I sat with a group of our leaders yesterday, debriefing our efforts for the last three months to plant churches in Red Hill, and other communities where we work among the poor and needy. It was an honest discussion about whether our efforts have really made a difference.
One leader said, "If we had sown more seed of the gospel we would have definitely reaped more fruit. Did we do enough?" Another commented, "You encouraged us to reproduce our church with new converts in the last three months. I think we may have failed."
Around the circle set some of the most awesome, Godly, dedicated people I have had the privilege of working with in the last 45 years of ministry. Their humility and passion challenge me deeply.
The one leader who felt she may have failed to reproduce themselves as a church, was the team leader for our work in Red Hill. Red Hill is where we have done the emergency relief work the last three months (all of the shack homes in Red Hill except two were burned down in terrible wildfires three months ago). We have rebuilt 78 homes in three months, held several out door celebrations, prayed with countless people, developed very deep and meaningful relationships, been a voice for the people to the government and to citizens groups, and prayed for deliverance for people fearful of harassing demons and "spirits." Many in Red Hill live with continual fear and hopelessness.
One lady in Red Hill commented that she never thought Jesus would take her back because she ran a "shabeen" from her home. A shabeen is a township beer hall, and usually a center of violence and prostitution in the community. After seeing a drama about a father forgiving his daughters for their drunkenness, this lady had hope that God will be merciful to her.
The battle to plant a church through holistic discipleship amongst the poor is a tough battle. One key, the most essential key, is leaders who are trained with the skills and attitudes to know how to overcome the cultural and spiritual obstacles of working with the poor.
Africa will not be changed without developing a new generation of leaders who are not fixated on authoritative, hierarchical power over people. That's what CPx, our training program, is all about. And by the way, we graduate 68 leaders today from the teaching phase of CPx!!
As we held our debrief with the leaders, I helped them gain perspective on how well they had done in Red Hill.We asked the question, "If our goal is to plant a church that produces lasting fruit in Red Hill, when do our relief efforts start counting? Only when the church is up and running? Or do all the hundreds and thousands of hours of love, prayer, fasting, hammering nails, listening to the people tell their stories, does all this count as well?"
On a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of amazing success stories, Red Hill is probably a 5 or a 6 - now. But the story is not over. In terms of faithfulness, love, service, wise and humble leadership, I would give our efforts a ten.
Not just a ten for good works, but a ten for wisdom and skill in working with the people. The people of Red Hill were blown away by the fact that our team is a multi-cultural team of whites and blacks. Our team members speak local languages. They took time to listen. We did a lot of things right