Gateway News columnist Tendai Chitsike shares on the amazing world-impacting “student church” he leads in Grahamstown, and their daunting new challenge of acquiring a church building against unforseen odds.
By the grace of God, in the year I arrived to study at Rhodes University in 1997, God used some wonderful people at what was His People Christian Church to begin discipling me in the faith.
I had made a commitment to Christ two years before, but it was here that I came to another turning point. I encountered people who took God seriously, and helped me to begin doing the same.
Twenty-one years later, our church came to a turning point of its own. In between this time, some of our community of believers have taken God seriously enough to leave the comforts of family and familiarity, and pioneer churches in Berlin, Germany and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In stark contrast to the script I had prepared for my life, I am still in our town, leading this group of believers of students and community members as we come to a new chapter of our story.
Midway through this year, I was drawn to the story of Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan.
Joshua 3 records that God commanded them to cross while the river was in flood season. At the most inconvenient and difficult time, God commanded Joshua to advance.
Ticked the boxes
Though to a much lesser degree, I can identify somewhat. Last year, after looking and trusting for a church building for the better part of our 25 plus year existence, we stumbled upon a building that was once a church, for sale in the centre of our town. (Unbeknown to me until recently, it also happened to be the very same building that our church had prayed about more than 20 years ago.)
Within walking distance to the university and in a street of good visibility for our local community, we had a sense that this could be the ideal opportunity.
Armed with a wonderful prayer team and very little money, as the church leadership, we sensed that we should go ahead. Since that decision, we have also coincidentally “lost” (or sown) several of our elders and church staff, as work opportunities have taken them elsewhere.
As a result, in this space of 12 months, one of our staff members is currently serving as our third building manager. If I had foreseen the changes that were coming to our team, and the challenges that came with that, I doubt I would have gone ahead.
Not in our strength
But such is the nature of God that He challenges us to cross over in flood season, when we have no option but to go forward, not on the strength of our own resources or wisdom, but with His.
In case you are wondering, I am not one of those spontaneous, spur of the moment people. I enjoy test cricket played out over five long summer days. I am at home with making cautious decisions, especially when it comes to something like church buildings, which involve the stewardship of money donated by many. I am well aware of the painful stories of what many church building programmes have taken churches into.
I say all that to say this. Looking at Joshua 3 and in life as a whole, God will take us through situations, regardless of our “personality type” or preferred modus operandi, that will involve taking uncomfortable steps of faith, trusting Him when we cannot see the happily ever after.
At every stage of our purchasing and then renovating the building, we never felt that we had enough going forward. Despite this, by the grace of God and the generosity of so many, we find ourselves on the cusp of moving in and starting weekend worship services, despite being a congregation made up of mostly students.
Not the only miracle needed
Crossing the Jordan, as miraculous as that was, was by no means the only miracle required by the Israelites. The sun had to stand still and walls had to fall.
While God was doing His amazing work, Israel had to continue fighting, praying, working and trusting.
So it is with us. Sometimes we can assume that because God is involved, that this involves no effort on our part. On the contrary, God came through for Joshua (causing the sun to stand still) after they had marched all night and fought all day. This too, we are learning!
After all is said and done, however, the point of the book of Joshua is not physical possession, in as much as churches are not all about a physical building.
After the Jordan crossing, Joshua was instructed to build a monument so that future generations could know and remember the power of God.
From there, there were people such as Rahab, who encountered God as a result of the Israelites crossing. Similarly, our current journeys of faith should highlight the unchanging nature of God to future generations, and assist to help us reach the lost multitudes at home and abroad.
Partnering with us
If you would like to know more and be part of our giving initiative, please follow our Facebook page Every Nation Church Grahamstown and watch and share the video below.