[notice]A diverse group of Christian leaders representing the many different styles and traditions of churches active in Nelson Mandela Bay recently got together to pray about pressing challenges in the areas of education and crime, and to seek God’s will for the church in the area. At the end of the meeting, leaders were asked to write down what God was busy doing and what he intended to do. This is a summary of what the leaders believed God was saying, according to a report compiled by some of the leaders.[/notice]
1. God is transforming God’s church
1.1 Working in unity
God points churches and denominations to a unified future. He is gathering his people in unified force to the benefit of society. Churches need to lower denominational walls, pray for unity, care for one another, and take joint action.
The Spirit of God is preparing Christ’s bride for her social role by shaking the church out of traditional patterns and renewing her for the welfare of society and the glory of God.
Mission in unity maximises the influence and witness of the church, leading to social transformation.
1.2 Prayer and social involvement
God is calling us to be socially involved. We do that through prayer and action. It will take strong commitment to the wellbeing of the community. We need to target specific issues (e.g. education, security) and places (e.g. particular schools, neighbourhoods).
Our social involvement will be effected in an atmosphere of persevering communal prayer for good to overcome evil. We experience the Spirit of God urging us to pray and fast for our metropole. We pray for the elimination of crime, gangsterism, corruption, the abuse of power, the squandering of resources, and drug abuse. We also pray for the church to be strong, steadfast and courageous.
1.3 Public witness
God is giving his church a voice and a message regarding social needs. The church needs to obey God’s Word, stand up and be visible in the city as a witness, sign, and instrument of God’s concern for society. We are called to witness to the powerful to fulfil their obligation to wider society, especially the broken and downtrodden.
The church is also the salt and the light of the world. Christians enter society in their daily work and through participating in communal life. We remind ourselves to use every opportunity in daily life to witness and work towards the healing of society. The church cultivates public worship, inviting people in various ways to have a meaningful encounter with the living and life-giving God.
1.4 Networking and partnerships
God’s actions involve more than the church and include other partners in society. The church recognises public partners, such as government, business, and academia as vital role-players in bringing healing to society. The church pledges to communicate diligently about needs and progress, mobilising informed and relevant action. We will take people across social boundaries to meet one another and to be involved with one another.
2. God is transforming society through God’s church
God creates a growing sensitivity for the needs of society in God’s church. We are blessed to be a blessing. The arena for God’s action is the whole of society. God moves the church from maintenance and self-centredness to mission in a broad group God’s world.
2.1 Redeeming education
Strong convictions were expressed regarding education:
• Education is in a serious crisis. Churches are historically linked to education and intend to play a role in the interest of restoring a functional system of education.
• The Department of Education, schools, teachers and parents are important partners for the church in bringing hope and healing to the educational system.
– Government officials must be held accountable for funding and managing a healthy system,
– educators encouraged and supported to work diligently, and
– learners encouraged to use their opportunities fruitfully.
• Churches play a role in supporting schools by helping to provide
– life skills programmes for students,
– values-driven education,
– safety and security,
– community involvement opportunities and
– by adopting schools to give relevant support (e.g. feeding programs and provision of clothing).
• Teacher burnout and effective discipline of learners, and child- and single parent-headed households are real causes of concern for the church.
• Guidelines for community involvement with schools need to be developed in co-operation with the Department of Education.
The church needs to support the SA Police by prayer, encouragement, adopting police stations and tackling the worst crime spots through prayer and community involvement.
God is the God of the downtrodden, marginalised and poor. The church has a strong historical commitment to alleviating the plight of the poor, and will continue to develop and strengthen this ministry. We need to work in a holistic manner, giving a voice to the poor and empowering them to grow towards an alternative future.
2.4 Family life
Family life is the fibre of society. The restoration of family life is vital to the transformation of society.
The city-wide prayer meeting that generated the above feedback was held at Hoogland Dutch Reformed Church on February 10. The meeting was held at the initiative of a group of senior church leaders who started praying together regularly in 2010 at the invitation of Bethlehem Nopece, Bishop of the Diocese of Port Elizabeth of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Members of the group are:
Michael Coleman, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Port Elizabeth,
Neville Goldman, Senior Pastor of the Ebenezer Centre,
Lunga ka Siboto, Bishop of the Diocese of iNqweba in the Ethiopian Episcopal Church,
Musi Losaba, Bishop of the Grahamstown District of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa,
Danie Mouton, Director for Ministry & Executive Secretary NG Kerk Oos Kaapland,
Mike Taylor, Moderator of Central Cape Presbytery of the UPCSA.
During their regular meetings which were co-ordinated by Transformation Christian Network, the leaders worked hard at developing friendship and trust. After several months of praying together the Lord led them to challenge the rest of Nelson Mandela Bay’s pastors to come together for a day of prayer. The date set was for February 10, 2011
The group also trusted God to show the most pressing needs in Nelson Mandela Bay. During the turbulent second semester of 2010 they met with various stakeholders in the field of education. The clear consensus grew that education was in a serious crisis and needed the church’s support and prayers. An invitation to the church to pray and to take action in the field of safety and security was received from Mount Road Cluster Commander, Gen Dawie Rabie. The focus of the city-wide day of prayer was therefore on these two major areas.
The group trusted God to point the leaders at the broadly representative city-wide gathering into the right direction for action after the prayer meeting.
“We therefore gave time for pastors to write down what God is doing at the moment, and what God calls us as God’s church to do,” said Danie Mouton, who facilitated the meeting, together with Pastor Mvusi Gwam. “The prayer meeting was well-attended by a diverse group of pastors from all spheres of the church in the metropole. The written feedback from the participants was summarized by members of the above group. This document represents the outcome of the feedback. It answers the question: What is God up to?”