Before you read this you may want to read our post on “Why Church Planting must be Discipleship“
On and off, We have spent the larger parts of both of our lives around church environments, being involved in youth groups, small groups and church services. We’ve been involved in incredible dynamic missions and prayer communities, and we’ve been working 9-5 jobs in places where we were the only believers.
We have experienced so much of the life of Jesus, so much good teaching, so much empowering of the holy spirit, but then sometimes, when we are out, amongst those who are not believers, it seems like it counts for nothing. We feel mute, under confident, and powerless to see things change for the better.
We saw many excellent young people get involved in youth groups and missions bases, have genuine and incredible experiences from Jesus, read his word with discipline, pray with fervor, and then go out to their everyday lives and combust. The more we see this, the more heart breaking it is.
Even in our own lives we get shocked at how full of life and energy for the things of the kingdom we can be and then, 2 days later, feel empty, alone and over run by the tide of secularism and unbelief. I hadn’t recognised this, or at least hadn’t allowed myself too until about a year ago, when I went to South Africa.
We had been dreaming about going to South Africa since before we were married, and finally we were going as a part of our DTS outreach. We were looking with new eyes, this wasn’t a place where I was going for a 2 week cultural experience, our hearts were already invested in this little township. We were full of faith and expectation that God could work in this place, and that we may be part of what he was doing there for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t our first time in Africa, but it was the first time we had come with the tough questions about it at the front of our minds knowing we couldn’t continue on without finding out the answers.
Our first 3 month time was fruitful, we saw people healed, come to faith, be nurtured in corporate prayer, enter community, worship, be known, seek God, be filled with faith for what God could do in the community around them. We worked with a local church, teaching their youth group about following Jesus, and then taking them on to the streets to reach their neighbours, by praying for healing. The change in the youth group was so impactful that the church ended changing their whole mission statement to include a focus of reaching their community.
The after 3 months, we packed up, and got ready to leave. We gathered our african friends who we had poured so much time, friendship and prayer into and said goodbye. Some of the men shared emotionally, and usual things for african men, about how we had been the first true friends they had ever had who were white, others about how they longed to do something like a DTS program that we had done.
Finally one of the africans we had worked closest with said with tears ‘Sometimes I think it would be better if missionaries didn’t come, because its too hard to say goodbye’. It didn’t really hit me at the time, I was fairly well entrenched in my belief that it is better to do a little good than none at all, in fact I still believe that. I understood how hard it was for him to make such close friends and then feel the loss of that. As I continued to think about what he had said, I realized, underneath his feelings of loss, was another sentiment; “I can’t live the same fullness of life that comes from following Jesus with you, without you”.
This statement began me asking different questions, questions for next time…keep reading!