An Invitation to Kingdom Humanity Fellowship Gatherings – September 2022

Greetings Fellow Leaders and Disciples,


I am excited to extend to you this invite to the upcoming meetings of Kingdom Humanity Fellowship.

Kingdom Humanity Fellowship is a relational platform for equipping churches and believers in Kingdom Humanity.

Kingdom Humanity is the Arrangement of Human Life in Christ. This Kingdom Arrangement stands in hostility, alongside the Arrangement of this world. Kingdom Humanity is the revelation that in Christ, we have a common faith that translates to a common Humanity (in the same way that Christ is the confluence of Word and flesh, of Divinity and Humanity). It is the revelation that Church is beyond just a devotional Community but represents renewal of Humanity through Christ – the firstborn of creation. Kingdom Humanity is a call to the pursuit of a faith-based Humanity. It is the new, bold expression of our faith in Christ through the three spheres of our created being: i.e. (a) spirituality (as priests living a devotional life unto God), (b) humanness (as human beings expressing Christ through our character & conduct), and (c) citizenship (as spatial beings engaged in spatial spirituality by bringing the righteousness of God to the Spaces of Life around around us).

Following upon the great work of our gatherings in the month of May this year, we have the following meetings lined up in the month of September:

1. Leadership Quarry

Church finds herself in between seasons. She’s emerging out of the trauma and “loss” of the pandemic & must get ready to press into the newness and inheritance of the next season. This necessitates for church leaders (including marketplace leaders who are placed by God in different spheres and various Kingdom vocations) to go through spiritual refreshing & formation under the leadership of Christ (“our Quarry”), who calls to form, prepare & commission us to the next season (Matt. 4:19). This is an invitation for you to gather alongside other kingdom leaders as we all allow Christ to refresh and reactivate our Callings.

Meeting Details:

Date: Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Time: 6.30pm

Venue: Anthem Church

Address: 37 Mackeurtan Ave, Durban North, 4051 (South Africa)

2. Kingdom Citizenship Seminar

Kingdom Humanity is the revelation and the Call for the Church to step into a new bold expression of our Salvation in Christ through the three spheres of our created being: spirituality (or devotion), humanness & citizenship. Kingdom Citizenship is the practice of faith & the establishment of righteousness in Spaces of Life. Just as the first Adam expressed spirituality within a Space of Life (“the Garden”),  so are those in Christ (the second Adam) being called to rebuild, restore & renew Spaces of Life (Isa. 61:4). This marks a movement closer to apostle Paul’s teachings about our citizenship in Christ (Phil. 3:20, Phil. 1:27, Eph. 2:19).

Meeting Details:

Date: Thursday, 22 September 2022

Time: 6.30pm

Venue: Anthem Church

Address: 37 Mackeurtan Ave, Durban North, 4051 (South Africa)

3. Celebrate Kingdom Humanity

This is going to be a prophetic act of gathering churches for the purpose of proclaiming & celebrating the Church as God’s movement of renewal of humanity through Christ. It is born out of the recognition of the “decaying” of humanity in the world. It is a call to a deeper prophetic consciousness of our true inheritance in Christ – a righteous humanity, and not simply a weekly gathering.

Meeting Details:

Date: Sunday, 25 September 2022

Time: 6.30pm

Venue: Glenridge Church

Address: 65 Masabalala Yengwa Ave, Durban, 4001 (South Africa)


Live Stream


These meetings will also be streamed live. For details of the live stream, please email admin@kingdomhumanity.com

We look forward to fellowshipping and engaging with you as we all sit under the impartation of the Lord.


Yours sincerely,

Robert Ntuli

Visionary – Kingdom Humanity Fellowship (with Visionary Team)

www.kingdomhumanity.com

The State of the Kingdom audios

Kingdom Humanity Fellowship recently hosted meetings in the city of Durban, South Africa. These were the State of the Kingdom Assembly (on Sunday 1 May 22) and the Leadership Quarry (on Monday 2 May 22). The meetings were designed to be a place of gathering for the Body of Christ, around the common burden of the Kingdom of God. Please find audio links below in order to have access to what was delivered. We will be hosting more of these kinds of meetings in the future. You may contact us at admin@kingdomhumanity.com if you wish to be informed about future meetings.

The Inaugural State of the Kingdom Assembly (Sunday 1 May 22)

The Inaugural State of the Kingdom Assembly by Robert Ntuli

Leadership Quarry Part 1 (Monday 2 May 22)

Leadership Quarry Part 1 by Robert Ntuli

Leadership Quarry Part 2 (Monday 2 May 22)

Leadership Quarry Part 2 by Stan Phipps

Robert Ntuli

Visionary, Kingdom Humanity Fellowship

http://www.kingdomhumanity.com

Invitation: The State of the Kingdom Assembly

Greetings Friends, Fellow Believers and Leaders,

Robert Ntuli

Kingdom Humanity Fellowship invites you to the following upcoming meetings… 

1) The inaugural State of the Kingdom Assembly (Sunday 1st May @ 18h30, Glenridge Church). 

2)  The Leadership Quarry (Monday 2nd May @ 09h00, Glenridge Church). 

We live in times of fragility in our world order – the groaning of creation is seen through pandemics, wars, inequality, climate change, collapse of family, immorality etc. The present-day mechanism of organizing humanity – the Republic – is increasingly challenged in bringing shalom (wellbeing, peace & prosperity) to establish human order. 

In all of this, we thank God for His Son Jesus Christ, who went to the Cross, not to simply deliver a weekly meeting (for the Law of Moses already established this), but to empower us to become and to bring the Kingdom of God to our spaces – God’s rulership, a righteous human order founded in Christ. Administration of the Kingdom of God is the foundational mission of the Church, according to Matt. 16:18&19. Church must therefore concern herself with the question, what does the coming of the Kingdom look like in a human space? 

This inaugural State of the Kingdom Assembly will be a time for pastors and believers to reflect, engage and celebrate our common and universal Kingdom burden as the Church of Jesus Christ. 

The Leadership Quarry will be a gathering for facilitating Renewal of our Kingdom Callings. It is designed for pastors and marketplace leaders (ie. Kingdom Professionals, Christian Community Activists and Entrepreneurs) who carry a burden to not simply “do ordinary work”, but to bring Kingdom Influence through their vocations. We will take time to teach on Kingdom Leadership and to engage in prophetic ministry in order to exhort and strengthen one another as ministers in God’s mission field.

These meetings will be hosted by Kingdom Humanity Fellowship – an apostolic platform for equipping Churches & Believers (Kingdom Citizens) toward a human order founded in Christ . 

Both these meetings will take place at Glenridge Church, 65 Masabalala Yengwa Ave, Durban (on top of Durban Station), and they will also be streamed live for our international friends. Please see details below:

Zoom details:

You can follow the links, register and you will receive the Zoom IDs of the meeting via email.

The Inaugural State of the Kingdom Assembly:
May 1, 2022 06:30 PM Johannesburg
Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZIpceGgqjkpHt3EUAcUuEXUYRXaJhN7x2Sf

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Leadership Quarry:
May 2, 2022 09:00 AM Johannesburg
Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYsdeqorT4qH9IToRnUl_IFOM2DJr8h7Kse

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Facebook live stream:

These meetings will also be streamed live on Facebook through the Kingdom Humanity page, @kingdomhumanityfellowship.

The Visionary Team of Kingdom Humanity Fellowship looks forward to host you on the 1st and 2nd of May. 

Please email us at admin@kingdomhumanity.com for more details. You may also visit our blog at http://www.kingdomhumanity.com for resources.

Robert Ntuli

Visionary, Kingdom Humanity Fellowship

Church in a Time of Disruption: Lessons from the early Saints

People who live in parts of the world like South Africa are simply not used to the kinds of disasters & disruptions which affect public movement and public gatherings, including church gatherings. We have not significantly encountered such disruptions like major earthquakes, pandemics that require lockdowns, large scale civil wars, religious persecution etc. Even those who have witnessed these disasters in their regions have not seen such a globally coordinated disruption like Covid-19, with the ability to affect nations simultaneously in real time. And for those of us who have lived in regions where these disasters have not been a dominant feature, we have become used to a church model that is tailored for environmental normality, where in-person gatherings are a norm rather than an exception. This further means that we have become used to the advantage and privilege of church gatherings where pastors address relatively large audiences on a weekly basis. The absence of this privilege, of in-person gatherings, and the inability to congregate due to Covid-19 pandemic, feels like an existential crisis and religious persecution for the churches of the South and the North.

The Scripture does of course say that we must not forsake the gathering of the saints (Heb. 10:25). In Acts 2:42, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. The early saints did not simply gather, they were disciplined at it. However, the Scripture equally counsels us to avoid danger and to spread out in the face of danger. “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matt. 10:23). Even Jesus was in the habit of avoiding danger, although He was destined to die for the world. “After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life” (John 7:1). In this context, the words of king Solomon have never been relevant, “a prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Prov. 22:3). Even though Covid-19 is not the same as religious persecution, it however remains a threat to life as a fatal disease, and therefore constitutes danger to us all. It is this possibility of losing lives that should confront us as a burden of the season.  Now, the idea of avoiding danger is not built in the psyche of some church circles. To the contrary, confronting danger is understood by some to be “an act of faith”. In this context, Jesus Himself would not meet this faith standard.

So, what is it that confronts us at this time? Primarily, it is not that governments have promulgated lockdowns via State of Disasters or State of Emergencies. It is that there is (an infectious) pestilence that is killing people, and which spreads through human contact and gatherings, whether these be holy or unholy gatherings. The problem of our times is a threat to life. This threat has been framed in the debate on “saving lives vs. saving livelihoods”, which has led to the idea of locking down public life whilst permitting activities that facilitate livelihoods (both for the believer and the non-believer). Some within the church have responded to this by comparing empty church buildings with full airplanes for examples, to build the argument that church is being persecuted, notwithstanding the fact that general social gatherings, political gatherings, other religions, sports activities etc. have all been equally affected by the same law. Thus, in comparing ourselves against permitted livelihood activities, that are designed to ensure that people have bread on the table, we have positioned the church as a mechanism of economic livelihood, and not of establishing God’s righteousness here on earth. Granted, church has the administrative-operational side to it, with full time staff like pastors etc. Biblically, these must be honored and remunerated (1 Tim. 5:17&18). However, the financial mechanism by which pastors and church administrators are remunerated should not depend on the “word of offerings” during Sunday gatherings. It is for this reason that Paul gave the following instruction to the churches in Corinth and Galatia: “now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. 3 Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me” (1 Cor. 16:1-4). The financial mechanism of the early church did not depend on words of offerings during gatherings, it was a standard procedure in which each believer gave thought to what they would offer, guided by the Holy Spirit and in accordance with their income. Unlike us, the early church did not have technological advantages like EFT, e-wallets etc. and yet they were administratively functional. Financial giving was not dependent on the gathering, rather, it was motivated by the ongoing work of the leaders and apostles in serving the church, whether in person or virtually via letters. As long as the apostles and elders were equipping the church in the life of Christ, then the saints had a biblical obligation to give financially for the administrative wellbeing of the church (1 Cor. 9:11, Rom. 15:27b). And so therefore, if we have chosen to build a financial mechanism that is dependent on gatherings, then we have not necessarily acted according to biblical practice. This primarily becomes our responsibility, and not that of governments. Perhaps this moment should lead us to structural reforms, to establish sustainable models, administration systems and operations that are consistent with biblical standards and principles.

Now that we have laid some introductory thoughts, let us frame this article. The article is not written to discuss lockdown measures etc. We all eagerly desire to be able to meet and worship God together in-person, as the Bible prescribes. Although lockdown legislations are a natural response by governments to mitigate against major disasters, church has the duty to continue to assess & engage these measures to establish whether they are reasonable and relevant in the pursuit of public good. This article is written to create a platform to reflect on the practices and methods of the church, and how we should start now to prepare for future cosmic disasters and disruptions as prophesied in Scripture. The article examines how the early church dealt with disruptions, with the view to draw lessons and inspiration as we engage our own disruptions, now and in the future. The article is therefore a prophetic reflection on the current pandemic as a prototype for future disasters. It paints a picture of a disrupted future and invites the church to begin to reflect on how it will exist & operate in such a future.

Our challenge as church is that we are confronted by a cosmic disruption but are responding with church models that are intended for normal settings. We are confronted by a season of scattering but are trying to respond with a centralized church model. We are confronted by cosmic disruptions but are responding with devotional Christianity, instead of standing on a platform of existential spirituality. Devotional Christianity is dependent on the gathering – everything happens through the channel of the gathering. Existential spirituality on the other hand, is the understanding that “in God we live and move and have our being”, that whether “we are in the city or are carried away to exile”, we can still lift our hands and worship God like Daniel did in Babylon. This is how God created Adam, that in the Garden of Eden, he could lift up his hands and commune with God (Gen. 2:7&15, Gen. 3:8). Like Adam, we can also commune with our God in our gardens of life. And this was the core motivation in the reforms that were instituted through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, that our spirituality would no longer depend on gatherings in the temple from time to time, but that we would walk with the Holy Spirit, every moment of life. Now, this is not an argument to support those who are rebellious against the structures of the church. This principle of existential spirituality is not a replacement for church gatherings, it is however an important foundation upon which dynamic gatherings can take place. We long for the gathering because it is an expression of our existential faith in God. However, our faith does not begin on Sunday, it transcends gatherings, but it finds a collective expression through gatherings.

Crises & Disruptions in the Last Days

The Bible gives us three categories of crises in the last days. The first category has to do with spiritual crises of faith in Matthew 24 verses 10 to 12 (these crises relate to issues of apostacy and faith-based persecutions). The second category has to do with socio-moral crises that are outlined by Paul in 2 Timothy 3 verses 1 to 9 (in the last days, people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, and children will be disobedient to their parents etc.). The third category is cosmic systemic crises that are outlined by the Lord in Luke 21 verses 10 and 11.

What did Jesus say about disruptions?

10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven (Luke 21:10&11).

  • The Lord forewarned us that as we advance to the end of time, we will face various cosmic & systemic disruptions like political crises and wars, climatic and environmental crises, economic crises, and public health crises (like Covid-19) etc.
  • The Lord envisioned us as a church that would be mobile, fluid and decentralized in the face of disruptions: “when you are persecuted in one place, flee to another” (Matt. 10:23).
  • He warned us that we would need endurance to prevail against disruptions: “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13).
  • He declared that He would build us to a point of prevailing strength: “and I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18).

All of this means that an apocalyptic church will have to learn to survive and prevail amid disruptions. We therefore must develop mindsets, culture, models, and ministry practices that will withstand these disruptions.

The early saints had to quickly adapt and learn to live and advance the Kingdom of God amid disruptions:

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. 4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:1-7).

“19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. 22 News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-24).

Up until Acts 8, the early church had enjoyed a routine of daily gatherings in Jerusalem, “day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 5:42). The killing of Stephen triggered a persecution that caused the saints to withdraw from Jerusalem to avoid danger and threat to their lives. It was this disruption that posed new challenges for the operations of the church. However, the church quickly regrouped and established new ministry practices to deal with the challenge. Let us see and be inspired by some of the things they began to do in response to the disruption…

The saints were scatted in different regions and cities.

As soon as the persecution broke out, the early saints were faced with no option but to leave the city of Jerusalem. They accepted the scattering. This was a big and a difficult decision because Jerusalem was the place where the Holy Spirit had first descended upon them. It was in Jerusalem that they first saw some of the amazing miracles. It was in this city that they began to enjoy a dynamic community life under apostolic leadership. Leaving Jerusalem meant leaving the revival behind and going into the unknown.

As the modern-day church, we must not be fearful to avoid danger and to let the storm of Covid-19 carry us. The storm has carried us back to our Personal Devotions, Marriages, Homes, Neighborhoods etc. It has kept us connected mainly virtually to our churches due to lockdowns.  We must fully trust in the sovereignty of the Lord in the crisis, that He is leading us to victory. And church leaders must focus on equipping the saints to thrive in places and spaces in which they now find themselves locked down and spending most of their time.

Leadership remained in Jerusalem.

The apostles took a risky but deliberate decision to remain together in Jerusalem. I believe they did this to remain consolidated as new leaders of a fragile church, and to provide leadership to the scattering saints.

As the modern-day church, we must put effort in ensuring that leadership teams of churches are consolidated and strengthened, and that they are able to provide prophetic direction and doctrinal definitions & wisdom in these challenging times.

Believers began to join the apostles in preaching the Gospel.

Before the scattering, the apostles led the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, but when the persecution broke out, saints joined in the preaching of the Gospel. Phillip (who had been grieving the death of a fellow minister and friend, Stephen) went to Samaria to proclaim Christ. He was used by the Holy Spirit to preach to an Ethiopian government official, the Eunuch (Acts 8). Philip moved from being a deacon in the church to being an evangelist. A disciple called Ananias ministered to a convert named Paul, who later became a significant apostle in the church (Acts 9). And the saints started a new church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-26).

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, modern-day saints must join church leadership in witnessing and proclaiming the Gospel in their communities, touching families, friends, neighbours and work colleagues with the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). Like the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:30&31), people are asking questions in this time of Covid-19 and economic crisis, these must be met with the preaching of the Gospel.

The saints were able to self-mobilize in crisis.

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 12 When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying (Acts 12:5&112).

When political authorities imprisoned leaders, the church self-mobilized to pray for God’s breakthrough. God honored their faith by miraculously delivering Peter from prison. These spontaneous actions, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, are going to be critical in times when the saints are not able to gather in-person with their leaders.

Modern-day saints must develop a dynamic culture of following the prompting of the Holy Spirit, to self-mobilize and pray for the general wellbeing of the church.

Church intensified prayer and worship.

Acts 13:1-3 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3).

The early church majored more on prayer and worship, and less on political protest. They created an environment for the Holy Spirit’s voice to speak and to give direction in the church. As a result, the persecution did not halt the movement of God, it only served to strengthen it as more and more apostolic gifts were commissioned to other cities and regions.

As the modern-day church, we must put emphasis on standing before the throne of God instead of thrones of kings, as we seek our wellbeing in the earth.

The Holy Spirit was with them.

The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord (Acts 11:21).

God was in fact with them, in that whole process of the killing of Stephen and of moving out of the city of Jerusalem to other places. The saints and the leadership in Jerusalem were never going to discover the hand of God had they not left the city.

God is with us, even in the midst of Covid-19 and lockdowns. We must trust that God is working out a plan even though we do not have all the answers. God is waiting for His church on the other side of the crisis. We will see His hand if we remain faithful in proclaiming the gospel.

There was active communication and reporting between the scattered saints and apostles in Jerusalem.

The saints sent reports back to Jerusalem concerning their missional activities in reaching new regions for God (Acts 8:14, Acts 11:22). This helped the leadership to develop insight and perspective on what God was doing. It also helped the leaders to determine the right kinds of responses in their effort to partner with the Holy Spirit in building church. In the process, the apostles went to Samaria to baptize converts in the Holy Spirit, Barnabas was sent to Antioch to establish the work that the saints had started. All this also meant that the activities and works of the saints were not engaged in defiance to apostolic leadership, since the saints actively sought the involvement of the apostles in all they were doing.

Churches must refuse to be disintegrated by lockdowns. Saints must guard against developing a culture of isolation and individualism in this season of social distancing, but they must keep active lines of communication to ensure that reports and testimonies of the works of the Holy Spirit are reported and made known. In this way, leadership will also gain insight and evolve to lead relevantly in the new environment.

Saints had to learn to obey instructions of non-physical and virtual leadership.

Before the scattering, saints had the privilege of meeting with leaders daily. This privilege was lost when the persecution broke out. For the first time in Acts 15, apostles resorted to using letters to disseminate doctrine to the saints, “the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter” (Acts 15:30). Letters became to them what modern day technologies (like podcasts, YouTube, blogs, Social Media etc.) are to us. Leadership via the medium of letters meant that the apostles had to develop a new skill of writing while the saints had to develop a new discipline of reading. This practice of writing letters to churches laid an important foundation for the ministry of Paul, who used letters extensively when he could not meet the saints physically.

The saints were now maturing and getting used to being led by virtual leaders via letters. Paul would later write to the Philippians, “therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Paul commonized the ministry approach of leadership through the medium of letters. He wrote the following to churches: “After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16). “I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers” (1 Thess. 5:27). “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:14). These letters by Paul, were not some casual podcast or blog, they were taken seriously by the churches.

We must be thankful to God for the privilege of church gatherings but must not be so obsessed with this to the point where we cannot follow virtual instructions. After all, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith is the ability to operate and thrive in the environment of the unseen and the intangible. Faith is not hindered by virtual or unseen realities: “though (we) have not seen Him, (we) love Him; and even though (we) do not see Him now, (we) believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet. 1:8). If the early saints could hear the voices of Paul and Peter through the letters, then we have no excuse since we have better technologies compared to them.

Church had to quickly adopt new ways of leadership.

The early saints adopted new leadership approaches – of paying periodic visits to the saints (as they did in Samaria), of sending representatives like Barnabas to the churches, and of writing letters. In this way, the early church was able to ensure that the gospel was spreading unhindered, and that the saints continued to be resourced to grow in Christ.

As the modern-day church, we must use the current crisis to inspire us to think about new but biblically valid ways of church leadership and building. Not only must the leaders adopt these new ways, but the saints must also adopt these as new channels of receiving the grace of God. This further means that the church must not be “sacramental” in its mindset, limited only to certain ways, traditions and ministry rituals.

The early saints would have been on the road for weeks & months without access to the usual weekly church program. At times they were in their homes, locked down for extended periods and hiding because of religious persecution. They sometimes met and prayed behind closed doors & without leaders. Sometimes they were alone preaching to groups of unsaved people and casting out devils. They were separated from families. They would have heard of reports of arrests & killings of fellow believers and friends. They missed funerals of fellow believers. They had to learn to live for extended periods of time with few resources (teachings) from leadership. Some died alone & were buried by strangers, without family or fellow believers to exhort them and to send them off. Despite all of this, they searched for one another & stayed connected, they prayed, they heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, they obeyed the instructions of non-physical and virtual leadership, and they preached the gospel.

God’s plan is clear, five-fold ministers (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) are critical for the wellbeing and development of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13)., Elders are critical for the wellbeing of churches (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). Any church model that undermines these ministries and structures is not only unbiblical, but it will also simply paralyze the growth of the church. If this is the Biblical principle, and as we find ourselves in these cosmic crises and disruptions where we cannot gather as we usually do, we must seek the Lord for church models and mechanisms that allow for the continued functioning of the church, even in times of great limitation. All this means that Covid-19 points us to theological and structural reforms, not only for the now, but more importantly for the future.

Robert Ntuli

LivingStones Agency

Durban, South Africa

Resources

Please follow the links below to access other resources…

  1. Church in a Time of Disruption: Lessons from the early Saints
  2. The Writing was always on the Wall
  3. On the Prayer of Chief Justice and the Mark of the Beast: A Reflection of a Fellow Disciple
  4. Reflections on the meaning of Freedom
  5. Kingdom Humanity: From Meetings to Arrangements
  6. “I can’t breathe”: How can Church deconstruct Racism?
  7. Mr President: We shall err on the side of Caution
  8. On the Issue of Essentiality of Church
  9. The Lockdown Debate and the Issue of the Vantage Point
  10. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 1
  11. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 2
  12. Covid-19: A Prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 1)
  13. Covid-19: A prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 2)
  14. Restating the foundations of the New Covenant
  15. Drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic
  16. Doing church in the crisis of coronavirus
  17. Note: if you wish to listen to the podcast I referred to earlier in this article, on the story of my Personal Salvation and journey of Transformation, please follow the link A conversation with Ps Robert Ntuli.

The Writing was always on the Wall

As soon as we heard of an infectious respiratory disease that spreads through human interaction, we should have seen the writing on the wall South Africa, but did we? The “Writing is on the Wall” is an idiom that is generally understood to mean that there are clear signs that something difficult, challenging or even disastrous is going to happen. Although this is a common English idiom, it really comes from a historical account in the Bible, about king Belshazzar – the king of the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar’s son and successor (see Daniel chapter 5). Here is the summary of the story of king Belshazzar in Daniel chapter 5: the king is having a royal party with his nobles, wives, and concubines. During the party, he uses sacred Jewish goblets that had been taken by his father from the temple in Jerusalem – he uses sacred things for pleasure. “Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appear and write on the plaster of the wall” (verse 5). Out of a deep sense of fear, and a desire to know the meaning of the writing, the king calls for his magicians to come and interpret the words on the wall. When the Babylonian magicians fail to interpret the writing, the queen (king’s mother) steps in and advises the king to call for prophet Daniel, and the prophet successfully interprets the writing as follows, “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scale and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (verses 25-28). The following is important to note in how prophet Daniel steps into the situation:

  • Firstly, it was on the advice of the queen that Daniel was called. Her understanding of the historical dealings of God with the kingdom and the significance of Daniel allowed her to think beyond the primary network of Babylonian cadres and analysts (the magicians).
  • When Daniel steps in, he does not rush to give a simplistic “thus says the Lord” prophecy. He begins by giving a historical account that led to the moment.
  • There is a bridge between the Aramaic words on the wall, “mene, mene, tekel, parsin”, and Daniel’s prophetic analysis and insight. In other words, Daniel does not simply translate the obvious, he gives prophetic insight and analysis with a historical background.
  • In his service to the king, Daniel stands as a historian, political analyst, intelligence officer and a prophet. Or put differently, he stands as a prophet with historical understanding, intelligence and political insight. In other words, up until this moment, Daniel has been reading every newspaper about Babylonian politics just as he has been praying to God.

If the writing was always on the wall for king Belshazzar, then maybe he had been having a party, even using sacred goblets, in a time when the Medes were planning an invasion. Instead of having a party, the king clearly should have been meeting with his council to discuss the imminent invasion. It was not long, and Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled: “that very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom…” (Daniel 5:30&31). A lot happened on that one day: from the king’s royal party, to the writing on the wall, to analysis, Daniel’s coronation, and invasion. It is all recorded in one chapter of Daniel’s book for us.

If an infectious respiratory disease was sweeping across the world, what was the writing on the wall for us, South Africa? The dangers were clear:

  • A Spatial Design that does not allow for Social Distancing (crowded communities in townships and shacks).
  • A Poor Public Healthcare System.
  • A crowded Public Transport System.
  • Poor and immobile villagers who do not have immediate access to Healthcare.
  • A significant population of comorbidities.

The conditions listed above are our vantage point in dealing with the pandemic because they characterize the majority of South Africans. And like prophet Daniel, we must understand these conditions with a deep sense of historical insight. We must appreciate political and even racial nuances they represent, and how they make governing a nation like South Africa a complex task, in this pandemic.

This second wave should have us ask the question, did we let our guard down? Did we “start to have a party” in the midst of imminent danger and invasion like Belshazzar? Did we choose pleasure in a time of deliberation and caution? “Relax the lockdown, Ramaphosa”, we lobbied, one by one, “and we shall observe Social Distancing”, we promised. But we went on to leave face masks on chins, to have Rage parties etc. Did we lobby for the essentials only to engage in non-essentials? Active and Responsible Citizenry is the other important component in a Social Contract. The State cannot be functional without active citizenship. If we do not want a Nanny State that will have to tell us how to behave, then we better grow up as a society.

The words that President Ramaphosa uttered earlier in the year, “we shall err on the side of caution”, must still be our guiding wisdom. For our kind of systemic and social conditions, we must clearly continue to be cautious. For us, the debate on “saving lives versus saving livelihoods” cannot afford to be one that is “clever” or merely academic. It will have to be one that deeply holds the principle of sanctity of life as our core motivation.

As our loved ones start dying in our communities, it seems like Covid-19 will have round 1. We have time in the next couple of weeks to prepare for round 2, in 2021. Well, some voices are now demanding, “where is the vaccine”? “Give us the vaccine and it will all be over”, they say. And yes, we all want a vaccine to mitigate the situation, but we have no guarantees in the face of a virus that is quickly mutating before us. Up to this moment, we have lived in a perpetual state of uncertainty. Given this reality, I think the following steps and considerations will be important for us:

  • A decisive leadership by the Government – a government that consults broadly but that leads decisively, guided by Political Wisdom, Science and Socio-Economic realities.
  • A consolidated Governing Party that can put aside its divisions in order to lead the nation.
  • A broad-minded Political Opposition that operates beyond Presidential speech analysis and narrow interests, but one that mobilizes the wider public. The kind of Opposition that can become a Political Platform for a nation-wide active citizenship.
  • An active and responsible citizenry.
  • Economic Practitioners who are stewards and gate keepers of Social Distancing rules in their environments.
  • An acknowledgement that a prolonged pandemic will put restrictions on social activity and public gatherings.
  • A continued community mobilization by Faith-based Organizations and Community Groups.
  • Public education about Covid-19 vaccines in particular, and the science of vaccine development in general.
  • A carefully considered cost-benefit analysis that accepts that there will be some form of economic loss in the process of dealing with this pandemic – there will be economic loss in saving lives as there will be in saving livelihoods. Are we going to save industries and jobs at the cost of losing breadwinners (heads of families) to the virus (as they go out to engage in economic activity) or are we going to save lives at the cost of poorer families and communities due to some form of contained (economic) activity? These are all difficult decisions.
  • An acknowledgement that a self-regulating and Social Distancing South Africa that we all hope for, will in fact bring harm to economic industries that rely on human leisure and social interaction, i.e. Hospitality and Tourism industries.

What we must acknowledge is that most of the revised Lockdown level 3 regulations that were pronounced by the President yesterday, look like what we should have been doing as self-regulating Social Distancing measures anyway. And if this Lockdown level 3 version brings some harm to the economy, then it goes without saying that a strictly self-regulating and social distancing South African society will in fact harm the economy in some ways, and the sectors of the economy that rely on human interaction will suffer the most. This is a difficult reality we must accept.

The writing has always been on the wall. Let’s read it, analyze it and develop an effective and a sustained response.

Robert Ntuli

Pastor – LivingStones Agency

Durban, South Africa

Resources

  1. Church in a Time of Disruption: Lessons from the early Saints
  2. The Writing was always on the Wall
  3. On the Prayer of Chief Justice and the Mark of the Beast: A Reflection of a Fellow Disciple
  4. Reflections on the meaning of Freedom
  5. Kingdom Humanity: From Meetings to Arrangements
  6. “I can’t breathe”: How can Church deconstruct Racism?
  7. Mr President: We shall err on the side of Caution
  8. On the Issue of Essentiality of Church
  9. The Lockdown Debate and the Issue of the Vantage Point
  10. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 1
  11. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 2
  12. Covid-19: A Prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 1)
  13. Covid-19: A prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 2)
  14. Restating the foundations of the New Covenant
  15. Drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic
  16. Doing church in the crisis of coronavirus
  17. Note: if you wish to listen to the podcast I referred to earlier in this article, on the story of my Personal Salvation and journey of Transformation, please follow the link A conversation with Ps Robert Ntuli.

On the Prayer of Chief Justice and the Mark of the Beast: A Reflection of a Fellow Disciple

Mogoeng Mogoeng

The kind of public reaction arising from Chief Justice (CJ) Mogoeng Mogoeng’s prayer about Covid-19 vaccines requires discernment, in order to understand its nature and implications. It’s important to acknowledge upfront that Covid-19 has not only been a systemic pandemic affecting broader socio-economic and political issues, it has also been surrounded with suspicion and controversy. At the beginning of the pandemic, some political leaders downplayed this disease as “another flu”, which in turn created suspicion around the necessity for severe measures like lockdowns and vaccines. Fast forward to December 2020, millions of people have been infected by the disease and many have died. It has since become clear to the world that Covid-19 is a serious and fatal respiratory disease. On the other hand, development and manufacturing of Covid-19 vaccine has been achieved within a short space of time, something that has been considered a “scientific miracle”. However, the short development timeframe has left some in the public wondering and perhaps even suspicious concerning the safety, quality and efficacy of the vaccines coming out. All of this breeds an environment of suspicion, and it takes place against the background in which pharmaceutical and food industries have had long standing questions of suspicion. There are ongoing questions on whether the foods we are eating are making us sick? Do vaccines help us against viruses or they themselves make us sick? In other words, outside of issues of anti-Christ and 666 that came out in CJ’s prayer, there is a standing issue of public trust deficit towards these two industries. The fundamental question being, are these industries able to elevate sanctity of life over profit-making? Now these are valid concerns, and they should rightfully inform the missional burdens of the Church, in her pursuit of truth, righteousness, justice and human wellbeing. However, do they justify the kind of prayer that Chief Justice prayed? And or, do they have a direct theological relevance and connection to the subjects of anti-Christ and 666?

The need to discern the noise that’s emitting from the public about CJ’s prayer reminds me of one of the moments of Joshua’s leadership training by Moses: “When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.” 18 Moses replied: “It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear” (Ex. 32:17-18, NIV). This story reflects the need to correctly distinguish and characterize public voices at any given point in time. Therefore, my burden on the matter of Chief Justice is twofold: (1) to analyse the nature of public reaction to the CJ’s prayer, (b) and to reflect on the theological basis of the prayer (and by extension, on (some aspects of) Church’s worldview on current global events, especially as it relates to Covid-19 pandemic).

The following categories are represented in the public reaction to the CJ’s prayer:

  • There are some people who have supported the CJ, on the grounds that he has a right to freedoms of belief and speech as a citizen of the Republic.
  • There are some who have supported the CJ because they see his prayer as a “trumpet sound” against a possible Satanic agenda that is being advanced through Covid-19 vaccinations.
  • There are some who have supported the CJ because they see him as a prominent Christian who is not afraid to engage his Christian faith publicly, and who therefore inspires courage within the Christian community.
  • There are some who support the CJ because they interpret criticism towards his prayer as an attack to the broader Church.
  • Others support the CJ not on the fact or merits of his prayer, but because he reflects an image of a Public Official who is above board and who contradicts the prevalent image of a corrupt Public Official (this group has gone as far as expressing wishes for the CJ to go for the Office of the President of the Republic. It must be noted that the same reaction was seen towards the former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela).
  • Some are against the idea of a CJ who prays in public.
  • Some are against the idea of a CJ who engages public discourse beyond and outside his primary duty as the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court – this group is of the view that a judge should speak to public affairs through his or her judgments.
  • Some are against the contents of the prayer of CJ because as one who heads the Judiciary (one of the three organs of the State), he is seen to be contradicting the Government’s policy and process of procuring a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • And then there are some who are against this specific prayer of the CJ, not because he prayed, but because of what he prayed – that is, this group is perhaps least concerned with the fact that the Chief Justice prayed, and more concerned with the theological basis and implications of what he prayed.

There may be more categories that can be added to the list above, and there will naturally be an overlap in terms of views held by different people. It is therefore clear that when we are listening to the public sound directed at the recent prayer of CJ, that we are dealing with a matter that is not only broad but that is also complex. That is, not every “positive voice” is constructive, and not every “negative voice” is destructive – at least as far as the Christian Faith and Mission of the Church are concerned. Not only so, but we are also dealing with a matter that reflects Church’s relationship with global affairs on the one hand, and the internal state of theology of the Church on the other.

Having quantified and characterized the public discourse around the prayer of CJ, through the bulleted points above, I do wish to spend some time reflecting on the theological basis and implications of the prayer.

There is no doubt in my mind that Public Officials who are Christians must serve in the institutions of the State in a manner that reflects…

  1. An unquestionable commitment to the values of the Christian Faith,
  2. Respect for the Constitution of the Republic,
  3. Integrity and professionalism in the execution of their vocations and
  4. A good representation of the identity of their public office, to facilitate inclusive public leadership.

This reflection therefore does not seek to question the right that the CJ or any other Christian Public Official has in as far as publicly confessing his or her faith, publicly living out a lifestyle that reflects his or her faith, or in participating in public faith-based gatherings. When we think of Biblical characters like Joseph, Daniel, Esther etc., we realize that the Christian Public Official must in fact serve his or her nation with a passion for God and in a manner that advances peace and public wellbeing (including the wellbeing of those of different faith persuasions). In other words, a Christian Public Official has both a vocational obligation to serve the people professionally and a missional duty to serve people in a manner that leads them to the understanding of righteousness and justice, with the view to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. This missional duty is reflected in the words of Jesus Himself, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). It is also reflected in the prophetic commission to the Jews in Babylonian captivity, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer. 29:7).

Having said that, it is equally true that the Christian Public Official must demonstrate the kind of spiritual passion that inspires fellow Christians to engage their public duty (to advance peace, justice, and righteousness), while at the same time, leading the wider public towards a sense of peace, inclusivity, and public wellbeing. To do this, the Christian Public Official must strike a good balance between spiritual passion and a form of “spiritual radicalism or extremism” that only leads to controversy. It is for this reason that the requirements of a church elder, for instance, include the issue of “having a good reputation with outsiders…” (1 Tim. 3:7). Another Bible translation says, “people outside the church must speak well of him (i.e. the elder)” (NLT). If we have to use this as a leadership principle, the implication is that while a Christian must not conform to the populist dictates of the times, he or she must still carry a degree of burden about the public perception (or the perception of those outside the church) concerning his or her behavior and actions – this includes his or her moral life, theological integrity and public ideas.

Differentiating between spiritual passion and a form of “spiritual radicalism” further requires a good judgment in engaging public life and activities, as well as a credible theological engagement that facilitates public redemption, edification, and benefit. It is for this reason, I think, that people like Esther, Nehemiah, Daniel (and even our Lord Jesus Christ) sometimes administrated prayer points of public significance through private channels and networks. For example, when queen Esther was given the mandate to confront the public policy of king Xerxes towards the Jews, she privately mobilized Mordecai and the Jews of Susa to pray and fast with her (Est. 4:13-17). When Nehemiah felt the burden to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he activated the project by engaging only a “few leaders” (Neh. 2:11&12). Daniel mobilized his close friends about a life threatening and an apocalyptic event that would shape the very history of mankind – the interpretation of the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:17-18). Our Lord Jesus Christ had the most private prayer moment at the Garden of Gethsemane (with a few of his disciples), concerning a matter that was universal, cosmic, and eternal – the salvation of mankind (Matt. 26:36-41). These examples do not reflect the kind of privacy that’s motivated by fear, but one that considers the need to administer beliefs and knowledge in the most profitable and effective way. As Paul says, “we speak wisdom among the (spiritually) mature” (1 Cor. 2:6).

The objective behind this reflection on CJ’s prayer is therefore not to focus solely on the Chief Justice himself (Mogoeng Mogoeng’s term as Chief Justice will come to an end), it is to reflect on the theology, worldview and missional approach of the Church. It is a self-introspection on the state of the Church.

  • As a theological Reflection – it seeks to establish how does the modern-day Church interpret the teachings and instructions of the early Church on issues such as anti-Christ and 666?
  • As a reflection on Christian Worldview – it seeks to establish how do beliefs and theology of the Church inform her relationship with global events?
  • As a Missional Reflection – it seeks to establish what is it that guides the process of differentiating between issues of internal Church consumption and those of public consumption? Do we have an unhealthy inclination for publicity? Have we fallen for the trap of confusing Christian populism for evangelism, where we maximize the actions and utterances of a few prominent Christians to profile the Church and as a platform for the Great Commission?

Introspection has always been the major tool of the Church, it has served to bring the Body of Christ to a place of self-correction, healing and recalibration. I think of the conference of Acts chapter 15, which came about because there was some theological controversy that needed to be addressed (concerning some who claimed that physical circumcision was the requirement for salvation in Christ). I think of the dinner that Priscilla and Aquila had with Apollos, to help correct and equip him in his theological understanding of the Gospel (Acts 18:24-28). There have been many such instances of introspection and self-correction throughout the history of Church. For this reason, Church does not need the State to regulate it, except when it comes to matters of criminality. Church is fully empowered to introspect and to self-correct, and it should remain open to such processes so that as “the Body of Christ, it may continue to grow” (Eph. 4:15&16). Consequently, the public reaction to the prayer of CJ should allow us as Church not to be sensational and sentimental, but to reflect seriously in an effort to see whether there are things that we need to learn, improve and refine within our ranks.

What does the Bible teach about prayer?

Prayer is one powerful tool that we have as Church, it gives us direct access to the heavenly Father, the Creator of life. Through prayer, we lay our petitions on the basis of what we regard as our needs, and we are comforted by the fact that “our heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask Him” (Matt. 6:7-8). The principle that prayer is an expression of petitions based on what we regard as needs and perhaps even as threats to our life of salvation and livelihoods, reveals a deeper reality about prayer. It shows that prayer is not only a spiritual activity, but also an intelligible process. That is, we pray what we have processed and appreciated as reality or a possible reality of life. We pray what has been conceived as a reality or possible reality within our minds. If I pray, “God, protect me from accidents as I drive on the road”, I am in fact expressing something that has not necessarily happened but that I conceive to be a possibility. Equally, the CJ’s prayer about a possible use of a vaccine to infuse 666 in human beings and or to advance an anti-Christ agenda, reflects a possible reality he has conceived in his mind. The deeper question is, what is the connection between a vaccine and the Biblical concept of 666? That is, we of course can conceive realities in our minds that are so strong that we take them to prayer, only to find that there is a disconnect between our prayer point and reality as outlined in the Scriptures.

This brings us to another issue – that prayer reflects our theology. That is, we teach our hearers through the things we pray. Jesus tells a parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14.  “11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’” (Luke 18:11-12, NIV). 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.””  (Luke 18:11-14, NIV). Through this parable, Jesus is showing that we pray out of a theological position and conviction: the Pharisee has an idea of a God who is pleased simply by human works, while on the other hand, the Tax Collector has an idea of a holy but merciful God who hates evil but who will pardon our sins. Theology (or doctrine) undergirds prayer and prayer expresses theology. In other words, prayer is a teacher; this is why we teach out of John chapter 17 till today, a prayer by Jesus for the unity of the Church. We equally use Psalms of Prayer (from the Book of Psalms) as the basis for instruction and teaching in the Church. Therefore, the prayer by CJ is not simply about technical correctness according to legal terms and definitions. It’s not about whether he said “there are 666 vaccines” or “if there be 666 vaccines”. When the CJ prayed, “if there be vaccines that are being used to infuse 666…”, not only was he expressing a realm of possibility, but he was in fact establishing the same as a possible reality in our minds. The CJ was leading us to a place, but did this reflect a theologically correct pathway? The issue is therefore twofold: firstly, his prayer reflects the realm of possibility in his mind, secondly, is that there is need for that realm of possibility to be tested against the guiding wisdom of the Scriptures. If it is found not to be consistent with the Scriptures, then we have a deeper issue to deal with because the prayer was made in public.

The fact of prayer vs. the content of prayer

Having briefly established what the Bible teaches about prayer, then we can ask the question whether the issue is the fact that the CJ prayed or it’s the content of what he prayed. I personally have no issue with the fact that the CJ prayed. As a disciple of Christ, I celebrate this and quite frankly, we can do with more prayer in our nation. I equally agree with the CJ about the fact that we have reflected belief in the existence of God as a nation, through our Constitution and National Anthem, and that we do open our parliamentary proceedings by prayer and silent meditation. We simply cannot have an issue with people and or Public Officials praying publicly. Having said that, I do however think that in this instance, the contents of the prayer of CJ reflect some theological concerns. And when we consider the fact that the prayer was made publicly, the profile of the Chief Justice, and the fact that prayer is a teacher etc., then we realize the nature of the issue we’re dealing with.

The Christian faith and the End Times

When CJ was clarifying his prayer utterances, he made mention of the End Times – “we, Christians believe that we are in the end times”, the CJ correctly stated. And it is in this context that subjects like anti-Christ and 666 become critical. Just as it’s important to appreciate the deficit of public trust towards food and pharmaceutical industries, and how this has in turn contributed to suspicion around vaccines in general and Covid-19 vaccine in particular, it is equally important to appreciate the significance and influence of End Times theology in the Christian Worldview.

What does the Bible teach about the timeline of humanity since Creation?

  • Humans were created by God in His image and as immortals (they could not die) (Gen. 1:26).
  • Humans violated the command of God and chose to live out of greed instead of obedience – this is what the Bible refers to as sin (Gen. 3:1-9).
  • The consequence of sin was death, which meant that humans lost their immortality and became mortals (Gen. 2:16&17, Gen. 3:19, Rom. 5:12, Rom. 6:23)
  • Just as mortality had a definite beginning, it will also have a definite end (Matt. 24:14).
  • Jesus has come, not only to bring redemption to mankind, but to also initiate the process to destroy death in order to restore the age of immortal humanity (i.e. to wrap up this mortal human age) (1 Cor. 15:24-28).
  • The first coming of Jesus Christ marked the beginning of a period referred to as the End Times (Heb. 1:1-2).
  • Jesus taught about the end of mortal human age (Matt. 24).
  • The apostles of the early Church taught about “the Last Days” (an alternative phrase for “the End Times”) as a futuristic season that was coming upon the earth (2 Tim. 3:1)
  • The “anti-Christ” as well as “666” features significantly in the teachings concerning the End Times.

It is therefore clear that according to the Scriptures, we have been in “the Last Days” or “End Times” since the first arrival of the Messiah.

What does the Bible teach about “anti-Christ” and “666”?

The anti-Christ

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (1 John 4:1-6, NIV).

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us (1 John 2:18-19, NIV).

7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully (2 John 1:7, NIV).

  • Firstly, it’s important to understand the term, “anti-Christ” (antichristos) – which is made up of two words (anti and Christos). And the word “anti” is critical in our understanding of the nature and spirit implied in the concept of anti-Christ. The word “anti” means the opposite substitute, a replacement and an equivalent, that which is an exchange for something else. There are two fundamental ideas here: (1) for the equivalent to thrive, there must be a belief in the existence of the original (Christ) in the minds of people, (2) the opposite substitute must take the form of the original. Anti-Christ therefore speaks of the opposite substitute that seeks to replace Christ in the minds and hearts of the people (i.e. it seeks to distort the concept of God and by extension, the concept of human life). The realm and environment in which the anti-Christ must thrive, is the same environment in which the original Christ operates – it is the realm of human heart and mind. And so just as salvation in Christ is a spiritual experience, so does the anti-Christ come as an alternative spiritual experience.
  • The anti-Christ manifests as a spirit, in the form of doctrine that must be held as truth in the hearts of people.
  • The anti-Christ uses a human agency, a collective called “false prophets”.
  • The anti-Christ manifests through false doctrine – it is a spirit that advances through false knowledge.

It is therefore clear from the books of John (as we’ve seen above) that anti-Christ is characterized as a spirit that seeks to deceive Christians in particular and humans in general. The battle against anti-Christ is understood to be primarily doctrinal – it is neither technological nor political, although it can use these platforms.

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness (2 Thess. 2:1-12, NIV).

  • The scriptures above show us that there was already a degree of doctrinal confusion in the early Church around issues of the End Times, anti-Christ and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The apostle Paul refers to the “coming rebellion”. The word “rebellion” is the Greek word “apostasia” (or apostacy), which means – “defection from truth, a falling away or to depart”. This is consistent with the teachings of John about anti-Christ (in the books of 1st and 2nd John) as referred to earlier. Jesus equally stated, “many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other” (Matt. 24:10). This means that the coming of the anti-Christ is consistently associated with the falling away from truth.
  • Paul also refers to “the revelation of the man of lawlessness, the man doomed to destruction”. It’s important to note that in prophetic scriptures, there are metaphors that are used consistently throughout the Bible, not just in certain books like the Book of Revelation. For example, in Ephesians 4:13, the maturity of the church is described through the metaphor of a “perfect man” . In Revelation chapter 21, the metaphor of the Bride is used to describe the Church – not meaning a literal woman. The metaphor of the “man” therefore refers not to an individual but to a human state and condition. Just as the Church will grow to become “a perfect man”, so will there be “a man of lawlessness” – both are human conditions.
  • Paul continues to say that the man of lawlessness “will oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God”. Therein comes the word “oppose” again, this one meaning – “to lie opposite, to be an adversary or to take on someone’s position as an adversary”. Basically, the word means “to oppose and replace”.
  • Paul continues to say that the man of lawlessness “will set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God”. Just as the word “man” refers not to a literal human being but a metaphor of the human condition, so does the word “temple” refer not to a literal building but Church. In New Testament teachings, the temple is the Church of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:16).
  • “The man of lawlessness” therefore refers to a spirit, doctrine and human condition that is liberal in its orientation and that will produce a people who will not subject themselves to the command of God. The Bible communicates the command of God to humanity, and the spirit of anti-Christ wants to give people a kind of spirituality that contradicts God’s command.
  • Paul says that “the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders…”. Clearly, the characterization of anti-Christ takes a spiritual-religious form manifesting right within the House of God (the Church). According to Paul, the main issue behind all of this is “a refusal to love the truth” – meaning that doctrine and devotion to Christ is at the centre of all of this evil.
  • Ultimately, the man of lawlessness will be destroyed by “the breath of the mouth of Jesus Christ” – referring to the proclamation of truth by the servants of the Lord, backed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Mark of the Beast and 666

3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads (Rev. 12:3, NIV).

1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority (Rev. 13:1-2, NIV).

11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. 14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666 (Rev. 13:11-18, NIV).

  • The issue of the Mark of the Beast begins with the Dragon (Rev. 12:3), who is understood to be “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Rev. 12:9, NIV). That is, the dragon is not an actual snake, it’s an evil spirit called Satan.
  • It is therefore important to not think of the anti-Christ and 666 as something different or new, but as the work of “that ancient serpent” who deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden. We are dealing with the same old evil spirit that seeks to seduce humans away from God. It is the same old devil who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
  • In Rev. 13:1, we then see a beast emerge out of the sea (the metaphor of the sea generally refers to humanity or masses of people – Rev. 17:15). “The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne” (Rev. 13:2). Let’s remember the account of the temptation of Jesus by the Devil, “the devil led Him (Jesus) to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, and he said to Him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:5-7, NIV).
  • The word “beast” means “a wild beast or a wild animal”. Again, this is a metaphor of a human system, power and condition. John goes on to describe the beast – “the beast resembled a leopard but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion…” (Rev. 13:2). The point is this – to understand the nature of the human system, power and condition being described here, one has to study the characteristics of the animals that the beast resembles.
  • This is not the first time animals are being used to describe spiritual and human realities. The book of prophet Daniel and other books use animals as metaphors to communicate spiritual truth and to interpret human conditions.

11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf… (Rev. 13:11, NIV).

  • John then speaks about “another beast”, that “exercised all the authority of the first beast”. So we have delegation of power and authority here – from the Dragon (Satan) to the first beast right through to the second beast.
  • The word “another” in Rev. 13:11 means “another of the same kind”. So here, we are dealing with two distinct human systems, powers and realities but that have the same nature and motivation.
  • This second beast clearly operates within the realm of religion – “he has two horns like a lamb and he performs miraculous signs”. That is, this second beast – this second human system is operating within the religious-church world with the idea of deceiving many peoples, in Church and in the world.
  • The second beast sets up an image of the first beast and he brings the image to life (Rev. 13:14-15): the word image (eikon) means a statue, a profile, an image, a resemblance In Biblical language, the word image speaks of Definitions, Concepts, Standards and Patterns of Life. God said, “let us make man in our image and in our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). According to Genesis 1:26, humans were supposed to get the idea or the image (Definitions and Concepts) of humanity and of human life from the very nature of God. And now, according to 1 Cor. 15:49, “just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the man from heaven” (meaning the Image of Christ).
  • In 1 Cor. 15:49, the word “borne” means “to wear as clothing” and the word “image” (or eikon) is the same one that is used in Rev. 13, in the phrase, “the image (eikon) of the beast” (Rev. 13:15).
  • What are we seeing here? There is a battle of good and evil – the battle of images or of Definitions and Concepts of human life. One is the Image of Christ and the other is the Image of the Beast.
  • These images are established and brought to life through doctrines and not through vaccines. For them to work, they require humans to believe and embrace them. The duty of the Church is to evangelize the world and advance truth (which is the Image of Christ).
  • The main battle that Church will have to fight according to these scriptures is – what does it mean to be a human being (or what is the correct image of human life) and how should we administer human life?
  • Church is called to be the Pillar and Foundation of Truth – or to resemble the kind of humanity that is built after the Image of God and which is characterized by holiness, peace, righteousness, justice, and obedience to God.

16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666 (Rev. 13:16-18, NIV).

  • “He forced everyone to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead”: this phrase simply captures the idea of being sold and of therefore being owned by something or someone. Again, this is not the first time we see this, God Himself writes His name on our foreheads (Rev. 3:12, Rev. 22:4, Rev. 14:1). God will seal the foreheads of His servants (Rev. 7:3). This simply means to be given to the identity and cause of another.
  • This idea of being sealed is also found in the Old Testament: “9 This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. 10 You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year” (Ex. 13:9-10, NIV).
  • To receive the Mark of the Beast is to accept, yield and conform to a definition of human life and a human construct that is contrary to the command of God, as reflected in the Scriptures.
  • In other words, you can “rebel” against technological devices and chips, but if you live a life that is conformed to the ungodly standards of the world, you are still “buying and selling” according to the dictates of the Devil.
  • “He forced everyone…”: this shows that this Satanic agenda is in fact aimed at everyone (at the Church and at the World). It is aimed at all race-groups, social classes, gender, and age-groups.
  • The Mark of the Beast connects to trade and commerce or to economic activity – “so that no one could buy or sell” without the mark. The idea here is one of human wellbeing and survival – it is an attack on livelihoods. Do we live in a world in which transacting in life and doing commerce requires the selling of one’s soul and a buying into a culture and value system that violates God’s righteous standards? The very system of Capitalism which is the modern doctrine of commerce and economics turns a blind eye not only on certain principles of human life but also on the very standards of righteousness that God has outlined for mankind. It’s a system in which monetary value outweighs the sanctity of life. For this reason, Revelation chapter 18 says, “the merchants of the earth grew rich from excessive luxuries” … and from selling “cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones… and even of souls of men” (Rev. 18:1-15, NIV).
  • Church on the other hand, must reject not the idea of doing business, but the capitalistic idea of doing business. There is a doctrine in the circles of the Church that masquerades as truth, and that promotes greed and excessive material gains in the name of “faith”. In other words, what the Church calls “faith for material accumulation” is referred to as Capitalism in the world. It is perceived as a theological position in the Church, and as an ideological position in the world – it’s basically the same thing. This is the kind of deception that Church must confront.

Conclusion

When reading the Bible in general and prophetic books (like Revelation) in particular, it is important to understand that God uses metaphors of creation and of the natural order, to illuminate us about spiritual realities and human conditions. For truly, creation testifies of the Nature of God, and of spiritual realities (Rom. 1:20, Ps. 19:1-4).

1 O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old (Ps. 78:1-2, NIV).

34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world” (Matt. 13:34&35, NIV).

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” 11 He (Jesus) replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand… 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it  (Matt. 13:10-7, NIV).

Just as Jesus used parables to communicate spiritual truth (as we see in the Gospels), so does the Book of Revelation use natural phenomena to communicate prophetic realities to us. Truly, the Bible is a parable to mankind.

17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666 (Rev. 13:17-18, NIV).

In Revelation 13 verse 17, the Mark of the Beast is the Name of the Beast or the Number of his Name (i.e. the mark is the name and the mark is the number – it’s a man’s number). If the “mark” is the “name”, then we must consider that in the Bible, names always refer to the nature, character and profile of a person or thing. For example, God’s Name is the revelation of His Nature and Character to us – His Name reveals the quality of life to which we have been called. This principle does not change when it comes to “the Name of the Beast”. And if we understand “the Name of the Beast” not to be a technological riddle, then we must also understand that “the Mark of the Beast” is equally not some technological riddle (because “the Mark is the Name, and the Name is the Number”). In Rev. 13, we are dealing with a situation in which people are being deceived and forced to live according to a standard that is contrary to God’s nature. The word “mark” means to engrave, something sculptured, to stamp a mark. Now, there are words related to the idea of being marked and that are used in the context of our salvation: e.g. “having believed, we were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13, NIV). The phrase “marked with a seal” or the word “sealed” (depending on the Bible version one is reading) means, “to stamp with a signet, to set a seal or mark upon a thing”. In another Scripture, Paul is praying that “Christ will be formed in you”, when writing to the Galatians (Gal. 4:19). The word “formed” means “to form and shape an image”. The word describes the work of an artist forming and carving a sculpture out of a material. Again, we understand this not to mean a literal sculpture, but as a metaphor indicating the nature of our transformation from worldliness to the Nature of Christ. There is yet another word relating to the “putting of the mark” in our lives – this is the word “pattern”. Paul says, “take note of those who live according to the pattern (or example) we gave you” (Phil. 3:17). This word (pattern) means, a stamp, a model, a mark, a figure, an image or a statue. Therefore, it is clear that the idea of being “marked with a seal” or of being “formed into an image” is a common spiritual metaphor in the Scriptures.

If we put the phrase, “calculate the number of the beast”,  alongside the phrases, “the mark of the beast” and “the name of the beast”, we can see the following: (a) “the name of the beast” speaks to us about the nature and character of life that is contrary to God’s nature; (b) “the number of the beast” speaks to us about the systematic nature of the character of life we’re dealing with; (c) “the mark of the beast” speaks to us about how Satan seeks to influence humans and the way of life – this agenda began in Genesis 3 and has been developed to influence global humanity; and (d) “to calculate the number of the beast” speaks to us about the spiritual requirement to analyse and understand the ways in which this particular life influences humanity. Unless we see and understand the Mark of the Beast, we will become its victims. The warning against conforming to the world is not uncommon in Scripture – in Romans 12 verse 2, we are “not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world”, instead, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of the mind”, so that we can “test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will”. The word “conformed” (or the phrase “conformed to the pattern”) means a “fashion, style or an arrangement of an object” – the word means to be molded after the arrangements of life around you, in the same way that liquid takes the shape of its container. Not only is the warning against the Mark of the Beast a consistent theme in the Bible, but like Abraham, Church must be a people of “reasoning, reckonings and accounting”. “Abraham reasoned (calculated or did the accounting) that God could raise the dead…” Heb. 11:19, NIV. The word “reasoned” means “to put together with one’s mind, to count, to occupy oneself with reckonings and calculations”. Using the wisdom of the Scriptures under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we must not only calculate the flow of God’s plans and purposes, but also the construct and flow of ungodly life around us.

To count or calculate the number of the beast therefore calls for the kind of wisdom that is spiritual (and not natural wisdom). The word “count” in Rev. 13:18 describes small stones or pebbles used by Greeks, Romans and Egyptians in their calculations. Pebbles or small stones were placed on a counting board to determine the value of such things as livestock, grain etc. The word (“count”) means to reckon, compute, calculate or to figure out. The usage of pebbles on a counting board therefore captures the idea of determining quantity, value, and developments of elements. In the same way, we must use the “counting board” of the wisdom of the Scriptures, to work out and compute the constructs, trends and developments of human life. The meaning of the word “Word” (logos) becomes significant here: “expression of thought, conception, intelligence, reasoning, computation, discourse, declaration, motive or intent”. We use the Word of God (the logos) not only to compute the Nature of God but also to understand the human construct of this world (the Mark of the Beast).

The issue is not to try and understand barcodes and technological devices or chips (the fact is that we carry a lot of these already in our wallets), but it is to understand definitions and constructs of human life, and their relationship to God’s human order as outlined in Scriptures. The Mark of the Beast is not a chip that can be received via a vaccine, it is a false doctrine (a false image) and a false human construct that is received through deception and deviation from truth or the knowledge of God! Just as we speak of the Image of God, not as an implant of a technological device or chip, but as His Nature (or a way of life), so does the Image of the Beast refer to a condition of life (a way of life) that is contrary to God’s nature. The Biblical idea of 666 is not about an “automated production of disobedient humans” via a technological chip, but it’s about the ongoing persecution for living the life of Christ in this ungodly world. No Christian believer can be forced to renounce God, not by another human or through a technological device, except in a case where there is fear of persecution and death. Just like the early Believers who confronted persecution, the Disciples of Christ will have to continue to live for God with boldness and courage, strengthened by the Holy Spirit. The need for boldness and courage in the midst of persecution should inform and inspire our prayers.

What does this all mean? The prayer of CJ gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we believe and how what we believe informs our worldview. It requires us to refuse to be sensationalistic or sentimental, but to be doctrinal, in a true spirit of humility characterized by a quest for truth. This will in turn allow us to become effective in (1) advancing the Kingdom of God, (2) in evangelizing the world (3) and in engaging in a Kingdom Advocacy that tackles global human affairs guided by Biblical theology and wisdom.

Furthermore, we must consider the following issues….

  • A sensationalist approach to the issues of the End Times actually reflects an underlying fear towards persecution for what we believe – the reality is that Church has been going through intense persecution since the days of Nero of Rome.
  • Church has always been able to face and overcome persecution but has tended to be vulnerable when it comes to dealing with incorrect and false doctrines within its ranks.
  • Since the anti-Christ spirit and the Mark of the Beast are ushered through platforms of doctrine and knowledge, our focus should be to (1) establish truth through instruction and doctrine and (2) to possess a spiritual understanding of human constructs that are contrary to Scripture and the Way of Christ.
  • We must refrain from Christian populism that’s driven by a few prominent Christians and Celebrities (as this brings undue pressure on these Christians), instead, we must go back to the kind of Christianity that is subversive and that’s advanced by those regarded as “the foolish and weak things of this world”.
  • We must ensure that prominent Christians who serve in the public square are well equipped theologically and in Kingdom Worldview.
  • Just as Joshua and his army relied on the report of Rahab in their military advance, we must engage Christians who are placed by the Lord in specific Spheres of Life (like queen Esther, Moses, Daniel, Joseph, Nehemiah etc. were in the palaces), to process technical information and developments relating to respective spheres, while we all stand on the absolute authority and uniting wisdom of the Scriptures, guided by the Holy Spirit and Church leadership.
  • We must always appreciate the fact that public prayer is equally a public teacher.
  • We must think carefully about matters we take to the public domain.

May the Lord Jesus Christ continue to build His Church (Matt. 16:18)!

Robert Ntuli

Pastor – LivingStones Agency

Durban, South Africa

http://www.livingstonesagency.com

Resources

  1. Church in a Time of Disruption: Lessons from the early Saints
  2. The Writing was always on the Wall
  3. On the Prayer of Chief Justice and the Mark of the Beast: A Reflection of a Fellow Disciple
  4. Reflections on the meaning of Freedom
  5. Kingdom Humanity: From Meetings to Arrangements
  6. “I can’t breathe”: How can Church deconstruct Racism?
  7. Mr President: We shall err on the side of Caution
  8. On the Issue of Essentiality of Church
  9. The Lockdown Debate and the Issue of the Vantage Point
  10. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 1
  11. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 2
  12. Covid-19: A Prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 1)
  13. Covid-19: A prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 2)
  14. Restating the foundations of the New Covenant
  15. Drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic
  16. Doing church in the crisis of coronavirus
  17. Note: if you wish to listen to the podcast I referred to earlier in this article, on the story of my Personal Salvation and journey of Transformation, please follow the link A conversation with Ps Robert Ntuli.

Note: please follow the link below if you wish to download this article as a PDF:

www.livingstonesagency.com

Kingdom Humanity: From Meetings to Arrangements

Sustainable Kingdom Transformation in the world will not be produced by an arbitrary people who confess Jesus as Lord, but by a Community of Disciples of Jesus who willingly & collectively allow the Lord to establish a Kosmos out of them – an Arrangement of Human Life in Christ. The world notices arrangements, not arbitrary groups. And God creates arrangements (kosmos), not arbitrary life. In the world of arrangements, what matters is not numbers but a Way of Life. This is why Noah & his small family became a formidable force. The phrase, “sin entered the world” (in Rom. 5:12) implies that sin did not only corrupt the human heart, but also arrangements of life. A Church built on the premise of Arrangement of Life in Christ will not be identified according to common congregational membership but according to common Humanity in Christ. All this means that the believer must embrace the Kingdom Mission as an existential reality, in collaboration with fellow believers, & not simply as a program & an activity. It also means that pastors have to learn to not only shepherd people, but to administer arrangements of life out of people. Jesus is coming for a “Bride that is adorned” (a Kosmos). Becoming a kosmos (or an Arrangement of Life) in a fractured & chaotic world, is the ultimate apostolic mission of the Church (Rev. 21)!

Reflections on the Meaning of Freedom

Rob pic - website - first optionIn the history of mankind, we have seen this futility, where oppressive authorities fight to maintain power & inequality, and commoners fight for humanistic freedom – freedom from oppression but freedom to self-rule. And so not only has humanity dealt with systems of injustice, but since everything humanistic suffers from decay, like grass that withers over time, revolutions have themselves tended to become corrupted. A revolution is fundamentally flawed when it is inspired by a craving for the privileged condition of the oppressor. Such a craving has an underlying acknowledgement of the necessity to oppress, in order to achieve the same “privileged” condition of prosperity, as that of the oppressor. And such a craving therefore renders a revolution useless in time. For this reason, we’ve seen that passionate anger against injustice does not always make one a true advocate and ambassador of justice. Anger against unfairness must not always be equated to moral uprightness. In a day if injustice we may need angry activists, but in a day of freedom, we need morally upright visionaries. Precisely because of selfishness and injustice inherent in us, we can fight injustice against us. The wisdom of the Book of Psalms becomes a guiding moral compass in such a conflicted state. In Psalm 37:1-3 it states, “never envy the wicked! Soon they fade away like grass and disappear. Trust in the Lord instead. Be kind and good to others; then you will live safely here in the land and prosper, feeding in safety”. That is, true prosperity is not only achieved through individualistic industriousness, but also by being kind to your fellow citizens – not only referring to personal kindness, but also systemic kindness. For truly, systemically evil and corrupt societies do not last, they eventually “fade away like grass”, just as the psalmist says. And in Ps 141:4 it states the same cry, “do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies”. Revolutions can therefore find themselves led by the most selfish and unjust of people, who simply have energy that is born out of anger. A true revolution must imagine and envision a new reality, one better than the “privileged conditions” of the oppressor. In other words, the true concept of “privilege” does not exist, as long as it is defined by the conditions or successes of the oppressor. Envisioning a new reality can sometimes lead to what looks like a form of temporary “material reversal” of one’s well-being, to achieve real Collective Well-being. This is because in the System of Creation, there is no well-being, except in the Collective. Biblically, this is what is implied in the word equity (that big word “justice” or righteousness), not meaning parity. This is exactly what Christ sought to achieve – He died in order to give life to mankind; He became sin in order to redeem us sinners, and to make us the righteousness of God, that is, to improve our human condition. He who was the only Son died in order to produce many sons. He took His privilege and extended it to the many. In this sense, the nations of the South (or the Global South) cannot base their model of prosperity upon the nations of the North (the Global North), simply because Global Humanity is yet to see a model of human prosperity that is free from oppression, blood guilt and colonialism. Even economic theories, models and graphs miss this nuance, of economic prosperity that is achieved fundamentally on the backs of slaves, and through discrimination and racism. Even the “American dream” is a construct of unjust gain, its equation is not without the component of slavery and racism. The disadvantage of humanity is that this is all we’ve seen in modern history, and this is all we know. This is the model of success that dominates our history books. So, for Africa to be exactly like Europe (or North America), Africa would have to create the same conditions that facilitated Europe’s and North America’s growth and development. We would have to start the process all over again, of taking slaves from Europe and North America across the ocean (or perhaps now by airplanes) back to Africa, to build our industries to what economists call “economic growth”. Does the African politician see this futility? Does he or she imagine a different model of development that achieves prosperity without violating mankind? Has this progressed from an idealistic wish to a conceptual reality that can become a real “household” of nations? Do African economists see this alternative reality? Does the economic equation work out, in the absence of discrimination and corruption? Or does it land us at the same position of greed as that of colonialists and oppressors, where we simply get “our turn to eat”? The Global South has a prophetic opportunity to establish a model of human prosperity that is free from blood guilt, injustice, racism and slavery. And if such a reality is achieved, not only will it usher in a new era of human well-being and prosperity in the Global South, it will also free the Global North from the bondage of its historical models of human existence. Essentially, this would usher in a new era of Global Humanity, presenting future generations with new platforms of scholarship. For this to be a reality, the Global South must begin to develop its youthful populations into a generation of scholars and prophets who will begin to imagine a better Human Arrangement and a better Social Contract. In other words, the new activist must move beyond the culture of street protest or of “lodging complaints”, he or she must possess the power to re-imagine a new vision, to communicate the vision and to mobilize around and towards the vision (Hab. 2:2-3). The new activist must possess the power to conceive a vision beyond a Class Struggle, a vision that seeks to liberate Global Humanity from a state of conflict with itself. It is for this reason that instead of staging a protest in Rome and against Caesar, as was the wish of his closest disciples (Acts 1:6), Christ went to die at the Cross, to establish a “new and a better way” of life (Heb. 10:19-22), not for a particular Class or People-Group, but for Global Humanity, including Caesar and Rome. If we choose to carry our own Cross to follow Him, we are embracing the same spirit, attitude and vision for Global Humanity. Furthermore, this process of re-imagining a better Human Arrangement must be triggered by a realization that in the abundance of scientific knowledge and theories of human prosperity, we have a drought and a deficit when it comes to concepts of human prosperity that are devoid of injustice. And so, in the continuum of time, where revolutions are inspired by the privileged conditions of oppressors, oppressive authorities and humanistic Freedom Projects of commoners become the two sides of the same darkness. When we remove the gap of time, and marry the past with the future, we see the same thing, the exact same thing. The only time humanity breaks this chain of political futility is when we fight to be free from oppression, in order to be subjects to Christ our Lord – our Kurios – the Supreme Eternal Authority from whom all Political Systems originate and to whom these systems must submit (Col. 1:16, 1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 19:16). By the phrase, “a people who are subjects of Christ”, we are defining a citizenship developed out of reverence for God, founded on moral uprightness and geared towards Collective Well-Being – the idea that in my pursuit of personal well-being, I will not harm you. Whenever the objective and the quest for freedom is self-rule, then that Freedom Project is already corrupted. Our quest for freedom, must be motivated by a desire to be subjects of Christ. Freedom as a definition of self-rule is an anomaly in the System of Creation (or in the Kingdom of God). Try it. Such a thing simply does not exist. It is what the fallen angel, Satan, offered mankind in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6). It is the very reason we are where we are. And so when a people are engaged in a Freedom Project, they must define a set of new and better moral rules they want to subject themselves to, if they don’t, corruption becomes the inevitable outcome, or put differently, they’ll simply reinvent the conditions of their oppressor, if not worse. In other words, there is nothing as dangerous as seeking freedom without a moral foundation. A key lesson in the Book of Exodus – is that a people are delivered from a system of oppression, only to be subjected to another system, a system of moral laws based on reverence for God, moral uprightness and on the ideal of Collective Well-being. In that system, good citizenship is based on what you do or do not do to your neighbor, not on how well you take care of yourself. Statements like, “you shall not steal, kill or covet…”, imply a system of citizenship preoccupied with the well-being of the one next to you, your fellow citizen. In this order of citizenship, not only am I given personal liberty, but I am also bound by an obligation towards the wellbeing of my fellow citizens. And as we see in the Book of Exodus, when the freed slaves refuse this new order, corruption and chaos become the inevitable outcome. Oppression must therefore be defined as a denial from realizing a dream of a better human arrangement based on the imperative for moral uprightness and collective well-being. Where the fight against oppression is understood to be a quest to be the same as the oppressor, then it is already tainted with elements of corruption, only time will tell. Without realizing it, in such a “revolutionary project”, we’ve taken the privileged but corrupted condition of the oppressor, and have made it our inspiration and vision. In such a process, we are “walking in the counsel of the wicked, we are standing in the way of sinners, and are sitting in the seat of mockers” and do not realize that “better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous” (Ps. 37:16-17).  The nuance behind Paul’s instruction to the slaves, to (continue to) serve their masters, but now “as unto the Lord” (see Eph. 6:5-9 and Col. 3:22-4:1), is that in the process of being liberated by Christ, we are saved from craving the corrupted privilege of our oppressor, essentially sharing in his blood guilt (and or to go up the “ladder” or to take the only options that the corrupt system offers us, should we wish to be rich). We are empowered to “subversively”  influence the condition of the master’s life by offering our freewill service. Here we are no longer a slave to a man, but we are slaves to Christ, and have the power to influence the master’s heart by the power of our unconditional and unmerited love towards him. We break the chain of causality in that the earthly master no longer has power to shape our will, attitude and emotions. Our actions can no longer be attributed to the input factors of the earthly master. In the same way, Paul’s instructions to earthly masters (or modern day owners of Capital), to treat their slaves well and beyond the definitions of the legal code of the system of the day (whatever that looks like for our employees, house maids etc. in modern day systems) is because each time the master treats his slave well (who is essentially a fellow human), and with justice and generosity, he regains his own humanity, godliness and peace. And each time he does the contrary, he loses his own humanity, godliness and peace. So in reality, the master does not have “authority” over his slaves, rather, he is a slave unto his own greed. For this reason, those who have riches and power have truly lived the most troubled lives, and have tended to lack in the fundamentals of life like peace, family, trust etc. Nothing built out of blood guilt, oppression and injustice is sustainable and peaceful. In other words, sometimes we are oppressed, not by external forces, but by our own greed that our oppressors resemble before us. We see in them who we are internally. It is that craving to be like our oppressor, that we sometimes confuse with the idea of revolution. 

Robert Ntuli

Pastor – LivingStones Agency

Visionary Leader – Kingdom Humanity Fellowship

Durban, South Africa

Resources

Please follow the links below to access other resources relevant to the current pandemic…

  1. “I can’t breathe”: How can Church deconstruct Racism?
  2. Mr President: We shall err on the side of Caution
  3. On the Issue of Essentiality of Church
  4. The Lockdown Debate and the Issue of the Vantage Point
  5. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 1
  6. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 2
  7. Covid-19: A Prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 1)
  8. Covid-19: A prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 2)
  9. Restating the foundations of the New Covenant
  10. Drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic
  11. Doing church in the crisis of coronavirus
  12. Note: if you wish to listen to the podcast I referred to earlier in this article, on the story of my Personal Salvation and journey of Transformation, please follow the link A conversation with Ps Robert Ntuli.

“I can’t breathe”: How can Church Deconstruct Racism?

George Floyd faceOn Monday 25th May 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man died in the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota in the USA, in police custody. A video footage shows a White police officer kneeling on top of George’s neck. A couple of minutes later, after George had repeatedly cried, “I can’t breathe”, clearly suffocating on the floor, he became non-responsive and was declared dead in hospital. This incident happened in front of the public, it was recorded through Smart Phones and published via Social Media for the world to see.

This incident has subsequently resulted in protests in multiple cities in the USA. Not only so, but other cities around the world have joined in. Protests have been reported in cities like London, Berlin, Auckland, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Rio de Janeiro etc. Other cities are still planning their protests. In the George Floyd saga, we are clearly dealing with the “pandemic” of systemic racism – a global condition that is resonating across cities and people-groups around the world.

George Floyd - protest in the UKThere is no doubt that the coronavirus is linked to the George Floyd death. This pandemic has not only created an environment of reflection and contemplation in societies, but it’s also created a new sense of global solidarity as citizens of the world (perhaps not necessarily nation-states) feel more united around a common challenge. Therefore, the coronavirus pandemic has become a “platform” upon which we are now seeing thousands of citizens of the world in the streets.

The George Floyd saga is not only globalized but it has also been immortalized as his last words, “I’ can’t breathe”, have become a protest statement and a slogan against injustice. The killing of an African American man by police officers has become a lucid symbol of what it means to live in a world of systemic racism. Furthermore, to understand why George Floyd’s death has become a trigger and a tipping point, you must understand not only the colonial history and slave trade of Africans to the Americas, but also a series of recent and similar incidents of killings of African American males (on 23rd February 2020, a 25-year-old African American, Ahmaud Arbery, was confronted by two White males while jogging in a suburb in Georgia. This confrontation led to the shooting and killing of Ahmaud). In other words, George Floyd has become not only a systemic icon but also a portal and a lens for the world to see with greater clarity not only the heritage of colonial African slave trade but also the current reality of Systemic Racism in America. When we consider that last year marked the 400th anniversary of the African slave trade, then we realize that this problem has been prolonged and clearly entrenched in the consciousness of America.

This situation is not a strange phenomenon in South Africa. We can think of many who died in police custody, like Steve Biko back in 1977. The only difference is that we did not have Smart Phones and Social Media then, we often relied on the Apartheid government to give us reports of these incidents, where it chose to. Not only that, we’ve also seen a series of racist incidents in Social Media, clearly showing that we have not yet been successful in uprooting racism in the psyche of our nation.

The question may be asked, why is the George Floyd incident receiving so much attention? The answer to this question lies in understanding how certain life events can become triggers and tipping points in society. There are many evils in this world, and many other people have died because of injustice – all of these situations must be treated with a common sense of Sanctity of Life. However, we must understand that certain events tend to create iconic prophetic moments that bring to light the evils of the day. For example, there were many prisoners in Robben Island, but there was Nelson Mandela. There were many Black South Africans who died in police custody, but there was Steve Biko. Moreover, the fact that we are seeing protests in other cities around the world means that the unfortunate George Flody saga has become a mirror and a platform for different nations and regions to reflect on their own evils. To see a coin clearly, you must move it away from your eyes. That is, we sometimes get illuminated on certain situations by reflecting on events that are distant from us. It is also important to point out that the protests around George Flody’s death are not necessarily triggered by his “status in society”, rather, they are triggered by the nature and circumstances of his killing. That is, his death is a representation of a broader systemic issue and stubborn reality in society, in America and across the world.

Just as church has had to grapple with coronavirus pandemic, it must equally grapple with the issue of George Floyd and the systemic racism it reflects. Unlike coronavirus which was an external condition that took us all by surprise, systemic racism is a societal pathology – a virus that can commute between neighborhoods and church buildings. That is, since church is an integral part of society, and since church is called by the Lord to be a “city on a hill” that demonstrates a different standard, then we must not only be concerned about current events & developments but we must also reflect on how we as church can deconstruct this monster of racism.

The one way of dispelling evil is by proclaiming the truth, it is not in being silent or by looking away. Truth sets us free and truth shall set the world free. If we don’t proclaim truth, then the enemy, who masquerades as an angel of light, will fill the public space with “a form of righteousness” – ideological concepts that essentially don’t lead us to God.

Definitions

Based on the account of Genesis, we know that God created human beings (Gen. 1:26), gender (Gen. 1:27), family (Gen. 2:18-25), mankind or humanity in general (Gen. 1:26-28) as well as people-groups (Acts 17:26). We cannot be able to define any of these human categories without revisiting the Scriptures.

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone” (Acts 17:26-29).

Human life is dynamic in that not only did God create categories or spheres of human life (as mentioned above), but He also created the very processes and mechanisms by which humanity would be expanded and sustained. That is, God created marriage, childbearing, children, youths, friendships, nation-states, political authorities etc. We know this because the Bible provides definitions for each one of these categories, processes and mechanisms. God has design for everything He creates.

For the purpose of the subject at hand, let’s focus on Acts 17:26 where we see God creating nations. The word “nations” (ethnos) means the ff. a people-group, a race-group, a tribe, a people who belong and live together, a people of common habits and customs, people who inhabit a common geo-political space. We can see straightaway that the word “nation” (ethnos) has different dimensions to it. The church of Jesus Christ is referred to as a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9).

Deut 4:5-8

5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? NIV

Deuteronomy 4 introduces us to other important words…

  • “The nations” (vs. 6) – a people as a congregated unit, a tribe, citizens of the land. Emphasis of the word is on groups of people.
  • “This great nation” (vv.6-8) – the word describes a troop of animals or the flight of locusts – the nation, a people or a country. The word carries the meaning of an organized people-group or a people who exist within a geo-political arrangement.

Of particular relevance to the subject of racism is the word ethnos (nations or people-groups) that is used in Acts 17:26. This word is relevant because it makes direct reference to God’s creative work in relation to people-groups and race-groups as we see them today. Remember, the act of human creation is not only the literal and initial work that we see in Genesis, but it’s also a dynamic and an ongoing process that includes childbearing and global human population of the earth (as seen in Genesis 1:28).

To understand and qualify what we are dealing with in Acts 17:26, we must consider the phrase, “nations of man” (ethnos anthropos) – this speaks of nations of human beings or race-groups of human beings. Part of what this phrase speaks into is the issue of people-groups as classified according to their shared characteristics. The Bible is not silent when it comes to human physical characteristics. In the Song of Songs, when Solomon describes his lover, he speaks about the nature of her eyes, her hair, her teeth, her lips, her neck etc. Thus, we can see that racial diversity is part of the order of creation. According to God’s creation plan – we are created as diverse human beings and people-groups with a common image of God (or common value-system) on the inside of us (Gen. 1:26). We must therefore celebrate our diversity whiles being conscious of our common humanity in God. This is what Jesus Christ has come to restore through the Church.

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “race” is defined as a family, tribe, people or nation belonging to the same stock; a people unified by shared interests, habits or characteristics.

Racism is the discrimination of one race-group by another race-group on the basis of colour and cultural traits. The discriminating race-group must essentially believe that it is culturally superior in society. It takes the following issues for racism to thrive…

George Floyd - Nelson Mandela

  • Racism is rooted in a corrupted doctrine of human creation – it is essentially rooted in a corrupted doctrine of the Image of God.
  • Racism can only be effective when expressed by a collective.
  • Racism is a product of a historical process – there must be an accumulative process of the same incidents over a period of time before we can clearly see racist trends in society.
  • Racism is sustained by parenting and family doctrines – it is impossible to see same racial or discriminatory behaviors from generation to generation without these being perpetuated through the process of parenting. Even kids who escape being intentionally instructed evil things about other races, still catch on at least by observation and assimilation.

 

Systemic Racism defines a reality in which the culture of one people-group becomes a default, dominant and a host-culture in the process of administration of life in society. A process in which the culture of one people-group becomes the institutional filter shaping norms and standards of life. It is a silent requirement in which other cultural groups are required to conform to the dominant culture as a prerequisite for institutional integration and before they can be accepted to meaningfully participate in the enterprise of human life (e.g. schools, workplaces etc.). It is a way in which institutional life favours or gives preferential treatment to a set of cultural traits by default, no matter who manifests them.

Systemic Racism is not purely a matter of behavioral discrimination (although it will always be linked to this) but it’s a reflection of the way in which institutional life has been shaped by the culture of one people-group, over time. By default, systemic racism is in itself a heritage of a historical process.

George Flody - Police

The idea of “White Privilege” must therefore be understood in this context – it does not mean that all Whites are rich and wealthy, but it does mean that they have a cultural advantage and platform in society, that allows them to execute life easier than their counterparts. And so when George Floyd screams, “I can’t breathe” as he dies, this must be understood as a powerful political metaphor of cultural and racial suffocation. It is when institutions and systems of life are “pressing their knees on the necks” of other people-groups.

In a world of systemic racism, you will see the following realities…

  • Race-groups (and perhaps even gender-groups) will have default systemic profiles, identities or images – this speaks into silent stereotypes and images that one race-group holds about other race-groups. It is the stereotypes that individuals must fight through and or enjoy, depending on their race and cultural profile. For example, a Black male may be seen to represent criminality and subordination whereas a White male may be seen to represent authority and wealth. A Black woman may be seen to represent servitude and timidity whereas a White woman may be seen to represent affluence.
  • In some sense, these profiles may be reflected in systemic conditions. And so, do we have a higher proportion of Black men committing crimes? If so, what are systemic conditions that perpetuate this? Or perhaps do we have a higher proportion of Black men committing visible street crimes instead of invisible systemic crimes? If advertising agencies have for years been using a particular race-group or skin color as a symbol of beauty, then society eventually accepts this as a norm. The list goes on and on.
  • We have systemic racism when certain achievements are silently attributed to certain race-groups by default, and where these achievements are thought of as an exception than a norm in other race-groups.
  • We have systemic racism when life functionalities and competences are defined according to a cultural profile of one race-group.
  • Systemic Racism has less to do with numerical dominance and a lot to do with cultural and institutional power – it is when the culture of those who own capital and or who lead institutions becomes the norm in society.
  • Oftentimes, in a systemic racism reality, beneficiaries of the system do not even realize that they are swimming in a massive ocean of privilege. Systemic racism has that dangerous blinding effect.

In South Africa, the complications of racism and systemic racism (which includes racist spatial design) continue to shape conditions of society. Historically, Blacks have commuted between their native spaces (homes and neighborhoods) and workplaces where the host culture has been predominantly White. Beyond movement and transportation from home to work or even school, this has required daily cultural migration so that a person is able to live effectively in two but different worlds. Oftentimes, adult Black males or females have left their homes in positions of honour and have arrived at work as subordinates, security officers, garden boys, maids etc. – this is the daily migration in social status. Post 1994, we’ve seen this huge migration of middle-class Black families to suburbs. This migration has produced a situation in which Black families have been integrated into suburbs and churches whose host culture is White. Even though these Black families may own properties and be church members, they still have to conform to “something”. This migration has been one-sided for obvious reasons – it’s been a movement from the village or township to the suburb. It has resulted in racially mixed churches in which there is a dominant or host culture. And so therefore, the project of reconciliation and diversity has been a challenge in the church for the following reasons:

  • The inability of pastoral leadership to engage the journey of reconciliation, resulting in the inability to lead congregations to the same reality. The principle is, “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
  • Church building process that is focused and limited to homogeneous Sunday gatherings, rather than a broader and multi-racial society in which believers are called to live for Christ.
  • Developing internal church relationships and friendship based on racial homogeneity rather than on authentic qualities of Christ.
  • Lack of cultural perception: Paul says, “to the Jew I become like a Jew, to win the Jews…to those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law) to win them over…I do all this for the sake of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:19-23). This presupposes the ability to perceive a culture and interact with it in a non-offensive and redemptive manner. Remember, the purpose of it all is not to be a “culturalist”, it is to advance the gospel.
  • The inability to exit our native culture in order to engage another culture according to the terms of that culture: Jesus told His disciples to “eat and drink whatever they give you” (Luke 10:7). Food is a key component of culture. Jesus knew that if you can eat their food, then you can win their heart. But beyond the food, Jesus was confronting the tendency to engage other cultures based on the norms of our own culture.
  • The inability to quantify and establish the core cultural base of Christ that becomes a point of integration upon which church is built. Culture is simply a Way of Life developed over time. It is not culture if it happened only yesterday and today. If God is building a Church Community over time, He will carve and form in that Community, a core cultural base that becomes the expression of His Nature. This is what we call Kingdom Culture – it is the truth of God possessed by a collective as a Value System and a Way of Life. It is that same culture that becomes the draw card and attraction point to unbelievers of all Colour. In the absence of a clearly defined and developed Kingdom Culture or Way of Life in Christ, the culture of the dominant group inevitably becomes the host culture.

Racism and Systemic Racism can infiltrate the structures and processes of church – we have examples in the Book of Acts…

Acts 6:1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. NIV

Acts 15:Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. NIV

Gal 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? NIV

Acts 10:27 Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. 28 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” …34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism NIV

Lessons from the Early Church

We see in the Scriptures above that the early church had to grapple with the issues of racism and systemic racism. Here are some of the things we can learn from them…

  • In Acts 6, when cases of racism were reported, the leadership did not ignore them; they investigated the situation. Eventually, they replaced the racist team with a more just and kingdom-minded team.
  • In Acts 15, when the Gentiles were subjected to cultural norms of the dominant Jewish group, the leaders and some mature saints met to discuss the matter. Once a doctrinal resolution was reached, they sent letters to churches to clarify the matter.
  • In Gal. 2, when Peter demonstrated racist behavior, Paul confronted him in front of the saints. And Peter yielded himself to the rebuke of Paul in humility.
  • In Acts 10, Peter went to the household of Cornelius with deep suspicion and racist attitude. But he opened his heart under the convicting light of the Holy Spirit. Once he was convicted, he went back to Jerusalem to defend the cause of the Gospel of Reconciliation.

Paul confronted his ethnic superiority for the sake of Christ and the Gospel…

Phil 3: If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. NIV

Paul did not only confront his own ethnic superiority (as shown in Phil. 3), he constantly defended the Kingdom of God from the evils of racism – by confronting Peter in Antioch (as shown in Galatians 2) and by defending the church against Jewish racial hegemony in Acts 15.

In Christ, we are called to be a holy nation of diverse people-groups who share a common humanity in Christ. Sharing common humanity means the ff. (1) we have mutual identification in Christ that far surpasses our earthly racial identities and (2) we have a common base of value system from which we express life in this world. It therefore means that God can use us as His church, to proclaim Wisdom, a Way of Life and a consistent Civil construct across the nations of the world. This is what Kingdom Humanity means! The power of the Gospel is not simply in the process of preaching, it is in the consistency of life and civil construct across the nations of the world, one that is rooted in the Nature of Christ and in the ideals of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Racism and the Mission of the Church

Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. NIV

John 17:18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. NIV

In both Mark 16:15 and John 17:18, we see that the Lord sent us to the world. The word “world” is the word kosmos which means “an orderly arrangement”. Jesus did not send us to an arbitrary environment. He sent us to a people living in a systemic environment characterized by certain conditions and evils. Paul declared, “see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8, NIV). The phrase, “basic principles” (or rudiments) also defines something orderly in arrangement, basic and essential elements of life. This word also describes an orderly military procession of soldiers. In all these scriptures, we can see that we are sent to a people who live in a structured and systemic environment. To fail to understand the structural conditions in which people live is to fail to serve them. “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…” (Acts 13:36, NIV). In Acts 13:36, we are introduced to the word, “generation”. This word means a multitude of people living at the same time, an age or a space of time, circumstances of a particular period. David served his generation. He discharged ministry that spoke into the circumstances of his time. Emphasis is on both relevance and effectiveness of David’s ministry during his time.

When we consider our mission as church, we must reflect on the arrangements and circumstances of life that characterize the generation we are called to serve. If we are blind to these realities, then our ministry will not be effective. This necessitates for us to engage in the exercise of analyzing and profiling systemic conditions and evils of our times and generation, of which racism is part. It also requires a deep and intuitive understanding of our own respective Callings and talents. In the end, we must not only be consumed by our own specific burdens and ministries, but we must have a general understanding of these systemic conditions and know how we can draw from a pool of Gifts and Talents in the house of God, to confront these evils.

This church generation serves a society that has been shaped by European colonial era. Ours is a society in which “Whiteness” has become the default, dominant and hegemonic systemic culture that sets norms and standards. There have been other epochs in the history of the Faith, the Church and the Gospel. For example, the early Church functioned within an environment of the Roman Empire, they preached the Gospel in the colonies of Caesar and or to societies that were under Roman oppression and rule. They therefore had to understand political and cultural nuances of their day. Equally, Israel had to confront 400 years of systemic oppression in Egypt. God’s response to that situation was that “I have seen the misery of my people…I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers…I am concerned…and I have come down to rescue them” (Ex. 3:7&8). What is it that God sees today? What is He hearing? What is He concerned about? Do we share these concerns with Him? And how is He intervening in the human condition today?

We are advancing the Gospel of the Kingdom in a world characterized by European imperialism and hegemonic Whiteness – we must understand the cultural and political nuances that come with this.

Understanding the Mission: Kingdom Humanity – Church is called to express the civil construct of the Kingdom of God

In understanding our mission, we must understand how exactly we are called to express the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in the earth. Prophetic Scriptures tell us that “darkness and thick darkness” will fall upon the peoples of the earth (Isa. 60:2). Jesus says that wickedness will increase, to the point of causing apostasy within the House of God (Matt. 24:10-13). In other words, because of the conditions of life, the saints will grow cold and will become disillusioned. The idea of “darkness and thick darkness” suggests a progressive and cumulative process of disintegration of society, the kind we have seen in the situation of George Floyd. How does a man die in the streets in the USA in front of the public and in the hands of police in 2020? This means that not only must the church understand the world and generation she is called to serve, but also how the human condition is evolving into the future. If the church is armed with a proper understanding of the current and evolving human condition, then she will be able to have a prophetic and pragmatic response that displays the kind of civil construct- a Kingdom Humanity – that the nations must be sensitized towards. And so in the same Isaiah 60, the response of the people of God is “to arise and to shine as the Lod rises upon you”, with the outcome of “nations coming to your light” (Isa. 60:1-3). It is therefore important to understand the way we confront evils of our time: (1) we must evangelize people so that we can witness conversions of hearts towards the grace of Jesus Christ, (2) we must proclaim and advocate for righteousness (morality and justice) in society and in the world, (3) we must build within the church to produce model communities of faith that become the expression of a civil construct of the Kingdom of God. The one mistake we make as church when it comes to systemic evils is to major on advocacy without building from within our own ranks. We are in error as church when we expect a fractured world to display the righteous requirements of the Kingdom of God. At the very least, this reflects an incorrect eschatological viewpoint (or an incorrect understanding of the evolution of life and the human condition). Advocacy for justice, without building just and righteous communities of faith is an exercise in futility. It is nothing but a deferring of our apostolic responsibility to the world – our apostolic responsibility to be the light, not simply in word but also in form and deed. Instead of simply preaching against racism, we must demonstrate reconciled communities. It is in this context that Isaiah says, “nations will come and say “teach us your ways”” (Isa. 2:2&3).

When it comes to systemic evils in society, we have something to learn from Noah: he preached righteousness against immorality, but he built a boat to save his family. He showed us the need to strike a balance between advocacy and church building, in order to effectively advance the Kingdom of God. Essentially, the Kingdom of God is within us and it is among us, it is not “out there”.

Equally, we are in error as church when we try to fix systemic evils within the church, by using the tools and mechanisms of this world. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 6 And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete” (2 Cor. 10:4-6, NIV). Paul says, “we demolish arguments”. The word “arguments” means reasoning, concepts and ideas. We’ll most likely see churches starting the conversation on racism and reconciliation after this George Floyd incident, this is not a bad thing. However, it remains to be seen whether church will elevate the principles and doctrines of the Kingdom of God above the ideologies of man. Here is the issue: if the world had such great concepts, tools and mechanisms to solve its problems, then it wouldn’t be what it is today! It is a big mistake when pastors relegate their responsibility to lead the churches to reconciliation in Christ, to those perceived to be “knowledgeable and ideologically astute” on matters of racism. This does nothing but polarize the conversation, leading to more questions than answers. Pastors may consult others, especially their pastoral peers and especially those who are not of the “same fold” – but they must eventually lead their churches. We cannot outsource this pastoral duty. Pastors must lead the charge, but they must do so filled with wisdom, courage, grace and humility, backed up by a testimony of personal transformation in the journey of reconciliation.

Eph 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. NIV

The word “wisdom” used in Eph. 3:10 means to be skillful in the affairs of life, wise administration of life. This word emphasizes the need for a global community of faith that is the expression of the civil construct of the Kingdom of God. The manifold wisdom should be made known – the phrase, “made known”, carries the idea of proclaiming and broadcasting something. When Jesus declared, “I will build my church” in Matt. 16:18, He was not referring to a devotional service, but a global community (the ekklesia) that would broadcast the civil construct of the Kingdom of God in the earth.

One New Humanity: The Cross, the Gospel and Systemic Reconciliation

Eph 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man [one new humanity] out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household… NIV

Church must believe in the power of the Cross to effectively deal with the human condition, including racism. The administrative process of the Cross reflects some powerful principles that must be established in our lives and churches. Jesus reconciles conflicting realities: He is God and man, King and Servant, Eternal Word in Mortality, and a privileged Son of God who leaves heavenly glory only to be born in a manger. His crucifixion reflects a reality in which One who is holy and innocent is convicted as a criminal, and where One who is all powerful sacrifices His life in complete weakness. Equally, it reflects a situation where one who dies in weakness and shame is restored back to life, power and glory. These contradictions that we see through the Cross are the foundations of Classism and Racism in the earth, and yet Jesus brings them to a resolution through His death. No matter which angle you look at the Cross, every narrative is catered for and covered, and conflicting narratives of Class are reconciled.

Through the Cross, the one who has power and privilege is called to lay it down in the process of redemption, and the one who is wounded and marginalized is called to give away his pain in exchange for healing and restoration. That is, both White privilege and Black pain are forms of brokenness, they both will blind us from seeing the glory of God, and they therefore both require the saving power of Christ. Through this process of divine exchange at the Cross, reconciliation happens. As the one with privilege and the one who is marginalized both move to the Cross, they find each other at the Confluence of Redemption. Remember, the common problem that both the privileged and the marginalized share is one of sin – they both have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. They both share a fundamental guilt and sin of revolt and rebellion against God. They have consequently descended into a chaotic life and into the valley of the survival of the fittest. In this valley of human chaos, the narrative of justice is limited since it is shaped by the victim of human conflict and marginalization. But the Cross shines the light on that narrative, exposing the underlying hypocrisy and revealing that the core issue of injustice is not primarily between humans or people-groups, it is between collective humanity and God – the revolt of humans as a collective, against the arrangements of God. This is what Jesus comes to pay for – a penalty for the sin of collective humanity. And so through Him, our sins are atoned for and justice is served. Through Him, we, the collective humanity are justified and declared innocent again. Now we can begin the journey back to His righteous order. As we see in Acts 2 and 4, the privileged begins to live in fellowship and generosity and the wounded begins to live in healing and restoration – they are now one family, One New Humanity. They both must offer something in return to God’s redemption, the one offers back to God his privilege and the other offers back to God his pain – instead of having the gods of privilege and pain, you now have the true God, Jehovah, reigning over life again. Any cheating by anyone of the two violates the Cross – if the one does not give away his privilege or the other his pain, the system simply doesn’t work. In this way, we are crucified with Jesus Christ, both the privileged and the wounded. We are crucified to the world and the world to us. We no longer live but Jesus Christ lives in us and through our conditions. We now start the journey of following Him, carrying our own Crosses daily, having given away our privilege and pain. And we who were conflicted, start to find each other at the Confluence of Redemption. Now, we can be a part of the Community of the Redeemed, the Church. We can now look at the George Floyd crisis and offer the world a different narrative, a narrative of Christ (the Gospel) and not one of our native pasts. I’m not referring to a shallow and artificial tapping of each other’s backs and empty repentance, I’m talking about two lives that are subjected to the transformation of Christ and that can be used by God to reconcile irreconcilable narratives. This is what it means to be a Community of the Redeemed. We don’t go to the Cross to receive salvation and then walk away wiping our mouths in thankfulness to “God’s grace”. We go to the Cross to receive salvation and to give away our narratives and conditions (both privilege and pain), so that God can start us on a new journey towards reconciliation in Christ, as different people and people-groups. The Cross is the place of Divine Exchange. It is for this reason that Paul considers his Jewish privilege loss for the sake of Christ. And it is for this reason that Paul teaches the Corinthians that Jesus Christ died for us so that we would live for Him (2 Cor. 5:15). It is for this reason that he teaches the Philippians that we are not only called to believe in Jesus, but also to suffer for Him (Phil. 1:29). To receive Jesus and keep your privilege or pain is to cheat the process of salvation.

 

I recently shared aspects of my story of Personal Salvation in a podcast with a friend. In my salvation, I had to process in Christ historical moments of provocation by Systemic Racism (among other personal fragilities). I grew up in northern Zululand, in an underprivileged village. There are three distinct experiences that had to come to a place of resolution in my heart: (1) the first had to do with being exposed as a young teenager to Apartheid armed forces manning a funeral of the uMkhonto WeSizwe (MK) operative in my village – this incident provoked something in me as a young African boy, (2) witnessing the reality of plantations in deep northern Zululand each time I visited my uncles during school holidays – a few massive houses of White farmers in the midst of broken and poverty stricken villagers who worked in the plantations, (3) assuming a career in a pro-White environment in which I had to learn to switch between enjoying soccer during weekends and hearing stories of rugby on Mondays (interestingly, my son loves rugby now and I have since fallen in love with the game myself, although I used to view it through political lenses in the past). Unless my salvation could deal with these heart issues, then it would have been useless. But I had to learn to give away my pain, and trust that Christ had something better for me. Primarily, I was not giving my pain away for White people, but because of my love for Jesus Christ. I realized that I had a better inheritance in Christ, here on earth and in eternity. I’m sure that there are numerous similar stories across race-groups. This is the demonstration of the power of the Kingdom of God in our lives and times.

 

In Ephesians 2:14-19, the Gospel is not only about reconciliation of God and humans, but it’s also about reconciliation between humans and between people-groups. In this scripture to the Ephesians, Paul uses some important words to give us some clues about the process of reconciliation and the consequential formation of one new humanity:

  • The dividing wall of hostility or the middle wall of partition (vs.14): “hostility” or “partition” describes a thorn hedge around a vineyard, a fence, a barrier. The picture that Paul is giving us is one in which people-groups are fenced by hostile cultural hedges, making it impossible for them to access one another. Any attempt by one people-group to reach out to another outside of Christ results in offense, pain and hostility. What Christ does is that He abolishes these thorny hedges, creating access again between people-groups.
  • He abolished… (vs.15): this word means to render something ineffective, useless and inactive or to do away with. The idea is that while we remain in our ethnic profiles, and yet we may not flex our cultures before Christ or in the House of God, especially when they are in conflict with the Kingdom of God. Our cultures can be used in the process of preaching the Gospel, with the intent to redeem others (“to the Jew I became like a Jew in order to win them over”), but also, we can celebrate redeemable aspects of our cultural traits, provided they enhance and establish the reality of God as the Creator of diversity. However, in all of this, we are clear that we share a common image and humanity in Christ.
  • He abolished commandments and ordinances (vs.15): this speaks of traditions and dogmas or established opinions, worldviews, and stereotypes. It speaks of critical beliefs that shape how we do life and how we engage with other race and cultural groups.
  • To reconcile them (vs.16): this word “reconcile” has two meanings – (a) firstly it means to leave something behind, (b) secondly, it means to change mutually. This word therefore captures both the ideas of movement away from something and transformation into a new reality. This process of reconciliation is not one based on “negotiation” between humans, it is one based on Divine Facilitation of heart transformation by the Holy Spirit. This is a little different from talking over a personal offence. This is systemic reconciliation that is based on mutual obligation and transformation in Christ.

When we combine the ideas of “abolition of dividing wall of hostility” and “reconciliation”, we realize that God is dealing with Systemic Reconciliation in the church, and not simply the resolving of personal offence. The agenda of Systemic Reconciliation is set by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of His Word, through prophetic, thoughtful and intentional pastoral interventions and by the conviction of the human heart. It is when God reveals the underlying sin behind systemic pain and systemic privilege. The Scriptures are therefore truthful when they declare that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. If we are convicted by the Scriptures, we must then engage the journey to find out what that sin looks like in the context of our conflicting narratives. Systemic Reconciliation is the removal of structural fences that exist between race-groups and cultures. Although cultures of man come in different forms and shapes, they all have an underlying posture of pride, which is based on belief of authenticity of one’s culture over others. It takes Christ to confront this cultural pride and bring us to the freedom of the Kingdom of God.

What must the Church do to deconstruct Racism?

When we go back to the words “world” (orderly arrangement) and “generation” (conditions characterizing a particular generation and time), then we see that this church generation has been sent by the Lord Jesus Christ to minister to a world characterized by certain evils, including  racism and systemic racism. Therefore, to engage this mission of the Kingdom of God effectively, we must build a holy church that is powerful enough to confront, deconstruct or demolish the evils of systemic racism. To do this, we must consider the following church building processes…

Preach the Full Gospel of the Kingdom of God: there is need to stop perceiving the issue of reconciliation as “political” and “ideological”, it is time to see this as a Gospel imperative. The full gospel of the Kingdom of God is not only about reconciliation of God and man but it’s also about reconciliation between humans and between people-groups (race-groups, gender-groups and age-groups). Just as we have doctrines that help humans to build a relationship with God, we must equally teach, preach and build on issues relating to systemic reconciliation of humans and people-groups in Christ.

Embrace Christ for Personal Salvation and as a Value System of the Collective: it does take hearing the same thing repeatedly over a period of time before we are able to internalize and embrace it as truth. Silence on certain aspects of truth therefore suggests to believers that these issues (like racism and reconciliation) are not that important in their journey of salvation.

Receive the King in the context of the Culture of His Kingdom: we have made a mistake of receiving Jesus within the framework of our own earthly cultures and cultural biases, and not within the framework of the Kingdom of God. There is no King without a domain. A domain is basically an arrangement of life – a composition of principles that define a Way of Life. Jesus can only be King in His Kingdom! We therefore can only be subjects of the King in His Kingdom! Therefore, beyond teaching on the Nature of Christ, we must start to teach more on the nature of His Kingdom. It is for this same reason that Jesus spent a lot of time teaching on the Kingdom of God.

Build upon a Model of Community instead of Devotional Service: it is impossible to establish certain important aspects of Community such as meaningful social interface where church is only about Sunday morning devotional gathering. For this reason, Jesus has called us to be a Community of Faith in the midst of our neighborhoods, and to be the Light of God in the midst of darkness and fractured life. Building solely on the premise of Sunday morning devotional platform compromises authentic relational engagement amongst believers. It results in a situation where believers only have Sunday morning as a platform of engagement. In this context, believers remain “strangers” and tend to gravitate towards those of “the same kind”.

Establish Leadership and Deacon teams that inspire Systemic Reconciliation: this is not only in terms of actually mixing teams where this is possible (and we know that the establishment of representative teams is a common biblical practice, but it must be done with discernment, wisdom and thoughtfulness), even where teams are homogeneous, their lives, conduct and lifestyles should inspire godliness, peace and reconciliation in the church.

Facilitate a Salvation process that goes beyond Personal Purification to include Transformation from Systemic Sins: walking with Christ involves not only seeing your personal sins but also the sins of the culture from which you were born and raised. In the words of prophet Isaiah, this is about seeing that “we are of unclean lips and we live among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5). Intimate awareness of deficiencies of our own earthly culture, empowers us to better engage other cultures and to effectively represent Christ in society.

Engage in godly and intentional Parenting around issues of race: the Kingdom of God is not only advanced through Sunday morning preaching, but also through parental processes. Fathers (or parents) must bring their kids up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). In the Old Covenant, the Lord repeatedly instructed parents to talk to their children about law, history and matters of life. Parents must be intentional about having race-relations conversations with their children at home. They must be intentional about what they do and say when they are most relaxed, because kids learn by assimilation. And they must be creative about how they transmit and impart the values of the Kingdom of God to their kids. And most importantly, parents must be firm on themselves, their kids and others on issues of racism and reconciliation. Church must in turn equip parents to do their job correctly and effectively.

Recognize and Confront Discrimination as sin: if there is one thing to learn from Acts 6, it is that a lot can happen within the realm of deacon teams. In Acts 6, a team of deacons practiced discrimination, the apostolic leadership investigated the matter and dealt with it. In James 2:1-13, the issue of discrimination is recognized as sin that violates the cause of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. We must recognize this as such in the church today.

Realize that even as a homogeneous group, church is still not a social island, it exists in a diverse world: we must equip believers not simply for devotional or fellowship life within the church, but for effective life in a racially diverse and broken world. In this context, there is no such thing as a “homogeneous church”. Even the apostle Peter who was called to minister specifically to the Jews still found himself in racially and culturally diverse contexts where he needed to demonstrate a heart and conduct of reconciliation (Gal. 2:11-14).

Refuse to adopt the Culture of this World: we are encouraged in the Scriptures to not conform to the patterns of this world (Rom. 12:2). The word “conform” means to take the shape of the mould of the world, like liquid that takes the shape of its container. The danger of adopting the culture of the world is that we will inevitably allow racism and discrimination to infiltrate the house of God.

Develop a Comprehensive Discipleship Process that covers both Devotional Life and Civil Obligation for Public Welfare: the Kingdom of God is built on the foundations of love for God and love for your neighbor. According to the teachings of Jesus (Luke 10:25-37), the neighbor is neither the owner of the house next door nor a fellow church member. The neighbor is a fellow countryman and a fellow citizen (this obviously includes our fellow church members etc.). And so the application of the instruction to “love your neighbor as yourself” must find itself in how we engage public affairs and situations. We cannot be spectators of injustice when we are children of God. In this context, church can produce powerful believers and disciples who can advocate for justice and administer cultural and institutional reforms in society.

Promote cross-cultural ministry, teams and friendships: in Acts 10 we see a beautiful and yet difficult situation where the Holy Spirit sets the ministry date between Peter and Cornelius. Peter on the one hand, was the oppressed Jew who had his own cultural prejudice and racism in his heart. Cornelius was the Roman military officer who represented Roman hegemonic power. “As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”” (Acts 10:25&26, NIV). Peter was clearly received with a deep sense of honour, almost to the point of being worshiped. And then something significant happened to Peter: “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (Acts 10:34&35, NIV). A senior military officer bows down before a Jew, in complete violation of the hegemonic power he represents, and the Jew is confronted in his heart and delivered from prejudice and racism. This is the fruit of internal cross-cultural ministries and teams in the church. That is, when we activate mixed and cross-cultural teams, we create an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to convict hearts and transform lives.

Advocate for Kingdom Justice in the world: there are three dimensions of justice from the point of view of the Kingdom of God: (1) since all mankind has revolted against God’s righteousness, we are all guilty of sin and have committed injustice against God. For this reason, we all need Jesus Christ. To expect an orderly and a just world in a context where we all have revolted against God’s order is deeply hypocritical. (2) In the scriptures, the word “justice” carries two meanings of morality and equity. Justice in the context of human brokenness is often viewed through the vantage point of the marginalized, it therefore tends to focus only on issues of systemic inequality and not necessarily on morality. In the Kingdom of God, there can be no justice where there is no morality and there can be no justice where there is no equity. It is for this reason that God liberated Israel from systemic oppression in Egypt but judged them later in the desert, for violating His righteousness. Although Israel was delivered from material and systemic oppression, they still did not fulfill God’s justice in that they began to indulge in sin. Equally, when Jesus intervened in the story of the woman found in adultery, He pushed back the powers that wanted to stone her to death, but He equally told her “to go and sin no more”. In this way, Jesus administered justice according to the requirements of the Kingdom of God. As the Scriptures state, we have all sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. We are in error when we advocate the kind of justice that majors on issues of equity without putting God’s demand for morality (upon ourselves and upon the world). And here is what we must consider – issues of immorality tend to cut through race and class groups. In other words, the first step towards justice is a return to God’s righteousness. (3) There is enough evidence in the Scriptures that shows us that God does intervene in cases where one people-group is oppressed by another – this is contextual justice applicable to specific human conditions (e.g. Egyptian oppression of the Jews or Apartheid in South Africa). It is important to note that this dimension of justice tends to evaporate quickly where issues of morality are not addressed.

Empower Successive Generations – by removing “the reproach of Egypt”: in Joshua chapter 5 verses 1-12, God takes the generation of Joshua through the process of circumcision. Although this was a new generation that had been born in the desert and that therefore had not encountered oppression in Egypt, God still saw the need to circumcise them with the intent to remove “the reproach of Egypt” (Josh. 5:9). What was God doing? He was removing the memory and psychological trauma of oppression. In South Africa, we now have a generation that did not experience Apartheid, but that lives in the memory of Apartheid. On the one hand, we have a Black generation that hears stories of oppression of Blacks, on the other hand, a White generation that is aware of historical systemic privileges of Whites. Both these youths are encountering the past without anybody mediating the process to establish a kingdom perspective. And so they each want to advance their cause according to their historical narratives. This results in the kind of explosions we are seeing and the kind of racism that has played out in Social Media. This generation needs their own “Gilgal” experience of transformation so they can fully walk into their own destiny. It is therefore time for church to significantly change the profile of youth ministry, to allow the Holy Spirit to minister to the next generation. Amazingly, as soon as the generation of Joshua was circumcised, they celebrated a Passover. And we know that the Passover principle signifies transition from one era to another. This is what South Africa needs right now.

All in all, as we proclaim the Gospel amidst human and systemic evils, we must not lose sight of the way in which the Kingdom of God advances: Firstly, the Kingdom of God is within us. This means that the first step in sharpening the sword of kingdom advocacy is in allowing the Kingdom of God to confront our hearts. Secondly, the Kingdom of God declares all humans and people-groups to be sinners who have fallen short of the glory of God. The fundamental sin of humanity is collective rebellion against the righteous requirements of God. It is therefore just as sinful for any human or people-group to assume that they can get justice in a world in which all humans have rebelled against God. Thirdly, the Kingdom of God builds from bottom up – from the foundation of the human heart to systemic issues. It is for this reason that Jesus may have appeared to some to be “unconcerned” about the issues of the day. He walked around ministering within what was a colony of Caesar, meaning that this was an environment of injustice and military occupation. Jesus offered healing to a centurion’s servant, and he even praised the same centurion for his faith (Matt. 8:5-13). He had dinner with a corrupt tax collector, Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9). And He shifted the conversation when His own disciples were calling for a revolt against the Roman Empire (Acts 1:6&7). Why did Jesus do all of this? Because He knew that His own disciples still had lingering racism issues that still had to be confronted (as we see in the case of apostle Peter). Once the foundations of the human heart were clean, the church was ready to engage and confront systemic powers of Rome. Fourthly, the Kingdom of God is not a matter words, it is about practically carrying the Cross of Sacrifice daily, to become a conduit of public transformation.

The “revolution” of the Kingdom of God begins in the transformation of human heart, it is outworked in human lives, lifestyles and families, and then proclaimed to systemic conditions and powers. Equally, every proclamation we make to systemic powers, must become a platform and a measure of self-evaluation. The greater the gap between our advocacy and personal transformation, the weaker the Kingdom of God becomes – in such a context, we can achieve some “revolution” but never an eternal fruit of the Kingdom of God.

Resources

Please follow the links below to access other resources relevant to the current pandemic…

  1. Mr President: We shall err on the side of Caution
  2. On the Issue of Essentiality of Church
  3. The Lockdown Debate and the Issue of the Vantage Point
  4. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 1
  5. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 2
  6. Covid-19: A Prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 1)
  7. Covid-19: A prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 2)
  8. Restating the foundations of the New Covenant
  9. Drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic
  10. Doing church in the crisis of coronavirus
  11. Note: if you wish to listen to the podcast I referred to earlier in this article, on the story of my Personal Salvation and journey of Transformation, please follow the link A conversation with Ps Robert Ntuli.

 

George Floyd face

 

Robert Ntuli

Pastor – LivingStones Agency

Visionary Leader – Kingdom Humanity Fellowship

 

Robert Ntuli © 2020

Mr President: We shall err on the side of Caution

Cyril Ramaphosa facing upThe death of Jesus Christ facilitated the tearing of the temple curtain that served as a partition between the holy and the most holy place. This symbolic act represented a proclamation, a reformation and a shift into a new spiritual dispensation of direct and personal spiritual relationship with God. From this time onward, we would not need representatives and mediators between us and God. Jesus Christ had become our Mediator. We no longer needed representative spirituality that was centered around a physical building, activated on certain days or months and based upon a human representative. Instead, God was now indwelling our hearts, wherever we were. When the Gospel reached the shores of Africa, it interfaced with a culture in which spirituality was exercised in the context of the home and the household. European missionaries who sacrificed their lives to bring the Gospel to Africa, having themselves received it from the Middle East, missed a moment in understanding cultural leverage points that would make the Gospel even more powerful in the African context. The African needed a conversion of belief, but not a replacement of a platform of spirituality. That is, the African (just like any other people-group that received the Gospel) needed God in his heart and home first, before the public place of worship – of course the two have a mutual relationship. In saying that, we are forever thankful to God for the missionaries who brought the Gospel to Africa. There is nothing that surpasses the opportunity to hear about the saving grace of Jesus Christ!

In talking about a dispensation of direct and personal spirituality, we are not meaning that church leadership is now unnecessary. The God who saved us and who has established this new system or covenant in which we have direct personal relationship with Him, has equally established the structure of the church. This involves structures of leadership (pastors or elders), leadership gifts that edify the Body of Christ (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) and the continued practice of fellowship and constant gathering. Thus, the New Covenant is built on the foundation of direct personal spirituality that is exercised within a structured church community in which there are leaders. We cannot deny the one for the other. But equally, we must appreciate the foundation of direct and personal relationship with God upon which the structures of the church are built.

During the address by the President last Tuesday evening, he correctly outlined for us that South Africa is a spiritual nation. Growing up as young boy, I witnessed this very reality – we prayed when we were happy and we prayed when we were grieving. And this was not just in our family, but in the entire village and neighborhood. So, the President was correct in his statement. It was also clear in the President’s address that certain structures of the religious community in the main, and of church in particular, had lobbied the government to include the opening of church gatherings at alert Level 3 of the Lockdown, with a compromise of gatherings of 50 people. The word “lobby” defines a democratic process in which a groups of people engage the government to influence legislation and policy. “Lobbying” comes from the historical practice in which people met with legislators in hallways or lobbies of parliamentary buildings, to discuss laws. Thus, the word “lobby” reflects the ideals of advocacy, active citizenship and a healthy democracy. In other words, the mechanism of lobbying is absolutely necessary, but the agenda of lobbyists can sometimes be flawed, producing an undesirable legislative or policy outcome. Pontius Pilate experienced this firsthand. He was the governor who was handcuffed by the masses who were lobbying for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It was a difficult moment: Pilate had no legal basis to execute Jesus, his own wife was having nightmares and begging him not to get involved in what was clearly an unjust cause, religious leaders were lobbying powerfully and the masses were also demanding the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Eventually, the governor washed his hands and declared: “I am innocent of this man’s blood…it is your responsibility. All the people answered, “let his blood be on us and our children””. (Matt. 27:24-25). The outcome was that Judas Iscariot – the one who had betrayed his own Teacher, committed suicide and the religious leaders (known as Pharisees) slowly lost their authority in society. It therefore remains to be seen who will take responsibility in the possible winter outbreaks of Covid-19, within churches that decide to resume gatherings in June. Is it going to be the government that allowed churches to meet amid winter, or is it going to be church leaders who lobbied government? We would not want to take the approach of having to process figures of Covid-19 fatalities in relation to what we could have prevented.

In all of this, here is the issue before us: The President mentioned the fact that we are a spiritual nation – as his basis for the need to allow church gatherings of 50, under alert Level 3. I would assume that the religious lobby group equally applied this very same argument in making proposals to the government. This argument misses the mark! The first thing to consider is that believers are not experiencing religious persecution. On the contrary, they are permitted and well capable to worship God in their homes (that foundation of New Covenant spirituality has not been threatened, and so we should be taking advantage of it, for a time). Therefore, we should not have to lobby a Government that is trying its best to manage a public health-related lockdown, on the grounds of anything outside the perimeter of New Covenant spirituality. Secondly, in stating that South Africa is a spiritual nation, the President inevitably acknowledged the nation’s native ability to walk through this pandemic – yet in the same breath, perhaps compromised further delaying the untimely winter outbreak, by allowing church gatherings of a people that have a soul rich enough to carry the moment and hold the line, for a couple of months, at least until the fog of winter is over.

The other argument that was put forward by the church, was that since funerals of 50 persons were allowed in Lockdown alert Levels 5 and 4, there was no basis for not allowing weekly church gatherings of 50, in alert Level 3. This argument is not quite convincing, for the following reasons: we never plan to have funerals weekly (that is a decision only God can take). And when we do have funerals, families play a significant role in administrating social distancing regulations, of course under the oversight of the officiating pastoral leader. Sunday morning gatherings and funerals simply have very different administrative processes – the family can plan who attends a funeral, whereas Sunday morning has an element of surprise in that you can have visitors (which is a good thing from a church point of view, under normal circumstances). In this argument, we effectively compared apples and oranges.

Well, the good thing that this lobby process reflects, is that we have a government that listens. This is what we have heard from the President and some cabinet ministers from time to time. Our government must be commended for this. And perhaps our President’s background in the Trade Union movement has come to his advantage in this moment, in the sense that he has consulted widely during this State of Disaster regime. This means that the lobby process between the church community and the government was reflective of a healthy democracy. Nonetheless, the agenda, content and outcome of lobbying missed the real need of the nation – the exercise of caution, in an effort to save lives until we’ve at least cleared the fog of winter. On the one hand, the government must listen, on the other hand, it must still lead. How do we open church gatherings in winter season, when people are going to be sneezing, coughing, and having all other flu related symptoms associated with winter? In my opinion, this is what the church community should have lobbied for. And perhaps this is what the Government should have then acceded to: opening up pastoral care and counselling (including church buildings and offices), as well as relief related church ministry, without worship congregations, until at least the fog of winter is clear. It seems to me that the church community presented two things to the government: (1) people’s need for spiritual worship, and (2) pastors’ need to care for the people. These conditions could have been met by allowing pastoral care while encouraging people to worship God from their homes, as a temporary condition.

To effectively engage this lobby process, church had to shake off the idea of putting its activities in the same basket as permitted economic activities. Essentially, church is neither an activity or a commodity; church is the spiritual consciousness of a people – their personal and collective faith in God. That is, in relaxing the lockdown, we have to navigate the two imperatives of LIVES and LIVELIHOODS. Instead of seeing itself as a third component to these two lockdown imperatives, church had to see itself as a steward of spirituality and spiritual consciousness of the nation. That is, as people go back to work, for the sake of their livelihoods (which should be the concern of the church, that people are able to work so they can eat), people do so driven by the principles of the faith. The easing of the lockdown for the sake of livelihoods, is in itself a spiritual principle and domain. The primary thing that church should be concerned about is that this whole process of establishing and easing the lockdown, is under-girded by spiritual principles and consciousness. This is a much more powerful leadership role in society by the church, than advancing limited interests.

When considering what the government strategy has been thus far – a gradual relaxation of the lockdown or the risk adjusted strategy, it is difficult to understand how we open up both the Schools and Church all at the same time, when we still have unresolved issues within the Education sector itself. After all, as we look around, it seems that some churches are deferring re-opening their worship congregations (and this includes the one I lead). A prevalent fault in the lobbying process, is that those who engage political power sometimes do so on behalf of segments of the constituencies they claim to represent. On the other hand, the government must ascertain and be fully satisfied of the representative nature of the lobbying process.

Let us remember, we are a constitutional democracy. This is the context within which all of this is happening – where “Law is King” and where our Citizenship is facilitated by the Rule of Law and not by the interests of the majority. Therefore, the idea of opening activities of the religious communities, on the grounds of them being the “dominant group”, potentially presents some constitutional challenge for those who are not necessarily integrated into religious life. For this reason, the religious community in the main and church in particular should view themselves alongside fellow South Africans, not because they are obligated by lockdown regulations, but because of the Gospel. Needless to say, we as Citizens, must continue to put our constitutional lenses, understanding the constitutional jurisprudence (or philosophical outlook) of democratic South Africa, which is to restore the injustices of the past while upholding the principle of equality. Our vantage point in this pandemic and the resultant lockdown should be the poor and the vulnerable. The vulnerable are most likely to be severely affected by this coronavirus. These people exist mostly in environments of spatial crisis, where there is lack of resources and space to observe social distancing. Are we not adding to the complexity and therefore putting them at unnecessary and untimely risk by this decision to open church gatherings at the start of winter? Is it not better to continue to sound the trumpet for the need for people to stay home and refrain from unnecessary movement? Wouldn’t it have been better for the church on the one side, and the government on the other, to use winter months for advocating and educating communities about what is going on? As we now talk about non pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) like social distancing and washing of hands, which hugely depend on behavioral change and cultural reform, are we convinced that we’ve done enough under the limited time to drive an educational campaign on this virus?

Essentially, opening up church gatherings whilst we are still advocating for “staying at home as much as you can” is to treat the church as a community that exists in a social island apart from the rest of the nation. This goes against the fundamental principle of the faith and of the Kingdom of God, which is “to love your neighbor as yourself”. This command does not only refer to fellow church members, it also includes fellow citizens. The word “neighbor” describes a member of the same human community, a fellow countryman or a person of the same country. It is difficult for the church to pursue its devotional life (captured in the command, “love your God”) without being considerate of its civil obligations (“love your neighbor”). Biblically, it is equally true that our love for God is displayed in our love for His people – we cannot claim to love God when we are inconsiderate of our fellow South Africans. That is, the Christian faith and the Kingdom of God is built on the foundations of spiritual devotion and civil obligation for public wellbeing. The two are not in conflict, and the two may not be separated. In this context, three issues must be considered: (1) in the undesired case of cross-infections in church gatherings during this winter, the church shall be the spreader of the virus back in communities (i.e. the risk of the spread of virus in church gatherings must be understood in the larger context of communities). (2) By choosing to overlook the conditions of her fellow South Africans, church is choosing to be that “selfish and self-absorbed priest and Levite”, instead of being the “Good Samaritan” who allows interruption of his life and program, in order to take care of his fellow country man (in this case, to minimize the untimely spread of the virus in this winter season). (3) When considering the twin principles of devotional faith and civil obligation for public wellbeing, then church should perhaps have lobbied on behalf of the wider community, especially the vulnerable.

It is difficult to think of any crisis that will be as severe as this coronavirus during the presidency of Ramaphosa. In other words, this presidency or administration shall be made or broken by how it manages this pandemic, the lockdown and related matters. Someone rightly said that initiating the lockdown is easier than relaxing it. It is understandable that we are now lifting our foot off the pedal as we return to “normality”, but the idea has been to do this cautiously and gradually, for obvious reasons. While we cannot underestimate the burden upon the shoulders of the president and the government, and while we understand the imperative for a consultative process, we continue to look to the president and the government to lead us. For this reason, we are praying for the president and the government. Not only so, but we are also advocating and sharing wisdom and insight, so that we exercise good judgment as a nation and secure peace and wellbeing in the land. Jeremiah 29 verse 7 says we must pray for the city (nation), but it also says we must seek the prosperity of the city. The word “seek” means to repeatedly research wisdom and insight in the administration of public life. That is, church is called to utilize both devotional faith and administrative wisdom to mitigate crisis in the land. We cannot choose the one over the other. The idea of “choosing” (life) and making good judgment is always put alongside devotional faith in the Bible. In fact, faith outworks itself in the very administration of life. By faith Noah built the ark – he established a system of immunity to preserve life. This is the heritage of church!

As church prays, engages and supports the government, there must be leadership from the government. If God has called our president to steward the nation in this pandemic, then history shall judge this presidency on how well this moment was administrated. For this reason, it continues to be better to err on the side of caution Mr President, than to lead the nation into the fog of winter, where it might be ambushed by coronavirus. In military context (which our Minister of Health has used a lot), the ambush is usually a risk and a probability based on the intelligence on the table. Where ambush is suspected, armies put measures to avoid it, because it is always better to err on the side of caution, Mr President.

We are praying for you, Mr President, we are praying for this government. And we are praying for our nation.

Robert Ntuli

Pastor – LivingStones Agency

Visionary Leader – Kingdom Humanity Fellowship

Resources

Please follow the links below to access other resources relevant to the current pandemic…

  1. On the Issue of Essentiality of Church
  2. The Lockdown Debate and the Issue of the Vantage Point
  3. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 1
  4. The Doctrine of Suffering – Part 2
  5. Covid-19: A Prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 1)
  6. Covid-19: A prophetic characterization of the current pandemic (part 2)
  7. Restating the foundations of the New Covenant
  8. Drivers for effective life in the current season of the pandemic
  9. Doing church in the crisis of coronavirus