownership'. To do this, God became flesh, coming to the earth in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ, who reconciled the World with himself (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus shed His precious blood to deliver mankind from the bondage of sin.
Pleading with the Corinthian believers to be reconciled to God, Paul, the missionary apostle and author of this statement, challenges followers of Jesus to consciously step into this tradition. As God’s ambassadors, we are requested to invite men and women everywhere to get reconciled to God. In the extension of this, every believer in Jesus Christ is invited to be or to become an agent of reconciliation, consciously also addressing all visible and perceived rifts. On the basis of the Calvary event, where Jesus died for our sins, the 'dividing wall of hostility' between Jew and Gentile has been broken down (Ephesians 2:14). The Church is challenged to be a conduit and instrument for the breaking down of man-made and demonically inspired barriers.
The Church has not fulfilled its biblical Role
The Church has unhappily not fulfilled its biblical role in this regard. All too often people from the ranks of churches did the opposite, causing rifts and separating themselves. Some Christians have consciously chosen to be partisan or biased, even in cases where the biblical message is clear enough. One of the most striking but tragic examples in this regard is the situation in the Middle East. Church leaders should be agents of reconciliation. Instead, some of them had been calling Israel fallaciously an apartheid state and others supported the Jewish nation to the hilt uncritically, as if Israelis never make a mistake.
The Bible teaches that a special blessing was given to both sons of Abraham separately. If there had been some rift between Isaac and Ishmael – which would have been natural after all that had transpired with Hagar and her son, this was probably amicably resolved in their life-time. At the funeral of Abraham both sons buried their father together (Genesis 25:9) - reconciled to all intents and purposes. The notion that the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael have been eternal enemies has only a very limited biblical basis. Instead of being an agent of reconciliation, e.g. by bringing together Jews and Muslims who got reconciled through common faith in Jesus and working with followers of Jesus Christ from those backgrounds, Church leaders have all too often jumped on the bandwagon of taking sides in the age-old tussle of Israel and ‘Palestine’.
Unity does not imply Uniformity
However, unity does not imply uniformity. Unity in diversity, one-ness through our faith in Jesus Christ demonstrates to the spiritual powers in the heavenlies ‘the manifold wisdom of God’ (Ephesians 3:10). William Barclay (New Testament Words, 1973:234) noted that the original Greek word for the adjective describing the divine wisdom, poikilos (meaning literally multi-coloured), 'describes anything which is intricate or complex.' The next verses and the following chapters of Ephesians give us an extraordinary glimpse of the universal Body of Christ, the whole family in heaven and earth (3:14) as Paul prayed for the believers – together with all the saints - to be empowered by the four-dimensional love of Christ (3:14-19). In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul gives us powerful practical tips to implement unity in our walk with the Lord and in general interaction with other believers.
In the honeymoon days of the Church following the memorable Pentecost in Jerusalem described in Acts 2, the believers shared their lives with each other in harmony and unity. The fruit of Psalm 133 was visible, not only How good and how pleasant it is, but it was also evident that God commanded his blessing. Thousands were added to the Church that was truly on fire! Many of the new believers took the Gospel with them to the nations and places from where they had come. At this stage they were all from Jewish stock, Jews and proselytes from far and wide, having come from all directions to Jerusalem.
We may take for granted that the bulk of them returned in all directions to places like Rome in Italy and Libya in Africa, as all pilgrims did. They took the story of Pentecost along and what they had experienced, probably very much ablaze and with excitement.
Normality and Carnality returned
In Jerusalem there were not only wonders. In fact, normality and carnality returned. There was however soon enough also the exposure of the ‘white lie’ of Ananias and Sapphira to deceive the Church and its leaders. To the normality also belonged the opposition of the religious leaders which included the imprisonment of John and Peter. But even this did not stop the spreading of the Gospel. In fact, after the beatings they had received at their discharge, the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name’ (Acts 5;41).
An unfortunate aspect of normality returned to the Church life there in Jerusalem, viz. discord and factionalism. The Greek contingent complained that their widows were being discriminated against (Acts 6)! The pristine Church learned through this event how to deal with discrimination and complaints. The leaders addressed the problem with explosive dynamite potential full on. They balanced necessary services and duties in the church with the gifts among them present. A problem is solved by discussing matters and putting structures in place that can lead to growth - without reduction of essential matters like the teaching of the Word. Seven spirit-filled deacons were chosen, including the one or other from Greek stock.
Stephen, one of the seven deacons, ‘a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.’ The arch enemy could never remain dormant to see someone with those gifts operating in full flow. How could he allow the Church to just grow and grow? The heat was turned on!
The arch fiend used religious leaders to stop the expansion of the Gospel as he did in the days when the Master himself was still around. ‘Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Libertinians (as it was called) — Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia — who began to argue with Stephen. Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’
We should not be surprised when opposition comes from a certain corner of the religious establishment. So-called Free thinkers (Libertinians) have been agents of the arch enemy to oppose the Gospel from the earliest days of the Church, often distorting the truth and inciting rank and file people! ‘So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
The heat was turned on more and more until Stephen became the first martyr of the Church – stoned to death. An adage was born, namely that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’ North Africans from Alexandria and Cyrene were part of the ‘Synagogue of the Libertinians’. Yet, it gives some consolation that it was someone from our continent, Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD, who coined the profound dictum.
Chapter 2 Persecution as an Ingredient of a Divine spiritual Recipe
Chapter 8 of the Bible book called The Acts of the Apostles starts rather ominously: ‘And Saul approved of their killing him (Stephen). The death of Stephen was the starting shot of satan’s renewed vicious attack on the Church. ‘On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria... Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.’
This however had the opposite effect to what Saul and the religious leaders intended because ‘those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.’
Saul caused carnage, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples/ He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1ff).
Persecution became an ingredient of the divine recipe for the spreading of the Gospel. The seed of the martyr Stephen started to germinate. Saul, the wicked persecutor of the Church, was not only supernaturally arrested but soon also powerfully converted. In due course he would become the prime missionary of the fledgling Church.
Some of the thousands that had been in Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebration – those from further afield might have been there already since Passover and its run-up just over seven weeks earlier - returned home, taking the Gospel with them.
The persecution gave wings to the dissemination of the Gospel. Philip, another dynamic personality among the seven deacons of Acts 6, bore a Greek name and may have spoken Greek. Philip possibly functioned as a link to the Greek community. He operated powerfully as an evangelist in Samaria where a revival was soon blazing. Rather suddenly, possibly supernaturally, he was taken to Gaza. When the Holy Spirit nudged him to run, in order to catch up with the treasurer of Queen Candice’s Ethiopia – he obeyed immediately to be at the perfect place and on the spot to disciple the eunuch from the words of Isaiah 53. Joyfully the new believer from East Africa took the Gospel with him, to be followed in due course by Mark in Alexandria in Egypt. The fiery believers from Baghdad, Babylon, Nineveh and other Assyrian fellowships had emissaries in places as far as India and North West China by 61 AD.
In Antioch (Syria) the believers, who hailed from different nations and races, formed a dynamic congregation with the Cypriot Barnabas and North Africans as a significant part of the leadership (Acts 13). The Samaritans and the Assyrians, the ancestors of many Muslims, were possibly part and parcel of the teams spreading the Gospel from places in Assyria - the present-day Syria, Iraq and parts of Turkey - together with Jews. Thomas and Peter (1 Peter 5:13) were probably at the helm of the churches that took the Gospel to India and further afield.
This phenomenal outreach was hardly discerned, let alone acclaimed in (Western) Church History. The Assyrian-Nestorian Church, that soon had its centre in Baghdad, stemmed from believers who returned to Asia after the first Pentecost. John Stewart suggests that Jewish believers, of whom many ancestors had once been exiled to the rivers of Babylon, took the Gospel to Central Asia, for example to the Uyghur people of North West China by 61 AD. Was it merely politically inexpedient to highlight that the ancestors of Jewish Christians and Muslims worked together to spread the Gospel? Or was the arch deceiver perhaps behind this move?
Some ancestors of the Uyghur, a Muslim tribe that is still regarded as unreached in respect of the Gospel, could thus have been among the first century followers of Jesus.
The Gospel Seed germinates
Christianity did not recognize the deities and guardians of Rome. This was regarded not only as an attack on public order and the pillars of Roman tradition, but as atheism to the vast majority. To most people of that age, Christianity blasphemed their gods – which they regarded as the protectors of homes, temples, and cities. Jews were known to be even more meticulous in their rejection of all idolatry.
Tertullian, a North African Berber Church Father from Carthage, was dubbed ‘a master of the art of how to turn the tables’ (Thiede, Jesus: Life or Legend (1990:117). Tertullian referred pertinently to the sadder part of early Christianity, describing how Christians were hated, persecuted and martyred. They responded with a message of kindness and neighbourly love.
The blood of the Martyrs during the first centuries indeed turned out to be the seed of the Church. Christians had fought hard for the right to practice their religion in peace. Although there were some persecutions in the first centuries AD, the worst persecutions against Christians occurred in the third century under emperors Decius, Valerian, Diocletian and Galerius. The persecution under first century Emperor Nero is well known. However, the persecution of Christians in the first two centuries does not come near to the scope or ruthlessness of that of the third century.
When Emperors like Nero ‘merely’ expected Christians to pay homage annually to the Caesar, offering them the liberty to have their Jesus recognised as a god parallel to that expression of respect, the Christians refused! They preferred to die for their faith that he is the divine Son of God. Polycarp of Smyrna, a disciple of John, the apostle, was martyred in 160 AD, testifying to his faith in the presence of his executioners. That was the sort of pristine seed of the Church, which also moved Justin, born in Palestine and later carrying the name Martyr, dying in similar fashion in 165 AD.
Martyrdom of recent Decades
In recent decades the martyrdom of Philip James "Jim" Elliot (1927 –1956) became well known. He was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. His journal entry for October 28, 1949, expresses his belief that work dedicated to Jesus was more important than his life (compare Luke 9:24 in the Bible). "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
South Africa joined this elite club briefly in the pre-democratic era. The killing and maiming of believers of the St James Anglican Church of Kenilworth by terrorists in July 1993 were not only followed by explosive growth of the fellowship itself, but also by a wave of unprecedented countrywide prayer which helped to usher in the miracle elections of 27 April 1994.
Another spectacular example of the Tertullian adage took place in a North African village in the 1980s where God ‘sovereignly descended upon this coastal township with gracious bounty... He did not rest till every member of the Muslim community was properly introduced to His only begotten Son, Jesus’ (Otis, The Last of the Giants:, 1991:157). A massive conversion involving some 400 to 450 villagers ensued. Stunned by this special divine visitation, mission workers sought for the reason. They discovered that this took place at the site where Raymond Lull, a Spanish missionary from Mallorca, had been stoned to death in June 1315. Lull wrote in his book The tree of Love, that Islamic strongholds are best conquered by ‘love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood’ (Cited in Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, 2004:58).
Subsequently, thousands have been coming to faith in Jesus in Algeria. In 2006 the Algerian government promulgated a law that prohibited evangelism of any kind and commanded several churches to close down. The churches refused to obey the government stating, “You had better build more prisons because we are not going to do what you are commanding.” Since 2006, because of the persecution of Christians, the Church there has grown faster than before and the Algerian government came to understand that they will never be able to stamp out the Church.
The Church in China grew phenomenally as a result of the persecution under Communist Chairman Mao Zedong. In a similar way the Ayatollah Khomeini can be titled the best ‘evangelist’ in Iran’s history. Of the first 150 Somalian believers only a few survived.
The Denial of the Cross in Church Tradition
Various aspects of the application of the Cross - for example the crucified life of believers - were cancelled by church traditions. The evasion of persecution because of one’s faith would be among the most important ones. Paul reprimanded the Galatian Christians. Some of them tried to lure new believers, by avoiding persecution and compelling new believers to be circumcised (Galatians 6:12).
In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Donatists of North Africa despised Christians who had wilted under the pressures of persecution. The Donatists were the followers of Donatus and those Christian theologians who made suffering for Jesus' sake and for the cause of the Gospel such a virtue that nobody who had wilted once under persecution was allowed to take an office in the Church.
Nik Ripkin, a former missionary in East Africa among Somalians, as well as our fellow South Africans Mike Burnard and Keith Strugnell, are Western missionary leaders who have been used by God to teach the Church in recent times about the normality of suffering for the sake of the Gospel. They have been highlighting how followers of Jesus in Communist and Islamic countries have often had to pay the ultimate price for their convictions.
The name Salah Farah got known in news bulletins in many parts of the world in December, 2015. He was a passenger on a bus from Mandera to Nairobi. He was celebrated in the news reports as a Muslim who saved a group of Christians from being massacred by Al Shabaab terrorists who hijacked the bus. The terrorists wanted to separate the Christians from the Muslims to slaughter the Christians, but Salah told the passengers to stick together so that such a separation would not result in death for a single group of passengers. Through this courageous gesture he attempted to shield the Christians. Together with a few of the passengers Salah was caught in the crossfire. On 17 January he died tragically as a result of his injuries. It subsequently surfaced that he had actually been a secret Christian believer. Bursa, a fellow passenger, who listened to his discovery of the belief in Jesus as the Son of God and how he got to it via the book God’s Apprentice, subsequently also became a follower of Jesus. But also he was murdered. The seed of the martyrs started to germinate among Somalians around the world.
It is now Somalia’s day; yesterday it was that for Iran! A Somalian MBB couple in the West have started teaching the new believers every Thursday via Skype. In a bulletin of March 2016 the couple wrote that around 25 people join them every week. We are very much aware that the devil does not appreciate the way that the Kingdom of God is gaining ground among the Somalis. Persecution is very severe, notably in East Africa.
Satan had to come up with something else to stop the conversion of Somalians. He drew some of his prime weapons from his arsenal, lies and deception, competition and rivalry!
Chapter 3 Jews First!
For centuries a scriptural exposition of Romans 1:16, that argues for a ‘missional priority’ for Jewish evangelism, has been almost non-existent. Evangelical Christianity has been using the first part of the verse quite a lot. That the Gospel is a ‘power of God that brings salvation’ has been emphasized in evangelism and quoted in sermons. In many a Sunday School children memorized ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes…’ That the verse proceeds with the words ‘to the Jew first, and also to the Greek’, remained fairly unknown.
It can be argued that Messianic Jewry only really came to the fore in 1973 when an organization was founded in Los Angeles by Moishe Rosen (April 12, 1932 – May 19, 2010) that became known – in Jewish circles notoriously – as Jews for Jesus. Mitch Glaser, his Jews for Jesus colleague, brought the message of Jews first in his Covenant Seminary lecture in 1984 trenchantly, giving it the title ‘To the Jew first: the starting Point for the Great Commission’. Another Messianic Jew, David Stern published the Messianic Jewish Manifesto on the 40th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel on April 21, 1948. Rosen repeated this message forcefully on the global stage at the Lausanne movement event in Manila the following year. However, the penny still did not drop. Outreach to Jews (and Muslims) remained the Cinderella of all missionary work.
On the fringes of mainstream Christianity groups like Messianic Testimony and Messiah’s People prodded on patiently and perseveringly, attempting to reach out lovingly to Jews, but seeing only very little fruit. Francis and Edith Schaeffer broke away from the traditional ministry as Presbyterian missionaries to start the l’Abri community in Switzerland. In her book Christianity is Jewish (1977) Edith (the wife of L'Abri founder, Francis Schaeffer), targeted a Jewish audience in the text of this fascinating work. Exploring the historical and spiritual significance of the Jewish race, this treatment presents the Bible as a unified document in which God has progressively unfolded the plan of salvation.
Concentration on the Jews
With regard to missionary strategy we note that Jesus concentrated on Israel and the Jews. Although the Lord praised the faith of the Gentile Roman centurion of Matthew 8:10 (‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith’), the Lord also inferred in His reaction to the request of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21f) where He saw the priority in His healing ministry: ‘Let the children first be fed, since it isn't good to take bread out of children's mouths and throw it to the dogs!’ In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus constantly refers to His ministry as fulfilment of prophecy. It seems that our Lord’s concentration on the Jews has hardly been taken seriously by theologians and the Church at large.
It is not clear why Jesus instructed the twelve disciples to stick to the house of Israel in Matthew 10:5f, omitting this specific instruction to the seventy (Matthew 11:20-24). Or is here already the expansion and spread of the Gospel - ultimately to the ends of the earth - implied? It is however very clear that Jesus concentrated on the Jews in his ministry.
Paul followed Him in this, by always starting his visits in a new town or city in the synagogue. This could be a pointer to our careful and sensitive use of the Hebrew Scriptures in interaction with Jews. Jesus quoted from the Scriptures time and again. A deduction from our Lord’s last commission could be that the spreading of the Gospel should start in Jerusalem, in the case of the Jews among the Jewry (Acts 1:8, also Luke 24:47), and spread from there to the ends of the earth. This may however not be interpreted in absolute terms, i.e. that evangelistic outreach should occur in a concentric or spiraling way from one’s home town or city. Conceding that some believers got a heart for missions on short term outreach, it nevertheless puts a question mark however to a practice whereby Christians who are eager to engage in missionary outreach far from home make no effort to reach out lovingly with the Gospel to their neighbours and in their home town.
It could be argued that our Lord’s involvement with the Jews was not missionary, not border-crossing at all; that He concentrated on his home culture. The first disciples initially appeared very reluctant to obey the Great Commission, remaining in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). Right from his very first public appearance in Nazareth, Jesus however showed the way to the acceptance of the other nations and the mission to them. In fact, this may have been one of the main reasons why the Nazareth congregation rejected Him (Luke 4:29).
The Gospel to the Jews first
Instead of recognizing the need to minister humbly and respectfully to the ‘apple’ of God's eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8), the Church in general neglected the loving and compassionate outreach to Jews completely. Starting with Justin Martyr in the second century, their rejection was emphasized, overlooking that Paul clearly taught that the so-called rejection was merely temporarily, that in the completion of God's perfect timing '...all Israel will be saved' (Romans 11:26; Jeremiah 31:1).
A few individuals down the centuries did stress the special eschatological role of the Jews, and the need of the Church to provoke them in a loving and positive way to fulfil their prophetic destiny. Not surprisingly, Count Zinzendorf was prominent in this regard.
Paul practised what he preached, including the notion that the Gospel should be brought to the Jews, his nation, first. That Paul fought for the right to bring the Good News also to the Gentiles, perhaps clouds this sense of priority to some extent. Paul advised in Romans 11:25 that the Gentiles should not be conceited, reminding the Roman followers of Jesus from Gentile stock that they are merely branches that had been grafted into the true olive, Israel.
A Choice between Jews and Muslims?
A notion has been circling in some Christian circles that if one wants to reach out lovingly to people from the two other Abrahamic religions, then one has to make a choice between Jews and Muslims; that one should either support the Palestinians or the Jews in Israel! That Christians could have a reconciling role to play, does not feature in such thinking. Some Christians are even surprised to hear that the sons of Abraham buried him together (Genesis 25:9). We stress that the widely accepted notion - that the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael have been eternal enemies - has hardly any biblical basis. We regret that many a Church leader have all too often compounded the age-old problem of Israel and Palestine in an unreconciling way, instead of being an agent of reconciliation. While I concede that this is very personal and subjective, I contend that a good base for bringing together Jews and Muslims is when we include those from their ranks who got reconciled with God through faith in the atoning work of His Son. And yet, there are no quick fixes in such reconciliation. A lot of patient waiting on the Lord in prayer is required. Ultimately only God can really change hearts, prejudices and fixed mind-sets. Some dialogue would be perfectly in place, but cheap proselytism is outlawed in this field of outreach.
The Issue of Jews and Race
The issue of Jews and race was terribly abused by Adolph Hitler. It was and is essentially a spiritual issue, not a racial one. Only the twelve tribes stemming from the patriarch Isaac via Jacob are counted in the Bible as ‘proper’ Israelites. Thus one finds the Midianites mentioned as Ishmaelites (Judges 8:24, Genesis 37:28), although Midian was a son of Abraham with Ketura, not a son of Ishmael. Ishmaelite traders helped saving Joseph from certain death when they bought (Genesis 37:28) and sold him as a slave to Potiphar. Furthermore, Zipporah, the first wife of Moses, was the daughter of Reuel or Jethro, a Midianite priest (Exodus 2:21). To all intents and purposes Moses seems to have had a good relationship to his father-in-law, possibly also learning a thing or two from him. Later he readily accepted advice from Jethro to delegate his responsibility.
Three female ancestors of King David, namely Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth, did not stem from one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Genesis 25:18 e.g. refers to hostility of Ishmael's sons to their brothers. However, Isaiah 60:7 mentions Ishmael's two eldest sons positively in a Messianic prophetic context. I propose that we should take that as our cue rather than the negative tradition of strife and enmity.
Major Problems of Judaism and Islam
The above does however not address the major problems of Judaism and Islam, viz. to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus and to accept Him to be regarded as the Son of God. Basically only the Holy Spirit can illuminate to adherents of these religions the loving Father-heart of God. If we practise sensitivity in our dealings with the followers of Judaism and Islam, the Lord could use a loving approach to weaken or even remove some of their prejudice against ‘offensive’ Christian doctrine. To some of them it is only a matter of (mis)understanding. (Many Muslims e.g. still have a literal comprehension of Jesus as the physical son of God.) The sharpness of any hostility could be reduced or even removed by pointing out for instance that the words ‘only begotten’ Son comes from the Greek monogenos. This word is more accurately translated in the context of John 3 as the unique Son. A parallel is found in Genesis 22:1 where Isaac was to be sacrificed as such - a unique son. Furthermore, the use of son as a metaphor - in this case for the divine character of Jesus - is not completely unknown. 'Son of the Road' and similar expressions are well known in the Orient. Along the same lines a loving non-confrontational approach could assist to open up Jews (and Muslims) to discover why Yeshuah is indeed Ha Mashiach, the Messiah.
The Church universal needs the Jews
The Church universal needs the Jews for a proper understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. In recent decades Messianic Jews have helped tremendously in this regard. Because of the guilt of the Church down the centuries, other Jews had no interest to point to the links to Yeshuah Ha Maschiach. No wonder that it has remained a ‘hidden secret’ for a long time that the words of our Lord in the Bible book of Revelation that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, are of course also the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet has quite a few forerunners in the Hebrew Scriptures. Various explanations have been given for the combination of aleph and tav as the Hebrew equivalent. An example of how Yeshuah Ha Maschiach occurs fairy clearly – without any need for allegorical explanations – is Zechariah 12:10 ‘They will see him, אּתּ (the alef tav, the alpha and the omega), whom they have pierced…’
Chapter 4 Internal Division as Demonic Strategy
Lying and its accomplice dishonesty are main contributors to disunity, also in the Church. Throughout history people have always been used as vehicles to create and bring division. Scriptures show us that throughout the early Church leaders had to address this. James, the apostle, attacks this spirit in his epistle, stating that if people have fierce desires to promote their own ideas, if they have a spirit of competition and rivalry, if they create division — then their minds and emotions have come under the influence of demonic activity. In the context he supplies also some remedies, viz. to resist the devil and submit to God (James 4:1-8). Satan often succeeds to add misunderstanding and inappropriate ambition to the mixture. In the Garden of Eden the arch enemy tempted the first human beings by the wish to be like God.
Competition and rivalry among the disciples was very much around when the Master was still with them. The arch enemy attempted to cause division among the disciples of Jesus through unhealthy rivalry. James and John, two brothers, asked Jesus a question. Thinking that He would set up a kingdom on earth soon, they wanted to sit one on each side of him. James and John wanted power for themselves. It was like a request for an important job in government. The other disciples were very angry. They also wanted these jobs! This was a struggle for power. They asked, 'Who would be greatest?' (See Matthew 18:1-3, Matthew 19:27-30, especially verse 27.)
We must recognize that division is the paramount strategy of satan. He masqueraded as a serpent in the Garden of Eden deceptively with distortion, causing disruption and disunity. Dealing or relating to others from a base of where we want to enforce our opinion, twist things so that we can look better than another person or attempt to win arguments by promoting our selfish agendas all have demonic origins!
Restoration of the Harmony of the human Race
Restoration of the harmony and unity of the human race seems to be part of the Messianic vision that was passed on by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 2 of his book. But also in the here and now God commands his blessing where we live and operate in love and harmony (Psalm 133). The 'New Testament' offers a powerful potential equivalent through the unity of believers in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Jesus regarded the unity of His followers as something of great importance. In the Gospel of John it is recorded that our Lord prayed for all those who would follow Him, to be one (John 17:21). He proceeded to intercede fervently that his followers 'may be brought to complete unity’ (John 17:23).
Networking as the biblical Counterpart of Division
According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the temple was constructed under King Solomon in an interesting model of networking. When Solomon became king, he enlisted the aid of his ally Hiram, the king of Tyre (980-946 BC), in the construction of the Temple. In return for wheat, oil, and wine, Hiram supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress wood, as well as gold. Hiram also sent Solomon artisans and craftsmen to aid him. During Solomon's reign, the Temple was the focal point of all Jewish rituals and pilgrims came from all the tribes of Israel. The worship of Yahweh was thus an important element of unity. It became problematic though when pride got into the mix and the Jews started to despise other nations that worshipped in different ways.
The biblical modus operandi of Church Unity is networking, uniting towards a common goal. One of the best biblical examples of the principle is the building of the Jerusalem wall under the leadership of Nehemiah. Two parallel 'NT' references are the 'networking' of the disciples of Jesus as recorded in Luke 5 and Paul's teaching on unity in Ephesians 3 and 4.
In Luke 5:6ff, Peter and the fishermen colleagues in his boat hauled in a great multitude of fish on the rhema, the word of the Lord. Their net threatened to break when they had the presence of mind to call their colleagues in the other boat to come and assist them. Had they carried on independently, they probably would have lost the catch. When they were ready to drop their independence, the big catch could be brought to the shore. In spite of this obvious lesson in 'networking', the bulk of pastors and churches still carry on building their own little kingdom, prodding on independently!
The words of Jesus just prior to his ascension, respectively recorded in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8, encouraged his disciples – and in extension also us as his followers – to network in the spreading of the Gospel, to make disciples far and wide. This could transpire in a concentric way, by gaining experience locally with the own ‘Jerusalem’, and then moving further and further through barriers of culture, ethnicity and nationality - ultimately even to ‘the ends of the earth’.
In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul referred to different non-competitive functions of leaders and believers. One person plants, another one waters but God gives the growth. Mutual love and respect, along with the acceptance of any differences in gifting and character, should be the bottom line. Thus Paul could put forward the challenge and teaching that the ‘NT’ Church radiates the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).
Jesus reconciled opposing Factions
Even within the close circle of the disciples Jesus had to reconcile opposing factions. We do not understand fully why John always referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. Was this because he was a relative, as it has often been surmised? Or was John pushing himself to the front, like at the last supper? Even after the Lord’s resurrection, the rivalry between him and Peter continued. Thus John, the apostle, made a point of it to report twice that he outstripped Peter in the ‘race’ to the grave (John 20:4 and 8). The few verses which are recorded about the meeting of Jesus with the eleven at Lake Tiberias likewise indicate the mutual dislike of Peter and John clearly enough (Acts 21:20-22). The two could have become bitter rivals for the leadership after the Lord’s ascension.
The Holy Spirit is powerful to reconcile people who would normally be at loggerheads with each other. This was evidently the case with disciples who were vastly different in temperament. In Acts 3:1ff it is reported how the two, John and Peter, operated as a team. This example opposes the abuse of incompatibility as an excuse for separation - to suggest that it is utterly impossible to work together with a certain Christian. If both parties are open to the work of the Holy Spirit, reconciliation would be the eventual result and even teamwork is possible thereafter.
Peter and Paul as Rivals
In obedience to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, Philip had no qualms to speak to a seeking foreigner, an Ethiopian official, about his soul (Acts 8:26ff). But Peter had some difficulties to step down from his pedestal of pride and condescension towards Gentiles. A supernatural element is easily discerned as God used him to reach out to the family of Cornelius, whom the Spirit had already prepared. When Paul detected some hypocrisy with Peter, he criticized him to his face in the presence of others. Jesus did this also in a stinging attack on the religious establishment of his day, as we can read in Matthew 23. If the actions of fellow brothers and sisters confuse young believers, it might thus be necessary to do the unusual thing of reprimanding them publicly.
Amicable Parting of Ways
God can also use an amicable parting of ways - albeit that it is almost always painful - to multiply the evangelistic effort. That Paul and Barnabas parted ways because of the inclusion of John Mark is fairly well known, sometimes used as an example for amicable separation. I suggest that some carnality was involved here – in this case Paul's unforgiving attitude. (One of the very special examples of modern times along these lines was when Brother Andrew had to leave WEC International for health reasons, but pioneering Open Doors later.) All this is part and parcel of God's ‘mysterious ways’. How often He has over-ruled obvious human mistakes. Thus God used a donkey to reprimand Balaam. He can spank us quite well so to speak with a crooked rod.
Unintentional Division of the Body of Christ
Much of the fragmentation of the Body of Christ has been unintentional. The first significant shift developed between Jewish Christians and other strands of first century Jews after James, the leader of the Church in Jerusalem and the brother of Jesus, had been executed by a group of Jews that acted on the instructions of the High Priest Ananus. The stoning of James, with the collaboration of the Sanhedrin and the High Priest, was a bitter pill to those contemporary Jewish and Gentile Christians who still attempted to engage in dialogue with the Synagogue.
On two occasions Paul refers to believers as infants/children in the context of petty bickering and a lack of unity (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; Ephesians 4:13-15). He did not mince his words, calling those believers who hero-worship strong personalities babies in the faith (1 Corinthians 3:1-5). So often Christians quote the latter part of 1 Corinthians 11 in the context of the Lord’s Supper, completely ignoring or forgetting that Paul used those words within the framework of the disunity of the believers at Corinth and the discrimination of some of them (see 1 Corinthians 11:17ff).
The Pattern for doctrinal Bickering
The Samaritan woman of John 4 evidently tried to use the common ancestry subtly to digress, to move the discussion from the uncomfortable exposure of her immoral life-style. Her intention was probably not to use the arch fathers as common ground, but rather to emphasize the difference in the location, hoping perhaps that Jesus would get engaged in a theological argument.
The reference to the local mountain set the pattern for a doctrinal argument. The possibility of a doctrinal quarrel about places of worship highlights an age-old problem. Soon after the apostles and other believers had spread the Gospel far and wide, the humanity of Jesus became a problem to some of those who believed that Jesus was only divine.
Introduction of Greek Thought Patterns
The introduction of Greek thought patterns which divided the Church started probably with Philo (c. 25 BC – c. 50 AD), a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria. Africa has in this respect incurred some historical guilt. It has been suggested that Philo poisoned all theology with Greek thought patterns. He used philosophical allegory in an attempt to fuse and harmonize Greek philosophy with Jewish philosophy. His use of allegorical exegesis was important for several Christian Church Fathers. The one or other however went overboard in the process, making overdrawn claims of how almost everything in the Hebrew Scriptures points to Jesus.
The Church Father Origen (184 -254 AD) was a giant amongst the early Christian thinkers. He tried to interpret Christian concepts in language familiar to the Platonic tradition, 'mingling philosophical discussion with expositions of biblical cruxes' (Chadwick, 1969:100). Possibly unwittingly, he undermined the Hebrew thought pattern in this way. Hebrew thinking is more inclusive, wary of false alternatives. A typical example of Origen's attempt is how he would play down the dissention between Peter and Paul at Antioch, suggesting that is was merely 'edifying play-acting' (Chadwick, 1969:100). In Galatians 2:11 (Amplified version) Paul recorded a different story: ‘Now when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him face to face [about his conduct there], because he stood condemned [by his own actions]. Most notably, however, Origen described the Trinity as a hierarchy, not as an equality of Father, Son, and Spirit. And though he attacked Gnostic beliefs, like them, he rejected the goodness of material creation. In this way he was supportive of Marcion, the arch heretic of their era.
Two opposing Views of God
The Ebionites were a first century Christian Jewish sect with substantial influence. Unfortunately the Ebionite Jewish believers who took the Gospel to the Arabian Peninsula apparently also took with them the theological bickering. The essence of the biblical message, namely the grace of God and the loving Father became completely clouded. The synagogue theologians of the first century AD apparently did not discern that Yahweh is basically a loving parent, a Father who simultaneously displayed motherly characteristics. Somehow the pagan one-sided view of a punishing and aloof God prevailed. A religious variation came via the Greek philosopher Plato and the Saducees. Plato taught that God was unknowable and uninvolved in human affairs. As wealthy Jews the Saducees were educated in Greek Philosophy and possibly derived thoughts and beliefs like these from Plato.
Two almost diametrically opposing views of God developed in the course of time. The first one occurred quite early via Marcion, an intelligent theologian. Although he was quite early regarded as a heretic, Marcion contributed to confusion among the Gentile believers of his era. In his view Yahweh – the supreme deity of the Hebrew Scriptures – was intrinsically evil. Quoting Isaiah 45:7 ‘It is I who send evil, I the Lord does these things’, he opined that Christ came to set mankind free from Yahweh. Thus Marcion highlights how Elisha had children eaten by bears. Jesus, representing a loving God, said ‘little children come unto me’.
In the dark and early Middle Ages the former view - which filtered through to Islam – an unbiblical emphasis on a punishing God prevailed, viz. that he is harsh, unbending and arbitrary.
Noting that Simon Magus (see p.21) and Cerinthus, a first century Christian heretic, who had been trained in the Egyptian education, have been discerned by the leaders of the Early Church as heresiarchs of the first century, Marcion was even more dangerous in the middle of the second century. His ideas were spread very widely geographically. So much of his teaching contributed to replacement teaching, via various heretical avenues later also to Islam.
The humanity of Jesus as an Issue
Learned men argued that if Jesus were God, he could not have become an infant. Cerinthus believed and taught that Jesus was the son of Mary and Joseph, but not by virgin birth. Consequently, Cerinthus argued, Jesus could not display human characteristics. This argument went so far that the Early Church soon ran into trouble about Jesus’ deity. Arius, a 4th century Church elder, deemed it necessary to state clearly that Jesus was made (i.e. created), not supernaturally begotten.
At the end of the third century Arius developed the heresy further, negating that Jesus was of the same substance of God, but not equal to Him. Arius followed Cerinthus in this teaching, which caused much confusion, ripping the heart out of the Gospel. This is a part of the Docetist-Gnostic background of Surah Nisaa (Women) 4:157, which intimates that God took Jesus away before he could die. Arius believed that Jesus was created and that he was not fully God, although more than a man. That doctrine became possibly a part of the origin of the Islamic emphasis that Allâh does not have a son. Arius was logically called by Arnold (1859:5) another precursor of Islamism. He was an excellent communicator, putting his doctrinal ideas into musical jingles, a practice copied centuries later in Islam via an Arabic nursery rhyme that God does not have a son. Chronologically between Cerinthus and Arius there was general consensus in the Church that they would not compromise the divinity of Jesus. When Emperors like Nero ‘merely’ expected them to pay homage annually to the Caesar, offering them the liberty to have their Jesus recognised as a god parallel to that expression of respect, the Christians refused! They preferred to die for their faith that he is the divine Son of God. Polycarp of Smyrna, a disciple of John, the apostle, was martyred in 160 CE, testifying to his faith in the presence of his executioners. That was the sort of pristine seed of the Church, which also moved Justin, born in Palestine and later carrying the name Martyr, dying in similar fashion in 165 CE.
Unity – at what a Cost!
In an attempt to unite the Church that was so divided, Constantine convened a Council at Nicaea in 325 CE under the presidency of Bishop Hosius of Cordovan and Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. For Constantine it was essentially a political exercise. He did not care about the final points of theology as long as it would unify his subjects. He attempted to bring this about through the mandatory day of rest on Sun-day in 321 CE, by having people baptized by force and ceasing the persecution of the followers of Jesus.
The discussion at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE was very heated - and not always to the point. Arius was condemned, but the creed decided upon was a poor compromise, basically an effort to contain the influence of Arius. This creed was however far from unproblematic, including the words begotten from the Father - the only begotten. In due course this was to lead to confusion when Mary was described as theotokos, the bearer of God.
The misunderstanding with his bishop Alexander - who suggested that Arius propagated two gods - set the pattern for doctrinal quarrelling in the Middle East, which continued for centuries thereafter. Islam picked this tenet up, with the Qur’an stressing that Jesus was created divinely - like Adam – by the word ‘Be’ (Surah Imran 3:59). On the other hand, the Qur’an mentions ambivalently in the same context of Surah Imran 3, that Mary gave birth to Jesus as a virgin.
Of course, Jesus had clearly taught ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30). That He displayed human qualities does not make him less divine. In fact, Jesus invited His audience to get a glimpse of the Father by looking at him (John 14:9-11). It should have been clear - even from the oral traditions - that Jesus did things like forgiving sins, which only God can do. Uncovering the sinful life of the Samaritan woman was of course another divine quality - to look right into the inner precincts of the heart of man!
Disunity stifles spiritual Renewal
Disunity often stifles spiritual renewal and biblical revival. We cannot stress it enough: the spirit of separation and disunity is a demonic principality. Disunity wielded in few parts of the world such power as in South Africa. The apartheid practice was only one visible expression of this division. The denominational disunity, rivalry and mutual distrust of churches and pastors are two less visible ones. True unity is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, but if denominational and racial disunity proceed unchecked, a potential spiritual awakening will be given a major setback.
Disunity in the Church and competitiveness must never be regarded as minor flaws, but recognized for what it really is in the light of the Bible: sin! Not for nothing Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would believe in their message (i.e. we, the spiritual off-spring): ...That all of them may be one (John 17:20f) and ‘that they may be brought to complete unity’ (John 17:23).
Through the ages the enemy has succeeded to sow division in churches. The blessing, which God could have used to bring millions to the Cross, has sadly become a curse in many a case.
Chapter 5 Some special Gospel Tools towards Unity
Our Lord had his priorities perfectly in place. From His intimate relationship to his Father His behaviour flowed and followed. A life of commitment to Him, the light, automatically leads to conflict and confrontation with the forces of darkness. Because our Lord is the truth, the tempter - who is the father of the lie (John 8:44) - tried to catch Him out through a distortion of the Word. As the only person who did not die again after having been resurrected, Jesus is the way to eternal life – indeed the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He is the ladder on which angels go up and down, through whom we can have constant communion with the Father (John 1:33 and 50, Genesis 28).
Getting the Priorities Straight
A good example of our Lord’s complete mastery of priorities is given in John 4 where it is reported how a rumour (instigated by Pharisees?) was brought to the Lord that He was baptising more converts than John the Baptist. The motive of those people who came with the rumour is not clear, but the explosive gun-powder contained in the question is quite evident. In verses 1 and 2 of John 4 we discern at least three issues in the rumour which could have drawn a negative response from anybody else. There was the suggested number of people baptized, who performed it and there was the comparison with John the Baptist. Instead of allowing himself to be drawn into a petty, unproductive discussion, our Lord ‘left Judea’. A possible inference that he walked away cowardly, has to be rejected.
The remarkable verse 4 of that chapter squashes any idea that the Master dodged difficult issues: ‘He had to go through Samaria’. If our Lord had been the type of person to circumvent problematic matters, here was a good opportunity. Our Lord faced the issue of the despised Samaritans head-on. Not only did He go to the town of Sychar, but He went to sit next to the cultic explosive well of Jacob. Hardly any Jew of those days would have done a thing like that. That was tantamount to looking for trouble! And thereafter he and his disciples stayed with the Samaritans for two more days.
So many people got side-tracked from the centre of God’s will for their lives. To be at the right place at the right time is all important. Prayer to this effect is a good challenge.
In the enfolding narrative of John 4 Jesus handled confrontation in such a skilful way that the Samaritan woman was completely turned around in the process. When she used religion as a cover-up after the Lord had cornered her on her lifestyle, He challenged her in a respectful way. To this day His reply challenges religious people everywhere: The Father seeks true worshippers... those who worship in Spirit and in truth. It is not so difficult to find Christians in our day and age who adore the act of worship instead of worshipping the complex Almighty God.
Another special lesson of our Lord is how He handled disputes. In almost classical style He could unmask wrong alternatives; more correctly, we should say He often radicalized false alternatives. When the Master was put on trial on the issue of the paying of taxes - when His questioners tried to put Him in a spot of bother - He coolly replied that both God and the Caesar had to get the due of their respective allegiance (Matthew 22:21). When His disciples became involved in petty bickering about rank, He challenged them with service as the qualification for rank: whosoever perceives himself to be the greatest, should be the servant of all (Luke 22:24ff). The servant way, the way of Jesus to emulate is furthermore about the priority of relationships. Proverbs 16:7 offers a special challenge: When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. How our Lord operated cross-culturally in a loving way, should be our model, not shying away from confrontation. The word tolerance has sometimes been abused in this regard. Whilst this is a virtue which should generally be the aim of every believer, we note from our Lord’s example that it is far from absolute. God hates sin but He loves the sinner. In the same context in which Jesus speaks about thieves who rob (John 10), He calls himself the door. Whereas there might be different avenues to get to God, Jesus made it clear to which highway these minor roads should lead to: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes unto the Father but by me’ (John 14:6). This might sound intolerant to some ears. For the Christian this is nevertheless the only way, the only door. It thus becomes a matter of take it or leave it. It would be fruitless to debate about the matter.
Maintaining the Unity
In the spiritual realm unity is so important for the correct functioning of the Body of Christ at every level. But it can never be taken for granted because the arch enemy will always attempt to course disruption of unity. No wonder that Paul pleaded with the Ephesian believers in the prime chapter on unity to “endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:2).
Anger is one of those demonic tools that destroys any semblance of unity. Diversely we are taught to be slow to anger (e.g. Proverbs 14:29, 16:32). Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry’ (James 1:19). We all get angry at one time or another. The Lord was also angry, e.g. when He cleansed the Temple and when he confronted the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders (Mark 3:4-6). The big issue is whether we allow the arch enemy to destroy the unity through our failures in this regard.
Next to maintaining the unity there is also the restoration of it, optimally before the sun sets. Paul is very realistic in this context when he also offers the remedy in handling anger and when we slipped in this regard: ‘Be angry without sinning. Don't let the sun set on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).
Consultation with the Church Leadership
An issue which was forcefully demonstrated in the life of Paul, the apostle, was the relationship to the local church. Paul showed how valuable a healthy relationship to the church leadership can be. Even though God had already revealed it to him previously to bring the Gospel to the heathen nations, Paul did his missionary work in consultation with the church leaders (Galatians 2:2ff). Initially they did not share his vision and views. The result of the consultation was a doubling of the outreach: They reached consensus, agreeing that Peter should concentrate on ministering to Jews while Paul would pioneer the work among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:8). Because he did not do his own thing unilaterally, Paul and Barnabas eventually received the right hand of fellowship from the leadership. Finally the couple were commissioned and sent out by the body, the Church at Antioch (Acts 13:3).
With regard to ongoing consultation with the church leadership, this was part and parcel of life in Herrnhut in East Germany. There the revival of 13 August 1727 led to the flowering of the missionary endeavour of the Moravians; in fact, it was the laborious writing of diaries and reports, which have enabled later generations to get such a good picture of church life there and of Moravian missionary work in general.
The different Parts of the Body
Paul evidently deemed the unity of the body of Christ as of prime importance. He taught not only about the different parts of the body (Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12) but he also wrote ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 4:3). Paul knew that unity is something at which we must work unceasingly. Earnestly he appealed to the bickering believers in Corinth where factions had developed. He reprimanded not only the followers of Apollos and Peter, but also his own fans in the fellowship for hero-worshipping him. God alone must be worshipped because he alone can give growth. The flesh in us loves to get recognition, likes to build the own kingdom. Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church included a moving plea: ‘I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought’ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and 3:1-6). Paul’s plea was obviously an extension of the teaching of the Master himself: ‘If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand’ (Mark 3:24-25).
The Importance of building good Relationships
Paul kept in touch with the churches he had planted with letters of encouragement. But he also had the courage to rebuke them where it was appropriate. He demonstrates in this way the importance of good communication in maintaining good relationships. In our day and age the ease of electronic communication can very easily lead to shallow relationships. It can deteriorate so easily if for instance people only communicate when there is a need of some sort. That is not good enough.
The Special Gifts of Women
The special gifts of women are still by and large not used properly and sufficiently. It is fortunately no big debate generally whether females should be in the pulpit or not. The discrimination of the 'weaker sex' in the Church, the Synagogue and the Mosque has a long sad history. Talmudic Jewish writers entrenched base discrimination against women. This even found its way into the prayer for a Jewish man - thanking God every morning that he was not ‘a Gentile, a slave or a woman.’ In Jewish law a woman became a thing. She had no legal rights whatsoever; she was absolutely in her husband’s possession. He could do with her as he willed. Islam seems to have drawn richly from this sad heritage, an aberration of the creation model. It is sad to have to note that the Church by and large neglected the revolutionary teachings of Jesus and the ‘New Testament’ with regard to women (and youth). Only in the Assyrian (later Nestorian) Church women were treated with exemplary dignity for some length of time. Research in recent decades shows that widows had leadership roles in the first century or so in the Assyrian Church. But in the rest of the Church women were pushed into lesser roles of leadership and responsibility. Tertullian (and later Jerome) verbalised sentiments with regard to women,of which we as Christian men should be ashamed. Women have been silenced in the Church. Expression of regret and remorseful confession by Global Church leaders in this regard is long overdue.
Thumbs down to hierarchical Church Structures
Lording and domineering has been a big problem for new believers in Church structures. In the ‘NT' Church plural non-hierarchical leadership seems to have been the norm. Presbyters and deacons were not regarded as titles but valued and used respectively as a gesture of respectful oversight/honour and a function in serving. Apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists were in Paul's teaching functions as equals in the four- or five-fold ministries. He took for granted that each one in the church received grace (Ephesians 4:7), from which flows one or more of these functions. In his first letter to the Corinthians (14:26) Paul states as a given that in the ekklesia, the Church, each one should edify each other (oikodomeo, build each other up) whenever the believers congregate.
The only permissible 'NT' 'hierarchy' would be to see Jesus Christ as the capstone, the head of the Church. In various ways the image of a building is used in Scripture. In Matthew 16 Jesus himself said that he will build (oikodomeo is the verb) his church. Paul intended to operate like a master builder with Christ as the foundation stone. In another picture the Gentiles and Jews form together God's house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. The cornerstone is Christ himself (Ephesians 2:20), holding together these two functions, the apostolic and the prophetic dimensions.
These two functions have to complement each other with Jesus as the connecting link. To be an apostle means throughout the fulfilling of a function, those sent from the bosom of the church. From here the word missionary was derived (via the Latin missio). The ambassador of Rome is the model of the apostle/missionary. In a similar way every follower of Jesus is an ambassador and emissary/missionary who has to attempt to represent the culture of the Kingdom of God (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Chapter 6 Honour for the Despised
There is a tendency by fellowships in the more affluent parts of our country to look down condescendingly upon township congregations and even more so on to those churches from the refugee communities. I suggest a complete rethink on this, to come in line with Scripture. We have such a lot to learn from those at the bottom end of our social scale.
A tenet that runs through the Bible is that God honours the lowly and despised who put their trust in Him. Jesus and Paul display the nature of God on this issue.
Biblical Misfits used by God
The Hebrew Scriptures are full of examples of how God used despised/rejected people. What distinguished the rejected and despised ones was their availability for God. Joseph was initially rejected by his brothers; Moses was a fugitive and murderer when he was called by God. Gideon. He suffered from a serious inferiority complex, was raised by God to be a deliverer of his people (respectively in Judges 3 and 6).
Eli, the priest, was wise to discern that Samuel could be raised to become a divine tool already as a boy and David, the shepherd boy, was clearly regarded as an outsider of the family at first and overlooked as a potential future king of Israel. God had to teach Samuel in the process not to look at the outer looks and size, that God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:1-12). That David roamed the country, staying in caves and at times living among the enemy with a bunch of rogues, makes him the equivalent of a modern-day gangster. More than once someone from the ranks of the despised and rejected groups - for example a gangster, drug lord or prostitute - was exactly the one God used to make others spiritually hungry, thirsty and inquisitive.
Rahab and Ruth are specially mentioned in the lineage of Jesus, although they were originally a pagan prostitute and a despised Moabite respectively (Matthew 1:5).
Paul refers to his own unimpressive stature and lack of luster in his public speaking (2 Corinthians 10:10). In His divine wisdom God deemed it fit to save those who believed through the preaching of the Cross, that was being regarded in the world as stupidity (1 Corinthians 1:21). Furthermore, Paul also stated clearly not only ‘when I am weak, I am strong’ (2 Corinthians 12:10), but also that the foolishness of the Cross is actually God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18). It looks as if this has generally been forgotten or overlooked. The jet-setting big names are often the eloquent sought after speakers.
Here the Jesus displayed the nature of God. The Lord entered Jerusalem on an inexperienced colt, the foal of a donkey – not on a horse or a camel, the more fancied transport animals of the day. Even today the animal is more known because of its obstinacy and stupidity than in any other way.
Our Lord praised the faith of the centurion who came from the ranks of the oppressing Romans. Groups usually looked down upon are refugees and vagrants. That Jesus was a refugee as a baby and homeless as an adult, should at least give us some food for thought.
A biblical Condition
With the Moabite Ruth, the biblical condition becomes clear: faith in the God of Israel is the criterion. Rahab, the prostitute, is a very special case. She must have had special revelation to declare to the spies: ‘I know that Yahweh has given you the land’ (Joshua 2:8) and in Joshua 2:11 ‘Yahweh, your God is God in heaven above and on the earth’ ... To use scarlet - the dye which was known for colouring flax, was known for its durability, a colour of permanence - was prophetic. A piece of scarlet cloth that turned white on the Day of Atonement gave a similar prophetic message. Centuries later the prophet Isaiah (1:18) would use that image for the divine cleansing and forgiving of sins. No sin is too big for God to forgive!
When Philip interacted with the influential eunuch from Ethiopia, the equivalent of a Finance Minister, this homosexual man was probably the vehicle to bring the Gospel to our continent, next to Mark who evangelized in Alexandria (Egypt) according to oral tradition. (Eunuchs were known to be 'gay', men who could be entrusted to the private chambers of highly ranked females like queens).
It is remarkable that God seems to have a special affinity for young people who are ready to go all out for him. In fact, it has been generally overlooked that Jesus drove out the religious establishment – with animals and all – so that there could be place for despised, for those coming from the nations,the lame, the blind and the children (Matthew 21:14). All too often the religious people need to be driven aside so that God can be worshiped in spirit and in truth.
The Messianic Stone initially rejected
Jesus is described as the capstone in the picture of a dome, that holds the building together. Simultaneously, Jesus is also the Messianic stone that was rejected by the builders. It became the cornerstone of the divine edifice. That the nation of Israel has been rejected – albeit as punishment for their non-recognition of Yeshuah (Jesus) as Messiah – contains some Messianic trait as a precursor variously cited by the Lord himself. This wisdom, appearing first in Psalm 118:22, recurs at Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7. Of course, also the Messianic Isaiah 53:3 speaks about the same thing. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. The Gospel writer John summarised the phenomenon thus: He came to his own people, and even they rejected him (John 1:11).
Followers of Jesus are living stones, a chosen people, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). To be a priest is to be consecrated to God and fellow-man. This is the calling of every Christian. If this functions well, the Church would automatically cease to be an institution chiefly concerned with maintaining forms and traditions. It would then be able face the outside world as a united, Spirit-empowered witnessing fellowship.
Fellowship also for the Despised
Jesus offered fellowship to people who were despised by their society. Seeing her deepest need, He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) who was probably so ashamed to be seen by others that she went to fetch water at a time when there was the least chance to meet other villagers or be seen by them. In meeting her deepest need, Jesus turned the social outcast into one of the first evangelists of the Messiah of all time, causing a people movement among the inhabitants of the little Samaritan town of Sychar. Breaking with all custom of the time, He spoke with the woman in public. The Western rationally-inclined mind would regard the speaking about ‘koeitjies en kalfies’ (trivialities) as wasting of time. Jesus demonstrated how the opening up of a conversation with a stranger about a mundane thing like water can break down walls of prejudice (John 4:10).
Inclusion of the Outsider and Fearful
Jesus led by example in His loving ministry to the doubting, the outsider and the fearful. This is a divine quality. The Master had an eye and a heart for the doubting Thomas. It seems as if Western theological tradition has overlooked that Thomas was prepared to go and die with Jesus (John 11:16). Many only see him as the ‘doubting Thomas’ or even ‘die ongelowige Thomas’ (the unbelieving Thomas). In general, it has hardly been recognized that Thomas was not the only one among the disciples to doubt. It has been reported that '...some doubted' (Matthew 28:17). We note that this happened just before the Ascension of our Lord, i.e. after some of them had been walking close to Him for many months. The Master took doubts seriously, reassuring the hovering disciple in this way. Jesus saw behind the impulsive Peter also his qualities as a potential leader. The Bible teaches that God specifically uses the fearful when they trust Him, even more so when they become completely dependent on Him. This is wonderfully depicted in the life of Gideon (Judges 6-8). He could easily be described as a coward with a serious inferiority complex. Coming from the poorest family of the half tribe of Manasse and youngest of all, he thought he had ample reason to shy away from an awesome task.
Foreigners and Strangers in the Bible
In the Hebrew Scriptures the Israelites are repeatedly admonished to be hospitable to strangers. The Israelites were strangers in Egypt. Repeatedly they were reminded of this fact. Exactly because they had been oppressed there, they were commanded to refrain from oppressing foreigners. Leviticus 19:33,34 includes the astounding verse Love the stranger as you love yourself. In fact, the Law commands more than once to treat the stranger as an equal (for example Leviticus 24:16, 24). If the foreigner/stranger is destitute, he should be supported and afforded hospitality (Leviticus 25:35).
The Hebrew Scriptures furthermore depict clearly how foreigners became a blessing to the people of God. The prime example in this regard is Joseph who was an Egyptian in the eyes of his brothers when he reminded them of the God of their forefathers.
The Italian Cornelius is mentioned positively as someone used by God to help Peter to recognize his religiously tainted prejudice and pride. This was part and parcel of the divine move to bring the Gospel to Gentiles, God's method to provoke the Jews.
But God also used other nations to chastise the ‘apple’ of His eye, the Israelites, when they strayed from Him. God wanted His people to be a blessing to the nations. The idea of the ‘New Testament’ Church as a replacement, a spiritual Israel, is nowhere clearly taught in the Bible, but the inference is nevertheless correct that Israel is the example to the Church. The body of Christ - his Bride - should also bless the nations but there is a need for correction in its other role. The commandments as tradition have been nullified, so that He could create the two, Jewish and non-Jewish, into One New Man, establishing peace (Ephesians 2:15). All followers of our Lord are challenged to willingly and gladly witness together with Messianic Jewish believers, and perhaps also be ready to be led by them.
An honoured Place for Refugees
The Bible assigns an honoured place to refugees. Moses became a refugee and fugitive because of his choice to stand with the Israelites. The letter to the Hebrews 11:25 highlights how Moses displayed the Spirit of our Lord to prefer suffering to share in the oppression of his people, instead of enjoying the conveniences of an Egyptian prince. He was in this way a pointer to Jesus who voluntarily left the Father's glory, not counting it robbery to become man and ultimately experience the death of a criminal on the cross (Philippians 2:5ff).
The refugee status of the baby Jesus should fill us with compassion towards all refugees. During his earthly life Jesus was so to speak homeless, only at home with his Father. In fact, already as a twelve year-old he referred to the temple as ‘my Father’s house’ (Luke 2:49). As an adult the Master replied to someone who wanted to follow him: ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’ (Luke 9:58). When traders defiled the Temple, Jesus jealously guarded the sanctity of its precincts. It had to be a house of prayer. He drove the traders out because ‘… you are making it a den of robbers’ (Matthew 21:13).
An Eye for Down and Outs
Few groups in history had an eye for the potential of down and outs, the outcasts like the homeless, refugees and exiles as the compassion displayed by Count Zinzendorf and his Herrnhut Moravians in the 18th century.
Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, and David, as well as many prominent figures in Church History like Amos Comenius had all been out of their home country against their will for one or another reason. The Herrnhut congregation was banned from Saxony. The jealousy of other traders in the Wetteravia region of Germany, caused them to be also driven from there. We should be quite aware that God can turn seemingly difficult circumstances around, to His end. I suggest that the presence of refugees should be regarded as a challenge and a chance. At any rate, they should definitely not be seen as a threat to our jobs and livelihood.
A special Place for Inexperience, for Women and Youth
The divine creation gender model was equality between male and female. The Hebrew Scriptures swam against the stream of ancient Oriental culture when they depicted how individual women like Jochebed, the mother of Moses and complete outsiders like Rahab, a pagan and a prostitute, played a special role in Jewish history. At a time when females counted for nothing, Deborah led the Israelite army (Judges 4 and 5). The teenagers Esther and Mary, the mother of Jesus, are very special in God's wisdom. This goes against the grain of our human ideas. At the same time, the wisdom of experience and age should be appreciated and highly valued.
The Lord entered Jerusalem on an inexperienced colt, the foal of a donkey – not on a horse or a camel, the more fancied transport animals of the day. It is remarkable that God seems to have a special place for young people who are ready to go all out for him.
Foreigners as a Blessing
A phenomenon is highlighted in the Scriptures, viz. that foreigners can be a blessing to any nation if given the opportunity to do so.
The persecuted French Huguenots of the late 17th century and the Moravian-Bohemian refugees of the early 18th century are well-documented examples of this phenomenon. God can turn around tragedy into a massive blessing to those who give refuge to followers of Jesus who had been persecuted for their faith. The Cape profited in a big way from the French Protestants who came here from 1688. The Moravian-Bohemian refugees were divinely used to usher in the modern missionary movement after Count Zinzendorf gave them refuge on his estate in 1721. That became the village of Herrnhut.
In recent decades this also happened in the Netherlands. In the 1970s Holland was heading for a spiritual precipice. The country was deteriorating from a biblical point of view, fast resembling a spiritual desert because of liberal teachings at their theological institutions. God used special foreigners profoundly, notably the Switzerland-based American national Francis Schaeffer (via the TV) and Floyd McClung, the well-known American Youth with a Mission leader who started ministering there in the 1970s. McClung linked up with a fringe minority of Dutch evangelicals. A national impact followed the Campus Crusade-inspired Er is Hoop (There is Hope) campaign of the early 1980s. The big conferences for evangelists in Amsterdam of 1983, 1986 and 2000 - sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association – had a world-wide influence. Evangelists from all parts of the globe converged on the Dutch capital. In some cases indigenous evangelists came from remote villages which one would not even find on a map.
The converse also happened simultaneously. God used Hein Postma, a local Dutchman, whom I met when he was the principal of the Moravian primary school in Zeist. He challenged me when I was still very much a disgruntled anti-apartheid activist and embittered exile in Holland. That laid the foundation for the start of a local evangelistic agency, the Goed Nieuws Karavaan and the Regiogebed. This in turn had a blessed effect on South Africa via a prayer meeting on 4 October 1989. The impact of Hein Postma on me also served as a model to start Friends from Abroad at the Cape in 2006/7, a ministry to serve and equip foreigners who have been coming to our shores.
Chapter 7 Obstacles to Unity
The apostle Paul advised: "Every Scripture is ... useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). In the first letter to the Corinthians he wrote about the wisdom of the world, which they should definitely not strive after. In the same context (1 Corinthians 1:18-21) Paul applies Isaiah 29:14, to stress how futile philosophy is: 'Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.' God would ultimately baffle and destroy the useless learning and wisdom of the Greeks.
Interaction between Jews and Samaritans
The rivalry between the Jews and Samaritans is found throughout the Bible. The oppression of Samaritans by the Jews has a long history, which could have been sparked or exacerbated by the refusal of Ezra, the priest, when their leaders wanted to help build the second temple. Some negative reaction would have been almost natural for any Samaritan in interaction with their oppressors, the Jews.
There were possibly also Samaritans among the new post-Pentecost believers. Some haughtiness developed among the Gentile believers in respect of Judaism. The supposed rejection of Jews by God – because of the crucifixion of Jesus - was spread in due course. Paul, the apostle, deemed it necessary to react, admonishing the Gentile believers in Rome 11, highlighting that this ‘rejection’ was only temporary.
Simon Magus, mentioned in Acts 8, was a Samaritan. He was disappointed when the apostles rebuked him. He hoped to get monetary gain via the abuse of Jesus’ name. He became what has been described as a heresiarch, the founder of the heretic Simonians. (The Simonians worshipped Simon Magus like Zeus. He was thus a sort of god to them.) Simon Magus' successor, said to have been a certain Menander, was also a Samaritan. The Gospel of Luke in particular highlights how Jesus attempted to put things in perspective, giving the despised and rejected Samaritans a special place in the sun, advocating in this way for their inclusion.
Justin Martyr, a great Apologist?
Second century Justin, also called the Martyr (100-165 AD), has generally been hailed in Christian circles as a great apologist. Few would regard him as heretical. However, his attitude towards Jews possibly contributed to the gradual side-lining of the nation that the Bible calls ‘the apple’ of God’s eye (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8). Justin Martyr recorded material which contributed significantly – albeit probably unintentionally - to what became known as 'Replacement Theology'. The learned Samaritan Justin Martyr possibly did not have their side-lining in mind when he suggested that the Church had replaced Israel.
Justin was very much a child of his day when he went overboard in his haughty intellectual arrogance. He taught that the Greek philosophers and the ‘barbarians’ such as Abraham... all who at any time ‘obeyed the same guidance, were really Christians’ (Walker, 1976:47). Paul, the epistle writer addressed the arrogance and haughtiness of Gentiles in his letter to the Romans when he stressed that they were only grafted into the true Olive Tree, Israel. In due course the Church was nevertheless quite widely but fallaciously seen as the new Israel that replaced the Jewish nation.
The Early Church Fathers unfortunately did not always latch onto this advice. In fact, a few of them went overboard with futile debate and discussion.Tertullian, a jurist who joined the Christians of North Africa in 207 A.D., discerned very wisely that philosophy was a major culprit: ‘heresies are themselves prompted by philosophy ... After Christ Jesus we desire no subtle theories, no acute enquiries after the Gospel...’ Against the advice of Paul not to get involved in futile philosophical arguments, the very same Tertullian however brought the element of polemic bickering into the equation like few others before or after him. In this chapter we will touch on issues which divide the three Abrahamic religions. Theological squabbling has been a major culprit in this regard.
Semantics as a Disservice to the Church
Tertullian rendered the Church a disservice when he introduced the terms ‘trinitas’, ‘substantia’ and ‘personae’. These semantics, playing with words, was his effort to describe the Trinity, the nature of Christ and the different manifestations of God in the Son and the Holy Spirit. His terse descriptions ‘one substance but three persons’ and ‘two natures, one person’ were nice-sounding, but they basically ushered in theological polemics. It is clear that the early Christians professed both Christ and the Spirit to be divine in nature. Tertullian’s philosophical theologizing was not helpful however. After the heretic Marcion – who was clearly outlawed by the Church – the lion’s share of the bickering that led to the Arian controversy and later to the unfortunate quarrels around the formulation of the Holy Trinity, has possibly to be attributed to Tertullian.
In contrast to other leaders of the first century Christian church, Marcion declared that Christianity was in complete discontinuity with Judaism and entirely opposed to the Tanach (Hebrew Bible). According to Marcion, the ‘god of the Greek Old Testament - the creator of the material universe whom he called the Demiurge - was is a jealous tribal deity of the Jews. The Jewish law represents legalistic reciprocal justice, punishing mankind for its sins through suffering and death. Contrastingly, the god that Jesus professed is an altogether different being, a universal god of compassion and love who looks upon humanity with benevolence and mercy. Marcion also produced his Antitheses - contrasting the Demiurge of the Old Testament with the Heavenly Father of the New Testament.
Development of the Concept of the Trinity
Judaism has a problem to regard a human being to be the Lamb of God. All the more it is interesting how the concept of the Trinity developed in the Middle East. The oral tradition of the audible voice at the baptism of Jesus and the dove descending on Jesus circulated very widely. This could have contributed greatly to the tenet of the Holy Trinity which has no clear proof in Scripture as such. God, the Father, is generally taken to be the voice speaking at Jesus' baptism. This was widely regarded as the crowning occasion of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. All four Gospels refer to the dove as the visible demonstration of the Holy Spirit descending on the Son. In the fourth Gospel we read how John the Baptist pointed to Jesus in the same context as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29,36). Attributes of multiple manifestations and functions of God like truth (John 7:28, Revelation 3:7 and 1 John 5:6) and goodness (Romans 2:4, Nehemiah 9:20) can be found throughout the Bible. These attributes and traits can also be traced in the behaviour of our Lord and the manifestations of people under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. All of this may have contributed to the concept of the Trinity. On the other hand, the stressing of the number three in the Trinity has led to some limitation of the infinite nature of God. He is able to reveal himself in many more ways.
Scriptural Backing for the Trinity
Taken from a position of faith, the Trinitarian formulae certainly have clout, but they have limited scriptural backing. Ephesians 4: 4-6 speaks of ‘one Spirit… one Lord …one God and Father of all.’ In 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6 Paul writes of the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God. Peter, another apostle, chips in with his words ‘the foreknowledge of God, the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 1:2). A little bit more substance we find in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 as evidence of the granting of spiritual gifts, different kinds of service and different kinds of expression and manifestation, noting that 'to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good' (1 Corinthians 12:7). 'There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work'. Yet, that is rather meagre as a basis upon which to build the doctrine of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit will reveal to those people searching after truth that there are many characteristics of a triune God in which He has revealed or manifested himself when we read and study the Holy Scriptures.
It is surely true that the Holy Spirit is much more than merely a force like electricity or the wind. In my view it is completely redundant to debate its nature. Count Zinzendorf described all this as odium theologicum, the bad smell of theology. He may have suggested rather hyperbolically however that ‘all the essential theology can be written with large characters on one octavo sheet’ (Cited in Lewis, 1962:15), i.e. on the half of an A4 page.
The Use of Latin
Another unwitting problematic contribution of Tertullian was his use of Latin, moving away from the practice in theological circles of using Coptic and Greek. Cyprian followed in the footsteps of his master Tertullian. Their prior training in Law may have played an important role, in contrast to the Church leaders of Egypt who wrote in Coptic, thus indigenizing the national expression of the body of Christ. The Berber Augustine also treaded the same treacherous path of Tertullian and Cyprian, weakening the North African Church tremendously. The Church Father Tertullian apparently had little vision for the unity of the Body. Chadwick (1967:91) notes that Tertullian’s Apology does not merely include apologetic defence of the Christian doctrine, but also ‘militant and trenchant attack on the corruption, irrationality and political injustice of polytheistic society.’ This statement could still get wide approval, but Chadwick goes on to highlight that every page of Tertullian’s work ‘is written with the joy of inflicting discomfort on his adversaries for their error and unreasonableness, but in such a manner as to embarrass his own friends and supporters.’ The doctrinal bickering of the leading North African theologians had catastrophic long term results.
The uncompromising attitude of Cyprian and Augustine led to the break with the Donatist believers. These Church Fathers can be said to have introduced denominationalism and foreign cultural elements to the Church on the African continent.
A strong Difference of Opinion between Paul and Barnabas
The NT has no problem in mentioning a strong difference of opinion between two other role players - Paul and Barnabas’- that ultimately led to a doubling of the missionary effort. But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.…’ (Acts 15:38-40).
Rivalry between Alexandria and Antioch
That Jews needed the Hebrew Scriptures in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of Alexandria, where so many of them had been living for centuries, is quite clear. The traditional story is that Ptolemy II, the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 to 246 BC, sponsored the translation of the Pentateuch, the five Books of Moses. Subsequently, the Greek translation, the Septuagint, was in circulation among the Alexandrian Jews who were fluent in Koine Greek but not in Hebrew.
There however arose an unhealthy rivalry in the Early Church between Alexandria and Antioch. This is most evident in the oldest Bible manuscripts. Tracing the biblical manuscripts back to their origins, there are two geographical sources - Antioch and Alexandria. Text types that represent a time period or location are traceable back to one of two families of manuscripts - the majority text and the minority text - the majority text originating in Antioch (Syria) and the minority text originating in Alexandria (Egypt).
The majority text from a literal point of view includes approximately 99% of the 5,000+ extant manuscripts (meaning manuscripts that are in existence today). These manuscripts have a high level of agreement with each other. The minority text includes the remaining less than 1% of extant manuscripts. These manuscripts have a high level of disagreement between each other (Thus Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, by far the two principal Alexandrian manuscripts, disagree with each other in many places in the four gospels).
Keeping in mind the rule of first mention, a principle wherein the first mention of anything in the Bible generally sets the tone for the use of that word throughout the whole Bible, one sees a significant difference. There are four occurrences of Alexandria in the ‘NT, all with a negative connotation: Two theologians who received theological training in Egypt, caused big division in the Church. Cerinthus, is known to have been a heresiarch. As we have seen, Tertullian, who is generally heralded, started semantics around the nature of Jesus that resulted in a major doctrinal rift.
By contrast, Antioch in Syria is only mentioned with a positive connotation in the ‘New Testament’. It is a place from which a man of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom came, and who was appointed over church business (Acts 6:3-5). At Antioch, they also preached to the Grecians and a great number of them believed and turned unto the Lord (Acts 11:19-21). The Cypriot Barnabas was sent to Antioch and positive things resulted (Acts 11:22-24). In Antioch the headquarters of the ‘New Testament’ Church was established. Barnabas looked for Saul and brought him back to Antioch (Acts 11:25,26).
Religious Arrogance spread
Upon seeing Gentiles enjoying a relationship with God, there aroused a sanctified envy among the Jews. On the other hand, as we have seen, religious arrogance was spread by the highly regarded Justin Martyr. He stressed that the nation of Israel had been ‘rejected’ by God because of their disobedience. In Romans 11, Paul clearly stated that God did not reject the Jews totally and finally. Their limited temporary time of 'rejection' was intended to bring the Gentiles to the Father. Although the first day of the week was called ‘the Lord’s Day’, specially honoured as a day of special celebration of His Resurrection, there was still real dialogue between Christians and Jews in the second century. Justin’s record of his interaction with Trypho, a Jew, testifies to this. The pinnacle was obviously the 321 AD decree for the compulsory free day to commemorate the sun god.
Another major schismatic group displaying religious arrogance – next to the Jewish Ebionites - was those Christians who allied themselves with the doctrines of Novatian. He was a Roman priest who elevated himself into a rival pope, one of the first antipopes. He held that lapsed Christians, who had not maintained their confession of faith under persecution, may not be received again into communion with the Church. The Novatians went so far as to re-baptise their converts. They were labelled by Rome as schismatics. Novatian was an advocate of the traditional view that to those guilty of murder, adultery and apostasy the Church had no power to grant remission, but only to intercede for divine mercy at the Last Judgment.
Theologians cause Confusion
The attempt to explain the deity of Jesus spread confusion. In 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus condemned Nestorianism, proclaiming the pregnant Mary as theotokos, the bearer of God. After the birth of Jesus she became the ‘Mother of God’. The Council of Chalcedon's dismissal of Monophysitism emphasized the dual nature of Jesus – human and divine - in 451 AD. Simultaneously the effort to try and explain the Holy Trinity disseminated the blasphemous idea that the Mother of God was the third person of the Holy Trinity. Mary and her baby Jesus was equated with the goddess Isis and her son Horus.
The Result of Semantics
The arch enemy of the Church abused semantics, such as playing with words, to sow disunity. A single letter caused the Arian controversy. Affirming the divinity of Jesus, the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) delegates turned their attention to the question of how Jesus relates to the Father. This sparked petty semantic bickering. The historian Eusebius suggested at that occasion that Jesus had a nature similar to that of the Father (homo-ousos). Bishop Athanasius, who was not invited to the proceedings, had earlier already stated that this would be a compromise which would minimize the full teaching of Christ’s divinity. The Lord was homo-ousios, of one and the same substance, not merely of similar substance. The whole discussion boiled down to a debate over the difference between the Greek words forsimilar and same, about the presence of the letter i of the Greek alphabet. In the extension of this debate the doctrine of our Lord's divinity, the issue of Jesus’ Sonship (of God) and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity were also drawn into the discussion. Furthermore, the stressing of the Trinity as three persons operating in unity, was not completely helpful for the understanding of the complex nature of God.
East-West Rift: the Byzantine Collapse
The theological in-fighting of the 5th century continued right into the present era. The semantic doctrinal bickering prepared the way for Islamic expansion in North Africa. The peoples in Greece and Turkey have been in conflict for millennia. About 1,500 years ago, the rivalry had a doctrinal dimension.
At these councils, the chief defenders of these theological off-shoots represented churches in the East, ranging from Assyria and Persia (Nestorians) to North Africa and Armenia (Monophysites). The situation only worsened when the Greeks attempted to subjugate the Eastern churches by seizing their monasteries and churches.
The theological bickering of the Eastern churches coincided with on-going ethnic infighting. The Persians warred with the Aramaeans, Egyptians, Armenians, and Greeks, greatly destabilizing the Christian territories' frontier with the newly Muslim land on the Arabian Peninsula. A struggle in the Byzantine capital of Constantinople between Emperor Phocas (602-10) and his general Heraclius instigated a military mutiny. Then in 632, Emperor Heraclius ordered the conversion of the Jews, which resulted in mass murder and tremendous resentment of his rule. All in all, there was a great deal of resentment towards the Byzantines, even among other Christians. Thus, when Islamic Bedouins began raiding Christian territories, they allied with displaced Arabs and disaffected local Christians. The Persians and Greeks dismissed these clashes as common, unsophisticated nomadic activity. But they were wrong. The first wave of jihad was underway.
Abuse of Sound Doctrine
Sound doctrine, however, has sometimes also been abused to bind people denominationally. Even a virtue like humility can become a negative tenet if someone becomes proud of it. The follower of Jesus should display humility, but he is no door-mat. Humble submission is a virtue, but slavish servility is sinful. The believer in Jesus may assert his authority in humility, but he does not have to allow anybody to abuse him as a slave (2 Corinthians 11:20). If we have been liberated by the Son of God, we are free indeed (John 8:36). There is thus a subtle difference between biblical submission and bondage due to servility. Under the guise of submission expected by wives or congregants, Church leaders sometimes have become guilty in this regard. Those who are trampled upon in this way are however not blameless either, because a follower of Jesus should not allow himself to be brought under a yoke of slavery, under a new bondage (Galatians 5:1). After all, believers may invoke the anointing of the Holy Spirit to break every yoke of bondage (compare Isaiah 10:27).
Religious Leaders causing Splits
Religious leaders through the ages fell into the trap of allowing themselves to be hero‑worshipped or causing rifts (or both). Theologians would cause splits and division through a strong emphasis on some doctrinal tenet. We bear in mind that all great men have aroused the opposition of lesser minds. By way of a strong emphasis on some special doctrinal teaching or distortion of the Word, they however sometimes polarised believers, blurring the vision for the unity of the Body of Christ and causing splits instead. Many denominations started in this way. We lose out and miss the blessings God wants to give, because He is eager to command His blessings when there is unity (compare Psalm 133:1,3).
It is sad to see the low morals that religious leaders can display when their influence appears to be threatened. Instead of doing introspection, the Pharisees of Jesus' day started a smear campaign. And because they could not successfully hit at Jesus’ moral quality, they tried to play Him out against John, the Baptist (John 4:1ff). The aim of their endeavours was evidently to get Jesus out of the way. Is it too far-fetched to suggest that the beastly intrigue, which preceded the death of John the Baptist, had its origin with the religious leaders? From what we read in the gospels about the Baptist, he might just as well have told Herodias or Herod to their face what he thought of their incestuous marriage. But some incitement by certain leaders would also have fitted perfectly into the picture. Let’s face it: some of the things that the Master said to those Pharisees and Sadducees who came to him were not readily palatable.
In South Africa many a prominent Christian leader become a victim of fame. In a subtle way the heresy of apartheid caused some believers to lose their sense of biblical priorities. Quite a few Church leaders, who started off as committed followers of Jesus, were side-tracked in the struggle against apartheid.
Chapter 8 Antidotes to Disunity
Right from the start of His ministry, Jesus was involved with conflict. The narrative of the temptation in the desert in Matthew 4 is a high-powered confrontation between the forces of darkness that wanted to woo the Lord into a compromise, in an exchange for power.Jesus’ challenge to the fishermen to follow Him was likewise conflict-laden. The report of the changing of wine into water (John 2:1-11) contains a potential conflict of priorities between His earthly mother and His heavenly Father. Jesus' respective response demonstrated the authority, sovereignty and flexibility of Father and Son. Let us deduce some lessons from our Lord’s handling of conflict.
Mediation in a Conflict
The Master gave practical and clear teaching for mediation of a conflict. We refer especially to the prime example, Matthew 18. Sometimes pastoral counsellors forget to check out the very basic step, viz. whether the complainant had been attempting to resolve the matter by approaching the other party, the purported offender, first. The Master gave us an example how to handle such matters with the way he reprimanded Martha when she complained about the inactivity of Mary when she was running around with household chores of hospitality. He reprimanded her and commended Mary.
Of course, it is usually not easy to confront the person who has offended you - unless one is of the type that likes to squabble and fight. Those who come to us for counsel after a break in any relationship, have to be taught to check out their assumptions. Instead of accepting any loaded or hurting information passed on as truth, a good practice and principle is to ascertain if the spirit in which the story has been conveyed, has not perhaps been distorted. How much anger and hurt can be prevented in interaction among people – also in Christian circles - if this teaching of Jesus is adhered to.
There is of course the very real situation where the opposing party reacts indifferently or even aggressively upon personal confrontation. Jesus’ advice to take one or two witnesses along for this eventuality makes such a lot of sense. Yet, how often is this practised? The same thing applies to the next step of church discipline, viz. the exclusion from the fellowship if anyone persists with gross sinful behaviour and/or is not remorseful and refuses bluntly to mend his/her ways.
I suggest that we take our day to day interaction as human beings as a point of reference. How does one handle conflict in a biblically responsible way? Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18 is in my view the valid paradigm in this regard. An important lesson from this teaching is that it is not wise to wait on the other party to offer an apology. If you know there is some discord between you and a brother or a sister, you should just make the start to get the air cleared, starting with an apology if that is feasible and applicable. In pastoral counsel offering forgiveness must be inculcated and taught. This is also the route to be taken, even if one thinks that one's own part in the development of the rift is minimal and the other party’s guilt is gross. The biblical way is always to be the least, to serve rather than expect to be served. If there are things to be set right, we have to do it promptly and generously. (Zacchaeus was ready to return the fourfold of what he had taken from some people!! (Luke 19:8). Paul, the apostle taught along similar lines If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ (Romans 12:18).
An important facet of conflict management is the issue of anger. Fallaciously some Christians seem to believe that it is sinful to become angry. On the contrary, there is definitely such a thing as holy anger. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures one can read how God reacted with wrath and anger because of the idolatry and sins of His people. Similarly, Jesus got really angry when He saw how the Temple was desecrated by traders. (He was clearly very much angered that the lame and the blind (Matthew 21:14), the foreigners and other proselytes that habitually visited that part of the temple precincts, had been pushed out).
There are general cases and circumstances where we should fight the good fight (of faith) (Timothy 6.12). In Jude 1:3 we are encouraged and advised to 'contend earnestly for the faith' and 2 Peter 3:17 warns us to 'be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness'. However, if we feel inclined to whip certain people with the tongue – we should take the advice to heart that Dr David du Plessis passed on. Deducing that Jesus had been totally distraught by what he had seen in the temple, Du Plessis highlights that Jesus had wept before he went into the temple: ‘Don’t ever try to whip anybody – to reform them – until you’ve wept’ (A Man called Mr Pentecost, 1977:216).
In the verses 9 and10 of the short epistle of 3 John, the apostle highlighted that evil people in the Church may have to be exposed. John, the apostle and beloved disciple of the Lord, is generally taken to be the author of the short epistle. He indicated that he wanted to expose the arrogant behaviour of a certain Diotrephes when he would visit the fellowship. The evil-minded brother engaged in bad-mouthing others and he was refusing to welcome the brothers (the travelling missionaries). Diotrephes hindered the others in the church who wished to help the missionaries and he also expelled those church people who aided the missionaries. Church leaders – in fact all of us - should keep in mind the lesson of weeping first before attempting to whip anybody.
The nature of God is such that He is swift to forgive, but ‘slow to anger and rich in steadfast love and truth’ (Exodus 34:7). In the Psalms it is repeated more than once that God is ‘slow to anger.’ At issue is how we handle our anger, or better still, how we get our anger sanctified. In fact, it would be a complete distortion of the Pauline verses (1 Corinthians 13:4-6) to say that love should cover up sinful behaviour. Paul takes it for granted that we can get angry, but we should be careful not to sin when we are angry. We are taught to rectify things and clear the air before the sun sets (Ephesians 4:26). We should guard our temper, pray for a guard to be put before our mouth (Psalm 141:3). Paul actually encourages us to actively oppose anger in our midst by not only putting off anger and other carnal traits (Colossians 3:8), but ‘instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy’ (Ephesians 4:23,24), i.e. through the sanctifying work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
In his epistle James (1:19, 20) passed on some practical teaching in this regard: be slow to get angry. This ties in with Romans 12:2 which defines the renewing of our thoughts as a transforming process that the Holy Spirit must perform in us. Rather than a quick fix, it is a metamorphosis.
In the same context James (1:19) taught us ‘Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak’. In all communication we have to learn to take responsibility for what we listen to, what we tell others and for our behaviour afterwards. In order to hear what someone is trying to communicate, we have to first stop talking! Anthony Lackay, a believer who was raised in the Cape township Hanover Park wrote aptly in a devotional message:
‘To make sure we've really heard the point being made, we should often stop and repeat the conversation to the person speaking to us. Especially if it is an important conversation and - a sharing of personal things and experiences, maybe an instruction to be implemented - the person is seeking counsel or a listening ear.
We need to ask questions to ascertain whether we misunderstood or missed anything important from the conversation or discussion. The person we are speaking to will also be reassured in this way that he/she had our complete and total attention. Another reason why listening to people is important for believers is that it simply means that we might have an overall listening challenge. If we struggle with listening to people, the chances are that we may be struggling to hear what God is trying to tell us too.’
Apology instead of Defence
It sounds almost too mundane and so down to earth to highlight that it is much better to offer an apology instead of defending yourself when you are wrong or made a mistake. Yet, the flesh in us does not like that. How much heat can be taken out of a conflict if the guilty party apologises. Of course, apologies should not become cheap. Nevertheless, one could rather err on this side than refuse to apologise in a stubborn attitude of ‘What have I done wrong?’
Remorseful Confession as an Important Biblical Mandate
It is my conviction that confession is one of the most important biblical mandates in countering any guilt incurred in respect of Muslims (and Jews). Next to that, forgiveness always plays an important role to set parties free who have struggled under or are living through any form of strife or conflict. Wherever restitution is needed, we should attempt to rectify our part of the guilt as promptly as possible. Apologies without evidence of remorse and serious attempts towards restitution are not good enough. It is even worse when others are blamed.
Confession and repentance for our uncharitable and general judgemental damaging attitude of sectors of the Body of Christ is surely called for in many places all around the evangelical world. Apologies, remorseful confession and the corollary of forgiveness are indeed important antidotes to disunity.
Chapter 9 The Word unites the true Church
The Church of the Middle Ages remained in darkness because the Word was not only obscured, but it was also hidden from the masses on purpose. Only priests were allowed to read the Bible. This was a demonic ploy, also repeated in the Orthodox Church of Greece and in the East. It was abused by the Roman Catholic Church as well as by Islam, keeping adherents in religious bondage. Judaism and its Rabbis succeeded to make suspect anything that has to do with the 'blasphemer' Jesus. Quite early in the Christian era Jewish adherents were told that the document that the Christians call the 'New Testament', was a 'forgery'. No good Jew was supposed to touch that book, let alone read it. Roman Catholicism and Islam followed this pattern, suggesting that Protestants or Christians have changed the scriptures – often without giving proper substantiation for the accusation. (Some Catholics point to the apocryphal books that are not in the Bibles used by Protestants. It is significant that the Roman Catholic Church includes apocryha almost lock stock and barrel although Jerome, the translator responsible for the Vulgate, the Latin translation, had serious reservations about some of these books.)
A Power of God unto Salvation
Paul wrote that the Gospel is a power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), but the Word had to get to the people. Even the great apostle could only be at one place at any moment. By way of contrast, in recent years we have seen how the mere translation of (parts of) the Word into the spoken language of previously unreached people groups - be it on paper or through tape cassettes, CDs and DVDs - have changed the lives of thousands dramatically. Yet, it was hardly discerned that Paul also wrote in the above verse, Romans 1:16, 'to Jews first and also to the Gentiles.' It had been Paul's own practise to first go into synagogues in every town he came. Jesus instructed his disciples in a similar way (Compare Matthew 10 and Luke 10:1-24, if we take these events to have been sequential.) The Church down the centuries succumbed to the temptation – with a few individuals and the Moravians of the 1740s to 1770 as striking exceptions - to concentrate on easier targets than the difficult Jews (and Muslims). This only changed to some extent after the Six Day War of 1973 in Israel. With regard to Muslims, significant change transpired after the Desert Storm War in 1991. Ten years of prayer, initiated internationally by Open Doors, brought exceptional results. Muslims became followers of Jesus in their thousands the last decade or so.
The Rediscovery of the Word
Any evangelism was opposed by Church authorities in the Middle Ages. Only in the early 5th century Jerome finished his Latin translation, the Vulgate. But ordinary Christians were not allowed to read the Bible for themselves. It belongs to well-known Church History that it took centuries for the Word to be translated into the vernacular of nations. Waraqah bin Naufal, the cousin of Mohammad's first wife, could have been the next person to attempt any translation at the end of the 6th century - into Arabic. There is no known record of what he actually translated before he became blind.
The rediscovery of the Word through people like Wycliffe and Luther caused a major wave of spiritual renewal in Europe. Britain's John Wycliffe was an early advocate for translation of the Bible into the common tongue. He completed his translation directly from the Latin Vulgate into vernacular English in 1384. Wycliffe also gave oversight to a hand- written translation of 150 copies of the Wycliffe Bible.
The official Roman Catholic and Holy Roman Empire abhorrence of seeing Bibles translated into the vernacular can be derived from historic quotes: Thus Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared: 'That pestilent and most wretched John Wycliffe, of damnable memory, a child of the old devil, and himself a child and pupil of the anti-Christ...crowned his wickedness by translating the Scriptures into the mother tongue.' Henry Knighton, a contemporary Catholic historian, wrote: 'John Wycliffe translated the Gospel from Latin into the English ...made it the property of the masses and common to all and...even to women...and so the pearl of the Gospel is thrown before swine and trodden under foot and what is meant to be the jewel of the clergy has been turned into the jest of the laity...'
The Council of Constance declared Wycliffe a stiff-necked heretic, banning him on 4 May 1415. But Magister Jan Hus, teaching in Prague, had already been deeply influenced by Wycliffe's writings. After the martyr's death of Jan Hus two months later on the fire stake on 6 July 1415, the great Hussite movement arose so to speak from the ashes, leading to the Bible translation into the Bohemian vernacular and the first printed Bible. The Hussite Reformist movement spread through Middle Europe like a simmering fire, ultimately impacting Germany's Martin Luther long with John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli of Switzerland.
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam
Desiderius Erasmus, a great scholar of Rotterdam, was so moved to correct the flawed Latin Vulgate, that in 1516, with the help of printer John Froben, he published a Greek-Latin Parallel 'New Testament'. The Latin part was not the inferiorVulgate, but his own fresh rendering of the text from the more accurate and reliable Greek, which he had managed to collate from old Greek 'New Testament' manuscripts he had acquired. This milestone was the first non-Latin Vulgate text of the scripture to be produced in a millennium… and the first ever to come off a printing press. The 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus focused attention on just how corrupt and inaccurate the Latin Vulgate had become, and how important it was to go back and use the original Greek ('New Testament') and original Hebrew ('Old Testament') languages to maintain accuracy… and to translate them faithfully into the languages of the common people, whether that be English, German, or any other tongue. No sympathy for this 'illegal activity' could be expected from the Vatican of course.
Martin Luther, the great Reformer
Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) was a Christian theologian and Augustinian monk whose teachings inspired the Protestant Reformation and deeply influenced the doctrines of Protestant and other Christian traditions.
The very special contribution of Luther to the Reformation was that he made the Word accessible to the rank-and-file German Christian. The demands of study for academic degrees and his preparation for delivering lectures drove Martin Luther to study the Scriptures in depth. Luther immersed himself in the teachings of the Scripture and the Early Church. Slowly, terms like penance and righteousness took on new meaning. The controversy that broke loose with the publication of his 95 theses placed even more pressure on the reformer to study the Bible. This study convinced him that the Church had lost sight of several central truths. With joy, Luther now believed and taught that salvation is a gift of God's grace, received by faith and trust in God's promise to forgive sins for the sake of Christ's death on the cross. This, he believed was God's work from beginning to end.
He declared his intolerance regarding the Roman Church’s corruption on 31 October 1517, by nailing his 95 Theses of Contention to the Wittenberg church door. Luther was due to be exiled in the months following the Diet of Worms Council in 1521. This event was designed to eliminate him.
Luther’s 95 Theses
When he nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg, Luther changed the course of human history. He accused the Roman Catholic Church of heresy upon heresy. Luther's action was basically a response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest. Luther's charges also directly challenged the position of the clergy regarding individual salvation. Before long, Luther’s 95 Theses of Contention were copied and published all over Europe.
Here I Stand
Luther's Protestant views were condemned as heretical by Pope Leo X in the bull Exsurge Domine in 1520. Consequently Luther was summoned to either renounce or reaffirm them at the Diet of Worms on 17 April 1521. When he appeared before the assembly, Johann von Eck, by then assistant to the Archbishop of Trier, acted as spokesman for Emperor Charles the Fifth. He presented Luther with a table filled with copies of the writings of the reformer. Eck asked Luther if he still believed what these works taught. Luther requested time to think about his answer. Granted an extension, he prayed, consulted with friends and mediators and presented himself before the Diet the next day.
When the counsellor put the same question to Luther the next day, the reformer apologized for the harsh tone of many of his writings, but said that he could not deny the majority of them or the teachings in them. Luther respectfully but boldly stated, "Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
On May 25, the Emperor issued his Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther ‘vogelfrei’, an outlaw. This ban implied that persons sentenced thus were not to be granted any accommodation.
Martin Luther's Reforms
In the secluded castle Wartburg Luther subsequently translated the New Testament into German for the first time from the critical Greek 1516 Greek-Latin New Testament of Erasmus, a text which was later called textus receptus. Luther published this in September1522. The translation of the ‘Old Testament’ followed, yielding an entire German language Bible in 1534.
Luther’s translation of the Bible helped to develop a standard version of the German language and added several principles to the art of translation. Luther's hymns sparked the development of congregational singing in Christianity. His marriage, on June 13, 1525, to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, began the tradition of the marriage of clergy within several Christian traditions – in opposition to the celibate life-style that was taught and practised by the Roman Catholic Church.
Martin Luther was the first person to translate and publish the Bible in the commonly-spoken dialect of the German people. Luther also befriended William Tyndale, an academic from Cambridge, giving him safe haven and assistance when Tyndale fled from England.
God's Exile – a very special Martyr
The first Bible printed in English was illegal and the Bible translator, William Tyndale, was burned alive for the crime of translating God's Word into English. William Tyndale produced the first English translation from the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. (Wycliffe had translated from the Latin Vulgate.) Because of the persecution and the determined campaign to burn these Bibles, few copies remained. William Tyndale was introduced to the writings of Luther and Zwingli at Cambridge University. Tyndale got his M.A. at Oxford. Thereafter he was ordained into the ministry, serving as a chaplain and tutor. He dedicated his life to the translation of the Scriptures from the original Hebrew and Greek languages.
Tyndale was shocked by the ignorance of the Bible prevalent amongst the clergy. To one such cleric he declared: 'I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spares my life, before many years pass I will make it possible for the boy who drives the plough to know more of the Scriptures than you do.' After he had failed to obtain any ecclesiastical approval for his proposed translation, Tyndale went into exile to Germany. He noted that 'not only was there no room in my lord of London's palace to translate the New Testament, but also that there was no place to do it in all England.'
Supported by some London merchants, Tyndale sailed in 1524 for Germany, never to return to his homeland. In Hamburg he worked on the 'New Testament', which was ready for printing by the following year. As the pages began to roll from the press in Cologne, soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire raided the printing press. Tyndale fled with as many of the pages as had been printed. Tyndale moved to Worms where the complete 'New Testament' was published the following year (1526).King Henry VIII sent out his agents to offer Tyndale a high position in his court, a safe return to England and a great salary. However, Tyndale was not willing to surrender his work as a Bible translator, theologian and preacher merely to become a propagandist for the king!
He became a new version of John the Baptist when he argued against divorce and specifically dared to assert that the king should remain faithful to his first wife! Tyndale maintained that Christians always have the duty to obey civil authority, except where loyalty to God is concerned. King Henry VIII's initial enthusiasm for Tyndale turned into rage. Tyndale was hereafter an outlaw both to the Roman Catholic Church and its Holy Roman Empire - and to the English kingdom!
In 1535 Tyndale was betrayed by a fellow Englishman, who gained his confidence only to treacherously arrange for his arrest. Tyndale was taken to the state prison in the castle of Vilvorde, near Brussels. For 500 days, he suffered in a cold, dark and damp dungeon and then on 6 October, 1536, Tyndale was taken to a stake where he was burned. His last reported words were: "Lord, open the king of England's eyes”.
Chapter 10 Uniting Dynamite
The role of the invention of printing is paramount in the disseminating of the Word. Exactly this was the motivation of the German Johan Gutenberg. When he saw that the Christian truths were kept imprisoned in a few manuscripts, he wanted to give wings to the truth.
The Cape has its own version of the same phenomenon. Arnoldus Pannevis, a Dutch school teacher who came to the Mother City in 1866, noticed that the people at the Cape were speaking a language which was quite distinct from Dutch. He was driven by a passion to see the Bible translated into the language spoken by the people. However, he was met with derision for his idea to have the Bible translated into a patois, a kombuistaal. Pannevis’ plea with the British and Foreign Bible Society was flatly refused: ‘We are by no means inclined to perpetuate jargons by printing them.’
On the other hand, the move of the reformer Martin Luther in putting the bible into the hand of the rank and file German has also been interpreted as the cause of the first big denominational split of the body of Christ after the schism that has resulted in the east-west divide when the orthodox church and Rome parted ways in 1054 AD.
Only in the 1960s the Second Vatican Council permitted ordinary Roman Catholic Church members to read the Bible for themselves. In the 1980s we saw a mighty turning to Christ in that denomination in South America when all church members were encouraged to read the Bible. This led to a substantial exit from the Roman Catholic Church and the simultaneous growth of Evangelicalism in South America.
A similar phenomenon has been occurring in the Middle East in recent years. Every Muslim who has access to Internet can now read the Bible in his/her own language (This was preceded by ten years of prayer for the Muslim world). Thousands from their ranks have become followers of Jesus and many more Muslims are still secret believers.
The Purpose of the Scriptures
The prophets knew that God’s Word was the vehicle to bring His rebellious and back-slidden people back to Himself. Repeatedly a promise is connected to obedience to the Word and its teachings on the one hand and punishment for disobedience on the other. Down the ages the preached Word was divinely used to call back-sliding Christians back to God and His ways.
The purpose of the Scriptures should be stressed: guidance and correction. David exclaimed: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105) and Paul advised Timothy: "Every Scripture is ... useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).
Paul emphasized that the Word should dwell richly in us (Colossians 3:16). Of course, this does not mean that we have to imitate Ezekiel who literally seems to have eaten the scrolls (Ezekiel 3:3). It does mean however that we may be radical in our obedience to scriptural teaching. In fact, Paul encouraged us in a similar way that Christ should dwell in us and from there we must be rooted and established in love (Ephesians 3:17). The Word in us has the quality of purification. Therefore John can say that whosoever remains in Christ, sins not (1 John 3:6). There is of course always the occasion of lapses, when one leaves the close communion with Christ. This is the time when the enemy loves to strike, when we are overcome by sin (Galatians 6:1). In this regard there is a definite difference between wilful sinning and accidental sinning. However, confession and the conscious refraining from sinful behaviour (Proverbs 28:13) opens a clean slate for the road of victorious living in the footsteps of the resurrected Son of God (1 John 1:9 ‘if we confess our sin … He … will purify us from all unrighteousness’). Linked to this is the conscious communion with the Lord, connected to Him as branches to the true vine (John 15:1ff).
Although Martin Luther caused arguably the biggest church split in history, he cannot be given the blame that Protestants later made ashibolleth, a test of orthodoxy, out of his catechisms. They were intended for teaching young people the basics of the Christian faith. Luther emphasized ecclesia reformata semper reformanda est (literally it means that a reforming church should always be ready to reform and adapt), suggesting that we should never remain static in our church practices and traditions. We should always continue the process of evaluation and we always have to be ready for change and reformation. There he is on sound 'New Testament' ground. No less than our Lord himself set the standard for treating rules and regulations like traditions and rituals such as washing of hands, offerings and fasting (e.g. Mark 7:13ff, 'Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down...) Matthew Henry comments aptly and concisely on Mark 7:1ff, 'One great design of Christ's coming was, to set aside the ceremonial law; and to make way for this, he rejects the ceremonies men added to the Law... Those clean hands and that pure heart which Christ bestows on his disciples, and requires of them, are very different from the outward and superstitious forms of Pharisees of every age. Jesus reproves them for rejecting the commandment of God.'
Be functional without losing the Core
Our Lord attacked long exhibitionist prayers. Even the Sabbath Law came under scrutiny. The functionality of traditions should prevail, without losing the core. If functionality becomes convenience, the Lord may deem it fit to drive us out of our temples. How many churches got stuck in rigid formalism and tradition! However, if we feel inclined to whip – we must keep in mind that Jesus wept before he went into the temple (Luke 19:41).
Jesus also led the way in flexibility, getting his cue from the Father. The communion with Him gave our Lord the liberty to change the water into wine, although he initially deemed it inopportune to go public with miracles and wonders (John 2). Although his stated strategy was to stick to the House of Israel, the Lord broke his own rules by helping the Roman centurion and the Syro-Phoenician woman when he discerned true faith. He challenged the norms of the society of his day by dining with the despised chief tax collector Zacchaeus and allowing a prostitute to anoint him and use her hair for drying purposes. To command a female to take the message of his resurrection was likewise surely very revolutionary for that day and age.
Chapter 11 False Alternatives
The example of the Greek philosophers to create alternatives would impact the theology of the West deeply. One of its bad fruit was the stressing of a Bible verse, taking it out of its context. Even before he started with his ministry, the Lord was confronted with this phenomenon. When the arch fiend tempted him in the desert Jesus responded not only to a potential playing out of worship and service but he also gave the priority in His reply: ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’ (Matthew 4:10). With this slight variation of Deuteronomy 6:13 (‘Fear the Lord … and serve him only”) the Lord clearly gives the divine priority of the matter: first worship and then service. Service for God should be flowing out of reverence and worship and definitely not as a sense of duty.
The Danger of Stressing of one Bible Verse
The stressing of one verse at the expense of the full biblical revelation is not limited to the founders of sects. In a rather debatable way Martin Luther for example did this as well. The highly respected reformer possibly undermined the unity of the body of Christ through his sectarian interpretation of Romans 1:17 “but the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Tradition passed on that Martin Luther allegedly climbed ‘holy stair steps’ on his knees in 1512. As he did so, suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him: ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17. He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror. That text never lost its power upon his soul. From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy of trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ. His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy." He believed that this recollection was a prompting from the Holy Spirit admonishing him to rely on faith alone, rather than works. This was later described as a turning point in his life. That the veracity of this account is uncertain is one thing. He however emphasized the verse in an overdrawn way - sola fide, by faith alone - putting works in a rather negative light.
Faith as Work or Works of Faith?
For many centuries the 'works of faith' teaching was evidently not always understood properly. How else was it such a revolutionary experience for Martin Luther to ‘discover in Romans 1:17 that ‘the righteous shall live by faith alone’? We note that this Pauline verse was merely citing Habakkuk 2:4. The esteemed Luther however possibly over-interpreted Paul. Martin Luther has possibly to be given the bulk of the blame for making works of faith suspect in the process. In the extension of this concept, grace and law came to be perceived as opposites. The accusations of Jewish theologians against Paul – all too often selectively and abusively emulated by Muslim scholars – have like-wise been overdrawn. The prolific epistle writer possibly never intended to play works out against faith as Martin Luther and other theologians since him have been doing. In fact, in his beautiful song on love, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul ends with ‘Faith, hope and love... and the greatest of these is love.’ Are not love and works almost identical in this context, albeit that he attacked works in that chapter which are not motivated by love?
From the letter that the second century Church Father Policarp wrote to the Philippians, it can be deduced that he must have known at least the bulk of the writings of the 'New Testament'. It is evident that he picked up the gist of Pauline teachings accurately when he described the relationship between faith and love (works) as follows: ‘Faith is the mother of all, it is followed by expectation (hope) whilst the love to God, Christ and the neighbour leads the way.’
A Serious Misconception
Some Christians have been led to believe that according to the Hebrew Scriptures (‘OT’), salvation is accomplished only through works. This is definitely a misconception. The Hebrew word most often translated with ‘grace’ or ‘favour’ is chen. Chuck and Karen Cohen - two Messianic Jews, i.e. followers of Jesus with a Jewish background, have clarified the meaning of chen in biblical context: ‘the stronger coming to the help of the weaker... (The stronger) acts by a voluntary decision, though he is moved by the dependence or the request of the weaker party’ (The Roots of our Faith, p 22). An excellent example of how it works in practice is how Moses interceded for the idolatrous Israelites after the experience of the golden calf in Exodus 32. In the exchange between God and Moses the word chen is used nine times. Moses knew that it was not by any merit on the part of the Israelites that he could approach the Lord and intercede for them. It is significant that God met him on that basis, even stating that it is His divine nature to be ‘gracious’ (Exodus 34:6). Tragically, the Jewish Christians, already excluded by their fellow-countrymen because of their faith in Jesus as their Messiah, became isolated from their Gentile co-believers as they continued with the observance of Sabbaths, circumcision and other Jewish feasts and thereby unwittingly and unintentionally perpetuating the misleading perception that they reduced Christ's sacrifice.
The flawed Grace versus Law Dichotomy
Paul's distinction between Isaac as the son of the promise and Ishmael as the son of the bondwoman is unquestionably very valid, just as that between grace and law. It caused however a tragic by-product, a haughty condescending attitude towards Islam and Muslims, as well as a sickening arrogance of Western Protestants towards Roman Catholics. Many Protestant theologians were taken on tow by the overdrawn teaching of Martin Luther. He created the impression that grace and law are mutually exclusive. Subsequently, some theologians have been suggesting that Torah (Law) belongs to the ‘Old Testament’ and charis (grace) to the new covenant. In Galatians 5:4 Paul did of course warn against those who believed that they could be justified by faith - those legalists have fallen away from grace. That was the closest he came to propagate a so-called contradiction between law and grace.
The flawed legal and forensic interpretation of Torah – preferably only with negative connotations and in contrast to the Jewish understanding of loving and protective teaching - led to a caricature. The sad part of this is that this construction even found its way into Bible translations. The King James version – generally regarded as one of the best English translations - fell into the trap by translating John 1:17 incorrectly. The word but is used, thereby indirectly implying that there is a contradiction between the law given by Moses and the grace and truth which came through Christ. (In the original Greek the word used is the conjunction kai; it should thus be translated as the law AND grace.
In spite of Paul's warning against a lackadaisical attitude towards sin – he actually said in Romans 8 'far from it', licentiousness and even grave sin cannot be tolerated with excuses such as 'grace abounds' or 'die liefde bedek alles', (love covers everything). In so many churches remorse because of sinful practices and a clear evidence of breaking with sinful and immoral practice are nowadays hardly required or expected. In Reformed churches the dichotomy is weakened to some extent when the law is read every Sunday in their liturgy in some form. Following Paul, the apostle, this is followed up by a pronouncement of grace. All too often, however, this amounts to an empty ritual. As a result, the perception grew in many a congregant to regard the ‘NT’ as superior to the ‘OT’.
Torah merely an Educator to Faith in Christ?
In more than one instance the Hellenist upbringing of the prodigious Paul comes through. Greek philosophic thinking loved the either/or combination. Coming from his personal experience of a legalist interpretation of the Torah - against which our Lord protested strongly - Paul proclaimed the law to be an educator to bring one to faith in Christ. Hebrew thinking is more inclusive, wary of false alternatives. Under this influence Paul wrote to the Galatians (3:5) along similar lines with regard to the gift of the Holy Spirit: ‘... by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith.’ (Earlier we looked at the false assumption of works and faith as alternatives.) This verse, along with Galatians 3:2 could be abused to support the grace versus law argument. Paul basically argues indeed that the gift of the Holy Spirit was not imparted to them in consequence of the observance of the Law of Moses, but in connection with a faith response to the preaching of the gospel. Evangelicals will generally have no problem with this. In his later letters to the Ephesians and the Philippians he made quite clear what is at issue: “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9). Faith is not of yourselves but it is instrumental to salvation. It is not your own human achievement or effort. It is the gift of God. To the Philippians (2:13) Paul wrote “…for it is GOD which works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure”. God provides Christians with the willpower and motivation to please Him. The real issue here is thus not grace OR works. Neither is it grace OPPOSED to works. Nor is it grace in place of works. It is simply Grace FOLLOWED BY works.
Be it as it may, already in the first century Ignatius, an early Bishop of Antioch, said fallaciously in The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians (ca. 110 A.D.): ‘…For if we continue to live in accordance with Judaism, we admit that we have not received grace. For the most Godly prophets lived in accordance with Christ Jesus.’
Paul versus James
The rivalry between the respective followers of James and Paul have often been inappropriately blown up and exaggerated. Some authors have tried to suggest animosity between James and the Nazorean Christian community on the one hand and the Pauline followers of Jesus on the other hand. This is highly artificial because in his epistle James speaks twice about Jesus as the Lord and the Messiah (Christ) and in James 5:7, the author awaits the coming of the Lord. The wording is no different than Pauline equivalents.
Martin Luther also blew erringly into that horn. He even went to the extreme of calling the Epistle of James 'straw-like'. Luther changed the order of the 'NT' books in his German Bible translation in such a way that the Epistle of James was moved to the back of the Bible, just before the book of Revelations. Many believers since Luther went to another extreme. Thus some evangelicals reacted in opposition to the so-called 'Social Gospel' of the early 20th century. They would over-emphasise faith, sometimes even side-lining or bad-mouthing works of compassion. No less than the Master himself showed where the priority should lie, when he said, ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His Righteousness’(Matthew 6:33). The Bible teaches the combination of faith and works, or better still, it highlights works of faith. Jesus’ example of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25ff) is the prime paradigm, where the ritually and doctrinally ‘inferior’ Samaritan - in the view of Jesus’ Jewish audience - put the Levite and the Priest to shame. The probable view of the law expert, who had questioned Jesus in the context of the parable, would have been legalist. James stressed in his epistle that our faith should be derived from our works - faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26). In this passage James highlights the action of the harlot Rahab, that she was performing a deed of faith when she was still a pagan.
It is possible that James deemed it necessary to give this correction because of an extreme interpretation of Pauline teaching. Paul possibly merely meant that works should not be abused to boast with or attempting to earn rewards with them. But he did not discard them either. In fact, 1 Corinthians 3:14 shows that he did reckon with rewards: If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. In that context however, the rewards are not material. Elsewhere Paul gives an idea what he means with the remuneration the believer should be looking at, e.g. ‘I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work’ (Philippians 4:1). Paul thus pointed to the committed mature believers of Philippi as ‘You... my crown’. Nevertheless, we may take for granted that nothing we ever do for the Lord goes unrewarded. God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labour of love. It has become proverbial that the Lord is no man's debtor.
The Importance of the Quality of the Material
In his second letter to the Corinthians the believer is challenged to aspire to be ‘transformed into his (the Lord’s) likeness’ (3:18) and in 1 Corinthians 9:25 Paul writes about a crown that will last forever. The crown refers to a reward. The quality of the material used in building on the foundation Jesus Christ, was important, whether it would stand the test of fire (1 Corinthians 3). Thus believers who have been discipled well, would be the sort of reward Christians should be aiming for. At the same time, building on any other foundation than Jesus, is disqualified for any reward. Timothy Keller (Generous Justice, 2010:98) summarized the various positions of Paul and James succinctly: 'The contradiction is only apparent. While a sinner can get into relationship with God by faith only (Paul), the ultimate proof that you have saving faith is the changed life that true faith inevitably produces (James).
Two Types of Christians
The side-lining of Jews had a very negative effect on Christianity. A tragic aberration set in when the Church became the establishment. The rapidity of numerical and geographical expansion of Christianity in the third century greatly accelerated the acceptance of a double ethical standard. Acute theological problems were raised by a doctrine of two types of Christians, ordinary ones and the clergy. (Already in the first century the concept was known as the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, composed of two words, nikao meaning conquer and laos which means people.). A Nicolaitan was someone who supposedly conquered the laity, the common people. This germ was disseminated among other things in a sermon of Origen (184 -254 AD), when he spoke of an elite army that was supported by soldiers who also fought against evil but who were not involved with the actual fighting (Chadwick, 1969:176).
The State Church replacing House Churches
The secular advantages given to the Church as a result of the Constantine military victories and the subsequent reforms had a fatal side effect. The unified State Church replaced house Churches, which were actually forbidden. This was of course far removed from the biblical idea of the unity of the Body of Christ. In the process the Church lost its prophetic power over social, cultural and pagan habits. The clergy became less dependent on God and their life-style moved further and further away from biblical standards. Thus the biblical word paroikia of which Peter, the apostle, speaks in his first epistle, meaning to be a stranger on earth, evolved to become a parish. This became almost the opposite of the original concept, but understandable in the environment of a society without money. The parish was the security of the priest.
Contextualization or Confrontation
If all issues were as straightforward as the logos/rhema debate, it would not be such a problem. (At closer examination of these translations for the original Greek word, we notice that they are used interchangeably in the 'NT').
However, there are instances where the heart of the Gospel is at stake. One such issue is the so-called contradiction of contextualization and confrontation. The ‘New Testament’ is quite clear that both have its rightful place; in fact, proper contextualisation inevitably leads to confrontation. The nature of the Gospel is that it ‘offends’ because it goes against the grain of our innate yearning for self-sufficiency.
Improper contextualisation occurs when the adaptation to the culture goes so far that no confrontation comes about. The message of the Cross is always ‘folly’ to those who oppose the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18). On the other hand, it does not mean that the carrier of the Good News must set off on confrontation course every time he/she shares the Gospel. Jesus taught that his followers should be ‘shrewd as serpents and as innocent as the doves’ (Matthew 10:16).
Paul became a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 9:20ff). Nevertheless, this did not eliminate the necessity of confrontation with the Romans, the Greeks or Jews. In fact, his contextualisation, going into the synagogues and sharing the Gospel from the Scriptures, more than once led to a threat to his life. Abusing contextualisation to avoid confrontation is unbiblical. Dialogue which becomes an end in itself is biblically untenable. This does not take away the necessity of sharing the Word in a way that is adapted to the culture. Ideally, sharing the Gospel respects the hearer in every way. It is sensitive to his/her special needs.
Occasional Need of Confrontation
In no way should we condone an airy-fairy covering up of differences. Jesus used God’s Word as a prime weapon against the devil when He was attacked in the desert. But also the assistants of the arch enemy had to be opposed. Because the Lord had observed their ways meticulously and listened carefully to what they were saying, Jesus could venture into enemy territory, telling his religious opponents to their face that they were hypocritical. He gave Simon, the Pharisee, a lesson in hospitality, while he uplifted the prostitute who 'wasted' precious nard ointment to anoint him and drying his feet with her hair (Luke 7:37ff).
The Master furthermore spoke of ‘binding the strongman’ (Matthew 12:29). Paul wrote about ‘taking captive every thought’ (2 Corinthians 10:5), about ‘strongholds’ (2 Corinthians 10:4) and ‘weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left’ (2 Corinthians 5:7). The full ‘armour’ of the believer (Ephesians 6:11ff) belongs of course to the very well-known portions of Scripture which have even been taught to children in Sunday school. In traditional theology these warlike terms have generally been over-spiritualized. (This probably happened when the superficial impression could be gained that it could clash with the impression that Christians should be peace-loving or even pacifist. Islamic adherents love to say that their religion is a peaceful one – albeit not quite accurately as they could basically only refer to the Meccan Surah’s and verses of the Qur’an.)
In Galatians 2:11-15 it is reported how Paul criticized Peter to his face in the presence of others when he detected hypocrisy. If the actions of fellow brothers and sisters confuse young believers, it might be necessary to do the unusual thing to reprimand them publicly. Paul had been taught at the feet of the renowned Gamaliel. As a Pharisee, he thus had a head-start. But, like the Master, he dared to confront his opponents on their own turf. In Athens he challenged the learned Greeks who were constantly debating on the Areopagus (Acts 17:16ff). In the same vein, the apostle did not beat about the bush in his condemnation of hand-made gods as idols. This made the Ephesians very nervous, causing uproar in the process. The presence of Paul and Silas caused a furore in Thessaloniki, especially when Paul spoke about Jesus as the Christ (Acts 17:1-9).
At a time when it has become fashionable to be a 'Revolutionary',by just quietly leaving the conventional Church system, there is more than ever need for healthy confrontation. Every pastor should know why people are leaving the (sinking?) ship. Before leaving, church members should pray for a good opportunity to share their frustrations and/or disappointments in a mature and loving way. This phenomenon is simultaneously subtly fragmenting the Body of Christ – and not conducive to the transformation of communities.
Chapter 12 Two special Fore-runners of Church Unity
In this chapter we discuss two special fore-runners of church unity who impacted Count Zinzendorf. In the case of Jan Amos Comenius it was the indirectly, after he had been challenged by the Moravian and Bohemian refugees that had come to Saxony from 1721. With August Hermann Francke it was personal when he attended the famous boarding school in Halle, where he founded with a few fellow teenage believers the Order of the Mustard Seed.
Ever since Peter, the apostle, was challenged to step down from his condescending attitude in obedience to the command of the Holy Spirit to enter the home of the Roman soldier Cornelius, there can be no excuse for permitting any artificial social barriers in the Church of Jesus Christ. Any effort in this regard would be tantamount to disobedience to the teaching of the Word. It has perhaps not been appreciated sufficiently that real, meaningful contact between master and servant contains the seed of radical mission work.
Jesus himself had set the standard when he called his disciples friends, no longer servants: No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15). Paul blew into the same horn with his teaching of the broken wall and the one new man (Ephesians 2:14f). There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
In the next chapter we examine in some more detail how Count Nicolaus Zinzendorf and the 17th century believers in Saxony’s Herrnhut implemented biblical principles, adapting them for their generation.
Obedience rather than Glamour
A sign of great personalities is that they choose suffering rather than glamour when the chips are down. At the outset of his ministry Jesus chose not to be impressed by the adulation of his Nazareth townsfolk. Instead of riding on the crest wave of praise, he swam against the stream, risking his life in the process (Luke 4:14-30). When a multitude of Jewish worshipers wanted to forcefully make Jesus their worldly King (John 6:15), he refused this praise. Instead, he left the multitude. In the same chapter it is recorded how he responded with a hard word, after which the crowd left him en masse (John 6:66). Jesus chose the road of suffering, to be ultimately crowned with thorns. His Kingdom is not of this world.
When Peter merely faintly suggested that Jesus should escape his innocent death, the Master had to rebuke him strongly, seeing no less than satan behind this idea (Mark 8:33). Although he was the Son, the Lord had to learn obedience to the Father (Hebrews 5:8). By the time of the Gethsemane struggle he had obviously learned the lesson when he was required to empty the cup, the content of which ultimately took our Lord from the presence of His Father, so much so that he ultimately used the word forsaken. In the agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He responded thrice with ‘not my will but your will be done…’ (Mark 14:36).
One of the most self-effacing gestures in Church History was performed by Francis of Assisi. He was asked to pray for a spastic child in an Italian village whose body was all twisted. He initially didn’t want to pray for the child because he didn’t want to receive any glory if the child was healed. After persistent pleas by the village folk, he prayed a simple prayer. The young child thereafter just ‘unwound and relaxed’. The people were ecstatic. After five minutes they were looking for Francis because he was nowhere to be found. He believed that all glory belonged to God.
We have seen how William Tyndale refused a high position in the court of King Henry VIII, a safe return to England and a great salary to oversee his communications. However, Tyndale was not willing to surrender his work as a Bible translator, theologian and preacher merely to become a propagandist for the king!
The line between acclamation and rejection can be very thin at times. Choosing for absolute truth often makes the difference. Compromise could sometimes prevent persecution or rejection. When Bishop Comenius had received secular recognition via the invitation to become the rector and pioneer of the newly established Harvard University near Boston in the ‘New World’, he declined, preferring to stay with his small persecuted flock in Poland. Let us look more closely t the life of this true pioneer of church unity.
Jan Amos Comenius - a special Exile
One of the Czech nation's most beloved sons, Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670), is buried in Holland. This visionary religious leader, theologian, philosopher and educationist lived most of his life in exile, fleeing political and religious persecution in Europe. His last 14 years, among his most active and productive, were spent in Amsterdam, where he hoped to realize his project for the betterment of humanity.
 One of his timeless statements was: ‘ We are all citizens of one world, we are all of one blood. To hate a man because he was born in another country, because he speaks a different language, or because he takes a different view on this subject or that, is a great folly’
Comenius was the bishop of the Unitas Fratrum, the Bohemian Church of the Brethren, whose members had been were forced into exile when the Habsburgs imposed Catholicism on Bohemia. The Brethren were Calvinists and had many contacts with the Dutch Calvinist churches. In Dutch society however Comenius was better known as the author of language textbooks. In his book Orbis Sensualium Pictus (the visible world in pictures), he was one of the first to use images to teach Latin and sometimes two other vernacular languages. This was revolutionary at the time, along with his idea that all children, from both sexes and all social classes, should be educated.
But education for Comenius should serve a yet greater aim: in order to achieve worldwide peace, all of mankind needed to be re-educated. From his canal house in Amsterdam, he set about compiling and rewriting his pedagogical works, with the support of the city council, who gave him the key to the city's library, and his lifetime benefactor, a rich merchant cum arms dealer. Comenius had lost his personal library and many precious manuscripts in a fire before he fled from his previous place of exile in Poland. According to Nicolette Mout, Professor of Modern European History at Leiden University, Comeniius" found the peace and time to work on what was to become his lasting contribution to philosophy and pedagogy alike" in Amsterdam.
His General Consultation for the Improvement of Mankind expounds his philosophical system, called pansophy, close to what we would call today "holism". Nicolette Mout: ‘Comenius thought that he could put all the knowledge, philosophy, theology, geography and history, into one system of knowledge. And that system would then be the basis for the re-education of mankind towards peace and brotherhood.’ Comenius hoped to set up in Amsterdam an international college of wise and learned men who would help bring about world peace. The Consultation remained unfinished. It was rediscovered and published only in the 20th century. Throughout his life, Comenius continued to believe that one day, he and his followers would return to their homeland.
Muslims and Jews as Followers of Jesus?
Jan Amos Comenius believed that one of the sure signs that the end of the world was near would be that Muslims and Jews would become followers of Jesus. To this end he started to translate the Bible into Turkish.
Comenius was under the impression that Muslims worshiped the same god as the Christians and that it would therefore be very easy for them to convert. He was so enthusiastic about the idea of having the Bible translated into Turkish and then seeing all the Turks convert to Christianity, that he wrote an introduction long before the translation was finish. Dutch historian Nicolette Mout again: ‘Their souls would be saved, so why not become Christians now that the end of the world was at hand? Of course the Christian religion in his view was the best, the only true, but he thought that for Jews and Muslims it would be so much better, he was terribly well meaning. He did have a certain understanding of the Islam, very biased, but nevertheless he was one of the few people who were interested in Islam at the time.’
There might have been political considerations as well. The Turks were the enemies of of Christendom at large but the Catholic Habsburgs occupied Bohemia. Nicolette Mout: ‘so by getting friendly with the Turks, Comenius also hoped for Turkish political support, maybe even military support, in order to free his homeland from the Habsburgs.’
At the time the Turks were seen as the enemies. The Turkish Sultan had conquered and occupied part of Europe in the Balkans, ‘so it was quite unusual for somebody like Comenius to write about the Turks in such a friendly way. Comenius really wanted to get through to them, to communicate and impress them with the idea that they had to convert to Christianity because in this way they would also contribute to world peace.’ If the Turks were converted, Comenius believed, world peace would be much nearer.
Because he felt the end of times was imminent, Comenius wanted the Bible translated as quickly as possible. For this, he is believed to have received financial support from his Dutch benefactor Laurence de Geer. The translation made in Istanbul under the supervision of the Dutch Republic's learned ambassador in Istanbul was completed in 1659 but was never published.
Even at the end of his life, this eternal optimist and untiring apostle of world peace tried to mediate in negotiations between two arch enemies: the English and the Dutch. He attended the Breda peace conference where he presented his book "the angels of peace" and called on both countries to stop fighting for supremacy in world commerce. The war continued.True Piety of an Academic
August Hermann Francke (22 March 1663 – 8 June 1727) was a unique German. As lecturer in Leipzig he soon became popular; but the peculiarities of his teaching almost immediately aroused a violent opposition on the part of the university authorities; he was interdicted from lecturing on the ground of his alleged pietism. Prohibited from lecturing in Leipzig, Francke in 1690 found work at Erfurt as diakon of one of the city churches. Here his evangelistic fervour attracted multitudes to his preaching, including Roman Catholics, but at the same time excited the anger of his opponents. Francke accepted an invitation to fill the chair of Greek and oriental languages in the new University of Halle. He was also appointed pastor of Glaucha in the immediate neighbourhood of the town. He afterwards became professor of theology. Here, for the remaining thirty-six years of his life, he discharged the two-fold office of pastor and professor with success. At the very outset of his labours, he had been profoundly impressed with a sense of his responsibility towards the numerous outcast children who were growing up around him in ignorance and crime. After a number of tentative plans, he resolved in 1695 to institute what is often called a "ragged school," supported by public charity. A single room was at first sufficient, but within a year it was found necessary to purchase a house, to which another was added in 1697.
In 1698 there were 100 orphans under his charge to be clothed and fed, besides 500 children who were taught as day scholars. The schools grew in importance and were later known as the Franckesche Stiftungen. The education given was strictly religious. Hebrew was included, while the Greek and Latin classics were neglected. (Where else could Count Zinzendorf have been impacted in his love for the Jews than in Halle where he attended boarding school?) A chemist, whom Francke had visited on his deathbed, bequeathed to him the recipe for compounding certain medicines, which afterward yielded an annual income of more than $20,000, and made the institution independent. Shortly after its founding, the institution comprised an orphan asylum, a Latin school, a German (or burgher) school, and a seminary for training teachers for these establishments. Although Francke's principal aim was religious instruction, he also taught natural science and physical exercises and manual trades. He ran an apothecary's shop and, having assisted in founding the first modern Bible society, a printing press for publishing cheap copies of the Bible for mass distribution. Francke's schools provided a prototype which greatly influenced later German education.
In his university teaching as well, he gave great emphasis to religion. Even as professor of Greek, he had given great prominence in his lectures to the study of the Scriptures; but he found a much more congenial sphere when, in 1698, he was appointed to the chair of theology. Yet his first courses of lectures in that department were readings and expositions of the Old and New Testament; and to this, as also to hermeneutics, he always attached special importance, believing that for theology a sound exegesis was the one indispensable requisite. Halle became a centre from which pietism became very widely diffused over Germany. Under Francke's influence, Christian missionary efforts were greatly enhanced, zeal was aroused and recruits for Christian missions were gained, and Halle also became the center for Danish-Halle Mission to India.
Chapter 13 The Herrnhut Moravians in Church Unity Endeavours
To Follow Christ means Stepping Down
Another profound example of the principle in well-known mission history is the instance when Count Zinzendorf ‘stepped down’ to speak to the slave Anton at the occasion of the coronation of Christian VI of Denmark in 1731, after the mediation by one of his Herrnhut believers. Meaningful dialogue ensued because Anton, the slave who hailed from the West Indian island St Thomas, challenged Zinzendorf, the aristocrat, in no uncertain way. The Count responded in a positive way by inviting Anton over to Herrnhut to repeat his challenge to the congregation that had been hearing repeatedly of the worldwide mission need. Although the Herrnhut believers were apparently still very much in the revival mood, they needed the slave Anton to get them moving to the mission fields. What will the reaction of the more affluent South Africans be if their poorer compatriots challenge them to share their lives meaningfully in partnership, to become servants, the equivalents of slaves?
In Herrnhut the slave Anton did not mince his words either. He stated clearly that any prospective missionary to St Thomas, the island in the West Indies from where he originated, should be prepared to become like one of them; the missionary candidate had to be prepared to become the equal of a slave. The Moravians of Herrnhut, through their child-like faith in Jesus, accepted the challenge spontaneously. In the next few decades they left the little village to places all over the world.
The socializing of Count Zinzendorf with the slave Anton was definitely not an one-off occasion. This was in line with the charismata, the spiritual gifts of Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and the five-fold ministries of Ephesians 4. They are not only given to leaders. Moreover, it was part of Zinzendorf's life-style to converse with kings and slaves alike, whoever came across his path. For almost a decade the Count had been ‘on everyday terms with artisans and peasants’, confirming his instinctive conviction that spiritual gifts are independent of social rank (Weinlick, 1956:96). This was evidently part and parcel of the DNA of Moravian missionaries.
Count Zinzendorf demonstrated what servant leadership entails. Although it becomes clear from all reports that he was a dominant aristocratic figure in the fellowship, his style was not autocratic or domineering. Thus he regarded the way Friedrich Martin treated his Caribbean congregants as too strict, but Zinzendorf did not oppose him in the least (Spangenberg, 1773-75:1177). Even though he disagreed fiercely on some issues, it seems that Zinzendorf hardly ever imposed his will on others. Although he was for example very dissatisfied about a financial transaction which was enacted in his absence - and against which he protested as soon as he heard about it, the Count assisted to scratch the capital together (Spangenberg, 1773-75:1490).
The Count excelled at integrating the initiatives of congregants. Centuries before cell groups were rediscovered in the 20th century, the Herrnhut congregation was divided in 56 small bands where an informal atmosphere encouraged innovation. Thus the cup of the covenant - whereby the cup would pass from hand to hand - as well as the dawn service on Easter Sunday became standard practice in the denomination as a whole (Weinlick, 1956:85). Both traditions were initiated by the group of the single brethren.
Zinzendorf instructed candidate missionaries to have a servant attitude: ‘You must never try to lord over the heathen, but rather humble yourself among them, and earn their esteem through the power of the Spirit...’ How seriously they took the instructions is borne out by the fact that Matthaeus Freundlich, a first generation missionary in St Thomas, married the mulatress Rebecca, at a time when non-Whites were still called ‘Wilden’, also in the literature of the Brethren. The missionary had to seek nothing for himself. ‘Like the cab-horses in London, he must wear blinkers and be blind to every danger and to every snare and conceit. He must be content to suffer, to die and be forgotten’ (Lewis, 1962:92). Zinzendorf demonstrated what it means to regard the other higher than yourself. The Count praised the North American indigenous believers. In his diary the following entry is found for March 9, 1729: ‘...I spoke earnestly with our servant Christoph and was deeply humbled by his testimony concerning himself. He is far in advance of me’ (Lewis, 1962:90).
Teachability and Humility
It has been reported how Count Zinzendorf was getting challenged in his faith in the Holy Scriptures from a very early age. He became deeply involved with questions around the authority of God's Word from the age of seven (Beyreuther, 1962:84). Zinzendorf discovered that whosoever is prepared to face uncomfortable questions and then take a step of faith, can only grow through it spiritually. He had the courage to speak bluntly of transcription errors, of geographical and chronological mistakes in Scripture. He saw it as no major tragedy that the apostles erred in their imminent expectation of the second coming of the Lord. The Count even proceeded to say: ‘Misunderstood prophecies can and should not be defended, but they should rather be pre-empted and acknowledged’ (Cited in Beyreuther, 1962:89). Count Zinzendorf was quite radical. He believed that the Holy Spirit can empower anybody to interpret the Word for himself according to his own capacity and circumstances. Not only the professional teacher had the right to expound Scripture, because the paraclete (The Holy Spirit) ‘will teach you everything’ (John 14:16).
It is evident that the lessons were thoroughly learned and put into practice. John Wesley was struck by the humility of the Moravians. In his first confrontation with Moravians who were with him on a ship bound for North America, John Wesley was deeply impressed: ‘... I had long before observed ... their behaviour... performing servile offices for the other passengers which none of the English would undertake.’Zinzendorf also taught that the leaders had to be teachable themselves. ‘Only when the ‘Amtsträger’ (clergyman) becomes a brother amongst brethren and accept from them fraternal help in comfort, encouragement, complimenting, admonishment, correction and prays with and practises brotherliness as one of them, then brotherhood is realized' (Beyreuther, Studien zur Theologie Zinzendorfs1962:193).
Through his example Zinzendorf inspired others. His teachability inspired noblemen and professors to go and sit at the bare feet of the potter Martin Dober. His example of putting the Kingdom first, found a following when learned men declined high academic posts.
Teaching by Example
Count Zinzendorf not only taught this, but he also displayed that he was teachable. Thus he became willing to go to Dresden in 1721, although that was really the last of the places where he wanted to serve the Lord, after the godly Magister Schwedler had spoken to him (Beyreuther, 1957:231). When Zinzendorf was offered a full-time post as one of the cabinet ministers of the Danish king, he declined, citing his commitment to Herrnhut as a reason. (Earlier he had aspired to go to Denmark.) He was willing to be employed in some lesser capacity, so that he would have time for free-lance religious church activity. He really understood the biblical injunction ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.’
His example was duly followed by other Moravians.
August Spangenberg refused an offer as professor of Theology at Jena. Arved Gradin, a prominent Swedish academic of Theology and Philology, declined the call to a professorship at Uppsala University, coming to the village of lowly Herrnhut instead. Samuel Lieberkühn who had studied Hebrew thoroughly in Halle and Jena, preferred to go and work among the Jews in Holland, rather than accepting an offer to become professor of Semitic languages in Königsberg.
The Biblical Model of Fellowship Practised
The biblical model of mutual fellowship has hardly been practised better ever than among the Moravians of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) in the ‘new world’ in the 1750s. ‘Seldom has even the most easy service (been) executed with such holy reverence... a brother in the stable or in his manual work can ever think that he does nothing for the Saviour; whoever is faithful in the outward (things) is just as well a respectable servant of Christ as a preacher or a missionary.’ The joy with which they performed mundane tasks, interspersed with love feasts, was part of their DNA. Even at work they would sing. Thus Bishop Spangenberg could write: ‘In our economy the spiritual and physical fit together like the body and soul of man...’
Hierarchical church structures have sadly conditioned leaders to become bosses. The dictum coined by Lord Acton (1834-1902) that 'power tends to corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely', is so true, also in religious contexts. This is however alien to the spirit of biblical servitude. Loving brotherhood, (or rather siblinghood), should be the hall-mark of Church work, where the leader's endeavours should result in the empowering of the congregants.
The early Moravian missionaries evidently understood this very well. They discerned that ‘New Testament’ life had to be demonstrated. In the Caribbean they bought slaves free, took them into their houses and worked alongside them on the plantations (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1177). On the other hand, the Herrnhut fellowship respected the culture gender pattern of their day, whereby a distance of mutual respect had to remain intact. The sisters called each other by the familiar ‘Du’ (you) but used the polite ‘Sie’ (thou) when they addressed the brethren.
Among the males the same thing happened. But also the Bishop was not addressed with a title, but merely as brother so and so. (In fact, the Bishop's role in the Moravian Church to this day is merely that of the pastor of the clergy, without an administrative function).
Winning Sectarians over Through Love
God commands his blessing where brethren live in love and harmony (compare Psalm 133:1,3). On the other hand, the enemy of souls is therefore always on the lookout to cause disruption and disunity.
It is no wonder that Herrnhut received its fair share of sectarians, who quite soon converged on the village after 1722 from all geographic and spiritual directions. The practice of winning sectarians over through love eventually won the day. The refugees from Moravia refused to be drawn into religious quarrels until a separatist with the name of Krüger came to Herrnhut in 1726. He described Count Zinzendorf as the ‘beast from the Abyss’. Krüger dubbed Johann Rothe, the Lutheran pastor of the neighbouring town Berthelsdorf a false apostle. Even Christian David, the faithful pioneering refugee from Moravia, was misled. Ultimately only three brethren remained with Zinzendorf. When the Count discerned that the fiery Pastor Johann Rothe merely aggravated the situation with his sermons, he requested leave from his lawyer’s office in the city of Dresden to move to Herrnhut at 'Easter' 1727. Hereafter he spoke laboriously to the erring members individually with patience and love. In public he shed heiße Träne (hot tears) because of the evident disunity.
The big About-Turn
The revival of August 1727 in Herrnhut is often romanticized. It is often overlooked or forgotten that Count Zinzendorf went to the little village on his estate in April 1727 explicitly ‘that he might give all his time to the healing of the discords and to caring for the souls whom the Lord had led to his estate’ (Lewis, 1962:51). The summer of 1727 could only flourish after a major conflict had been resolved. The Moravian refugees wanted their original denomination - the Unitas Fratrum - restored, whereas Zinzendorf preferred a small fellowship evolving that would display a significant ‘leaven’ presence within the bigger Lutheran Church. A good compromise was reached when the statutes were finalized on 12 May 1727, including the radical statement: ‘Herrnhut shall stand in unceasing love with all children of God in all churches, criticize none, take part in no quarrel against those differing in opinion, except to preserve for itself the evangelical purity, simplicity and grace’.
The big about turn came when the Count called all the inhabitants of the village Herrnhut to a public meeting on May 12, 1727. He taught them for three hours in the new statutes - the rules and regulations. Everybody who wanted to live on his property had to sign the agreement to abide by the statutes. The general tone of these statutes was significant. The brothers and sisters of Herrnhut were enjoined to live in love with the children of God in all churches. Internally, the mere critical judging of each other would be regarded as a ‘Greuel’, an abomination, to be fiercely opposed. He ‘discoursed on the sole ground of salvation – without entering into the various notions which had caused confusion and division among them’ (Langton, 1956:72).
One after the other the members agreed until only a few stubborn separatists were left. (On 12 May 1748, twenty one years later, the Count recalled how the village had been weighed. He used to call the 12th May, 1727 the ‘critical day’ upon which Herrnhut would prove to be either a ‘nest of sects’ or a vibrant fellowship of Christ.) The inhabitants were required to sign the statutes, the Manorial Injunctions and Prohibitions, promising with this act to end their sectarian quarrels, and to live in loving fellowship with Christians of all beliefs and denominations.
Twelve Elders were elected who had control over every department of life, and enforced the Injunctions and Prohibitions with an iron hand. They levied the usual rates and taxes to keep the streets and wells in order and supervised the care of widows and orphans, while keeping a watchful eye over the relationships of single young men and women. They also followed the actions at the inn closely and they reprimanded the narrators of evil tales. All who disobeyed the laws, or conducted themselves in an unbecoming, frivolous or offensive manner, were requested to leave Herrnhut.
Small Cells of Mutual Trust
On Sunday 9 July 1727 the tide had almost turned, but Zinzendorf was not yet completely happy. He noticed that there was still not warm mutual trust and love. Hereafter he endeavoured to meet every member of the community individually, sometimes with one other person who had their trust, discussing the respective spiritual condition of the person concerned. He sought to link them up in small groups of two, three or more from the same sex who could console, encourage and rectify each other. This was the beginning of the 'bands', by which not a single soul was left out in the cold. This developed into small cells of mutual trust where transparency prevailed.
On the 5th of August 1727 Count Zinzendorf conducted a moving all-night prayer event on the Hutberg, the hill just outside the village. On Sunday 10 August they had another lengthy afternoon meeting of song and prayer that went on until midnight. The remaining separatists were finally pulled in. Three days later the congregants went to Berthelsdorf for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, where a ‘sea of tears’ - mutual love and forgiveness - drowned the occasion. It seems as if God was only waiting for the unity to let the revival break out in force!
Taking Critics Seriously
A major problem in Church History has been that leaders often responded to critics inappropriately. All too often these critics were either not listened to properly or Church leaders over-reacted, giving people the option to leave the fellowship if they were not satisfied.
Count Zinzendorf was exemplary in listening even to critics of the Gospel. Although he was self-confessingly not an avid reader, he stayed a humble learner throughout his life. Erich Beyreuther, in his hey-day professor in Munich and a prominent biographer of Zinzendorf, saw the greatness of Zinzendorf amongst other things in how he would even look for help during his personal religious struggle at the work of Pierre Bayle, an eminent 17th century harsh critic of the Church.Beyreuther shows quite convincingly how Zinzendorf understood Bayle much better than anyone before or after him, better even than the renowned philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. Whereas Bayle kept on waiting and hoping for new revelations of faith in the churches, Zinzendorf surged forth towards the realization of it (Beyreuther, 1965:233). It testifies of special grace that Zinzendorf could throw ‘a conciliatory light on the tragic figure of Bayle’ after the lonely fighter had bravely put forward uncomfortable views, heavily attacked thereafter(Beyreuther, 1965:233). That Zinzendorf candidly confessed that he was reading Bayle’s works as a close second to the Bible, did however not earn him acclaim. This was yet another reason for clergy of other denominations to castigate Zinzendorf.
The bad Smell of Theology
Count Zinzendorf’s views on certain doctrinal issues - to let love prevail instead of clinging to official Church doctrine and the letter of the law - could have averted much pain if they had been taken seriously by the Church of his day (and ever since). He detested the 'bad smell of theology', stating that ‘all the essential theology can be written with large characters on one octavo sheet’ (Cited in Lewis, 1962:15), i.e. on half of an A4 page.. Zinzendorf was very concerned at the development at the Herrnhut Theological Seminary during his absence in America, fearing that ‘the brethren would move away from simplicity, that their bishops would start filling the young people with learnedness’ (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1492). In one of his Fetter Lane Lectures in London, the Count made the remark that the philosophers and theologians ‘have made that which was before obscure so pitch dark that, if earlier, before hearing it explained, one did understand a little bit; now after the explanation one no longer has the slightest idea what to make of it.’ In the sentence just prior to this remark, Zinzendorf offers the reason that was so typical of him: ‘they have been intent on hunting for expressions outside of Scripture in order to expound... those passages of Scripture which they found obscure’ (Zinzendorf, Nine Lectures, 1746). The Count referred to the vain academic theological practices and exercises as odium theologicum (bad theological smell). To put the record straight: the Bible does not teach that intellect must not be appreciated. Paul sat under the feet of the famous Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), but he only became a spiritual giant after his mental capacity came under the rule of Christ. Thus the warning is possibly just as apt for our day and age as in by-gone times. (In South Africa many a Bible School suffered in spirituality when academic accreditation was frantically sought because of government requirements for lecturers in the democratic era of our nation.)
Doctrinal Differences can cause Rifts
Zinzendorf taught missionary candidates not only to refrain from getting involved in doctrinal disputes, but rather to try and diminish the differences between churches (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1272). In an age of tremendous Protestant bigotry, he wrote:
‘I have been severely censured for not acknowledging the Pope to be the Antichrist, as I am sure he is not, and cannot be deemed so upon the authority of the Bible...’ In the same context the Count said ‘...Every church bearing the name of Christ... (is) to be (seen as) a congregation formed for his sake; more or less erroneous … I never will boast of it (my church) and despise others’ (Cited in Lewis, 1962:20). The people of Herrnhut caught the broad vision. They sought nothing for themselves, wanting only to be ‘used by the Lamb of God as a leaven of his unity wherever he might call them’ (Lewis, 1962:61). Utilizing the unique divinity of Jesus as Lord and shunning all other doctrinal tussles, the Moravians became the pioneers of ecumenism.
Co-operation in Missionary Endeavour
A major contribution of Zinzendorf in missionary strategy - which has often been over-looked by many ‘faith mission’ agencies at their own peril - was that he succeeded in getting other denominations to co-operate in the support of the Moravian missionary endeavours. Already in Germany he exploited the Moravian tradition of music to the full when their groups were invited to conduct ‘singstunden’ (singing hours, devotional meetings with songs around Bible verses, the daily texts, as the 'sermon') in both Reformed and Lutheran congregations. Zinzendorf’s emphasis on the Body of the Messiah was not appreciated everywhere. Committed believers nevertheless joined them from almost every denomination of the time. In England he could call on support from Anglicans, Methodist and Quakers. At the first Pennsylvania Synod of the Reformed Church the representatives of the denomination were called upon by one of their leaders to support the non-denominational Moravian work for the furtherance of the Gospel in the Americas and the West Indies. Little groups of contributors were organized in Philadelphia and New York and in the homes of many synod members (Lewis, 1962:149). Similarly, some Moravians worked alongside the Lutherans. In the teaching of Zinzendorf to his missionaries he made it clear: ‘You must not enroll your converts as members of the Moravian Church, you must be content to enroll them as Christians’ (Lewis, 1962:95). At a Moravian church conference in ‘s Heerendijk (Holland), Zinzendorf stated emphatically: ‘I cannot ... confine myself to one denomination, for the whole earth is the Lord’s and all souls are His; I am debtor to all’ (Lewis, 1962:143). As the reason for this activity, the Count expressed himself thus in 1745: ‘For thirty years I have yearned that all may be one in the Lord’ (Nielsen Der Toleranzgedanke bei Zinzendorf, Vol.1, 1951:44).
The Love of God as the only valid Motivation
Andrew Murray stated repeatedly: ‘The missionary problem is a personal one.’ It is not the sheer effort which will get missionaries to the fields, but the love of God personified. He allowed His Son to die for our sins. After seeing the Ecce homo painting of Christ in the museum of Düsseldorf with the challenging words, the youthful Zinzendorf was deeply moved. He knelt before the painting, pleading that the Lord might ‘draw him forcefully into communion with his sufferings.’ He surrendered his whole life to the Lord and the Cross: his name, rank and fortune became relative. He was hereafter more determined than ever to give his everything in the service of the Lord. Andrew Murray took the cue from the Herrnhut Moravians: ‘Get this burning thought of ‘personal love for the Saviour who redeemed me’ into the hearts of Christians, and you have the most powerful incentive that can be had for missionary effort’ (Murray, 1901:44). Or in different wording: ‘Missions was the automatic outflow and the overflow of their love for Christ. It was to satisfy Christ’s love and express their own love that they brought to Him souls that He had died for to save’ (Murray, 1901:158). This somehow also puts a question mark to some modern-day 'worship' services, which all too often resembles a glorified concert, with musicians amplified too much on a stage and the congregation hardly singing along. It seems to me very problematic when loving Christ is expressed vocally, but where the logical consequence - like loving outreach to the needy and spiritually lost - is conspicuous by its absence.
Zinzendorf’s Vision for Church Unity
Count Zinzendorf had a tremendous vision for the unity of the Body of Christ. He envisioned the believers around him not as a separate denomination, but as a dynamic renewal society which would serve to revitalize existing denominations and help create new work in mission areas. There are numerous churches in Pennsylvania where Moravians had started a church and school for the settlers and native Americans, and then turn it over to the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church, or whatever denomination they perceived to be the strongest in that area. This also happened in other parts of the world, such as Greenland and Australia.
Ecumenicals in the biblical Mode
Count Zinzendorf has been described as the first ecumenical after the Reformation,  but then it should be remembered that his ecumenical theology arose from the religious experience among those who ‘have experienced the death of Jesus in their hearts’ (Lewis, 1962:15). It was a ‘heart religion’ that he preached: ‘without it, all efforts towards unity he regarded as unfounded and doomed’ (Lewis, 1962:15). Visser ‘t Hooft, the first General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), quoted Zinzendorf: ‘All fellowship which is only based on agreement of opinions and forms without a change of heart, is a dangerous sect’ (Visser’t Hooft, 1959:27). Increasingly however, the leaders of the WCC after Visser ‘t Hooft did not heed this warning.
Zinzendorf was however for many Christians too difficult a customer. He was too unconventional, fraternizing with Roman Catholics while remaining on very friendly terms with those who are coming from the opposite doctrinal pole of the Church spectrum. Even in our day many Christians would be unhappy with someone who straddles the Church boundaries as Zinzendorf did. In my view the only persons who approached that ecumenical evangelical spirit ever since were Dr Billy Graham and Dr David du Plessis. (The Cape-born but Free State-raised South African who was dubbed ‘Mr. Pentecost’, became the instrument that God used to usher in the breaking down of the wall not only between Pentecostals and other Protestants, but also between Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s.)
Being a reconciler has never been easy. Dr Billy Graham has been fiercely criticized by evangelical leaders, notably for going to speak in Communist countries and meeting the Pope (see for example Drummond, 2001:97).
Making Use of All Generations
It seems that the Reformation did not bring major revision with regard to the use of people from all generations. The Moravians were once again exemplary; nobody was excluded. Even children had a role to play. Gifting and ability was primary so that teenagers were given leadership functions. When Melchior Nitschmann was nominated to become one of the four chief elders of the Herrnhut fellowship, Count Zinzendorf had reservations. He thoughtthat they should not have included the teenager into the lot because of his age. The Count apparently did not know Melchior Nitschmann that well. The bare-footed youngster evidently had the trust of the congregants, demonstrating a steadfast attitude that soon enough impressed Zinzendorf (Uttendörfer and Schmidt, 1914:95). Anna Nitschmann was given the leadership over the single sisters although she was only fifteen (Weinlick, 1956:84). Eighteen single females under her leadership lived solely for the Lord. Along with Anna Nitschmann, Susanna Kühnel would be a special channel that God used in the 1727 revival among the children. In 1731 Martin Linner, a seventeen year-old, became the ‘Älteste’ - the elder - for the unmarried young men.
An independent Biblical Line
In various matters Zinzendorf took an independent line from Martin Luther, although he was deeply influenced by the great reformer. The most striking difference is perhaps their respective views on Jews. Martin Luther initially emphasized the Jewishness of Jesus, urging Christians to love all Jews for the sake of Jesus. Towards the end of his life, however, Luther wrote one of the most anti-Semitic tracts. Whereas Adolf Hitler abused the latter writings of the Wittenberg reformer to implement the Holocaust, Zinzendorf’s contemporaries from the Jewish nation regarded him as their great friend! In various other ways he demonstrated an independent spirit; he wanted to be dependent on the Lord alone. Zinzendorf did not follow the austere strict 'Busskampf' (painful struggle on conversion) of Jacob Spener, his godfather, who became known as the father of Pietism. Instead, the Herrnhut Moravians became known for their frivolity and joyous worship with lots of singing. Those Pietists, who insisted on the Bußkampf of the Halle tradition, had problems with the joyful practice of the child-like faith that the Herrnhut Moravians displayed. With regard to another accusation - that Zinzendorf strived after a unified Church - these fears were completely unfounded. The Count actually encouraged the believers to remain in their churches, to rather be the ecclesiola, little churches within the bigger Lutheran denomination (Spangenberg, 1773-1775 (1971):1462). In America the Moravians worked very closely with the Reformed Theodore Frelinghuysen, who had been there since 1720, so much so that Frelinghuysen was regarded as one of them. Of course, Zinzendorf remained a pain in the neck for all denominationalists because of his wide vision of the Body of Christ.
The Moravian missionaries sent out from Herrnhut in the 18th century were required to fend for themselves. They received just some pocket money, together with a coffin. They were expected to be ready to die in the tropics in the service of their Saviour after a few years due to the health conditions due to the absence of medical facilities. The missionaries were required to identify fully with the slaves and indigenous people among whom they would be working. They were expected to empower the slaves and indigenous people where they brought the Gospel, without getting politically involved in skirmishes with the slave owners or local authorities.
William Carey, who revived this missionary spirit from 1792, and the generation of missionaries that came through in the next fifty years, spread the same vision.
If one considers how inclusive Count Zinzendorf and his Moravians were we understand why they were arguably the most successful ever in the outreach to Jews. The celebration of the Singstunde (singing hour) on Saturday evening was a tradition that they had brought along from the early Herrnhut days, which they adapted from the Jewish practices, where the Sabbath starts on Friday evening. The abounding grace that went ahead of the emissaries to the ‘heathen’ nations enabled the Count to be bold enough to see the same grace at work in the christening of infants.
Count Zinzendorf took matters further, spelling it out that differences could even be used to serve towards mutual enrichment. Sigurd Nielsen, a bishop of the Moravian Church in South Africa and originally a Danish national who served for many years in the Transkei, examined the idea of tolerance in Zinzendorf's theology. He summarized the tension with the word homopoikilie, a term which expresses the unifying in diversity and the diversity in unity (Nielsen I, 1951:60).
It was the rich variety of believers and the varying approaches to spread the Good News which led Zinzendorf to appreciate the various denominations: they were to him clear evidence of God’s providential care for the different temperaments and needs of His children. He thus clearly saw in this an expression of the Church radiating the multi-coloured wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). Within the Church of the Lord Zinzendorf distinguished various tropoi: Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist (Mennonite) and Anglican. He expected every group to retain their own identity within a multi-coloured 'rainbow' constellation.
Nevertheless, Zinzendorf did not ride roughshod over the ecclesiastical disunity, and we should not do so either. According to him the main ecumenical task was a deep sense of repentance and need of forgiveness because the holiness and the unity of the Church had been broken by the narrowness, bigotry and pride of nominal Christianity (Lewis, 1962:108). But Zinzendorf was too far ahead of his time. The other church groups did not trust him. In fact, when he tried to create one denomination in the United States among the German speakers, Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg was specially sent from the Pietist stronghold of Halle to counter this influence. Zinzendorf was however much too ambitious and activist, organising no less than six non-denominational conferences or synods in half a year in 1742 (Praamsma, De Kerk van alle Tijden, III, 1980:125).
An accommodating View on Baptism
It is well-known how the followers of Luther persecuted the 'Anabaptists'. For four centuries the 'Anabaptists' as a group were labelled as folk who preached false doctrine and who led people into apostasy. Followers of Zwingli in Switzerland were among the first to persecute the 'Anabaptists', decreeing in 1526 that some of them should be drowned.
During Zinzendorf's life-time the christening of infants was common and the immersion of believers was regarded as sectarian, associated with re-baptism. Yet, the Count advised Georg Schmidt in Baviaanskloof, the later Genadendal of the Cape Overberg in a letter of ordination: ‘Baptise him where you shot the rhino’. Georg Schmidt evidently understood this advice as an encouragement to baptise the new convert in the river, because one can read in his diary entry of 31stMarch, 1742: ‘Then I said to him to go and stand in the water and I baptized him.’ The context does not indicate whether the water was deep enough to immerse Wilhelm, but this action was already revolutionary for the time. Georg Schmidt used the precedent of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26ff) when he was challenged soon hereafter why he baptized someone at a venue outside the confines of a church building. In the same letter of ordination Zinzendorf referred to the christening of the children of believers. He thus did not take an absolute stand. The Herrnhut Moravians refrained from getting involved in divisive debates about the mode of baptism. Be it as it may, the Reformed Church clergymen both at the Cape were furious, because there was no congregation present at the Sergeant's River event at Baviaanskloof. The Cape Reformed ministers regarded this as absolutely necessary for the practice of baptism. To interpret that the Count was playing it safe in case he could have been labelled an Anabaptist, would definitely not be applicable. He took many a life-threatening risk!
Unity on God’s Terms
Ephesians 4:4,5 (There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism...)shows nevertheless that Zinzendorf was probably too accommodating. Biblically, there is no such thing as unity at all costs. There is only unity on God’s terms. The issue of ‘one baptism’ to which Paul refers among others in the verse quoted, may bear out the above theory in the years to come. Devoid of a dramatic ‘Here I stand’ position of Baptists and Pentecostals, the Holy Spirit has brought movement on this issue which was unthinkable a decade or two ago. The loving acceptance of divergent views - allowing God to bring about the shifting of positions through his Holy Spirit - is apt to bring about more unity than heated synod discussions on doctrinal issues. (Nehemiah 3, the building of the wall, does demonstrate that different (church) groups can work towards a common goal. Various groups worked next to each other, each with a clearly defined goal within the bigger purpose: the completion of the wall around Jerusalem. Thus the Bible underscores unity in diversity.) A united front against abortion and the legalisation of prostitution are issues where Bible believing Christians may even be challenged to join hands with people of other faiths. Capetonians from diverse backgrounds have been doing this when they attempted the name change of Devil's Peak. Victory on this score has not been achieved as yet!
In Search of the Invisible Church
Count Zinzendorf looked on the one hand seriously for evidence of the 'Invisible Church', but he also deemed it a priority to work towards visible expressions of it. As he put it: 'The church cannot live on the long run from an invisible and uncommitted brotherhood’ (Beyreuther, Studien zur Theologie Zinzendorfs 1962:193).
Zinzendorf also believed that the unity should become concrete, that believers had the task to make the Church of Christ visible. The challenge is to bring together all those who are already united in Christ in some ‘field of encounter’ (Lewis, 1962:108). All the denominations have only relative value, they could only point to the ecclesia invisibilis, the invisible church (Lewis, 1962:108). At the same time, Zinzendorf believed in ‘the manifoldness of life.’ He said for instance: ‘... souls must not be forced; we must not expect them all to be measured by the same yardstick or to share exactly the same development of inward experiences ... It is not Gospel-like to prescribe rules, methods and dispositions, or require equality of souls’ (Lewis, 1962:102).
Spirit-wrought Unity the Name of the Game
Count Zinzendorf’s desire for Church unity was influenced by the tragedy of the fragmentation of the Body of Christ. He referred to his own church as Secta Morava (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1230). And if he may still have erred in being too accommodating, Zinzendorf made up for it by going out of his way to take differing theological positions really seriously. He succeeded in a special way with a great balancing act, succumbing neither to engage in squabbling nor by offering cheap compromises. In his activism, he was however sometimes too hasty. When he wanted to include Roman Catholics in a unifying process without clear indication that their leaders were prepared to address Mariolatry, he was definitely expecting too much from other Protestants.
Count Zinzendorf discerned that overt co-operation could never be a substitute for unity wrought by the Holy Spirit through prayer and supplication. He knew only too well that men could join in the same ‘outward ceremonies and duties of religion, but in reality deny the truth of it.’ The Count realized that we should not strive after an organic union of denominations, but work towards unity which transcends all church divisions. The ‘unity of His wounds’, of common faith in the crucified and risen Christ, will ultimately determine all other kinds of unity (Lewis, 1962:99). Therefore, it is not surprising to find the Count attacking righteousness and piety that come out of human efforts. Without the blood of Jesus they are like ‘ein beflecktes Kleid’, a stained garment (Spangenberg, 1773-1775:1451). This is of course a reference to Isaiah 64:6 where human righteousness is described as filthy rags.
No Christianity without Fellowship
Zinzendorf showed by his example that his philosophy: ‘Ich statuiere kein Christentum ohne Gemeinschaft’ (I propose that there is no Christianity without fellowship), was no empty theory. It has been suggested that Zinzendorf added fellowship as a third sacrament in the Protestant Church (Lewis, 1962:66). Yet, it must be stressed that the Count did not expect fellowship to be man-made; it was a gift of the Lamb. ‘It is not so much a fellowship of kindred minds but fundamentally of kindred hearts’ (Lewis, 1962:66). It was therefore natural that he expected believers who were linked to Herrnhut to get involved with fellowship locally, wherever they lived. Although Zinzendorf broke with Pietism in many other ways around 1734, the small ecclesiolae within the bigger churches remained a part of the Moravian practice in the diaspora.
Concentration on a few dedicated Believers
The Herrnhut Moravians had a good missionary strategy, concentrating on a few dedicated believers who could work alongside the missionaries to evangelise their own people. In fact, Count Zinzendorf encouraged His missionaries to be especially on the lookout for those individuals whom the Holy Spirit had already prepared.
Count Zinzendorf was one of the few people in Church history who really discerned the importance of this principle. He saw on the one hand the untiring will to reform of the ‘children of the world’, but on the other hand he also saw the ‘sleeping churches and their inactive congregations.’ Little has changed since then. Influenced by the principle of the ecclesiolas(small fellowships inside the big churches) of the Pietists, the Count organized the Herrnhut community in small ‘bands’ and ‘choirs’, which would of course be easier to handle. He also put a lot of emphasis on young people. He guided and nurtured them, even during conferences so that they could grow into the Church work, but he also used them for experimentation, because thus he could also stop any new endeavour more easily when it did not succeed. Following the Master, the vibrant Herrnhut church openly discussed the success (or lack of it) of missionary ventures.
In recent decades the house church movement has been making great strides, notably in various Asian countries. Will the lessons derived really be heeded or are we just going to continue or - just as bad - are we going to proceed with pouring new wine into old bags, wasting the precious wine?
Utilizing Diversity of Gifts An important part of a personalized approach is working towards the development of latent gifts in others. Zinzendorf ‘was swift to recognize the diversity of racial and individual gifts, and from the beginning he insisted on the enlistment of native ‘Helpers’ wherever possible'(Lewis, 1962:96). The graves of native Christians from all over the world at Herrnhaag, where the Count and his retinue found refuge after their banishment from Saxony, bear witness to the fact that this idea was also put into practice.
Special in this regard was the Count’s eschatology where he saw it as the duty of missions to bring in the ‘first fruit’, the first converts from all tribes and nations. He believed that the evangelizing by believers could hasten the Lord’s return in this way. His personal sojourn among the Indians of North America taught him to be happy and contented to see individuals come to the Lord, but also to search for those who are also fully sold out in His service. From the ranks of the nations the individuals who had been fished, were expected to take the message to their peoples. The day of using the net to catch fish (Matthew 13:47) would come. Zinzendorf thus taught what would be highlighted at the turn of the 21st century in the Church Planting Movement, where the missionary is constantly on the look-out for and praying to meet the person of peace (taken from Jesus command to the 72 disciples he had sent out two by two in Luke 10).
Chapter 14 Evolving International Prayer for Unity
Down the centuries united prayer has been a divine ‘tool’ par excellence to usher in spiritual renewal and revival. It is sad that the prayer for Christian Unity has not yet functioned completely unitedly.
Roots of international united Prayer
The Evangelical Alliance tradition of a Week of Prayer the first full week of January goes back to the year after its launch in 1846. It was one of the agreed initiatives that came out of the founding conference.
The Week of Prayer has been in vogue in many countries in Europe for a very long time. In countries of the former communist world in Europe it was only the Evangelical Alliance issue that stayed alive through the communist era. So, even when people had heard of nothing else about the Evangelical Alliance, they had often heard of the Week of Prayer.
Pentecostal Prayer Meetings in South Africa
South Africa was the first country where the tradition of prayer services between Ascencion Day and Pentecost went nationwide.
Ds. G.W.A. van der Lingen of the Dutch Reformed Church in Paarl was divinely used to stem the tide of liberalism that swept over the Cape in the 1850s. It is no surprise that he became God’s instrument for introducing the blessed Pinksterbidure, the tradition of prayer services between Ascencion Day and Pentecost that became such a blessing to the Dutch Reformed Church for over one and a half centuries.
It all started on 6 February 1861 as an overflow of the revival that started in Worcester the previous year. Ds. Van der Lingen of the Strooidak (Straw Roof) congregation arranged a special meeting of approximately 100 prayer leaders - including women and children - to discuss their concerns. After experiencing the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit and His quickening power, the congregation was fearful that the divine presence would decrease over time and finally stop. They wanted, therefore, to find ways of preserving and spreading the blessing. They started cell groups. Taking their cue from the Disciples who were unified - with one accord (Greek homothumadon) - in the Upper Room after Ascencion Day (Acts 1:14), the cells were challenged for communal prayer during the ten days between Ascension Day and Pentecost.
An invitation was published in De Kerkbode for all existing prayer groups in Paarl to participate in corporate prayer between 9 and 19 May, 1861. The believers attempted to follow the example of the believers who had been meeting for prayer while waiting in Jerusalem to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Ds van der Lingen was initially quite reluctant to join these meetings. There was a gradual built-up of expectation during that week, interspersed with cries for mercy. He not only finally relented but he also became God's anointed vessel of blessing on Pentecost Sunday, 1861.
When this news began to spread to neighbouring congregations, they too decided to follow Paarl's example. Over the next few years more and more congregations joined in. As a direct result, the 1867 Dutch Reformed synod advised all congregations to conduct 10 days of prayer in the run-up to Pentecost every year. The tradition became a major blessing to the nation. The Pinksterbidure would impact Afrikanerdom for many decades. Many Afrikaners look back to some Pentecost prayer season as the time when they were converted or when they recommitted their lives to the Lord.
Other Week of Prayer Attempts
In 1894 Pope Leo XIII also suggested Pentecost as a symbolic date (the traditional commemoration of the birth of the Church) for the unity of the Church. Protestant leaders suggested in 1926 via the Faith and Order movement in the mid-1920s to have an annual octave of prayer for unity amongst Christians, leading up to Pentecost Sunday.
A different date for a Week of Prayer began in 1908 as the Octave of Christian Unity. The dates of the week were proposed by Rev. Paul Wattson, co-founder of the Graymoor Franciscan Friars. He conceived of the week beginning on the Feast of the Confession of Peter, the Protestant variant of the ancient Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, on 18 January, and concluding with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul on 25 January.
Evolution of the Week of Prayer for Unity
Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyons, France, who has been called "the father of spiritual ecumenism", advocated prayer "for the unity of the Church as Christ wills it, and in accordance with the means he wills". He hoped that other Christians, with differing views to those of the Roman Catholic Church, would join in the prayer. In 1935, he proposed naming the observance Universal Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In 1941 the Faith and Order Conference, at that time a Protestant daughter group that developed out of the Edinburgh international conference of 2010, changed the date for observing the week of unity prayer to come in line with that observed by Catholics. In 1948, with the founding of the World Council of Churches, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity became increasingly recognised by different churches throughout the world. The proposal was finally accepted by the Catholic Church in 1966.
In 1958, the French Catholic group Unité Chrétienne and the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (a body which includes, among others, most of the world's Orthodox churches as well as many Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, United and Independent churches) began co-operative preparation of materials for the Week of Prayer. The year 1968 saw the first official use of materials prepared jointly by the Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, representing the entire Catholic Church. Collaboration and cooperation between these two organizations has increased steadily since, resulting in recent years in joint publications in the same format.
Chapter 15 Unifying Movements and Events
Prayer was the driving force of all evangelistic and missionary efforts ever since the 120 believers gathered in the Upper Room of Jerusalem in the first century that ushered in that marvelous Pentecost thereafter that took the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The 24/7 prayer of the Herrnhut Moravians that started in August 1727 kept them going in pioneering mode with holistic ministry in different parts of the globe for well over a century. In chapter 12 we highlighted how God used the
Slavery as an integral Part of the spiritual Battlefield
It is no co-incidence that a meta-historical battle of unseen things was revolving around slaves (not only) at the Cape for centuries. The slaves - and their offspring who came to the Cape in the 17th century - turned out to be an important part of the ideological battleground of the forces in the unseen world. Therefore it is no surprise that God used a slave as a divine instrument at the time of the co at the coronation of Denmark’s King Christian VI in 1731. While the Church in the West was not even aware of the presence of unseen occult forces, Islam gained ground in different parts of the world. The spiritually dead church at the Cape had no credible message. The mystical Islamic Sufism could expand unchecked and was hardly detected. A sore point, and consequently a matter for confession, is the effect of slavery on family life. During the 15th to 18th century, very few people in Europe and North America had ethical problems with slavery. The inhuman practices of slavery were regarded as reconcilable with Christian norms in spite of the views of early critics, such as the Spanish priest Alfonso de Sandoval in 1627. Furthermore, influential high-ranking people like Queen Isabella of Spain and Queen Elisabeth I of England however had their reservations about the trade in human beings. Through the lack of international communications, the sensitivity to the inhumanity of slavery broke through only relatively slowly.
The Rebirth of Western Christian Culture The rebirth of Western Christian culture can be traced back to those men and women who carried the revival fires across America and Europe during the twenty years of 1727-1747. It became a predominantly German movement until 1740. Then the Anglo-Saxons took over the leadership. The Great Awakening started in 1720 with the preaching of Theodore J. Frelinghuysen, who was born in New Jersey from German-Dutch parentage. The revival that began with Frelinghuysen, a Dutch Reformed Pietist, was spread to the Scottish-Irish Presbyterians under the ministry of Gilbert Tennent. The fire leapt over to the Baptists of Pennsylvania and Virginia when the extraordinary awakening began in Northampton, Massachusetts, under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in December 1734. Edwards played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening.
Across the Atlantic Ocean George Whitefield, the other key figure of the First Great Awakening in America, studied together in Oxford at this time with the Wesley brothers John and Samuel. There Whitefield became serious about spiritual things, joining the ‘Holy Club’. A key step in the development of John Wesley's ministry, influenced and initially egged on by Whitefield, was to travel and preach outdoors. In due course John Wesley and George Whitefield would revolutionalize Church ministry, using open-air preaching. Thousands flocked to hear the irresistible eloquence and engaging fervor of Whitefield especially.
Second Wind of the First Great Awakening in America Since late 1735 the New England revival had begun to decline. But Whitefield’s arrival there heralded a second wave of deep spiritual impact. He took the revival to heights it had never before attained, inspiring a host of others to engage in revival work. During these first two visits to the US he began with open-air preaching and remarkable scenes that had b accompanied his ministry in Britain.
John Wesley helped form and organize small Christian groups in Great Britain and Ireland that developed intensive and personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction. Under Wesley's direction, Methodists became leaders in many social issues of the day, including prison reform and the abolition of slavery.
The first Great Awakening faded out by the middle of the 1740’s. But its results for the forward movement of the unity of the Body of Christ were very significant. As a result of the Great Awakening many African Americans and Native Americans came into the Protestant Churches. As oppressed peoples, who had been denied educational opportunities, the emotional elements of “The New Light’ Protestants had great appeal to them. Ambivalently, the Great Awakening also led to the rise of many denominations and sects.
Sadly, doctrinal differences between prominent role players did use some energy, thus affecting the impact of the movement adversely to some extent. John Wesley and Count Zinzendorf parted ways a mere two years after the former had reported excitedly about his visit to Marienborn, (Germany) in 1740, a split developed between Wesley and the Moravians. In the following decades relations between the Moravians and the Methodists were strained. A low point was reached when Wesley published a pamphlet against Zinzendorf and the Moravians in 1755. John Wesley and Whitefield also parted ways because of doctrinal differences.
Evangelism with global Ramifications
The seed that Georg Schmidt, the first missionary to South Africa, had sown at the Cape during his stint of not even seven years, germinated with a global impact. Schmidt was said to have been a man of great faith and a prayer warrior. In fact, colonists told his two colleagues Nitchmann and Eller admiringly during their stay in Cape Town en route from Ceylon, how Schmidt succeeded ‘to teach a Hottentot to pray as he has done.’ The intelligent Khoi female referred to, got the name Magdalena when Schmidt baptized her in the river near to the present day Genadendal. She went on to become the first indigenous evangelist of Sub Saharan Africa. Magdalena was also the first known indigenous female church planting evangelist of all time.
Another convert of Schmidt impacted Ds Helperus Van Lier, a young minister from Holland, who would have a worldwide influence from the Cape.
A spiritual Giant: Reverend Helperus van Lier
Officially Van Lier was appointed as the third minister (also in rank) of the Groote Kerk. He had already been impacted spiritually in a deep way before his departure from Holland. The evangelical revival which started in England under John Wesley, had swept into the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia.
Van Lier found fertile ground among a group of Christians at the Cape, including a group of pietistic Lutherans, the spiritual descendants of those believers who had been impacted by the short stint of Georg Schmidt, more than 40 years before Van Lier’s arrival. Quite soon after his arrival at the Cape in 1786, the legacy of Schmidt worked through into Van Lier’s life when he was present at the deathbed of one of the missionary pioneer’s converts. He saw how the Khoi believer died ‘in volkome rus en vrede van sy siel en in vertroue op die Here.’ It made such a deep impression on Van Lier that he mentioned this in one of his letters to his uncle Professor Petrus Hofstede, an influential academic in Rotterdam, who was at that stage still an opponent of the Moravian brethren.
Van Lier was encouraged and inspired in another way. In 1787 the boat carrying the Moravian Bishop J.F. Reichel en route to Germany from India made a stop at the Cape. It would have been natural for Reichel not only to share something of the Moravians’ passion for the lost but also about the 24 hour prayer watch that was still going strong in Herrnhut after 60 years. Reichel’s visit spurred Van Lier and all his followers on to do something about the spiritual welfare of the Khoi and the slaves. Conversely, Reichel took the challenge of the resumption of the mission work in the Cape Colony back to Herrnhut.
The international Impact of Van Lier
The young preacher Van Lier almost single-handedly set the evangelical world ablaze. His letters from the Cape to Europe were very influential indeed. His testimony - in the form of six letters to Rev. John Newton - was originally written in Latin and translated by the well-known poet William Cowper. The title of the booklet in English is The Power of Grace, illustrated in six letters from a Minister of the Reformed church to the Rev John Newton. Van Lier’s story of the influence of divine grace in his life seems to have made a lasting impression on Newton who belonged to the inner circle of (slave) abolitionists. Van Lier’s humility came through when he insisted that a pseudonym Christodulus (slave of Christ), and not his own name, should be used on the publication of his letters to Rev. Newton. (It was published in Edinburgh by Campbell and Wallace, 1792). Van Lier’s story about the influence of divine grace in his life seems to have made a lasting impression on Newton, who belonged to the inner circle of (slave) abolitionists - especially when one considers that the famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ came from Newton’s pen. Van Lier’s humility came through when he insisted that a pseudonym Christodulus, (slave of Christ) and not his own name would be used with the publication.
Various letters of Van Lier had the goal of getting the Moravians back to the Cape. After initially failing to sway his uncle, the Rotterdam clergyman and academic Professor Petrus Hofstede (1716-1803) into action on this score, Van Lier wrote to Ds. Hubert in Amsterdam. In a letter to his uncle, Petrus Hofstede, he wrote about the Khoi believer whose death he witnessed, that the native believer was putting other Christians to shame (Schmidt, 1937:6).
It is only natural that the prayer chain – 24 hours a day seven days a week - at Herrnhut would have included intercession for their Bishop Reichel on his trip to the East. But no one probably have envisaged that this would lead so soon to the resumption of their missionary work at Baviaanskloof.
Van Lier’s correspondence continued to have an impact in Europe. Through his evangelical zeal Van Lier, along with William Carey’s 1792 book An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens, definitely laid the foundations for a Cape missionary society. Van Lier’s correspondence may have influenced his uncle not only to attack the internal ‘onverdraagzaamheid’ (intolerance) in the church in Holland, but also to challenge the general arrogant attitude towards ‘de heidenen’ (the pagans). God used Hofstede hereafter to such an extent that religious tolerance increased significantly in the Netherlands towards the end of the 18th century.
Impact of Prayer in Europe and America
In Europe there was a significant increase in missionary zeal at the end of the 18th century. The 24-hour prayer chain of the Moravians in Herrnhut that started in 1728, was definitely still going strong. In England evangelicalism was gaining ground and Christians were praying. Starting in 1784, believers throughout the Midlands met for one hour on the first Monday of every month to pray for a revival which would lead to the spread of the gospel to the most distant parts of the globe. Intensive prayer preceded the revival of 1792-1820 when no less than 12 mission agencies came into being. In London and Rotterdam two interdenominational missionary societies were founded in 1795 and 1797 respectively.
For centuries Protestants had been insisting that the office of apostle was limited to the first century only, and that it was to the apostles that the Great Commission had been given. If God chose to convert the heathen, he would have to do so by conferring the same miraculous gifts which had accompanied the preaching of the gospel in the apostolic age. It was taught that they had died out.
The Gospel gets Wings William Carey, a young Northamptonshire shoemaker, differed with the prevailing view among Protestants. He yearned for God's people to persevere in their new commitment to prayer and to translate that commitment into action. Carey began in 1788 to plan a pamphlet setting out his conviction that the commission to preach the gospel to every creature was obligatory on all Christians for all time. He was clearly influenced by the Moravians, possibly especially after reading the pamphlet Periodical Accounts Relating to the Missions of the Church of the United Brethren Established Among the Heathen. It first appeared in 1790 under the editorship of the well-known British Moravian leader Christian Ignatius la Trobe, who also later impacted missionary work at the Cape. Carey’s work eventually appeared on 12 May 1792 under the title His opportunity came on 30 May 1792 when he preached to the Northamptonshire Baptist Association at Nottingham. Carey chose as his text words from Isaiah: 'Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes . . .' Carey saw a parallel between the centuries-old plight of the exiled nation of Judah-apparently forgotten by God-and the unproductive and desolate church of his own day; in the biblical promise of a new and wider destiny for Judah lay the promise of countless new members of the Christian family to be drawn from all over the world. Once again, however, Carey insisted that God's promise was also his command. God was about to do great things by extending the kingdom of Jesus throughout the nations, and therefore Christians must attempt great things in taking the gospel to the world: 'Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.' That William Carey was disseminating the Moravian legacy of holistic missionary work is evident when we consider that J.E. Hutton, the prime 20th Century Moravian Historian, includes Carey with the pioneers of modern missionary work. The effect of William Carey’s book An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens was quite deep in Britain and North America. Protestant missionary work literally exploded hereafter, with forays from Europe and America to all parts of the globe in the 19th century, with doctrinal differences slowing the advance of the Gospel only to a limited extent.
The Cape Missionary Contribution to the Abolition of Slavery
The early 19th century battle that raged at the Cape around the Khoi and the slaves – in which the missionary Dr John Philip had a big hand - had worldwide ramifications when it aided the cause of the abolition of slavery.
During Dr Philip’s visit to England in 1826, he met the evangelical parliamentarian Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton. The latter had close links to William Wilberforce, the staunch fighter for the complete emancipation of slaves. In his subsequent correspondence with Buxton, Philip linked the slave issue to the situation of the Khoisan in the Cape Colony already in his first comprehensive report on the LMS stations although he made a distinction between the problems with the Khoisan and those pertaining to slaves (Walker, 1964:153). Ordinance 50 of 1828 and last not least the publication of Philip’s two-volumed Researches in South Africa were major factors in the run-up to the final emancipation of slaves worldwide.
Dr Philip’s role in the proclamation of Ordinance 50 has sometimes been exaggerated. John Philip however definitely played a crucial role in the run-up to this ordinance and he became a prime mover both in the eventual formal abolition of slavery in 1834 and in its implementation at the Cape in 1838.
No lame Duck
Injured in an accident in infancy, Thomas Pringle could not follow his father into farming. After attending Edinburgh University he worked as a clerk and continued writing, soon succeeding to editorships of journals and newspapers. In 1816 one of his poems came to the attention of the novelist Sir Walter Scott, who admired it. A friendship developed between the two and by Scott's influence, whilst facing hard times and unable to earn a living, Pringle secured free passage and a British Government resettlement offer of land in South Africa, to which he emigrated in 1820. Being lame, he himself took to literary work in Cape Town rather than farming, opened a school with fellow Scotsman John Fairbairn, and conducted two newspapers, the South African Journal, and South African Commercial Advertiser. However, both papers became suppressed for their free criticisms of the Colonial Government, and his school closed.
Thomas Pringle returned to the UK and settled in London. An anti-slavery article which he had written in South Africa before he left was published in the New Monthly Magazine, and brought him to the attention of Thomas Buxton and others, which led to his being appointed Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society. He began working for the Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society in March 1827, and continued for seven years. He offered work to Mary Prince, a former slave, enabling her to write her autobiography describing her experiences under slavery in the West Indies. This book caused a sensation, partly arising from libel actions disputing its accuracy, and went into many editions. As Secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society he helped steer the organization towards its eventual success; in 1834, with a widening of the electoral franchise, the Reformed British Parliament passed legislation to bring an end to slavery in the British dominions - the aim of Pringle's Society. Pringle signed the Society's notice to set aside 1 August 1834 as a religious thanksgiving for the passing of the Act. However, the legislation did not came into effect until August 1838, and Thomas Pringle was unable to witness this moment; he had died from tuberculosis in December 1834 at the age of 45. It is doubtful if William Wilberforce would have been able to die with satisfaction after his half a century of pioneering fighting of slavery, if he did not receive the support from the Cape.
Charles Finney as a Vanguard of the mid-19th Century Revival Charles Finney can be regarded as a vanguard of the revival of the mid-19th century in the US. The highlight of Charles Finney's evangelistic ministry was the 'nine mighty years' of 1824 to 1832, during which he conducted powerful revival meetings. In addition to becoming a popular Christian evangelist, Finney was involved with the movement for the abolution of slavery in America, denouncing it frequently from the pulpit. In 1835, he moved to Ohio where he became a professor and later president of Oberlin College from 1851 to 1866. Oberlin became a vanguard to end slavery and was among the first American colleges to co-educate Blacks and women together with White men.
Beginning of the US Holiness Movement
In 1835 Phoebe, wife of a physician Walter Palmer and her sister Sarah Lankford, began women’s prayer meetings each Tuesday afternoon with Methodist women. Two years later, Phoebe Palmer became the leader of the meetings, which were referred to as the Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness. The meetings were held in the Palmers' home. Beginning in 1839, men were allowed to attend the meetings. Among these men were Methodist bishops, theologians, and ministers. That women were thus presiding over influential men was still quite revolutionary for the time.
Phoebe Palmer and her husband Walter became itinerant preachers as they received more and more invitations from churches, conferences, and camp meetings. Although Walter Palmer spoke at these meetings, it was Phoebe who was better known. She played a significant role in spreading the concept of Christian holiness throughout the United States and the rest of the world. She wrote several books, including The Way of Holiness, which became a foundational book in the Holiness movement. This renewed interest in holiness eventually influenced the Methodist Church nationwide. Word of these successful prayer meetings inspired similar gatherings around the country, bringing Christians of many denominations together to pray. Phoebe soon found herself in the limelight—the most influential woman in the largest, fastest-growing religious group in America. At her instigation, missions began, camp meetings were organized, and an estimated 25,000 Americans got converted.
Revival in Hamilton (Canada)
The revival that started at the end of September 1857 with Jeremiah Lanphier, a 48-year old New York businessman, has received great prominence traditionally. However, the revival that started at the same time in Hamilton (Ontario), had a much greater impact. By 1857, prayer movements were growing in Ontario. In August or September 1857, Walter and Phoebe Palmer, a Methodist physician and his wife from New York, came to hold what turned out to be very successful meetings. Returning to the States, they were delayed in Hamilton. On 8 October, the next day, the Methodist ministers convened a prayer meeting at which sixty-five people attended. The greater number of these people pledged themselves to pray for an "outpouring of the Holy Spirit." That night, Phoebe Palmer felt that God was about to move. On the evening of the 9th October, a larger crowd met in the basement of the John Street Methodist Church. Twenty-one people were converted.
The following meetings were made up mostly of exhortations and testimonies. Many testified of conversion, while those who were already Christians testified to an entire dedication of heart and life to Christ. The Canadian Awakening of 1857 sparked the Third Great Awakening in the United States.
The Revival of 1858 in the USA was easily the most unique awakening that the US has ever experienced. Its beginning, its approval from almost every source, its spirit of cooperation, and its lack of emotional excess easily set it apart from other awakenings. It contained all the wholesome features of other awakenings and sifted out the questionable ones. Ultimately, this awakening gave birth to a new era in evangelism. Its force was felt on three continents.
The Revival in the UK News of the North American revival soon hit the UK. The first place to be affected was Ulster, and a mighty revival hit that region in 1859 with somewhere around 100,000 people converted, which as a percentage of the people in that country was quite staggering. About the same time and quite independently Wales also was affected and a revival brought again around 100,000 people to Christ. The 1859 revival was one that affected virtually the whole of the UK. The revival arrived in Scotland in the north of the country and as time went on it spread down south, until it arrived in England. Liverpool was one of the centres of this revival.
A report from that the 1859 revival in the US was a direct spark that helped to ignite the Worcester event of April 1860 at the Cape. Just as that revival brought Dwight Moody into the international frame, Dr Andrew Murray became a personality that would impact the Church globally. Ironic divine interaction followed when Andrew Murray had no liberty to accept the invitation of Moody to address a big international mission conference in New York.
Social Impact of the 1857/8 Revival
Because of evangelical preoccupation with evangelism first, then social action, Unitarian "keepers of the social conscience" asserted that a true religion was not merely a spiritual experience to enjoy and a holy life to be lived. But the Evangelicals also had advocates of "self-sacrificing zeal in good works." The churches were bettering the condition of destitute and needy as well as giving them the Gospel message. Interdenominational societies as well as the local churches distributed food and clothing, found employment, resettled children, and provided medical aid for the poorer classes. From just a few before the Revival of 1857-58, the city missions increased to several hundred by 1860. It must never be forgotten that a great Civil War erupted within three years of the 1857-58 Revival. To understand what the 1857-58 awakening might have done, one has only to look at the increase of the societies for social betterment in Britain following the 1859-60 revival there.
Out of the 1858 Awakening came the introduction of the Y.M.CA. into American cities. It produced new leadership, such as that of Dwight L. Moody, out of which came the religious work carried on in the armies during the civil war. It gave impetus to the creation of the Christian and Sanitary Commissions and numerous freedmen's societies that were formed in the midst of the war. Benevolent enterprises flourished during the civil war, and the period saw charities on a larger scale than ever before.
William Booth and the Salvation Army
The most prominent successor to implement the legacy of street preaching was William Booth. After his marriage to Catherine Mumford in 1855, Booth spent several years as a Methodist minister, travelling all around the country. He shared God's word to all who would listen. Yet he felt that God wanted more from him, that he should be doing more to reach ordinary people. He returned to London with his family, having resigned his position as a Methodist minister.
One day in 1865 he found himself in the East End of London, preaching to crowds of people in the streets. Outside the Blind Beggar pub some missioners heard him speaking and were so impressed by his powerful preaching that they asked him to lead a series of meetings they were holding in a large tent. Booth soon realised he had found his destiny. He formed his own movement, which he called The Christian Mission.
Slowly the mission began to grow but the work was hard. His wife wrote that Booth would 'stumble home night after night haggard with fatigue, often his clothes were torn and bloody bandages swathed his head where a stone had struck'. Evening meetings were held in an old warehouse where urchins threw stones and fireworks through the window. Outposts were eventually established and in time attracted converts, yet the results remained discouraging. It was not until 1878 when The Christian Mission changed its name to The Salvation Army that things began to happen. The idea of an Army fighting sin caught the imagination of the people and the Army began to grow rapidly. Booth's fiery sermons and sharp imagery drove the message home and more and more people found themselves willing to leave their past behind and start a new life as a soldier in the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army championed holistic ministry, including care for the poor and needy, almost unprecedentedly.
Leaders in Church Cooperation
South Africans were among the world leaders in church cooperation when the Evangelical Alliance was formally started in 1857 in Cape Town. In fact, at this occasion the founders declared that an Evangelical Alliance existed in the Mother City in all but name already in 1842. The South African Evangelical Alliance thus functioned long before it kicked off formally in England and six years before it started in Germany. They referred to the move when pastors of different churches had a weekly prayer meeting a few years after the slave emancipation. The South African branch of the Evangelical Alliance was the first outside Europe. This was the start of the worldwide movement, which again brought the major correction in Lausanne in 1974, after Marxists had successfully infiltrated the World Council of Churches.
Cape Evangelicals got together in Cape Town in 1842 to work out a strategy to reach the lost of Southern Africa. Within five years after the centenary of the start of Georg Schmidt’s endeavour ‘concerted action had arrived.’ At that stage there were only 9 mission societies in South Africa, the bulk of which had to be contributed to the endeavours of Dr John Philip, the superintendent of the London Missionary Society. (In 1937 – another century on – South Africa had become the best occupied mission field in the world with 1,934 Protestant missionaries and 658 Roman Catholic priests, according to the World Mission Atlas of those years.)
The Run-up to the Cape Revival
The 1860 revival of Worcester that started in the church where the well-known Dr Andrew Murray was the minister, has been described as a result of teamwork (Brandt, 1998:58). It has been reported that his father, Rev Andrew Murray (sr.), had prayed for revival every Friday evening since 1822. By 1860 he would thus have prayed more or less 38 years. The gifted young dominee Andrew Murray, who had just come to Worcester prior to this, would be impacted during the revival along with thousands in the Western Cape. The younger Andrew Murray appears to have at least matched his father as a prayerful minister of the Word. About his life the secular Dictionary of South African Biography, Volume 1 (p.578) wrote: ‘The golden ray of prayer illumined all he did... He believed that nothing that was amiss and demanded correction could not be corrected or endured by prayer.’ This is confirmed when one takes a closer look at the titles of his 250 books. There one finds titles like De Kracht des Gebeds (1860), Pray without Ceasing (1898) and The prayer life (1912). A letter was sent out to call for prayer.
A significant contribution to the revival came from Montagu where three believers came together for early morning prayer on Sundays from the beginning of January 1860. Then there was the missionary conference in Worcester in April 1860 that can be regarded as the run-up to the revival. Three hundred and seventy preachers and laymen attended. The Presbyterian Dr James Adamson set the tone with a report at the conference of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in America, and the conditions for revival. Ds Andrew Murray (sr.) was so overawed by the same topic that he burst into tears. And then there was a passionate prayer by his son and namesake that stirred the hearts of many, so much so that someone has suggested that this caused the beginning of the revival.
Montagu was the first place to experience revival under Rev James Cameron, a Methodist minister. In May 1860 the revival started there with three prayer meetings per day. There was also great conviction of sin and confession.
The start of the Alliance in Cape Town led indirectly to the opening of the Stellenbosch DRC theological seminary in 1859. The next year some 400 delegates from the Dutch Reformed, Congregational, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian and Presbyterian churches converged on Worcester for an epoch-making conference. Worldwide it was one of the first of its kind.
An interesting view expressed at the conference in Worcester was: ‘the home of every Christian should be a mission station’. The success of Worcester led to a similar one in Cape Town in January 1861. A special innovation – worldwide perhaps a first – was that the conference was conducted in two languages on alternate days, Dutch and English. The first missionary conference took place in Genadendal in 1865 where 20 participants of the Rhenish, Berlin, London, Dutch Reformed and Moravian groups gathered. In 1872 Andrew Murray suggested regular missionary conferences with all churches and missionary societies.
Andrew Murray in more barrier-crossing Ventures
In 1870 there had even been a discussion about unification of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Anglican Church. In the Cape General Mission, which was started in 1889 with Andrew Murray as President, there were people from different denominational backgrounds from its outset. Andrew Murray was closely involved with this mission until the end of his life. From the outset the Mission agency was a dual enterprise, intending to reach both the White and Black sections of the population. In the main towns of the country they would labour among the neglected Whites. The Mission agency was blessed with spectacular growth. After only five years the original six workers had increased to sixty-eight.
John Mott, a Church and Missions Leader Dwight Moody became an important divine instrument to impact John Mott. The New-York-born John Mott (May 25, 1865 – January 31, 1955) was nurtured in a devout Methodist home. He came to faith at Cornell University after hearing and speaking personally with C. T. Studd, the renowned cricket-player-turned-evangelist (and one of the "Cambridge Seven" who later worked with Hudson Taylor in China). Mott was struck by Studd's admonition, "Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Seek ye first the kingdom of God." That same year, at the 1886 Northfield (Massachusetts) Student Conference led by Dwight Moody, Mott stepped up and became one of the 100 men who volunteered for foreign missions. Mott's destiny, however, lay not in foreign missions but in evangelizing college students and inspiring others to foreign mission work. He became college secretary of the YMCA in 1888, when the organization was consciously evangelical and aggressively evangelistic. That same year, he helped organize the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), a branch of the YMCA and YWCA. By the time he spoke at SVM's 1951 convention, over 20,000 volunteers had gone to mission fields through its efforts.
The Rise of Faith Missions Whereas the Moravians and the Salvation Army still had close connections with the mainline churches, the so-called faith missions made a point of it that they do not solicit funds from anybody, also not from churches. Born in Germany, the son of a tax collector, George Müller lived a wicked life as a youth but was converted at about age 20 at a Moravian mission. This connection must have accounted for his desire to minister to Jews. Another connection was the impact of August Hermann Francke’s biography which he read at this time. The orphanages and other institutions of Halle already had impacted other great men more than a century prior to this. (There Count Zinzendorf started his Order of the Mustard Seed as a teenager in the boarding school.) George Müller went to England in 1829 to prepare for missionary work among Jews and eventually became a preacher affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren, who also had spiritual. He was determined to rely totally on the Lord for his financial support. His policy continued even after he started an orphanage in Bristol. Without direct appeals for funds, his orphanage was supported and grew. By the time he died, more than ten thousand orphans had been cared for. God not only supplied the needs of Müller and his orphanage work but provided for many other missionaries around the world through Müller’s obedience and stewardship. Hudson Taylor was not only one of the beneficiaries. But also in other ways George Müller impacted him.
Engaging so-called non-Entities in Mission
The names of George Mueller, Hudson Taylor and CT Studd ushered in a new era of missions. After the 18th century Moravians and Methodists, the next spiritual giants who engaged so-called non-entities in missionary work significantly were William Carey and Hudson Taylor, a British Protestant missionary to China, and the founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM, now OMF International). James Hudson Taylor (21 May 1832 – 3 June 1905) spent 51 years in China. The agency that he founded was responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries into the country. He started 125 schools and his ministry resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions. More than 300 stations of work were established with more than 500 local helpers in all eighteen provinces of China.
Hudson Taylor was known for his sensitivity to Chinese culture and zeal for evangelism. He wore native Chinese clothing even though this was rare among missionaries of that time. Under his +leadership, the China Inland Mission (CIM) was exemplary non-denominational in practice, accepting members from all Protestant groups, including individuals from the working class and single women, as well as multi-national recruits. Primarily because of the CIM's campaign against the opium trade, Hudson Taylor has been referred to as one of the most significant Europeans to have lived in China in the 19th century. Historian Ruth Tucker (2004:186) summarises his influence as follows: 'Few missionaries in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematised plan of evangelising a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor'.
Prayer as the Key to the Missionary Problem
Dr Andrew Murray put in practice what he had taught about ‘waiting on the Lord’ when he was invited to be a speaker at the World Missions Conference in New York, 1900 - billed as the biggest ever to be held. (At this time the effect of the Enlightenment and rationalism had significantly diminished belief in unseen forces like the Holy Spirit.) Andrew Murray had no inner peace about going to New York, not even after the organizers tried to use his famous friend Dwight Moody to entice him. Moody invited Murray to join him in outreaches in the USA after the World Missions Conference, but Murray was not to be swayed. He felt morally bound to stay with his people because of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). We may safely surmise that Murray was sensitive to the Holy Spirit, only wanting to take instructions from the Lord.
Murray’s subsequent absence at the conference ironically became the biggest cause of missions in the 20th century. After he received the papers and discussions at the conference, Murray wrote down in a booklet what he thought was lacking at the event: The Key to the Missionary Problem. This book had an explosive influence on the churches in Europe, America and South Africa. In the booklet Murray referred prominently to the 24-hour prayer watch of the Moravians. It called seriously for new devotion and intensive prayer for missions. Murray powerfully stated that missionary work is the primary task of the church, and that the pastor should have that as the main goal of his preaching. These sentiments were repeated in a small booklet he called Foreign Missions and the week of Prayer, January 5-12, 1902 - formulating that ‘missions are the supreme end of the church’. He furthermore suggested that ‘to join in united prayer for God’s Spirit to work in home churches a true interest in, and devotion to missions (is) our first and our most pressing need.’ One of Andrew Murray’s classic statements of the early 20th century was that ‘God is a God of missions.’ He wrote powerfully in his book The Kingdom of God in South Africa (1906): ‘Prayer is the life of missions. Continual, believing prayer is the secret of vitality and fruitfulness in missionary work. The God of missions is the God of prayer’.
It is surely no mere co-incidence that revivals broke out in different parts of the world in the years hereafter - in such divergent countries as Wales, Norway, India and Chile.
The Conference on Foreign Missions in October, 1878 in London was in a sense the fore-runner of the international gathering in New York at the turn of that century. The formal name of the 1900 event was the Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions. Official delegates at this event were numbered at 2,500 (including more than 600 foreign missionaries from fifty countries). This conference was in turn part of the run to an even more ecumenical event in Edinburgh in 1910. The World Missionary Conference of Edinburgh 1910 was an epoch-making event to which many different movements of mission and unity trace their roots. The conference in 1910 in the mood of the student movement's watchword of "the evangelisation of the world in this generation" is considered the symbolic starting point of the contemporary ecumenical movement. There had been earlier major mission conferences, but at Edinburgh, first steps were taken towards an institutionalized cooperation between Protestant mission councils. However there were no Catholic nor Orthodox delegates present. Out of the 1400 participants, 17 came from the global south.
John Raleigh Mott (May 25, 1865 – January 31, 1955) came to the fore as a world leader. He was a long-serving leader of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF). From 1895 until 1920 Mott was the General Secretary of the WSCF. Intimately involved in the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948, that body elected him as a lifelong honorary President. His best-known book, The Evangelization of the World in this Generation, became a missionary slogan in the early 20th century. Mott received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his work in establishing and strengthening international Protestant Christian student organizations that worked to promote peace.
Ambivalence in the Ecumenical Movement
Faith and Order was born as a faction within the Ecumenical Movement. Its counter-part was called Life and Work. Faith and Order was supposed to deal with theological-theoretical concerns, while Life and Work was expected to be of purely practical orientation. This dichotomy between "faith and works" - familiar to the Western Church already since the Reformation - was itself questionable and problematic. The formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948 as a merger of these two movements has helped a great deal the overcoming of this dichotomy. Yet, the specific identity of Faith and Order was retained even after the formation of the WCC.
Aftermath of World War II
The bewilderment and devastation caused by the Second World War had another result. Young people became completely estranged from the Church. Youth for Christ was born in the mid-1940s through an impulse from the heart of God that simultaneously touched dozens of leaders in different places with a concern to reach young people normal church channels were missing. This led to dynamic young evangelists, using revolutionary methods, conducting lively mass rallies in dozens of cities under the name of Youth for Christ, in the USA and abroad. With the rapid expansion of the movement there soon became a need for leadership and organization and in 1944 Chicago pastor Torrey Johnson was elected Youth for Christ’s first president, with Billy Graham as its first full-time evangelist.
Youth with a Mission (YWAM) was conceived by Loren Cunningham in 1956. As a 20-year-old student in an Assemblies of God College, he was traveling in the Bahamas when he had a vision of waves breaking over the Earth. When he looked closer the waves appeared to become young people taking the news of Jesus into all the nations of the world. He envisioned a movement that would send young people out into various nations to share the message of Jesus, and which would involve Christians of all denominations. In late 1960, the name Youth with a Mission (YWAM) was chosen and the group embarked on their first project, a vocational mission trip.
Loren Cunningham married Darlene Scratch in 1963. By this time, the new mission had 20 volunteers stationed in various nations, and the Cunninghams were planning the mission's first "Summer of Service". In 1967, Cunningham began to work on his vision for the first school. It was to be the School of Evangelism, which was held at Chateau-d'Oex, Switzerland in 1969 with 21 students. A second school which was twice as long, ran from the summer of 1969 through the summer of 1970 just outside Lausanne, Switzerland (in Chalet-A-Gobet). The students' lodging and classes took place in a newly renovated and leased hotel. By the end of the year, YWAM purchased the hotel and made Lausanne its first permanent location. The School of Evangelism was formed in 1974 in New Jersey as well as Lausanne. With a focus on biblical foundations and character development as well as missions, much of the material from this course is now taught in the present day Discipleship Training School (DTS). A format of three months of lectures followed by two or three months of outreach is still used in most Discipleship Training Schools todayCRU (known as Campus Crusade for Christ until 2011) is an evangelical Christian organization. It was founded in 1951 at the by Bill Bright as a ministry for university students. Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCC) was founded in 1951 on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles by the then 29 year-old Bill Bright (1921-2003), who at the time was a seminary student at neo-evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary. Bright was a successful businessman with an oil company and a specialty food business before attending seminary. Since the agency has expanded its focus to include adult professionals, athletes and high school students. In 2011 Campus Crusade for Christ in the United States changed its name to CRU, to avoid the negative connotation of "crusade" from the historical Crusades (particularly to Muslim communities) and that much of the organization's work was no longer limited to college campuses. The visionary he was, he had already in 1956 contemplating to make a film on the life of Jesus that would be close to the Bible. The Jesus Film Project became a reality, translated into all the main languages of the world. This is arguably the most powerful evangelistic tool ever. The claim of the project that the film ‘is the most dynamic way to hear and see the greatest story ever lived’ is not vain. More than 200 million people have come to Jesus after watching these films. Bright’s Four Spiritual Laws booklet – a 4-point outline written by Bill in 1956 on how to establish a personal relationship with Jesus – has been printed in some 200 languages. Bill Bright's booklet has become what is considered to be the most widely-disseminated religious booklet in history, with more than 2.5 billion booklets distributed to date. Bill Bright’s unique blend of Christian commitment and communications insight was at the heart of his success.
World Congress on Evangelism
This major global gathering devoted to fulfilling Christ's great commission to evangelize the earth was held in 1966 in West Berlin. Major ecumenical assemblies and conferences had been sponsored by the World Council of Churches to discuss church unity, faith and order, and church and society concerns. The World Congress on Evangelism was a para-ecumenical effort inspired by the massive crusades of evangelist Dr Billy Graham, who served as honorary chairman.
The congress drew participants dedicated to evangelism in more than 100 countries, most being nationals carrying evangelistic tasks in ecumenically aligned and independent denominations. Their identification within seventy-six church bodies inside and outside the conciliar movement constituted the Berlin Congress in some ways more ecumenical in scope than the World Council. Participants went back historically as far as the Mar Thoma Church in India. Others came from young churches in Africa and Asia; youngest of all was the Auca church in Latin America sprung from the witness of five American missionary martyrs. The congress achieved a significant emphasis on evangelistic priorities and a correlation of theological and evangelistic concerns in a time when neo-Protestant reconstruction of both the doctrine and task of the church was displacing historic Christian commitments.
Convened by an international group of 142 evangelical leaders under the honorary chairmanship of Dr. Billy Graham, this congress aimed: to proclaim the biblical basis of true evangelism; to relate biblical truth to contemporary issues; to share and strengthen unity and love in Christ; to identify those yet unreached with the Gospel; to learn from each other the patterns of evangelism the Holy Spirit is using today; to awaken Christian consciences to the implications of expressing Christ’s love in attitude and action; to develop cooperative strategies toward partnership in the work; to pray together that the congress might notably further world evangelization; and to be God’s people, available for His purposes in the world. There were nearly 3,000 official participants from 150 countries. The congress produced the widely acclaimed Lausanne Covenant and set up a continuation committee ’to further the total biblical mission of the Church,’ with special reference to the 2.7 billion of the world’s people yet unreached.
A Cape-born Reconciler at Work
If ever there was someone who took the ministry of reconciliation seriously, it was the Cape-born David du Plessis. He moved to Ladybrand in the Orange Free State with his family before he was nine years old. Du Plessis first had to go through the mill himself, leaving his home when his father would not allow him to go to university. He was reconciled to his father two years later. The Lord first had to deal with the prayerful Du Plessis before he could be used optimally. ‘I began to be sensitive to the Lord’s checking’.
Even though it was not generally recognized as such, one of Du Plessis’s greatest achievements was in race relations. At a time when Professors Ben Marais and Barend Keet were battling against apartheid in their denomination in the 1940s, Du Plessis as General Secretary of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) was responsible for reducing missionary staff to a minimum, taking the work out of the hands of the North Americans and Europeans and putting it under the jurisdiction of Africans. ‘The local work, we felt, had to be under the control of the nationals’ (Du Plessis, 1977:112). As if that were not radical enough, the AFM had a central conference in which ministers, missionaries and executives of all races met at top level. It appears that this denomination came the nearest to practical non-racialism at a time when apartheid was already practiced far and wide.
But this was by far not the end of Du Plessis’s ministry of reconciliation. He had to go through the crucible once again. After an accident in the USA, when the car in which he was a passenger, drove into a shunting locomotive, he landed in hospital. Du Plessis later described this time as ‘the most extended period of silent prayer in my life’. He was challenged to forgive Protestants in general. The first test came at the Second World Conference of Pentecostals in Paris, which he attended on crutches. God used him to reconcile Pentecostals who were fighting each other. In his typical humble manner, Du Plessis did not gloat over the victory achieved there. Instead, he said ‘I know that if I would have any success at all with what the Lord had directed, if I was to be able to forgive the old main line churches, I had to forgive these Pentecostal brethren.’ God was to use him to bring the first Pentecostal denominations into the maligned World Council of Churches.
Into the Vatican
David Du Plessis’ ecumenical work was however not appreciated in his own denomination. Fellowship with independent Pentecostals was to him just as important. He was invited to become the secretary of the world conference in Toronto in 1958. There he was completely cold-shouldered, and all but pushed out of the Pentecostal movement. Du Plessis felt clearly led ‘to resign from every position that I held in any society and to follow Him wherever he may lead.’ Sovereignly God over-ruled. In 1959 he was lecturing in the theological institutions of a wide spectrum of denominations. The following year he was requested to give a lecture at a meeting in Scotland, in preparation for the WCC plenary occasion that was to be held in New Delhi in 1961. This resulted in him being invited to the WCC conference itself. There he met Professor Bernard Leeming from Oxford, who was the personal representative of Pope John XX111. One thing led to another until Du Plessis wrote from New Delhi that he would make a stopover in Rome.
There he spent many hours in prayer, ‘considering the difficulties that lay ahead for Protestants and Catholics in matters of trust and forgiveness.’ The Lord first had to deal with him through His Word. In fact, it came to him through the context of the Lord’s well known prayer. ‘...If you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses’ (Matthew 6:15). He sensed: ‘I am certain the Lord spoke to me about the many burdens of unforgiveness and suspicion’ between Catholics and Protestants for so many centuries. “The souls of Christians will live when all learn to forgive.”
In Rome Du Plessis met Dr Strandsky, the secretary of Cardinal Bea, who headed a new Roman Catholic secretariat for promoting church unity. Strandsky had a special charge to learn as much as he could about the Holy Spirit and the Pentecostals. Because David du Plessis was now a ‘mere zero’ in the Pentecostal movement, he was ideally placed to share at the Vatican. When Cardinal Bea asked him: ‘Well then David, what do the Pentecostals have to say to Rome?’ He was in a predicament. In honesty he could only hesitantly stutter: ‘I have to say that the Pentecostals have no intention of talking to Rome.’ When Cardinal Bea asked him for his personal opinion, God used David du Plessis to minister to millions of Roman Catholics all around the globe. ‘Make the Bible available to every Catholic in the world ... If Catholics will read the Bible, the Holy Spirit will make that book come alive, and that will change their lives. And changed Catholics will be the renewal of the church.’ Cardinal Bea immediately ordered those words to be written down.
The words of ‘Mr Pentecost’ – as David Du Plessis was nicknamed - turned out to be very prophetic. At the Vatican Council it was decided to make the Bible available to every Roman Catholic person in the world. David du Plessis was present at a session of the Vatican Council. His contribution in 1964 introduced the charismatic renewal to the Roman Catholic Church. Du Plessis was also used by the Lord to bring about a thaw in the relationship between Protestants and Roman Catholics worldwide, notably at a meeting in Zürich in June 1972.
A significant Power Encounter
When Ds. Davie Pypers commenced work in 1956 as a minister of the Dutch Reformed St Stephen’s Church in Bree Street, he discerned the need for increased prayer for the Muslims of the area. Soon he initiated praying for Bo-Kaap and the Muslims living there. Together with two other pastoral colleagues, he interceded every Monday for the area that became even more pronouncedly Islamic in the wake of the envisaged implementation of Group Areas legislation.
Ds. Pypers appears to have been one of the very few ministers at the Cape of his era who had any notion of spiritual warfare. It was by far not common practice yet. And satan was definitely not going to release his gains so easily.
Davie Pypers was called to become the missionary to the Cape Muslims on behalf of the Dutch Reformed Church, linked to the historical Gestig (Sendingkerk) congregation in Long Street. It is the church where once people from different denominations worshipped, the cradle of missionary outreach in South Africa. Ds. Pypers had hardly started with his new work when a challenge came from a young imam, Mr Ahmed Deedat, to publicly debate the death of Jesus on the Cross. As a young dominee David Pypers prepared himself through prayer and fasting in a tent on the mountains at Bain’s Kloof for the event which was to take place on 13 August 1961 at the Green Point Track.
Because of publicity in the media, 30 000 people of all races jammed into the Green Point sports venue. The stadium quivered with excitement like at a rugby match. In the keenly contested debate, Imam Deedat started with the assertion that Jesus went to Egypt after the disciples had taken him from the Cross. He thoroughly ridiculed the Christian faith, challenging Pypers to give proof that Jesus died on the Cross. The young dominee rose to the challenge by immediately stating that Jesus is alive and that his Lord could there and then do the very things He had done when He walked the earth.
Dr David du Plessis, who was nick-named ‘Mr Pentecost’, reported on the event in his autobiography: ‘Taking a deep breath, he (Pypers) spoke loud and clear, ‘Is there anybody in this audience that, according to medical judgement, is completely incurable? Remember, it must be incurable...’ Of course, the stadium was abuzz by now. And then several men came along, carrying Mrs Withuhn, a White Christian lady, with braces all over her body. She was completely paralyzed. Then Pypers went ahead, asking whether there were any doctors present who could examine her and vouch for her condition. ‘Several doctors came forward, including her own physician, and they concurred in pronouncing her affliction incurable.’
Pypers simply walked to her and without any ado prayed for her briefly and proclaimed: ‘In the name of Jesus, be healed!’ Immediately she dropped her crutches and began to move.
The Green Point Aftermath
The Green Point Track event resulted in a clear victory for the Cross, with Mrs Withuhn being miraculously healed in the name of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.
What was perceived as the defeat of Ahmed Deedat, and thus of Islam at Green Point, inspired a call for revenge. Deedat stated publicly that the original motivation for public debates was what he had experienced as his humiliation at the hand of Christians. He was not willing at all to accept defeat lying down. He would challenge many an international speaker to a debate in the decades hereafter. His Islamic Propagation team craftily manipulated the footage of these debates in video productions. He became known world-wide in Muslim countries as a South African second only to Nelson Mandela! More than any other Muslim, he succeeded to revive Islam from 1961 until May 1996 - when he suffered a stroke which side-lined him - into an ideological force to be reckoned with.
The effect of the Green Point Track miracle was almost nullified by news that came from another part of the world on that same day. The report of the building of the Berlin Wall resounded throughout the world! A new type of battle was cemented - the ‘cold war’ between Soviet Communism and Western Capitalism!
However, it was nearly just as bad that Pypers was heavily criticized by his denomination for undertaking the confrontation without getting prior synod approval. Furthermore, the leaders of his denomination were still clinging to an untenable interpretation of divine healing – that it belonged to a past age - to the times of the apostles.
Islam linked to Communism?
As the ensuing cold war became the focus, the enemy of souls abused Communism with its atheist basis, attempting to stifle the spreading of the victorious message of the Cross, as it had been proclaimed at the Green Point Track.
Was there a subtle link to Communism
in opposition to the Cross?
I surmise that the event of 13 August 1961 had great importance in the spiritual realm. One wonders whether the Islamic Crescent was not probably subtly linked to Communism in opposition to the Cross at that occasion. (This was to happen again in reverse in 1990 after the demise of Communism. Islam took over the mantle from the atheist ideology as a threat to world peace when the Iraqi army marched into Kuwait. That event became the catalyst for many Christians to start praying for an end to the bondage and deception at the base of the ideology of Islam as a destructive spiritual force.)
In his denomination, Ds. Pypers was still a lone ranger. In some quarters he was vilified after the Green Point event, although he had actually been challenged by the literature on faith healing, which had been written by Dr Andrew Murray, a revered hero of his church. Pypers was out on a limb in the Dutch Reformed Church. At the Kweekskool in Stellenbosch, the theological seminary of the denomination, it was still officially taught that faith healing was a doctrinal tenet which belonged to the days of the apostles.
If we take as a given that the arch enemy will always attempt to cause disunity and strife of any sort, we should not be surprised that God always raised persons to fight on behalf of those who have been oppressed or discriminated against. Colonialism, Imperialism and White domination in the secular world sadly had its mirror equivalents also in the ranks of the Church.
An interesting fact is that many a fighter against injustice received their inspiration in the US in the 19th century, where Afro Americans had to bear the brunt of oppression and discrimination. Without exception, all the early 20th century fighters against injustice who were impacted in this way, received their inspiration within the perimeters of the Church. We look here at a random sample.
Booker Taliaferro Washington (1856 – 1915) came from the last generation of American leaders who were born into slavery. He became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants. They were newly oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction Southern states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Between 1890 and 1915, Booker Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community and an advisor to presidents of the United States.
Washington called for Black progress through education and entrepreneurship, rather than trying to challenge the Jim Crow segregation and the disenfranchisement of Black voters in the South directly. Booker Washington mobilized a nationwide coalition of middle-class Blacks, Church leaders and White philanthropists and politicians. His long-term goal was the building of the community's economic strength and pride by a focus on self-help and schooling.
Pixley Seme was born on 1 October 1881 in Natal. He was the son of Isaka Sarah (nee Mseleku) Seme. He obtained his primary school education at the local mission school where the American Congregationalist missionary, Reverend S. C. Pixley, took an interest in him and arranged for him to go the USA. He attended Colombia University in New York where he won the University's highest oratorical honour, the George William Curtis medal. His topic was “The Regeneration of Africa”.
Seme and Alfred Mangena met at the South African Native Convention in London that had come there to monitor the progress of the draft South Africa Act through the British parliament in 1909. Seme returned to South Africa in 1910 and set up a private practice in Johannesburg, later going into partnership with Mangena.
On 8 January 1912 Seme, Mangena and two other lawyers educated abroad, Richard Msimang and George Montsio, called for a convention of Africans to form the South African Native National Congress (SANNC), which was renamed the African National Congress (ANC) in 1923, in Bloemfontein. Reverend John Langalibalele Dube was elected as its first president (in absentia), and Seme became the Treasurer-General.
John Langalibele Dube was a Zulu patriot but an opponent of ‘narrow tribalism’ simultaneously. The rising generation of militant African nationalists came to look upon him as a parochial figure. Looking back in history, we discern that the country had been blessed with a gifted Christian, whose potential could not be fully exploited because of racial prejudice. As a sixteen year old Dube went to America where he also travelled and gave talks on self-help for the Blacks of South Africa. He returned to the USA in 1897, this time to study theology for three years. Ordained in the Congregational church, he was one of the delegation to London in 1909, to lobby against the colour bar in the Act of Union. Unable to attend the founding conference of the South African National Native Congress (later the name was changed to the ANC), he was elected in absentia as its first president.
As a missionary-educated person, who also studied in the US, there was for John Dube conflict between the newly arrived Western education and African traditional society. It is conceivable that Dube would never have been part of the SANC, except that his teaching and discourse on the necessity of unity fitted the political atmosphere.
Assistance in Resistance from Abroad
An interesting feature of the resistance against oppression of all sorts was the assistance by foreigners. A move at the Cape supplied the seed for the birth of Pan Africanism on South African soil. F.Z.S. Peregrino was a West African who had an office in Tyne Street, just off Hanover Street in District Six. As a recruiting officer for Jamaicans, he not only looked after their interests, but he also sought to promote broader Africanism.’ Towards the end of 1900 Peregrino launched an African-controlled newspaper, the South African Spectator. He said that it was an organ for all ‘the people who are not white’. The paper adopted a high moral tone, carrying no advertisements for alcohol, fortune telling or other activities he though could undermine the morals of the populace. To instil race pride in Blacks, articles were published n teir world-wide advancements and achievements.
The slogan ‘Africa for the Africans’ has often been branded as Black racism. It is hardly known that a White missionary from New Zealand was actually one of the first protagonists of the principle. Joseph Booth, who was born in Derby, England, wrote a booklet with the title Africa for the Africans in 1897. Booth’s unorthodox approach to mission work and his schemes for African self-help and advancement eventually created friction with colonial authorities.
Paternalism breeds Secession
In the attitude towards people of colour there was a lot of goodwill among Whites at the turn of the century. A problem was that even radical thinkers among them hardly ever consulted people of colour. Proper consultation could possibly have averted many a crisis. From the earliest days at the Cape the ‘natives’ were regarded as inferior, their culture despised. Paternalism was rife.
This gave rise to the secessionist ‘Ethiopian movement’. The ‘Ethiopians’ have been typified by the sentence: “We have come to pray for the deliverance of Blacks’ (Cited in Elphick et al, 1997:212). The ideological link went back to the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 and the church, which developed in that country without mediation of Western Churches. The term ‘Ethiopian’ was derived from the concept that the first indigenous church on African soil started in Ethiopia. The ‘Ethiopian’ movement started in different parts of South Africa as breakaway congregations from the Methodist churches. Disillusioned by the imperfections of colonial society, they withdrew from white-dominated structures to from exclusively African organisations. Their policy was to throw off the shackles of White domination and reassert their former independence, while retaining at the same time what they considered to be the best elements of European civilisation. The secessionist ‘Ethiopian movement’ really took off when the separatist ideas spread to the Witwatersrand after the discovery of gold. The first ‘Ethiopian church was established in Pretoria in 1892 after black Wesleyan (Methodist) ministers had been excluded from a meeting of White colleagues. In a sense the good teaching of the Methodists backfired when they tried to make the indigenous independent, because the missionaries kept on patronizing their congregants of colour.
By 1902, Ethiopianism was used for the entire indigenous church movement. For the ‘rebel’ Black churchmen, Ethiopia was the model land where Blacks were ruling their own country. In America a separate church had been started among Negroes as the American Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). It was only natural that the ‘Ethiopian’ Methodists of South Africa linked up with them. Bishop Levi Coppin was sent here as the first Black bishop. The AMEC headquarters was in Blythe Street, District Six.
The missionary Drive slowed down
Secessions affected all denominations (Odendaal, 1984:26). Significant was the missionary drive of the new separatist church. The secessions start seems to have drowned the desire to bring the Gospel to the rest of the continent, even to the Sudan and Egypt. James Dwane, who was earmarked to be ordained as the first South African bishop of the merged AMEC, reflected on the broad aims of the movement: ‘Africa must not be evangelised by Europeans, not even by American blacks, but by real Africans’ (Cited in Odendaal, 1984:26). A negative facet of Ethiopianism was the tendency to polarise, by blackening everybody who did not join them. Lovedale-trained Elijah Makiwane concluded: ‘Those who refuse to join this movement are now called white men or Britons’ (Cited in Odendaal, 1984:83).
Empowering the Underdogs
This visionary had the courage of his conviction to start a denomination for the upliftment of the poor from the Cape to Cairo. That is the reason why he gave his church a continental name. The AMEC played a significant role in the liberation struggle, by enabling South Africans of colour to study in the USA. Among the very prominent ones were the social worker and teacher Charlotte Maxeke. Charlotte Maxeke toured the USA in the 1890s with an African choir. She remained in the States to study at Wilberforce University in Ohio, where she graduated with a B.S. in 1905, the first Black woman from South Africa to earn a bachelor’s degree. After her marriage to a South African overseas and their return to the country, the couple impacted many Blacks. The couple was worldwide surely of one the first instances when indigenous folk opened a Bible School as they did on behalf of the AMEC in 1908. One of these persons influenced at the Cape was Rev. Zaccheus Mahabane, who was to become an influential personality in the ANC for many decades. Charlotte Maxeke founded the women’s league of the ANC.
Cape-born Frances Gow returned from the USA with a doctorate, becoming a bishop in the denomination in 1956, one of the first western-trained bishops on the continent who was not self-appointed. The AMEC denomination - with its origins among the Negroes of the USA - was a great propagator of the indigenisation of the church at the Cape. Under Dr Gow’s leadership – he only became their bishop in 1956 - the church expanded rapidly, at least numerically, with churches in different parts of the Peninsula.
Another influential figure at the Cape was Henry Sylvester Williams, a black lawyer who hailed from Trinidad in the West Indies. He came to Cape Town in October 1903, with the intention to build Pan-Africanism and to see British status coming into being for all Black people in the British Empire. When he and Bishop Levi Coppin saw how the ‘Coloureds’ were distancing themselves from the ‘Africans’, they thought that the ‘Coloureds’ might be the next to be segregated residentially (Blacks had been dumped in Ndabeni in 1901). They discerned all the ingredients of divide and rule when John Tobin, one of the early leaders of the African Peoples’ Organization (APO), looked for reconciliation between ‘Coloureds’ and Whites who also spoke Afrikaans. Tobin and his supporters were angered by what they regarded as the betrayal of the British in the run-up to the Anglo-Boer War.
The next formation of Black people into a coherent socio-political movement was to come into being with the Jamaican Marcus Garvey Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, founded in 1914.
Probably the first indigenous church planting move at the Cape started in District Six. A strong element of ‘Coloured’ Nationalism was present when Rev. Joseph J. Forbes started his ‘Volkskerk van Afrika’ on 14 May 1922.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer – a Fighter for the Underdog Jews
The name Dietrich Bonhoeffer became known as a martyr for his stand against the Nazi regime. What is not known generally is that he had been impacted in the USA before that. There he had heard someone preach the Gospel of Social Justice and became sensitive to not only social injustices experienced by minorities but also the ineptitude of the church to bring about integration. Bonhoeffer began to see things from below - from the perspective of those who suffer oppression. He observed, ‘Here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of God...the Black Christ is preached with rapturous passion and vision.’ Later Bonhoeffer referred to his impressions abroad as the point at which he "turned from phraseology to reality." He traveled by car through the United States to Mexico, where he had been invited to speak on the subject of peace. His early visits to Italy, Libya, Spain, the United States, Mexico, and Cuba opened Bonhoeffer to ecumenism.
Strongly influenced by the Swiss theologian Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer’s Christocentric approach appealed to conservative, confession-minded Protestants while his commitment to social justice as a cardinal responsibility of Christianity appealed to liberal Protestants. He was thus an excellent link and bridge between the false alternatives that the Faith and Order and Life and Work factions of the ecumenical movement had created.
Central to Bonhoeffer’s theology is Christ, in whom God and the world are reconciled. Bonhoeffer's God is a suffering God, whose manifestation is found in this-worldliness. He believed that the Incarnation of God in flesh made it unacceptable to speak of God and the world "in terms of two spheres," an implicit attack upon Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms. Bonhoeffer stressed personal and collective piety and revived the idea of imitation of Christ. He argued that Christians should not retreat from the world but act within it. He believed that two elements were constitutive of faith: the implementation of justice and the acceptance of divine suffering. He insisted that the church, like the Christians, "had to share in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world" if it were to be a true church of Christ.
Deeply interested in ecumenism, he was appointed by the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches (a forerunner of the World Council of Churches) as one of its three European youth secretaries. At this time he seems to have undergone something of a personal conversion from being a theologian primarily attracted to the intellectual side of Christianity to being a dedicated man of faith, resolved to carry out the teaching of Christ as he found it revealed in the Gospels
Church Opposition to the Removal of ‘Coloureds’ from the Common Voters’ Roll
Probably in no other area did the influence of DRC (former) clergymen play such a clear role as in the removal of ‘Coloureds’ from the Common Voters’ roll in 1956. When a similar move happened in 1936 to remove Blacks from the voters’ roll, there had been hardly any church protest - apart from Ds Nicol’s address as officer of the Christian Council of South Africa. The run-up to the equivalent move in 1955 not only led to a temporary and uneasy union of all ‘Coloured’ groups, but it also caused quite a stir among Whites.
In fact, a clear result of the actions of the Cape clergymen Botha and Morkel, was that they heightened the political consciousness of Afrikaners, after the new National Party government had used vicious manipulation to achieve their goals. This was doubly tragic because the Prime Minister. Dr D.F. Malan, who was a former dominee, had once been a supporter of the ‘Coloured’ franchise. His political summersault on this issue may be explained by the need for Afrikaner unity and the slim majority which his party had achieved in the 1948 elections. He realized how strong the Afrikaners of the Northern provinces felt about ‘Coloured’ voting rights. Furthermore, his majority in parliament could easily be overturned in a future election in Cape seats with a substantial ‘Coloured’ population. That had to be forestalled at all costs, especially after the 1949 provincial elections where the United Party took the constituencies of Paarl and Bredasdorp – both of which they had won the year before in the national elections. The Nationalist ascribed their defeat in Paarl to the registration of hundreds of new voters since the general election. Therefore the initiative to remove the ‘Coloureds’ to a separate voters’ roll, was vicious and pre-meditated to secure future electoral success.
That the Nationalists were trying to settle an old score against the English-speakers on this issue was an added factor.
White Dutch Reformed Opposition against Apartheid
Already in 1950 Professor Ben Marais wrote a controversial book Kleurkrisis in die Weste (Colour crisis in the West). The resulting controversy caused the popular preacher to be effectively silenced by the tactics of the secretive Afrikaner Broederbond. Church councils had to make sure that he would not be invited to preach in Dutch Reformed Churches. In 1956 the Stellenbosch academic Professor Barend Keet raised the question in his book Whither South Africa whether apartheid or the better sounding term ‘separate development’ could be applied in a just manner as claimed by his denomination. Five years later – thus a year after Sharpeville - he and eight other Afrikaner theologians answered the question with a resounding NO! in their book Delayed Action! They spelled out clearly that apartheid implied discrimination.
One of the leading Dutch Reformed ministers, the gifted Ds Beyers Naudé, was seriously challenged. In Wellington, the first congregation that he served as a hulpprediker (assistant pastor), he immediately became uneasy when he saw that the training was inferior at the Sendinginstituut, where ministers were trained who would serve at the daughter churches (Ryan, 1990:31). On a personal level the heritage of the pioneer missionary Georg Schmidt impacted his life when he met his wife. She was the daughter of Emil Weder, a Moravian missionary in Genadendal. After seeing the degenerate ‘Coloureds’ in the Karoo town of Loxton where he was a pastor subsequently, Beyers Naudé was reminded of the cultured educated people of colour he had encountered for the first time in Genadendal during the time of courting. The question came to him ‘why it was not possible to have this in other parts of the country’ (Ryan, 1990:33). The seed for the multi-racial Christian Institute was sown into the heart of the former Afrikaner Broederbond leader whose father had helped to found the secret organization with lofty ideals for the upliftment of Afrikaners.
An emerging Church Unity high-jacked
In South Africa the Boer-Brit rift, a traditional animosity was still rife in the 1940s among Whites as a legacy from the Anglo-Boer War at the end the 19th century, especially after the Dutch Reformed Church withdrew from the Christian Council of Churches. The unity in the latter body, which was started in 1936 with Dutch Reformed ministers in leading roles, had however been quite frail all along. The sense of unity which had been experienced at the inauguration of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Amsterdam (1948) was nevertheless still reverberating in many a country. Gerdener could still write in 1959: ‘With thankfulness we observe signs to come together and work together, also in our own Dutch Reformed Church’. Gerdener rightly saw exclusiveness and isolation as a danger to missionary work. ‘Nowhere is isolation and exclusiveness so deadly and time-consuming than in the fight against the mighty heathendom and nowhere is co-operation and a unitary front so necessary and useful as here.’
Albert Luthuli, the President of the ANC, was asked to address a predominantly Afrikaner – all White study group in Pretoria in the early months of that year. Soon hereafter, Luthuli was escorted from the Cape Town railway station to ‘an open square packed with people’, pre-figuring the event on the Grand Parade with Nelson Mandela many years later after his release.
The enemy of souls succeeded however in high-jacking an emerging unity of believers in South Africa at the end of the 1950s. After Luthuli’s return to his home town Groutville, he was visited by the Special Branch and served with a muzzling banning order, silenced and confined to the town for five years. The link to the apartheid legislators threatened the emerging unity in no uncertain way. The Sharpeville massacre of 21 March 1960 could have been God’s corrective to get the Church in South Africa at large to change its course. The World Council of Churches (WCC) met their eight member churches in South Africa – ten delegates from every church - at Cottesloe, a suburb of Johannesburg, from 7 December 1960 to discuss the crisis in the country in the wake of the Sharpeville killings and the arrest of Black leaders.
The body of Christ seemed to be speaking with one voice. A significant segment of the White Dutch Reformed Church was at this time very much part of the ecumenical movement in South Africa in 1960. The Cape and Transvaal Dutch Reformed Dutch Reformed ministers initially agreed to oppose apartheid but the bulk of the leadership was thereafter subtly cajoled into line - after the Prime Minister, Dr H.F. Verwoerd, had exerted pressure on the bulk of them.
Dr H.F.Verwoerd was successful with demonic scheming to make every move suspect, which intended to foster Church unity. The ‘English-speaking churches’ and others sympathetic to the unity of believers across the race divide, were made suspect. The storm caused by these moves caused the old Boer-Brit resentment to flame up: divide and rule was once again the name of the game.
Battle against Communism
Internationally Richard Wurmbrand (1909 –2001) was one of the first persons in the Communist Block that arose after World War II who dared to say publicly that Communism and Christianity were not compatible. As a Romanian Christian minister of Jewish descent he did this already in 1948, having become a Christian 10 years before. As a result, he experienced imprisonment and torture by the then Communist regime of Romania, for his beliefs. After serving five years (1959-1964) of a second prison sentence, he was ransomed for $10,000. His colleagues in Romania urged him to leave the country and work for religious freedom from a location less personally dangerous. After spending time in Norway and England, he and his wife Sabina, who had also been imprisoned, emigrated to America and dedicated the rest of their lives to publicizing and helping Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs. He wrote more than 18 books, the most widely known being Tortured for Christ. He founded the international organization Voice of the Martyrs, which continues to aid Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith.Brother Andrew and Open Doors Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors, was born in Holland as Anne van der Bijl (born 11 May 1928). He has arguably done more than anybody else to bring down the Communist Wall. In July 1955, visited communist Poland, "to see how my brothers are doing," referring to the underground church. He signed up to a Communist youth group, which was the only legal way to stay in the country In that time, he felt himself to be called to respond to the Biblical commission ‘Wake up, strengthen what remains and is about to die’ (Revelation 3:2). This was the start of a mission leading him into several Communist-ruled countries where Christians were persecutedthose behind the ‘Iron Curtain where religions like Christianity were actually tolerated but technically illegal. In 1957, Van der Bijl travelled to the Soviet Union's capital city, Moscow, in a Volkswagen Beetle, which later became the symbol of Open Doors, the organization he founded. An older couple that mentored him had given him their new car, because it could hold several Bibles and spiritual literature. Although Van der Bijl was violating the laws of some of the countries he visited by bringing religious literature, he often placed the material in plain view when stopped at police checkpoints, as a gesture of trust in God's protection. Van der Bijl visited China in the 1960s, after the Cultural Revolution had created a hostile policy towards Christianity and other religions. It was the time of the so-called Bamboo Curtain. He came to Czechoslovakia, when the suppression by Soviet troops of the ‘Prague Spring’ had put an end to relative religious freedom there. He encouraged fellow believers there and gave Bibles to Russian occupying forces.
The Smuggling of Scriptures
The smuggling of sacred writ has a long history. We took note of the phenomenon with William Tyndale who had the English Bible printed in Germany and then muggled into England in bales of cotton.
The smuggling of Scriptures came only really of age during the 'cold war' era. It was a major source of spiritual power, dynamite that eventually caused the demise of the Communist ideology. The gift of one million Bibles to the Orthodox Church at the occasion of their one thousandth year anniversary – together with the seven years of prayer for the Soviet Union from 1984 - spawned the dismantling of the ‘iron curtain’. As a member of the official Dutch delegation at a conference on human rights in the 1980s in the conference centre De Burcht in the Dutch village of Heemstede, Brother Andrew offered to donate one million Bibles to the Russian Orthodox Church on behalf of Open Doors for their coming millennial celebration. Furthermore, the translation of Scripture into indigenous languages not only opened many primitive tribes to modern civilization, but it also gave them dignity.
Brother Andrew and the Islamic Edifice After the fall of communism in Europe, Brother Andrew shifted his focus to the Middle East and has worked to strengthen the church in the Muslim world. In the 70s he visited war-torn Lebanon several times, stating that "global conflict in the end times will focus on Israel and its neighboring countries." In the '90s, van der Bijl went to the region several times again. In the book Light Force, van der Bijl tells about Arab and Lebanese churches in Lebanon, Israel and Israeli Arab areas that express great delight because of the mere visit of a fellow Christian from abroad, because they feel the church in the Western world at large is ignoring them. Likewise, he visited Hamas and PLO leaders including Ahmed Yassin and Yasser Arafat, handing out Bibles. He got linked to a project called Musalaha, which was founded by the Palestinian Evangelical leader Salim Munayer. Musalaha's name is an Arabic word which translates as "reconciliation," and it attempts to bring closer together Israelis and indigenous Israeli Arabs.Alpha Courses as a unifying Tool Alpha Courses have been among the most powerful unifying tools among churches from different denominations in recent decades. Simultaneously it was a divine instrument That brought many people all around the globe to know Christ as their Saviour and get Holy Spirit filled as well. Alpha Courses were started in 1977 at Holy Trinity, Brompton, a Church of England parish of London. In 1990 the Reverend Nicky Gumbel, a curate at Holy Trinity, took over the running of the course. Alpha is organized as a series of sessions over 10 weeks, typically preceded by an ‘Alpha Supper; which often includes the talk "Is there more to life than this?" and with a day or weekend away. Each session starts with a meal, followed by a talk (often a video by Nicky Gumbel) and then discussion in small groups. The talks aim to cover the basic beliefs of the Christian faith.
Chapter 17 Prayer erupts in different Places
In the early 1970s Brian O’Donnell owned the Hippie Market of the city of Cape Town as well as a night club called The Factory. When he was spiritually revived, he decided to conduct an outreach on Monday nights and later also at Green Point Stadium. A supernatural intervention occurred when Brian asked Dave Valentine to pray about assisting him in some way at his Hippie Market.
Revival Vibes resound from the Cape
The Holy Spirit moved mightily among young people, ultimately leading to the Hippie Revival that paved the way for ten new Assemblies of God (AoG) congregations among Whites and five among ‘Coloureds’. With ‘Coloured’ AoG pastors like James Valentine and Eddie Roman working closely alongside their White colleagues, this was a significant contribution to the breaking down of the racial barriers of the apartheid era on grassroots level.
Cape Revival vibes radiated
to the ends of the Earth
The revival vibes radiated even much further afield. In Grahamstown the ‘charismatic renewal’ as it was called, moved into the Anglican Church where Bishop Bill Burnett was impacted. The Holy Spirit movement flowed via a big national church event with Dr Billy Graham in 1973. Held in Durban in March 1973, the Congress was attended by 630 delegates and observers from 31 different denominations, 36 Christian service groups, and 13 different African and overseas countries. The original idea of the Congress on Mission and Evangelism in Durban came from Michael Cassidy of Africa Enterprise and John Rees, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC).
At the Congress on Mission and Evangelism the racial barriers came down in a significant way for the first time in this country. Dr Graham's insistence on the absence of any segregation among the audience played no small role. Durban also was an important forerunner for Lausanne the following year when the evangelical-ecumenical schism was addressed as well as the unbiblical separation of evangelism and compassionate outreach.
Personal Impact of the Hippie Revival My two years of full-time study at the Moravian seminary included a good mix of evangelistic activity and ecumenical activism. Our full-time student colleague Fritz Faro really got enflamed by the evangelistic zeal of the Jesus People. We tried to accommodate that issue, but at the same time we deemed it necessary to challenge the apparent Jesus People acceptance of the racist South African way of life. We also sharpened our axes for White liberals who professed to be against apartheid. Thus we decided to challenge the St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Green Point. Outside this church complex a notice board welcomed all races. Reverend Douglas Bax and his St Andrews Presbyterian Church passed the test with flying colours. Thereafter he became a close friend of our seminary.
A Revival among District Six Youth The flip side of the Islamic resurgence in the wake of the Group areas legislation was a mini-revival amongst young people of District Six. The use of the bigger Church Hall of Holy Cross displayed that there was a non-denominational flavour of the movement. That this was no superficial 'happy clappy' occasion can be easily discerned. Youth rallies were also held in neutral venues like the Palace Bioscope (Cinema) in the suburb Salt River, which even turned out to be too small.
Young people turned from drugs and gangsterism to Christ. Some started cottage meetings, others held open air services. From this movement many young people went to night Bible Schools and colleges. Many of them became pastors and leaders in their churches. No less than 50 young people from this revival became pastors or pastors' wives.
Worldwide Ripple Effects of the Hippie Revival
This Durban Congress on Mission and Evangelism of 1973 birthed PACLA (Pan African Christian Leadership Assembly) in Nairobi in 1976. The Durban event led to the influential SACLA (South African Christian Leadership Assembly) in Pretoria in 1979 where the German-born Reinhardt Bonnke was divinely touched. In subsequent years Bonnke would take the Gospel to many African countries and even further afield. Whereas earlier congresses apparently hardly seemed to impact the Cape, the Durban event did it in no uncertain way. One of the leaders, Professor Nico Smith, was based at Stellenbosch University with its hallowed theological faculty.
The Run-up to the Koinonia Declaration The banning of the Christian Institute and its leader, Dr Beyers Naudé on 19 October 1977, along with many other organizations that were perceived to be in opposition to apartheid, unleashed unexpected forces against the government.
Dr Nico Smith, Professor of Theology in Stellenbosch at the time, played a significant role in starting Koinonia, a movement that organised inter-racial weekends in different towns and cities. Participants would always lodge with someone from a different ethnic group. From these ranks the Koinonia Declaration followed in November 1977 when three Dutch Reformed Church leaders in the Western Cape reacted against a government ruling which made opposition against detention without trial unlawful. The prayerful attitude of these clergymen was revealed in the first sentences of the Koinonia Declaration: ‘…We also believe that the prayers of just men have great power. We therefore urge all Christians to pray without ceasing for those in authority that… they may not be led astray by unbiblical ideologies…’ Its link to the cause of visible expression of the unity of the body of Christ can be easily deduced from some of the statements:
‘… 4. We believe that God is a God of justice, and that his justice is a principle implanted in the hearts and the lives of his children. We believe that God should be obeyed by practicing his justice in all spheres of life, and at this time especially in politics. We believe that Christian love, as defined by God's law, supplies the norm for practicing justice. This means having the opportunity of doing unto others as one would have them do unto oneself. We believe that justice embraces, inter alia, equity. In a sinful world this implies a certain flexibility in the application of the law, which is best guarded by checking and balancing human authorities in order to avoid a concentration of power.
5. We believe that the Body of Christ is one, and this unity includes rich diversity. This principle should be acknowledged and actualized by members of the Body in all spheres of society. On this basis we deem it necessary that particularly within the state, the legitimate interests of each group as well as the common interest of all, should be fully recognized within the framework of a just political dispensation. We dissociate ourselves from all extreme forms of Black and White national consciousness which identify the Gospel with the history of group interests of any one group, excluding all other groups, and we call upon the church of Christ to consciously dissociate itself from an exclusively White as well as an exclusively Black theology which distorts the vital message of Scripture.’
5. We believe that the Body of Christ is one, and this unity includes rich diversity. This principle should be acknowledged and actualized by members of the Body in all spheres of society. On this basis we deem it necessary that particularly within the state, the legitimate interests of each group as well as the common interest of all, should be fully recognized within the framework of a just political dispensation. We dissociate ourselves from all extreme forms of Black and White national consciousness which identify the Gospel with the history of group interests of any one group, excluding all other groups, and we call upon the church of Christ to consciously dissociate itself from an exclusively White as well as an exclusively Black theology which distorts the vital message of Scripture.’
A spiritual Earthquake in Pretoria Since 1978, Gerda Leithgöb, an Afrikaner believer, has been directing spiritual warfare in Pretoria. She and her prayer team offered confession at the Voortrekker Monument. Their prayers and confession surely helped to cause a change in the spiritual complexion of the country’s capital that made true democracy possible. That prayer ministry for the city of Pretoria was the prelude to the South African Christian Leadership Assembly (SACLA) event in the national capital the following year. This conference was the equivalent of a spiritual earthquake. Professor David Bosch, a giant rebel against apartheid, was its leader. SACLA influenced the whole country deeply in a positive way and the conference was evidently part of God’s plan to transform the apartheid stronghold and capital of South Africa. Pastor Ed Roebert initiated a gathering of like-minded pastors with the purpose of fellowship and mutual encouragement. Soon he met regularly with Reinhardt Bonnke, Ray McCauley, Fred Roberts, Tim Salmon and Nicky v.d. Westhuizen. In due course many new charismatic churches were established and men with unusually anointed ministries appeared on the scene.
A Gale catapults an Evangelist into Prominence The destruction by a gale of a gigantic tent in the mid-1980s in which the German-born evangelist Reinhardt Bonnke was to hold an evangelistic campaign in the Cape Township of Valhalla Park, created much interest for the event. The organisers were forced to conduct the campaign in the open. Thousands attended who would never have fitted into the gigantic tent. Instead of the planned 15 nights, four extra nightly services were added amid clear skies in mid-June which is known to be part of the Cape rainy season.
There was an unprecedented networking
of Cape township churches
The networking of township churches in the run-up to this campaign was unprecedented, with a corresponding response at the altar calls. Many Muslims gave an indication that they wanted to become followers of Jesus. However, lack of proper follow-up by the churches prevented a massive spiritual turn-around at the Cape. This lack, combined with a brutal apartheid clampdown at the time, drove many nominal Christians to Islam. To become a Muslim was regarded as part of the ‘struggle’. Marriage swelled the numbers of Cape Muslims when the Christian partner converted to Islam, staying Muslim even after divorce. A sequel of the gale in Valhalla Park and the campaign was that Reinhardt Bonnke became a household name throughout the African continent and beyond.
Bliss Brings Blessings
Under the auspices of Africa Enterprise (AE) David Bliss came to South Africa in 1967 from the USA as a student. The relatively young missions and evangelistic agency AE started by Michael Cassidy in 1962, had such a profound effect on David Bliss that he decided to postpone his return to Princeton University for a year. After his marriage to Deborah (Debby) in 1972, the couple came to South Africa in 1979 as AE workers on the Wits University campus in Johannesburg. That year the South African Christian Leadership Assembly (SACLA) took place in Pretoria, an event that changed their lives. The Holy Spirit confronted them with the issue of unreached people groups and the possibility of sending South Africans as missionaries. The next year the couple participated in the students’ conference in Edinburgh, which ran parallel to the 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the World Council of Churches. The 1980 event brought the use of non-Westerners as missionaries into focus. For Dave and Debby Bliss this was a natural follow-up to SACLA in Pretoria the previous year.
A Wave of Prayer starts at UWC Dr Charles Robertson, a lecturer at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) from 1971-76, became part of the prayer emphasis in 1983. After his father’s death in 1979, he was thrust into a quagmire of spiritual turmoil. Hereafter he broke through into a living faith in Jesus as his Lord.
Dr Robertson was approached to help fund the hiring of a bus to take participants to a prayer service at the historical Sendingsgestig Museum in the Mother City’s Long Street, which coincided with a Frontiers Missions Conference at UWC.
A national Prayer Awakening erupts The Sendingsgestig Museum itself would become the venue for Concerts of Prayer. That event reverberated throughout the country, ushering in the prayer movement. In 1983 a prayer awakening started in a few congregations all around South Africa. One of these was a small group of intercessors led by Gerda Leithgöb in Pretoria that helped set them on a path previously unexplored in this country. Simultaneously, Bennie Mostert, a Dutch Reformed Church minister, started a newsletter to mobilize prayer in Namibia. Mostert dubbed his newsletter for Namibia Prayer Action Elijah.
Gerda Leithgöb requested prayer warriors from other countries at a conference in Singapore in 1988 to pray for South Africa, which had been in constant crisis since 1985. Ds. Bennie Mostert founded a national prayer network known as NUPSA (Network for United Prayer in Southern Africa) which became closely linked to the spiritual transformation of the continent. In 1993 the first teams started praying through information gained from serious research. During 1993 South Africa also participated in the Pray through the Window initiative that was launched internationally by the AD 2000 Prayer Track.
Community Disruption leads to Missions
BABS (Build a Better Society) was a local community organisation of Kewtown, a gangster-ridden Cape Township. In 1982 the gangs of Kew Town killed seven people in 3 months. After approaching other organisations without success, BABS asked the local Docks Mission Church to do something about the situation. A coffee bar was started specially for the gangsters, led by Rodney Thorne and Freddy Kammies. Every Sunday evening between 60 – 80 of them attended. Many of the gang leaders were challenged to put down the weapons and guns. Soon the crime rate came down. As a denomination the local Docks Mission faithfully prayed for the ministry which continued for quite a long time. The ministry sowed seed for missions. Eugene Johnson was the first missionary sent out by Docks Mission in 1978 on one of the Operation Mobilisation (OM) ships already in 1978. He was followed by many others from the Cape ‘Coloured’ community.
BABS (Build a Better Society) was a local community organisation of Kewtown, a gangster-ridden Cape Township. In 1982 the gangs of Kew Town killed seven people in 3 months. After approaching other organisations without success, BABS asked the local Docks Mission Church to do something about the situation. A coffee bar was started specially for the gangsters, led by Rodney Thorne and Freddy Kammies. Every Sunday evening between 60 – 80 of them attended. Many of the gang leaders were challenged to put down the weapons and guns. Soon the crime rate came down. As a denomination the local Docks Mission faithfully prayed for the ministry which continued for quite a long time. The ministry sowed seed for missions. Eugene Johnson was the first missionary sent out by Docks Mission in 1978 on one of the Operation Mobilisation (OM) ships already in 1978. He was followed by many others from the Cape ‘Coloured’ community.
Cape Prayer Endeavours of the early 1990s In the late 1980s the Concerts of Prayer - inspired by David Bryant - drew good crowds to the Sendingsgestig Museum, a fitting commemoration of the inter-denominational work that started there in 1799. Dr Charles Robertson led the Concerts of Prayer hereafter not only at the monthly meetings at that venue, but also later when the event relocated to the Presbyterian Church in Mowbray. It was very fitting that Robertson and his wife Rita would donate the property where the first NUPSA School of Prayer was to be erected in 2000, later known as Jericho Walls premises in Stellenberg.
At the Presbyterian Church in Mowbray, the monthly meetings were also led for many years by Rev. James Selfridge, an Irish missionary of the Metropolitan Church. Around the turn of the millennium the monthly meeting was moved to Grassy Park. The Concerts of Prayer were thereafter held in the Bethel Bible School in the former ‘Coloured’ sector of the suburb Crawford.
The Western Cape Missions Commission was quite effective in the early 1990s with strategic people from the Cape mission scene like Jan Hanekom, Martin Heuvel and Bruce van Eeden. One of the events organised in 1993 by the Western Cape Missions Commission was a workshop with John Robb of World Vision. I used the list of participants at this event to organize the Cape Jesus Marches the following year. In this way I updated my contacts for further mission endeavour in the Western Cape.
Local Churches spearheading foreign Missions The Cape led the country in local church involvement with foreign missions. Until the 1970s it was however only a church here and a church there that was sending out missionaries. A congregation from the Docks Mission with its strong emphasis on prayer spearheaded the foreign missionary endeavour.
Cooming from the ranks of this ‘Coloured’ denomination Peter Tarantal became a national leader of OM and Theo Dennis was appointed as the Western Cape regional co-ordinator of the mission agency. Theo’s sister married Dennis Atkins who was the principal of the Bethel Bible School until his retirement in 2006. Freddy Kammies, who grew up in the adjacent notorious township of Kewtown, came to the Lord at this church and he was discipled through the ministry of the Gleemoor congregation.
Another Cape congregation that caused a stir in missions is the Rondebosch Dutch Reformed Church. In the apartheid era that congregation was one of the few White Dutch Reformed churches in the country where people of colour could enter without the real fear that they would be prevented entry (or worse, evicted, as it actually happened in isolated cases). When Dr Ernst van der Walt came to pastor that congregation in 1982, the church was supporting a few ‘children’ from the congregation who were involved in missions. The denomination as such was initially only supporting missionaries linked to the Dutch Reformed synod.
This would change drastically when David Bliss, the OM missionary based at the Andrew Murray Centre in Wellington, visited the church. After his visit, the Prayer Concert concept got off the ground with an early morning meeting every Sunday. When the minister’s son Ernst went to the William Carey School in Pasadena in the USA, it meant an intensification of the church’s involvement in missions. This was even more so when Ernst van der Walt (jr.) became the personal assistant of George Verwer, the international leader of OM.
Chapter 18 The Road to the Global Day of Prayer
At the sending of prayer teams to different spiritual strongholds in 1997, a team from the Dutch Reformed congregation Suikerbosrand in Heidelberg (Gauteng) followed the nudge of NUPSA to come and pray in the Mother City.
A team from Heidelberg
(Gauteng) pray in Bo-Kaap
This was spiritually significant because Heidelberg had once been the cradle of the racist and right-wing Afrikaanse Weerstandsbeweging (AWB). That the AWB town Heidelberg was sending a team to pray for Bo-Kaap, might have hit the headlines had it been publicized! But all this was undercover stuff. This was transpiring at a time when PAGAD was still terrorizing the Cape Peninsula. The Bo-Kaap Islamic stronghold was not geographically situated in the 10/40 window, but Bennie Mostert correctly discerned that it was the case ideologically. It had become a Muslim bastion because of apartheid.
Moravian Hill hosts a strategic Meeting
As part of this visit from Gauteng, a prayer meeting of confession was organized for November 1, 1997, in District Six, in front of the Moravian Church. Sally Kirkwood not only had a vision for the desolate District Six to be revived through prayer, but she also informed Richard Mitchell and Mike Winfield about the event. The Cape prayer movement received a major lift. Eben Swart of Herald Ministries led the occasion. That turned out to be very strategic. Eben Swart’s position as Western Cape Prayer Coordinator was cemented since he was now able to link up with the pastors’ and pastors’ wives prayer meeting led by Eddie Edson. The event on Moravian Hill in District Six attempted to break the spirit of death and forlornness over the area, so that it would be inhabited again. However, it would take another seven years before that vision started to materialize.
Prayer on Mountain Tops and Stadiums
In mid-1997 Eben Swart became the co-ordinator of Herald Ministries for the Western Cape. He worked closely with the Network of United Prayer in Southern Africa (NUPSA), which had appointed Pastor Willy Oyegun, a Nigerian, as their Western Cape coordinator. Together they did important work in research and spiritual mapping, along with Amanda Buys (Kanaan Ministries), who counselled Christians with psychiatric problems.
Led by Pastor Mitchell, a Hindu-background Indian, Christians prayed from Signal Hill early on Saturday mornings. After the citywide prayer event on Table Mountain in September 1998, organized by Eben Swart of Herald Ministries, the vision of praying on the heights was revived.
Citywide Prayer Events
1998 brought significant steps to effect more unity in the body of Christ city-wide through the initiatives of NUPSA and Herald Ministries. Regular prayer meetings at the Mowbray Baptist Church ensued, with believers coming from different parts of the Peninsula and from diverse racial and church backgrounds. The meetings carried a strong message of unity. However, the suggestion to continue on local level in different areas, never took off. Nevertheless, the Mowbray exercise brought two racial groups for prayer together, becoming the forerunner of citywide events.
A prayer event on the Grand Parade
almost floundered after a bomb threat
A well-publicized prayer event on the Grand Parade almost floundered after a bomb threat. Prior to this, churches across the Peninsula had initially been requested to cancel their evening services on Sunday, 19 April 1998 and join this service. In sheer zeal, a Christian businessman had thousands of pamphlets printed and distributed. Unwisely, he did not consult with the organizing committee about its content. The flyer and poster that invited believers to a mass prayer meeting against drug abuse, homosexuality and other moral concerns, unfortunately also referred to Islam in a context that was not respectful enough for some radical Muslims. It was however also sad that certain City Bowl churches had not been prepared to close their doors even on a one-off basis for this event.
A PAGAD member apparently regarded the flyer as an invitation to disrupt the meeting. He passed on a threat to that effect. The event was subsequently announced as cancelled, but a few courageous believers showed up nevertheless. These included the late Pastor Danny Pearson, who had been deeply involved with the preparation of the prayer occasion. He believed that we should not give in to the intimidation, and that, if need be, Christians should be willing to die there for the cause of the Gospel. The meeting proceeded on a much smaller scale than originally planned. The service included confession for the sins of omission to the Cape Muslims and to the Jews. And there was no PAGAD disruption of the meeting!
More Prayer Efforts in the City
At one of the Saturday morning prayer times at Signal Hill in 1999, the idea of Cape Town as a spiritual gateway to the continent was shared. The prayers resulted in a surge towards transformation in the country after Richard Mitchell had seen the Transformation video at a pastors’ prayer meeting.
Within months, the vision of praying
in sports stadiums became a reality
Within a matter of months the vision of praying in sports stadiums became a reality. There followed significant combined prayer events: at Bellville’s Velodrome on a Sunday morning; at the Athletics Stadium of the University of the Western Cape; at the Vygiekraal Stadium and at the Athlone Stadium.
Some churches in the City participated in a forty-day period of prayer and fasting from Easter Sunday to Ascension Day 1998. Rev. Louis Pasques of theCape Town Baptist Church spearheaded this endeavour. A weekly meeting with a prayer emphasis gained ground slowly after the 40-day effort from April to May 1998. Later that year, combined evening services were held once a month in the City Bowl in participating churches, with the venue rotating very time.
A corresponding period of prayer and fasting in 1999 - this time for 120 days - was concluded in the Western Cape in the traditional Groote Kerk celebration of the Lord’s Supper when pastors from different denominations officiated. This was a visible sign of a growing church unity. At that Ascension Day event, Dr Robbie Cairncross was divinely brought into the situation. He came to the Mother City with a vision to see a network of prayer developing in the Peninsula. His prayer for an office for his Christian Coalition/Family Alliance near to Parliament was answered in a special way when he moved into the premises of the Chamber of Commerce (SACB), a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament.
A Link forged with Community Transformation elsewhere
Pastor Eddie Edson of Mitchells Plain organised two all-night citywide prayer events on 25 June and 15 October 1999. By this time White pastors started to attend the monthly pastors' gathering more regularly, even at places like Die Hok in Manenberg, a former drug den.
Rev. Trevor Pearce, an Anglican minister from the township Belhar, started joining these prayer meetings. He was no stranger to the pain and hardship of discrimination and violence, yet his gentle disposition was often used by God to fulfil the role of peacemaker.
Seeds for 24/7 Prayer
The pastors’ and pastors’ wives monthly meetings of the 1990s became the run-up to the city-wide prayer events at the Light House Christian Centre in Parow, on the Grand Parade in the City and at sports stadiums from 1998. These occasions, along with prayer events like the one at Moravian Hill in District Six on 1 November 1997, brought about further correction.
After a visit to the USA, Rev. Trevor Pearce, an Anglican minister who also had some ministry experience on one of the Operation Mobilization(OM) ships, brought back copies of the Transformation video and an audio copy of the book Informed Intercessions by George Otis, jr. This documented account of what happened in Cali (Columbia) also included principles for successful community transformation.
Trevor Pearce wasted no time in meeting with Eddie Edson. Soon thereafter the group listened to the recorded voice of George Otis and watched the stories of transformation and redemption. They too felt that deep stirring within their hearts. Drugs, death, and despair had all been part of daily life for the residents of Cali, Columbia, until the Holy Spirit brought transformation through the praying church. What satan had intended for evil, God was using for good.
At the city-wide prayer event at the packed out Lighthouse Christian Centre on 15 October 1999 the Transformation video was viewed by the audience.
Moravian Heritage Rekindled
Although the Moravian denomination itself seemed to have dwindled into obscurity, the heritage of the early Moravians was once again at the cradle of a mighty movement of God across the world. A group of intercessors from America visited the East German village of Herrnhut in 1993. The group included a believer from St Thomas, the island to which the first two missionaries left in 1732. That group experienced a sovereign outpouring of God’s spirit as they prayed in the prayer tower of Herrnhut. This could possibly be regarded as the beginning of the modern wave of prayer that was sweeping around the globe since then. The vision of the 24-hour prayer watch - that kept going in Herrnhut for 120 years - was rekindled in a big way towards the end of 1999. Like wildfire, the concept spread around the world. At the beginning of the year 2000 African leaders - spearheaded by Bennie Mostert from Pretoria and John Mulinde of Uganda - got together to attempt implementing the example of the Moravians in Africa.
Jericho Walls at the Cape
„Sooispit” - the turning of the soil – in preparation for the building of a prayer room in the Western Cape, took place on February 9, 2000. Charles Robertson, a Cape Christian businessman with a heart for prayer - along with his wife Rita - generously donated resources towards a venue for the work of NUPSA in the Western Cape. The premises in Brackenfell were earmarked to become a 24-hour prayer room for intercessors from the whole continent.
Daniel and Estelle Brink were called to lead the NUPSA initiative to get a 24-hour Prayer Watch off the ground at the Cape. That this was spiritual warfare of a high degree became evident when Daniel Brink became critically ill shortly after commencing his new function. The Lord touched and healed him in answer to the prayers of many intercessors. In due course the ministry was renamed Jericho Walls, and the Western Cape branch became Global Watch.
The well-publicised transformation meetings started in March 2001 at the Newlands Rugby Stadium. But there were still many other obstacles to overcome before that fell into place.
Impact of the Transformations Video
Graham Power, a Cape businessman, who is a member of the board of Directors of the Western Province Rugby Football Union, saw the Transformations documentary video in March 2000, birthed in him a strong desire to see a prayer event at the headquarters of the Rugby Football Union in Newlands. He promptly approached his co-directors for the use of the big sports stadium. This was approved in August 2000. The Sentinel Group, that included George Otis of the well-known Transformation videos, staged a three-day conference at the Lighthouse Christian Centre in Parow with international speakers from 3 November 2000, followed by a citywide prayer meeting at an Athletics stadium in Bellville on Sunday, 5 November. The meetings in Parow and Bellville were preceded by prayer events that not only coincided with a bout of spiritual warfare against the occult Satanist Halloween celebrations, but they were also part of a countrywide 40-day offensive of prayer and fasting for the continent.
Bombs discovered and defused
On Friday 3 November, 2000 two potentially destructive bombs were discovered and defused at a well-known shopping centre in Bellville. The bombs could have caused massive loss of life, had they detonated at the intended time a few kilometres from the venue of the prayer event in Parow. On the same day of the start of the prayer conference, the main alleged perpetrators of the pipe bomb planting were arrested. Reverend Trevor Pearce, who led the Community Transformation prayer initiative, stated that it could hardly have been co-incidence that the arrest of the surmised culprits happened at the time of the conference. Nor could it have been mere co-incidence that pipe bombs were discovered under a snooker table at a house in Grassy Park on 6 November, a day after the citywide prayer event in Bellville. For five years not a single PAGAD pipe bomb detonated at the Cape.
Transformation of the Mother City of South Africa received a major push on 3-5 November 2000 through the Lighthouse Centre event and the one in Bellville. After these events, the stage was soon set for a major occasion at the Newlands Rugby Stadium.
The Newlands Event of 21 March 2001
On the local level churches also seemed to be playing a role in bringing about peace. On Sunday 25 February 2001, it was reported on national television that local church leaders had brokered a peace accord between two Bonteheuwel gangs, the Cisko Yakkies and the Americans.
The Transformation programme was closely linked to intercession from the outset. It is no surprise that the 24-hour prayer watch was connected to a big prayer occasion scheduled for the Newlands Rugby Stadium on 21 March 2001. In the 21 days prior to the event more than 200 congregations joined in a prayer effort for the stadium meeting on a 24-hour basis. This was completely unprecedented.
A satellite connection and
big screens allowed more
people to participate
The 21 March 2001 event was extraordinary in the extreme. Because Newlands was too small for all the people who wanted to attend, several local churches used a satellite connection and big screens to allow more people to participate. Radio CCFM and Radio Tygerberg radio stations also broadcast the unprecedented occasion live. Because it was a public holiday, many followed the prayers at home via radio and TV.
A prophetic Move in District Six
Murray Bridgman, a Cape Christian advocate, felt God’s leading to perform a prophetic act in District Six. He had previously researched the history of Devil’s Peak. Along with Eben Swart, Bridgman provided some research that encouraged Dr Henry Kirby to lobby Parliament to change the name of Devil’s Peak to Dove’s Peak. (Duivenkop had been an earlier name.) Kirby’s role as the prayer coordinator of the African Christian Democratic Party resulted in a motion tabled in the City Council in June 2002. The motion was unsuccessful, fuelling suspicion that satanists also had significant influence in the City Council.
On June 1, 2002 Susan and Ned Hill, an American missionary couple, joined Murray Bridgman and his wife as they poured water on the steps of the Moravian Hill Chapel in District Six, symbolically ushering in the showers of blessing that we prayed would come. Forcefully the message was confirmed that Messianic Jewish believers should be invited to join in the prayers of welcome to the foot of the Cross, to those who intended to return to the former slum-like residential area District Six.
Run-up to a Continental Prayer Convocation
The Koffiekamer, once mooted as the venue for a 24-hour prayer watch, suddenly became a major channel of blessing when an Alpha Course started there. A special role in the transformation of the city was accorded to the Koffiekamer when many a vagrant was transformed by the power of the Gospel and prayer meetings for the city were held there every last Wednesday of the month.
It was furthermore fitting that the prelude to a prayer convocation for the African continent from 1st to the 5th December 2003 at UWC, Bellville, took place on Robben Island. This was a follow-up of the ‘Cleansing South Africa’ event of September 2001.
Prayer events in the 58 nations and islands which are linked to the continent of Africa were held on 2 May 2004 in some 1100 stadiums. The theme running throughout the afternoon was that the time had come for the Dark Continent to become a light to the nations. In an inspiring message, the Argentine speaker Ed Silvoso led the millions of believers in stadiums across the continent through prayers of repentance, dedication and commitment.
The 7 DAYS Initiative
As a follow-up strategy of Transformation Africa, the 7-Days Initiative was launched. On the verge of the 2004 event in stadiums all over Africa, Daniel Brink of the Jericho Walls Cape Office sent out the following communiqué:‘...From Sunday May 9th thousands of Christians all over South Africa will take part in a national night and day prayer initiative called „7 Days”. The goal was to see the whole country covered in continuous prayer for one year from 9 May 2004 to 15 May 2005. At relatively short notice, communities in South Africa were challenged to each take 7 days to pray 24 hours a day. The initiative started with the Western Cape taking the first seven weeks. Daniel Brink, the regional organizer, invited believers of the Cape Peninsula to ‘proclaim your trust that, when we pray, God will respond. Declare your trust that if we put an end to oppression and give food to the hungry, the darkness will turn to brightness. Pray that houses of prayer will rise up all over Africa as places where God’s goodness and mercy is celebrated in worship and prayer, even before the answer comes.’
Global Prayer Watch, the Western Cape arm of Jericho Walls, filled the first 7 days with day and night prayer at the Moravian Church complex in District 6, Cape Town, starting at 9 o’clock in the evening on May 9. Every two hours around the clock a group of musicians would lead the ‘Harp and Bowl’ intercessory worship, whereby the group would pray around scripture. In another part of the complex intercessors could pray or paste prayer requests in the ‘boiler room’.
What a joy it was for the fervent prayer warrior Hendrina van der Merwe to be present on the 9th May 2004 in the Moravian Church. However, she would neither experience a spiritual breakthrough towards new church planting in Bo-Kaap nor the start of a 24-hour Prayer Watch in the City Bowl. She went to be with her Lord on 31 December 2004.
Jericho Walls challenged ‘millions of believers’ all over the world ‘to seek the face of the Lord and ask him to fill the earth with his glory as the waters cover the seas’ (Habakkuk 2:14) from 6th to the 15th May 2005. Young people were encouraged to do a ‘30 second Kneel Down’ on Friday 13 May and to have a whole night of prayer in the run-up to the Global Day of Prayer on Saturday 14 May, a ‘Whole night for the Whole World.’ On Sunday 15th May 2005 the first Global Day of Prayer took place. This was one of the most unifying event of the body of Christ since Pentecost.
Chapter 19 Challenges at the Cape in Recent Years
It was exciting to see how in different parts of the country, the vision ‘adopt a cop’ - prayer for the police force - took off. Cops for Christ saw themselves as stimulators and co-ordinators for prayer.
Prayer at Die Losie
When we were still wondering whether it was feasible to go ahead with plans to have a 24/7 week of prayer in the City Bowl at the beginning of February 2005, Trevor Peters phoned me. This happened just as my own faith had started to wilt on the matter. It turned out that he had been corresponding for some time with leaders of the Moravian Church about the use of the complex in District Six.
At the monthly prayer for the City on Saturday 8 January (2005), it was decided to press ahead with another week of prayer from 30 January to 6 February as a next step towards the goal of a 24-hour Prayer Watch in the City Bowl. Our friend Beverley Stratis, who has prayer burden for the city that stretches over many years, was asked to get in touch with Superintendent Fanie Scanlan to see if a room in the Buitenkant Street Police Station was available as a plan B.
One thing led to the other within a week, until it was finalized that the week of prayer would be held at Moravian Hill, to be followed thereafter with a prayer watch at the nearby police station. Superintendent Scanlan put to our disposal a room called Die Losie, a former Freemason lodge in the police station. This was a significant step in the spiritual realm. On Sunday 23 January, 2005 the station was anointed and prayed over.
In preparation for the 2006 Global Day of Prayer, prayer drives were organised. The prayer drives converged at the Central Police Station in Buitenkant Street. God used this event to touch at least one person in a special way. Wim Ferreira had been invited to work with the Deputy Mayor of the metropolis.
When all the groups had arrived at Die Losie, Daniel Brink, the co-ordinator of the event, asked me to share in a few words how God had changed things at the police station. I became too emotional. However, at this moment, Wim Ferreira was deeply moved. He promptly requested a room for prayer in the metropolitan Civic Centre where he had just started to work. This was another divinely orchestrated move. After a few months, Barry and I joined Wim for a regular weekly Friday prayer time in a board room of the Civic Centre. The Lord put the unity of the Body of Christ on our prayer agenda once again. We continued with efforts to get Capetonian believers to pray together. This was to us an important step towards the revival we were yearning for.
Start of a 24-hour Prayer Facility
Before long, a trickle of workers from all walks of life was coming to faith in Jesus. On Wednesdays at lunch time believers from different denominational backgrounds gathered there to pray and intercede for the city. The Lord also challenged Wim Ferreira to start a 24-hour prayer facility at the Civic Centre premises. Soon a prayer room near to the parking area on the ground floor was frequented by many people throughout the day. The foundation stone towards 24/7 prayer in the CBD of the metropolis was laid.
Pastor Barry Isaacs became the new co-ordinator of Transformation Africa. As a result of their deliberations, prayer meetings started in October 2007 at the Uni-City Council Chambers on one Saturday morning of every month at 5.30 a.m. (This was later changed to 6 a.m.). Wonderful answers to prayer were subsequently experienced month after month. At one of these occasions, the lack of the availability of the Civic Centre Banqueting Hall for a combined prayer event on Ascension Day touched Peter Williams, the secretary of the Provincial Parliament. He promptly extended a provisional invitation to the group to come and pray there as well.
On 31 May 2008 more than 100 believers gathered in the legislative house of the Western Cape for prayer at 6 a.m. Three days later there was a hush – and no mocking - as two Christians shared their biblical convictions at the same venue, as part of normal parliamentary procedure. For Peter Williams this was a direct result of the united prayer at that venue! The implementation of unity on biblical grounds in the spirit of the person and example of Jesus - without semantics (notably the playing with words) and doctrinal bickering around issues like baptism and women in the pulpit – started appearing on the horizon.
Our Friday lunch hour prayer meeting became the start of yet another venture in 1996 after Daniel, a believer from Eerste River, a distant suburb in the north of our city, who had been a regular participant in the beginning of these prayer meetings in 1992, popped in again one day. He challenged us, referring to the many French-speaking Muslim street traders from West Africa, who had been moving into the city: ‘Have you ever considered doing something about bringing the Gospel to them?’
In the meantime Louis Pasques, who was raised in an Afrikaner environment, had become the senior pastor of the Cape Town Baptist Church in 1996. He had not only become a regular participant at the Friday prayer meeting in the Koffiekamer, but he also speaks French.
A public confession was made
on behalf of Afrikaners for the hurts
meted out to people of colour
When Blacks started attending the fellowship increasingly and because of a brave sermon in which Louis made a confession on behalf of Afrikaners for the hurts meted out to people of colour during the apartheid era, a few White people left the church. This triggered the gradual change of the complexion of people attending the church.
Outreach to Foreigners
When we started to pray about the possible outreach to foreigners at our Friday lunch-hour meeting, God surely used these occasions to prepare Louis Pasques’s heart. When the destitute Congolese refugee teenager Surgildas (Gildas) Paka pitched up at the church, Louis and his wife Heidi sensed that God was challenging them to take special care of the youngster. One weekend Louis and Heidi had their parents over for a visit. They asked Alan Kay, an elder and the administrator of Cape Town Baptist Church, to provide accommodation to the destitute teenager. Gildas captivated Alan’s heart. This was the beginning of an extended and unusual adoption process. One thing led to the other until Alan Kay not only finally adopted Gildas, but he also got more and more involved in compassionate care of other refugees. Soon the Cape Town Baptist Church became a home to refugees from many African countries. Gildas and our son Rafael, became quite close friends.
Allain Ravelo-Hoërson (T.E.A.M.) played a big part in establishing the ministry among Francophone Africans at the church, along with other missionaries who had been working in countries where French is the lingua franca. Allain ministered there faithfully from 1998 to August 2001, when he and his wife left to study in London. He was supported by Ruth Craill, an SIM missionary, who had ministered in West Africa. She played the piano and took care of providing meals after or before the services.
A positive Change towards Refugees
The attitude of Whites in the Cape Town Baptist Church hereafter gradually changed positively towards refugees. Before long, quite a few refugee-background Africans started attending our churches services, especially when special ones in French were arranged monthly and later twice a month, as an effort to equip the Francophone believers for loving outreach to the Muslim French-speakers from our continent. The word spread quite well, so that in due course also other churches started opening their doors to refugees.
The Koffiekamer, suddenly became a major channel of blessing when an Alpha Course was started there. A special role in the effort towards transformation in the city was accorded to it when many a homeless person was transformed by the power of the Gospel, and prayer meetings for the city started at that venue on every last Wednesday of the month. This is where we had increased contact with Vlok Esterhuyse. He would become one of our stalwart intercessors at the Cape Town Central Police Station.
The need for refugees to get employment was the spawn for the English language classes at the church to be revitalized. This inspired the offer of free English lessons to many of these refugees, ultimately leading to the resumption of English language classes at the church as an aid to help refugees find their way in the city. The simultaneous need for a discipling house for Muslim converts and a drug rehabilitation centre gave birth to the Dorcas Trust. I hoped that the city churches could take ownership of these ventures. (That turned out to be easier said than done.)
My wife Rosemarie and I were encouraged by the arrival of Floyd and Sally McClung at the end of 2006, especially because we detected kindred spirits when we got to read their reasoning for coming to the Cape. When we heard that Floyd and Sally McClung were coming to the Cape with the vision to ‘establish a training and outreach community in Cape Town that impacts Africa from Cape Town to Cairo’ and the vision ‘for a multi-cultural community that exemplifies the kingdom of God’, we became quite excited. This was more or less what we wanted to see happening, even though our vision was somewhat broader, including countries outside of Africa to be impacted from Cape Town. Getting the vision across to local Christians and pastors was however a very big challenge.
We endeavoured even more to see a church planting movement established among those foreigners who have come to the Mother City of our country. We longed intensely for the metropolis to become the Father's City at last. With the Mc Clungs, leaders of the relatively new mission agency All Nations International, we had a common experience of seeking God’s will for the next step in our lives. Floyd and Sally had come to a dead-end in the church in Kansas City (USA) that they had been leading. We felt the same way with our mission agency here in Cape Town in respect of outreach to foreigners.
Equipping and Empowering People from the Nations
One of the new ventures of Friends from Abroad (FFA), long before its official inauguration on 17 February 2007, with which we started before we left for Europe in 2006 was fortnightly sessions of fellowship, Bible Study and prayer with a hitherto unreached people group in respect of the Gospel, a few Uighur believers from China in Cape Town, as well as other Asians. The philosophy of FFA is to equip and empower people from the nations to serve their own people, akin to the way I had been impacted while in (in)voluntary exile in Holland.)
We resumed our contact with Bruce van Eeden, the former pastor of the Newfields EBC, with whom we had started children’s work in 1992. (In 1995 he initiated a Mitchell’s Plain-based mission agency called Ten-Forty Outreach.) We thought that his ministry could be a valuable complement to our Friends from Abroad concept - to bless indigenous Christians and be blessed by them.
Through Pastor Theo Dennis we linked up with Ds. Richard Verreyne, pastor of the Soter Christelike Gereformeerde Kerk in Parow. Rochelle Malachowski and an American short-term volunteer, are two valued co-workers who assisted in starting up free English lessons for refugees and other foreigners at that church in Parow. It was an added blessing that we had a short-termer from Germany at our disposal to keep the little children of the refugee ladies busy in a good way. This was a forerunner towards a weekly children’s club at the same venue with refugee and local children. A jewellery workshop for refugee ladies, the bulk of them Muslims, to help them earn a few cents and teach English to quite a few of them, was part and parcel of the FFA compassionate outreach to foreigners.
In due course resigned from WEC International. We started Friends from Abroad in February 2007 formally as a ministry of friendship and hospitality towards foreigners that have come to Cape Town. Rosemarie and I also simultaneously started the process to become missionaries linked to All Nations International, led by Floyd McClung.
The 2010 Soccer World Cup and Lausanne III
After the failure of the Church in our country to hone in on an opportunity towards effective networking during the xenophobic mob attacks of May and June 2008, we latched on to the national outreach effort that was launched in the country with the 2010 Soccer World Cup called The Ultimate Goal (TUG). This was a very positive experience but it still only resulted in limited networking when some rivalry surfaced. Due to two strong missionary personalities of Muslim evangelism, two separate camps developed. The rift took years to heal.
Both the Global Day of Prayer and the Lausanne III events of 2010 did not live up to our high expectations to foster unity among the Bride of Christ in the city. The 2011 initiatives of 'Strengthening the Ties' of followers of Jesus and 'Fire Trails' straddled man-made boundaries and barriers, but these events had no significant noticeable impact.
The Church universal still has to acknowledge collective guilt for the doctrinal squabbling that led to the establishment and rise of Islam. The maltreatment and side-lining of Jews by Christians fall in the same category. If they are not repented of and confessed, these issues may remain hurdles in the way of a collective turn around by Islam or Judaism.
Divine Nudges towards One-ness of Followers of Christ
At the beginning of 2010 I was deeply touched when I discerned that Isaac and Ishmael, the two eldest sons of Abraham, had actually buried their father together (Genesis 25:9). The evident reconciliation was probably preceded by confession and some remorse. Or was there some reconciling agent involved?
On 11 October 2010 the Lord ministered to me from Romans 1:16 when we received the Lausanne Consultation for Jewish Evangelism (LCJE) Quarterly Bulletin. That edition of the LCJE Bulletin highlighted the legacy of Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus. In the paper that Rosen delivered as part of the Jewish Evangelism track at Lausanne II in Manila in 1989, he highlighted 'Jews first' from Romans 1:16. This led to the low-key beginning of Ishmael Isaac Ministries and another attempt at Muslim/Jewish dialogue and reconciliation, an effort to link Messianic Jewish believers and Muslim background believers at the Cape.
I thought to have discerned another 'missing link' that same month, viz. that revivals were, as a rule, accompanied by deep remorse over personal and national sins. This would then often result in the shedding of 'rivers of tears'. I shared this insight on Signal Hill and at a few other occasions. In the run-up to Lausanne III in October 2010 at the International Convention Centre in our city, I was deeply moved to 'discover' the disobedience and neglect of the Church at large in reaching out 'to the Jews first'. I was especially moved again how the Jews were side-lined by our Christian ancestors. (In my research I had been discerning anew how our Christian forbears have haughtily stated that the Church replaced the nation of Israel and the Jews.) That the venue of Lausanne III was more or less equidistant to Bo-Kaap and Sea Point, the respective strongholds of Islam and Judaism in the Western Cape, was a special nudge.
An Isaac Ishmael Nudge
A meeting on the Saturday afternoon of 23 October at a private address in Milnerton became a defining moment. Believers were invited to meet Pastor Baruch Maayan and his family that had returned from Israel. He was responding in obedience to a call by the Holy Spirit to come to the Cape. He shared that he felt like Jonah, to have received a second chance to minister to believers here on that occasion. There I was thoroughly humbled and embarrassed, completely overwhelmed by a sense of guilt towards Jews. Experiencing an extraordinary urge to apologise on behalf of Christians for our disobedience and for the fact that we have been side-lining the Jews, I broke down almost uncontrollably.
Baruch shared his conviction that he was sent to Cape Town to challenge believers with the highway message of Isaiah 19. Highway meetings started every last Saturday of the month in Sea Point soon thereafter. A close link developed between us and the Maayan family. My hope and prayer that these Highway events could become a meeting point of believers from different denominations and backgrounds, did not materialise. With some disappointment I had to see how the weekly meetings develop into another fellowship around Baruch Maayan as the pastor.
Baruch and his family returned to Israel in 2013. Some wonderful seeds were however sown, notably that an up and coming business woman with the name of Maditshaba got closely befriended to the Maayan family after they had moved to Pinelands where she lives. Another fruit of that season was a north facing prayer facility at our home that we dubbed the Isaiah 19 prayer room. The direct run-up to this was a weekly prayer meeting at the home of Gay French in Claremont which led to a visit to Israel in 2011 and ultimately to the building of the prayer room.
Devil's Peak to be renamed?
In 2009 the lack of public demonstrations of the unity of the Body of Christ quite strongly on my heart. I really hoped to see believers uniting with the possible renaming of 'Devil's Peak'. I linked up with Pastor Barry Isaacs and Murray Bridgman, a local advocate, who had been praying with us at different venues over a number of years. A year later Marcel Durler, a local businessman, joined us.
At the beginning of 2011 the possible renaming of 'Devil's Peak' came to the fore once again. I was well aware that the contentious issue came up for discussion in the city council some years ago. I believe that the matter was not handled well in 2002 – in my view abused to score political points. With municipal elections due later that year, we were wary of repeating the same mistake. We did not want the issue to become embroiled in the run-up to the elections.
On election day 2011 our little group, i.e. Pastor Barry Isaacs, Advocate Murray and myself deliberated again. We requested Barry Isaacs to take the matter to the executive of the Religious Forum for input from that side as well. The provincial Heritage Council was quite favourable because we researched that the peak had previous names like Windberg and Doves’ Peak. The matter turned out to be quite an intricate issue when Table Mountain was declared one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We knew that satanists had vested interests in the retention of the name. Murray Bridgman put some persevering stalwart work into the process, but only by the end of 2013 there appeared some light at the end of the tunnel. Tess Seymore, an able and energetic missionary colleague, joined us in Friends from Abroad. Along with a young man who had a heart for united prayer, the three of us became the nucleus of the Dove’s Peak Prayer Network, networking closely with Daniel Brink of Jericho Walls. Christians in the suburb Woodstock were a strong tower of support.
New Turmoil in Government
On Monday 6 April 2009 the National Persecuting Agency (NPA) announced that 16 charges of fraud and corruption against Mr Jacob Zuma, the President of the ANC, were being dropped. He was touted to become the country's next leader. (There were all in all 783 charges of this nature stacked against him which resulted in more prayer than in the previous two elections. More than ever the ogre of a situation like Zimbabwe drove many to prayer who would otherwise not have done so.
At this time the Dalai Lama was refused a visa for attending some conference which was to promote the World Cup. When Archbishop Tutu and ex-President as other Nobel Prize winners indicated that they would not attend the event in protest, the event had to be cancelled. The refusal of the visa to the Dalai Lama not only highlighted human rights, but it also brought the level of corruption in the ruling party, the ANC, who had to dance to the tune of the People's Republic of China. It was leaked that this country dictated the terms behind the scenes, leading to the visa refusal.
Over the next years the corruption in government circles proved to be a constant prayer point. The rise and fall of Julius Malema within the ANC until his expulsion from the party, led to his starting his own party, which posed an almost immediate threat to the ANC. His popularity among young voters augured the fear of a Zimbabwe scenario
The Threat of the Rule of Ancestors
The threat of our country to be put under the occult rule of ancestors at the centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein in January 2012 caught the imagination of intercessors. Here at the Cape the Lord used Pastor Light Eze, a Nigerian pastor, to bring believers together. We linked the ogre of demonic ancestor spirit rule to the effort to change the name of a well-known mountain summit to Doves' Peak. The result was a new season of spiritual warfare including '8 Days of prevailing prophetic prayers...' during which we sang every evening Jesus, we enthrone you! Fairly spectacular answers to prayer followed and there were also supernatural phenomena which gave us great expectations. Our attempt included a meeting on 4 February 2012 at Rhode’s Memorial just below the mountain peak.
We must have angered the arch enemy at least to some extent at this time. Some of the main Cape evangelical role players experienced the one or other form of attack at the beginning of 2012. It seemed to me no co-incidence that it was touch and go or I was eliminated personally in the night of 30/31 January 2012. This happened a few days before a Transformation Africa event that was scheduled for Saturday 4 February at Rhodes Memorial.
A completely blocked main artery should have taken me out. But God had fore-stalled this attack on my life. A few days prior to this, He gave to Beverley Stratis, a good friend of us and a faithful intercessor, a picture of me while she was praying. Some darkness and life-threatening confusion surrounded me. That was her clue to pray for me fervently.
About two weeks later Erika Schmeisser, an intercessor who attended our Saturday evening fellowship regularly, came up to me to tell me her experience because she heard that I had a heart attack. At that time she woke up from a massive pain in her chest. She immediately knew that this was from someone else and that she must intercede.
This highlighted Isaiah 53 to me in a special way because doctors and nurses were so surprised that I had no need for tablets for pain in the chest region. Also the physician who sent me to hospital for an EKG initially was very surprised that I drove to her myself with the low pulse that she had felt.
The result of the heart attack was a reappraisal of our activities, which would include much less driving but also taking more time to work on manuscripts which had been waiting on completion.
We continued to hope and pray that the Church at the Cape might grasp new chances to get out of its complacency, indifference and lethargy to reach out lovingly to Muslims, Jews and those foreigners from the nations that are already in our midst.
I hoped much too naively that church leaders would get on board against the government's anti-Israel stance in 2012. I wrote an email to minister colleagues with the following content after a visit by Pastor Umar Mulinde had shared at meetings in August how the Church there countered efforts to introduce Sharia Law in their country:
… The question is: Must we wait until similar moves also happen here? The point is that there are many a precedent in Africa where countries went into serious economic decline after turning against Israel in recent decades (DR Congo (Zaire), Malawi).
In a recent radio broadcast Pastor Barry Isaacs gave seven reasons why Christians should support Israel. I asked him to email this to me. Please consider them in the attached document and please comment. Do you agree that it is time that the Church should speak out; that it is time for the silent majority – which we believe is present in South Africa, notably in the Church – should we take a stand in opposition to those in government who express views which will harm all of us in due course?
There was hardly any response. Also other efforts to get the local churches of the Cape Town City Bowl joining in concerted action, floundered.
A Role for the Church in corporate Restitution?
Participating in a group of believers which looked at the follow-up of a conference at the Drill Hall in December 2012 as the 5 R's with restitution at its core, the quest was of course also to get some unified action by the Body of Christ. In a response to notes by Hilary-Jane Solomons, I wrote the following lines after attending one of the meetings where I was so excited to hear of biblical research around Sabah and Ramah as the possible ancestors of the first nation of South Africa:
Confession by the Body of Christ for the gradual increase in the first A.D. Centuries of anti-Semitism of non-Jewish background Christian believers and for the Replacement Theology of theologians, including the Church Fathers – that the Church replaced Israel. General global confession is also needed for the subsequent side-lining of Israel and Jews (notably by the decrees of Emperor Constantine in the early 4th century) and for the general neglect of the Tenach ('OT') as second-rate in respect of the 'New Testament' by the Body of Christ at large.
I believe that a possible subsequent return of the Body of Christ to the Torah in a non-legalist and loving way and/or giving prominence to it could be the result which the Father will honour in a big way….
Hilary-Jane Solomons became critically sick hereafter. The initiative went dormant although the movement for church-led restitution prodded on perseveringly.
Events to highlight the five-Fold Ministry
Events to highlight the five-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11)kept the prayer for revival alive. A significant move in the spiritual realm occurred when Maditshaba Moloko, who had been ordained as Pastor, was appointed as the co-ordinator for the annual Jerusalem prayer convocation.in 2014. The gifted intercessor and visionary moved with her business into office space on the 20th floor of the Thibault Square Building in mid-2015. Soon thereafter a monthly prayer meeting for Jerusalem started there. This would become the venue for many strategic city-wide meetings linked to prayer events, such as meetings ahead of abig event at the Lighthouse in July 2015 and a prayer event with Pastor Baruch Maayan at Cape Point on 11 December that was organised on very short notice. That event would transpire in the context of intense spiritual warfare.
Rhodes Memorial sets off Sparks On 9 March 2015 a student protest started on the UCT campus, originally directed against a statue at the University of Cape Town (UCT) that commemorated Cecil Rhodes. The campaign for the statue's removal led to a wider movement to "decolonise" education across South Africa. On 9 April 2015, following a UCT Council vote the previous night, the statue was removed. The #Rhodes Must Fall campaign captured national headlines throughout 2015. It divided public opinion sharply. It also inspired the emergence of allied student movements at other universities, both within South Africa and elsewhere in the world. The campaign was followed by the #FeesMustFall which ignited racist overtones. Shortly after a red-carpet visit by leaders from Hamas, the Middle Eastern group known for its destructive views. The #FeesMustFall became quite violent until the government succumbed to the claims.
The Fall and Rise of our Economy within a Matter of Days The country was not yet out of the doldrums as a result of these events when President Zuma sacked Mr Nhlanhla Nene, an able Finance Minister, replacing him with the inexperienced Mr Des van Rooyen who was generally perceived as unqualified for this position. The Rand, our monetary currency, nose-dived, sending danger signals in all directions.
In a pun on the historical classic of Edward Gibbon (The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire) the ill judgment of President Zuma ignited the fall and rise of our Economy within a matter of days. The use of modern technology was put to good effect as prayer was solicited far and wide via Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter. Our prayer event at Cape Point that was triggered by the email of Rick Ridings was due for Friday 11 December. That 50 intercessors rocked up at the venue for which one had to fork out quite a few bucks, was something akin to a miracle. It is impossible to gauge and compare the impact of the prayer that was rallied. The effect was the most significant since our miracles elections of 1994 where prayer was clearly also the driving force. That President Zuma seemed at least to have the courage to heed the advice given to him was a miracle looking back. (In 2016 he stubbornly held on to his position in spite of many calls – also from within the ranks of his party – to step down.) He appointed Mr Pravin Gordhan, a former Finance Minister who had a good track record, in a desperate act to salvage the economy of the country. The Rand recovered in resuscitation mode to a level near to where it had been before the appointment of Mr van Rooyen.
At the beginning of 2016 various Christians felt challenged to oppose the negativity in South Africa. The argument of the South Africa must rise campaign was that ‘If everything must fall - then eventually, the nation will fall’. The campaign had personal ramifications when our son Sammy started a campaign using our booklet What God joined together as an example of the opposite. Our son Sammy started #hopeforsa as a catch word and using our book in the campaign via facebook. He wrote: I quickly put together a website over here: www.whatgodjoinedtogether.co.za.
Another Side of Gang Violence
Appendix 1: Some Autobiographical Background
Ever since my sister Magdalene returned excitedly from an ecumenical week-end youth event at in Elgin – in the apple growing district of Grabouw around 1960 - I recognised that the unity of believers across the racial and denominational barriers could be quite important in the spiritual realm. A young White student from Rhodes University had rattled my sister's inculcated and socially conditioned racial mind-set. (In a country as ours where racial classification has caused such damage, I am aware that the designation Coloured has given offence to the racial group into which I have been classified. For this reason, I put ‘Coloured’ consistently between inverted commas and with a capital C when I refer to this racial group. To the other races I refer as ‘Black’, ‘White’ and 'Indian' respectively, with a capital B, W and I. The former two races, Black and White, are written with capitals to note that they do not refer to normal colours and the latter group refers to persons from Indian descent, but born and bred in this country.)
I came to personal faith In Jesus as my Saviour when I was 15, soon thinking thereafter that the most effective opposition to the heretical apartheid ideology would be to assemble Christians from different racial and denominational backgrounds as often as possible, to demonstrate the unity of followers of Jesus in this way. However, my conviction was more intuitive because my knowledge of the Bible was still very limited. I could see my conviction put into practice when we had preachers from many denominations on the pulpit of the Moravian Church in Tiervlei (later renamed Ravensmead) including two Whites
A turning Point in my Life
A major turning point in my life occurred when two different teenage friends nudged me to attend the evangelistic outreach of the Students’ Christian Association (SCA) at the seaside resort of Harmony Park near Gordon's Bay that was scheduled to start just after Christmas at the end of 1964. There I was not only spiritually revived, but there I also received an urge to network with people from different church backgrounds. Multi-racial work camps at Langgezocht in the mountains of the Moravian Mission station Genadendal from the mid-1960s - to help build a youth camp site there - gave me the rare opportunity to meet students from other racial groups in a natural setting.
A church-sponsored stint in Germany in 1969 and 1970 included study and practical experience in youth work as well as studies of the biblical languages. Wherever I had the opportunity to address groups in Germany, I highlighted the church disunity, the fragmentation of the Body of Christ in my diagnosis of the einzigartige (unique) problems of South Africa. (The other two problems that I mentioned in these talks were racial discrimination - apartheid was still fairly unknown in Germany - and alcoholism) At this time I would also read everything that I could get hold of what Martin Luther King (jr) had written (This was banned literature in South Africa at that time).
Quest for visible Expression of the Unity in Christ
The importance of the visible expression of the unity of followers of Jesus grew further after my return to my home country in October 1970. However, in a rather overdrawn and misguided anti-apartheid activism, I joined the Christian Institute (CI) soon thereafter, hoping that White CI members would also be willing to expose themselves to the possibility of arrest for breaking petty apartheid laws. (The CI was started by Dr Beyers Naudé to bring Christians from the different races together to study God’s Word. The CI policy at that time was to respect the law, although the apartheid laws were very immoral and discriminating.) My activism probably estranged the young White friends.
I met my future wife Rosemarie in May 1970 in an infatuation-at-first-sight encounter in Stuttgart. After my wife-to-be had been refused a work permit and thus entry into South Africa in order to get reclassified as a 'Coloured', the Moravian Church Board assisted me to return to Germany. Rosemarie and I married in March 1975.
In the first few years of my (in)voluntary exile in Germany there was little opportunity to translate my conviction of a clear expression of the unity of the body of Christ practically.
During the final part of my theological studies in Bad Boll, near to Stuttgart in Southern Germany, the legacy of Jan Amos Comenius, the 17thcentury theologian and last bishop of the old Czech Unitas Fratrum (Unity of the Brethren) and Count Zinzendorf, the leader of the Renewed Moravian Church, became very dear to me. I was ordained as a Moravian minister in September 1975. Thereafter Rosemarie and I left for West Berlin where I co-pastored a Moravian congregation. Two years later we moved to Broederplein in the historical town of Zeist in Holland. There Rosemarie and I served the predominantly Surinamese Moravian congregation of Utrecht.
I discerned ever more clearly with the passing of time that racial and ecclesiastical divisions were hampering a deep work of the Holy Spirit, notably in South Africa. The need for racial reconciliation and the attempt to help close gaps between ‘ecumenicals’ and ‘evangelicals’, as well as between the rich and the poor, became increasingly important to me as I became aware how much of a micro-cosmos my home country was.
In November 1978 I needed divine healing from my anger towards the apartheid government and my denomination for their indifference towards the gross injustices of the day. This had been highlighted during a six week stint in the country with my wife and our first born son Danny. God used the banned Dr Beyers Naudé - who was basically under house arrest to make me determined to labour towards reconciliation between the estranged population groups and races.
I hereafter entered into intense correspondence with various agencies in what I perceived as a calling to achieve reconciliation in my divided home country. God used Hein Postma, a Dutch believer after I had gone overboard in my anti-apartheid activism. He challenged me when I was still very much a disgruntled and embittered exile in Holland.
I experienced an intense challenge to oppose the demonic tenets of church rivalry and competition, by stressing the unity of the Body of Christ, as well as fighting the diabolical economic disparity and structural injustice in a low-key manner. I hoped and prayed that South Africa might give an example to the world at large, not only in respect of racial reconciliation, but also in the voluntary sharing of resources. I possibly went overboard, estranging some of my Moravian pastoral colleagues to some extent.
Blessing of united Prayer
Linked to this was also the blessing of united prayer, which was repeatedly confirmed during a six-month stint in South Africa - as we attempted to address the racial barrier in a low-profiled way. We were very much encouraged by a multi-racial group of believers from different denominations in Stellenbosch. The group had been started by Professor Nico Smith and a few pastors as a sequel to the South African Church Leaders’ Assembly (SACLA) event in Pretoria in 1979. At that special occasion church leaders across the board broke ecclesiastic and racial barriers unprecedentedly.
Another networking initiative with local ministers of other churches saw me deeply embroiled in the Crossroads saga of May 1981 taking big risks and linking closely with Rev. Douglas Bax, who had been a friend of our Moravian theological seminary in District Six. The plight and determination of the women of KTC, Nyanga and Crossroads probably played a role in another sense. Churches now started to take a clearer stand in opposition to apartheid laws. Rev. Rob Robertson and our friend Rev. Douglas Bax played a crucial role in the political stand of the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa as a denomination (PCSA). We were very thankful to hear later that two pivotal apartheid laws were ultimately removed from the statute books - influx control for Blacks, which led to the establishment of Khayalitsha, and the prohibition of racially mixed marriages. What a special privilege it was that I could contribute to some extent, networking with other ministers and Black believers at the Cape, to the repeal of these two pillars of apartheid.
Put Lessons to good Effect
In Holland I tried to put the lessons of the unity of the Body of Christ to good effect that I had been learning. A first big nudge came in 1982 from Rens Schalkwijk, a teenager who had returned from Jamaica with his Moravian missionary parents a few years earlier. He suggested that we pray together - in the footsteps of our Moravian ancestors - early in the morning in the nearby Zeist forest.
Soon Rosemarie and I were leading the Goed Nieuws Karavaan (GNK) initiative of Zeist and surrounds. This we did from the end of 1982 until the end of 1991. Our vision to give visibility to the Body of Christ locally was partially realized during this ministry when soon we had about 30 co-workers coming from the full ecclesiastic spectrum, from Roman Catholic to Pentecostal. We were blessed with holistic practical fellowship, in which believers from different denominational backgrounds participated.
Concerts of Prayer
Rens Schalkwijk gave us another nudge in early 1988, this time to start a small prayer group, along with two students of the local Pentecostal Bible School. The US prayer leader Dave Bryant visited Holland to promote Concerts of Prayer. Pieter Bos, a Dutch YWAM leader, initiated regional prayer groups as a sequel to Dave Bryant's visit. In no time our geographic area became the first Regiogebed of the country, attended by Christians from quite diverse denominational backgrounds. The monthly events included prayer for local evangelistic work, praying for missionaries that had been leaving our region to serve in missions and also praying for individual countries. In 1989 we prayed especially for Communist countries, notably for the German Democratic Republic, Hungary and Romania.
At our ‘regiogebed’meeting of 4 October 1989, I mentioned in passing to someone that I had posted a letter to President De Klerk that day. Spontaneously, a teacher from the nearby town of Doorn, who was no regular at our prayer meetings, overheard me saying this to someone. He promptly suggested that we take more time that evening to pray for South Africa. Nobody objected. The whole prayer meeting was hereafter devoted to praying for my beloved country. That was the only occasion when we prayed so intensely for a single country.
Nobody present at the prayer meeting was aware that President De Klerk would meet Archbishop Tutu and Dr Allan Boesak the next week. That strategic prayer event became in a sense a watershed in the politics of the country, the prelude to the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid. Also in other countries - especially in South Africa itself - people had been praying for a change in the suicidal direction of the political system.
 John Stewart, a British church historian, described the work of the Assyrian-Nestorian Church in 1928 as ‘a church on fire’.
This has especially been highlighted by Karen Armstrong in her book The Gospel According To Woman, London, 1986). It may be somewhat overdrawn what she stated, but there definitely is validity of her statement that 'Christianity has formed Western society and Christianity has been the only major religion to hate and fear sex. Consequently it is in the West alone that women have been hated because they are sexual beings instead of merely being dominated because they are inferior chattels'. Armstrong's statement has to be disputed because this is not true only for the West. Arab desert culture permeated Islam so much that slavery of women (and children) after subjection was very normal.
 Obviously the model is the house church. The hierarchical structure in the Church evolved from the Temple with High Priest etc.
 The Greek word here is charis, with its plural charismata, usually translated as spiritual gifts.
 We could say that the real border crossing started at Jesus' crucifixion. There one of the murderers and the Roman centurion both discovered something of his divine nature. His crucifixion was in another way a double pointer to the Church. The women who faithfully stood by him until the very end represented the 'old' Jew and the Roman was the new Gentile believer. In this way the crucified one draws people from different directions and nations.
 It is still believed and taught in Islamic circles that Christians believe in Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the Mother of God in a physical sense.
 Isaiah 56:7, the verse to which Jesus refers, speaks of a house of prayer for the nations.
 It is possibly not too far-fetched that Irenaus assumption that a certain Cerdo was the teacher of Marcion, the Gnostic, whose heretic teaching from around 144 was such a major source of Replacement Theology.
 His grandfather, Bacchius, had a Greek name, while his father, Priscus, bore a Latin name, which has led to speculations that his ancestors may have settled in Neapolis soon after its establishment or that they were descended from a Roman "diplomatic" community that had been sent there.
In a similar way Abraham and Adam have been incorporated into the Islamic faith because of their submission to Allah.
Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticum (c.200) in Bettenson, Henry S. -Documents of the Christian Church
 The sharp difference between Paul and Barnabas was highlighted via a forgery, the Gospel of Barnabas
The lapsi were those who had renounced their Christianity under persecution, but who later wanted to return to the church. Re-baptism has subsequently become standard practice in more than one denomination and sect when someone joined their ranks, not recognizing the baptism performed in any other denomination.
 Not all Pharisees were bad people. However, it is sad that a few rotten potatoes sometimes do influence a whole bag. The 'NT' probably distorts the picture of a group of people who generally had a good reputation amongst their compatriots, comparable to the damage certain paedophilic and adulterous clergymen inflicted on the image of their profession or the distorted negative portrayal of the role of the pastor in the average Hollywood film.
 The original Greek translated as “be transformed” contains the word metamorpheste.
The reference to kombuis was probably not meant as a normal kitchen, but the one on a ship where the sailors practiced the notorious uncouth language.
Radical is derived from radix, the Latin word for root.
 This is a word or phrase identified with a particular group or cause; a catchword. The Gideonites used the word shibolleth as a test of pronunciation to check whether the Ephraimites could pronounce thesh sound (Judges 12:4-6).
 There is also a comparable haughty attitude by some Catholics towards Protestants as well, contending that the Bible which Protestants are using, has been changed.
The root word jarah pertains to shooting and aiming pointedly, to hit the target.
“The outspoken Martin Luther had no qualms to put on paper what did not suit him. He also declared: ‘I am so hostile to the Book of Esther that I would it did not exist.’
 In a commentary to the Letter of James, p. 141f, D. Moo gives a very helpful explanation of the 'contradiction'. He said with regard tojustification by faith: 'James and Paul use 'justify' to refer to different things. Paul refers to the initial declaration of a sinner's innocence before God; James to the ultimate innocence pronounced over a person at the last judgement.'
 In his booklet The Destiny of Israel and the Church, 1992, Derek Prince wrote about three P's as spiritual warfare weapons: Proclamation (pp. 109-112), Praise (pp. 112-116 ), Prayer (pp. 117-120 ). (Suffering under) Persecution could be added as another P. Brother Andrew expanded this significantly in 1998, devising ten strategic steps, ten P’s (prophetic, planning, persistence, preparation, presence, penetration, profiling, permanence, proclamation and power) to which he linked a prayer apiece.
George Barna highlights the phenomenon of Christians who experience vibrant faith outside the walls and confines of the conventional congregational church format (Revolution, Tyndale House, 2005) .
 I do not make any excuses for using the word dialogue, which has been maligned in some evangelical circles. There is definitely a very positive side to it.
This happened for example at a prayer meeting on 10 February 1728, when Zinzendorf especially referred to distant lands - Turkey, Morocco and Greenland. Twenty six men thereafter started preparing for missionary work, although there was no immediate prospect to leave for some mission field. We note that this challenge to missions of February 1728 occurred only half a year after the widely reported revival of 13th August, 1727.
 In Greek the word doulos is used for both slave and servant. The basic differences between the two concepts like coercion and choice became less stark over the centuries.
This is the plural form of charis (grace), given to every follower of Jesus, according to Ephesians 4:7.
 On the mission fields this model however did not function at all. The teaching was somehow not imparted efficiently to empower the indigenous towards leadership. The bishop who invariably was a gifted leader, also became an administrator in the absence of trained indigenous candidates. The original model was restored in South Africa in recent years. (Bishop Errol Moos had never been a member of the Moravian Church Board.)
 Via his Dictionnaire Historique et Critique (Historical and Critical Dictionary) Bayle expressed his view that much which was considered to be ‘truth was actually just opinion, and that gullibility and stubbornness were wide-spread.
The painting, by Domenico Feti, was titled Ecce Homo (Behold the Man) and it showed Jesus with a crown of thorns on His head. At the bottom of the picture, the artist added the inscription: This I have done for you. What have you done for Me?
P.M. Legene, Graaf van Zinzendorf, de man die maar één passie had(Voorhoeve, Den Haag, 1900) p.50.
No less than the universally acclaimed Karl Barth called Zinzendorf not only ‘the first genuine ecumenist’, but also ‘the only genuine Christocentric of the modern age in his Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T.T. Clark, 1956, Vol. 1:683).
 I am alluding here to the literal translation of the words in Ephesians 3:10 that has been usually rendered with manifold wisdom of God.
 Georg Schmidt, Das Tagebuch und die Briefe von Georg Schmidt,(Weskaaplandse Instituut vir Historiese Navorsing, Bellville, 1981) p.344
 In Matthew 10 the twelve disciples had to be looking out for the 'worthy' person. It was the standard practice of Zinzendorf and the Herrnhut Moravians to send missionaries out in twos or in small teams. Georg Schmidt was the exception, sent to the Cape alone as punishment for allegedly recanting his Protestant faith during his imprisonment in order to be set free.
That was to change later de facto, when Dr Beyers Naudé, our leader, preferred imprisonment to a monitory fine because he would not testify to the biased government-appointed Schlebush commission of enquiry into the funding of the CI.
A fuller version of these experiences our story is called(In)voluntary Exile, accessible on our internet blog.
 The government of the day allowed us to live in the country for six months as a family of four pypersto assist my late sister's family. She had been suffering from leukaemia, passing away in December 1980. During this period I taught at Mount View Senior Secondary School in Hanover Park.
 I do not want to minimize the political efforts, e.g. by the moves behind the scenes sponsored by the Swiss government or by Dr van Zyl Slabbert’s IDASA, but I nevertheless assert that it was ultimately the concerted prayer that made the difference.
 After substantial research into missionary work to these groups, I deemed it appropriate to dub outreach to Jews and Muslims neglected 'Cinderella's' of evangelism and missionary work.
 A fuller version of how this transpired is recorded in Seeds sown for Revival and in Spiritual Dynamics at the Cape. Both titles can beaccessed on our internet blog >.
Some of these Christians have been working alongside Muslim background followers of Jesus here at the Cape and elsewhere and who who have been discipling some of them - in certain cases over a lengthy period of time.
Some enmity did develop over the centuries though, as the prophet Isaiah attested to seventeen hundred years later.
 The background of the following can be accessed at www. isaacandishmael.blogspot.com
Do you think that’s a little too severe to suggest? If all of God’s word is true then why should this not be accepted as instruction? God tells us that if our character shows selfish ambition and pride then it’s not a representation of His nature. So my question to you as a Believer is this: If it’s not Father’s nature that is on display, then whose nature is it?
 Died in complete rest and peace and in trust in the Lord (Schmidt, 1937:6)
 The famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ was written by John Newton.
 Newton subsequently became a prominent catalyst for the end of the slave trade in 1807. He had been the boyhood hero of William Wilberforce. When the evangelical parliamentarian Wilberforce wanted to resign his seat in parliament to become a clergyman in December 1785, Newton dissuaded him (Pollock, John 1981:175). No two years later, on 22 May 1987, Wilberforce initiated the ‘Society for the Abolition of Slavery’.
 Kapp (1985:285) plays down the role of Dr Philip in the emancipation of the slaves. It might be true that John Philip did not play that big a role, but his indirect contribution was surely just as important, even as that of Caledon was in this way and should. not be down-played
A similar effect has been achieved when the 24 hour prayer watches were revived at the beginning of 2000 CE with Namibia’s Bennie Mostert and John Mulinde from Uganda prominent.
 In a position of authority the Moravians appear to have led the field with the indigenous Ernst Dietrich a member of the Church Board in 1930, along with Richard Marx and H Birnbaum, two German missionaries.
The building is the premises at which the SAMS started. Later it was turned into the Missionary Museum.
 The influential Zaccheus Mahabane joined the Congress movement in 1917 after hearing political speeches by Charlotte Maxeke and her husband Marshall Maxeke, a fellow South African whom she met in the USA. Both studied at Wilberforce University.
 The 'Cold War' was the continuing state of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition existing after World War II(1939–1945), primarily between the Soiet Union and itssatellite states, and the powers of the Western world, particularly the USA.
The so-called 10/40 Window denotes a geographical area between 10 and 40 degrees north latitude, where the main unreached people groups with respect to the Gospel can be found.
 The fivefold ministry or five-fold ministry is a Charismatic and Evangelical Christian belief that five offices mentioned in Ephesians, namely those of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (or "shepherds") and teachers, remain active and valid offices in the contemporary Christian church.