Usually im no good at picking accents. But this guy was clearly from South Africa. So i asked – “Were you born in south Africa”. It was the start of a conversation that will stay with me forever. I was sitting in a soup kitchen, amongst a cute family with twins. And up comes this collared shirted man with a neat little beard.
We started talking. I asked about community and church and ministry. He had grown up in malawi to a church planting father. Spent his youth planting churches and then settled in the Newcastle area. Here is a fifty something year old man who had come to the same conclusions that i had, but he had done something with his findings. He was planting churches everywhere. He didn’t build buildings, he used structures already there – schools, memorial halls, other churches buildings. When one building filled up he took a few of them members and started something new in a different building.
He spoke about starting a soup kitchen and a second hand shop to build trust with people. They ran it for 5 years before they held a church service there. He described how he could put his arm around prostitutes and pray for them because he had built up a klout with them, a concerned trust. He told of how he could hold grown mens hands and speak intimately with them because they didn’t see him as the enemy. He had helped rebuild a community.
So asked – “so do you think we need to focus on community development, and what does that look like in the beginnings?” He looked at me funny and said – “A bridge without Jesus is just a bridge, it’s nice but its pretty pointless.” This neatly dressed man went on to speak of the soup kitchen being there purely to show and share Jesus, the second hand store was to breed community and trust so Jesus could be shared. Everything he does, whether community developing or not is to grow the kingdom of God.
He then looked me in the eyes and asked “so what brings you here?” It was an oddly blunt question. But for the first time in a long time i told a short version of my struggle with church up until my recent falling back in love with the bride of christ. He knowingly nodded and said ‘You know that verse about working your faith out in fear and trembling? Its not talking about you sitting in a dark room by yourself, its talking about you working everything out in a group. So if you don’t have a church you can point to, you need to find one. Wandering around in the desert is fine for a season but, we weren’t designed to do this by ourselves’
My heart leaped. This man of incredible experience and adventure was agreeing with something i always felt like was connected to my rebellion. He was guiding me away from rebellion and into a place of committed God inspired community. One he painted as heaven on earth. He then leaned in and said something that needs to be echoed around the world and in my heart.
“If i had my time again, you know what i would do? Less. I would “do” less, i would make less and produce less, and i would hang out with God more. This life isn’t all that much about getting stuff done and more about loving on our father.”
i feel like that describes me, and i wonder if my 60 year old self will say the same thing. “I love my 9 children and all the adventures i went on, but i wish i had just sat with the father longer”
Our jobs are great, our families are great, we are an echo of the creator of the planet, BUT do we spend enough time just sitting and letting him converse with us?