If you go drinking in a township tavern in Port Elizabeth, be warned, you may be on a fast track to attending church.
Just this past Sunday (June 29, 2015) 36 people found themselves “compelled” to attend church in Zwide after encountering Pastor Kenny Nonkonyana and his “tavern toyi toyi” youth evangelism team at a tavern during the weekend.
“We go in the daylight to places where there are many people — like taverns on Fridays and Saturdays — and we come out like a flash mob with somebody preaching publicly while others go to tables where people are drinking and sit down and start to converse with them about the Gospel. And they secure appointments for people to come to church,” says Nonkonyana.
When I expressed surprise that 36 people they met in taverns had actually kept their “appointments” to attend church, Nonkonyano educated me about some Greek words from Scripture that capture the heart of his team’s evangelism style. The words are anagkazo (compelling), biazo (forcing) and anaidea (shameless). He learned these
words while reading an inspirational book on evangelism by Ghanaian pastor and author Bishop Dag Heward Mills.
Explaining how the tavern toyi toyi team, which includes 48 fiery young Christians, apply anagkazo evangelism, Nonkonyano says the people they evangelise do keep their appointments to attend church because “we take their cell numbers and then we continue to go to their place, practically, and fetch them. We do the work of evangelism shamelessly (anaidea) and we force (biazo) people to come into the Kingdom”.
Nonkonyana, who is the pastor of House of Light International Ministries in Zwide, says his team members go to people’s work, or homes, or their friends’ homes to remind them they have an appointment to attend church on Sunday.
“If he says he [one of the people they visit] can’t come to church because he has babalas [a hangover] for example, we will help him to iron his clothes you know. We will; we say ‘Let’s go!’ We want to practically bring the person to church.”
He says the 36 tavern drinkers who attended church on Sunday have had the Gospel preached to them and have made a commitment to receive Jesus.
“But we dont believe that it ends there. Many people have made a commitment but they have not repented of their sins and as a result the commitment only lasts for a short while. So we want to take people through to the point that they themselves will do the work of evangelism like us. We don’t believe it is only people who are called evangelists who should evangelise; that’s why Paul said to Timothy that he must do the work of evangelism [which includes equipping other believers to evangelise]. We want them to do the practical work of ministry; if they are just Christians we will not be content.”
Asked if the ‘tavern toyi toyi’ team ever meet resistance, Nonkonyano responded: “All the time! Funny, one time (I was not there) they met church people in their uniforms when they were in front of a tavern and the church people were complaining they were blocking the road and the people inside the tavern were not complaining. So it was very sad we did not get support from the church folk. Rather, the people who were excited about what we were doing are people who have nothing to do with the church.”
He says the youth evangelists are enjoying the hype of the “tavern toyi toyi” initiative that they first launched two weeks ago.
“We are also looking at door to door evangelism. We are open to any form of evangelism so that we may win different groups [to the Lord].”
Nonkonyana who has four children and a fifth expected “very soon”, says that he has a passion for youth ministry and holds many youth events. The youth evangelism move started during the course of youth camps at St George’s strand where they camped in a tent and did evangelism training. Thirty six young people came to the first camp and there were more than 100 at the next one.
21 day fast and prayer
In May this year he and a few men from his church pitched a tent in Swartkops Nature Reserve where they fasted and prayed for 21 days. He says: “The Lord spoke much about evangelism in the city and much of the things we are doing now were birthed through that time.”
Nonkonyana is one of a number of church leaders involved in the Switched On evangelism mission which is taking place in Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) in August. He is looking forward to being part of this historic partnership between the churches of NMB and African Enterprise.