Free At Last?

27 April 1994, I can remember long queues of people about to cast their first democratic vote. I can remember rain. I can remember excitement and I can remember fear. I can remember what this day was for and what it was about. I can remember pride as a South African.

This day was for freedom. This day was so that each and every South African had an inalienable right to be a person in their own country, in their own home. This day was for each South African to be able to earn a decent wage so that we could put bread on the table. This day was so that we could tell our youth, our children that every person, irrespective of culture or colour, is a person. This day is about sacrifice, because people, young and old, male and female, black and white, laid down their lives so we could have this freedom. For some it was forcibly taken. For others it still lingers. Freedom came at a price.

While we may not be satisfied and pleased with what is happening today, we realise that true freedom cannot be brought about politically because someone will always have the power. Whether it be economic, politically or in any other form. True freedom is about being free from the control of  others and ultimately ourselves. In this sense freedom is an illusion because we will always be subject to someone with authority, someone who has a say over our time, our economics, our lives. We will always be enslaved to someone or something.

So what is freedom then? And how can we attain true freedom?

The person who the Son sets free will be free indeed (John 8:36).

Freedom will come at a price.

It will come at the surrender of yourself.

It will only truly come with Jesus Christ in your life.

You want to celebrate freedom?

Celebrate Christ.

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Are we listening?

Every now and then something comes on the scene that makes me sit back and ask, “now what?” This music video, been out for a few months now, by K’Naan and Nelly Furtado made me ask just that.

Have a look.

Locks and Hinges

After having a chat with Dr Godfrey Harold about ministry, I had to think and ask myself some fundamental questions about youth ministry.

Are we, who are in positions of authority and influence, be that youth pastors, senior pastors, elders, deacons, and leadership bodies, creating opportunities for the growth and development of youth or are we creating barriers and closing down opportunities for young people to develop or grow?

Ultimately, the numbers will show. While we do not want to focus on numbers and make it our goal and our all-in-all, numbers makes an honest reflection upon what we doing right or not. So, let’s not deceive ourselves and throw the number dialogue completely out of the window, because it is a gauge to reflect upon what we are doing. Sure, sometimes even with the best programs or the most trusted and sincere people we do not bring in the numbers, but that is the exception and not the rule.

So, have a look at your numbers. Listen to the whispers and the dialogues, and ask yourself, “why is the youth leaving our church?” “Why do the youth not want to be a part of the church?” and “what role do I play in their untimely exit?”

So to the one who has the influence, how are you influencing? How are the decisions you making affecting our youth?

Are you a hinge that is opening the door wide open for youth? Do you offer young people the opportunity to discover themselves, when we place spiritual formation on the same level as physical and emotional formation and development? To make mistakes and even mess up in a big way? To spoil the carpet that was donated more than ten years ago by a person no-one remembers any more? Do you offer the opportunity for young people to ask questions even when we do not have the answers?

Or are you a lock? Keeping the door of opportunity, self-discovery, growth and searching closed and locked? By allowing youth to not feel free to be themselves and discover what they can be in Christ sends them a clear and loud message that they are not important and do not matter. Sometimes the things we do not do has more volume than those we do.

Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

When Youth Ministry Becomes Tradition…

What is the purpose for having a youth ministry in the church? Why do churches have youth ministry?

When the church ceases to place priority on reaching young people for Christ as opposed to making sure the youth ministry in the church exists and doesn’t fall flat, when having young people in the actual ministry, it ceases to become a ministry but a tradition. A tradition of maintaining numbers in a program that is listed on the church’s organogram.

When something becomes part of “what we’ve always done here at this church” as opposed to asking the question, “what is the purpose of this particular ministry or practice?” it makes a bold statement that we’d rather have something for the sake of having something. It makes answering the questions of “why” uncomfortable and wanting to avoid instead of answering, “is there a need for this?” Too often the means becomes the purpose, and youth ministry has taken this route, where it has become a purpose instead of a means to reach young people for Christ.

Now I would want to believe that there will always be a need for youth ministry, therefore we would always see the need for youth ministry and have it in our church as part of who it is and not of what it does.

Why churches should always have a youth ministry:

  1. The Bible says so
    • When Jesus said we are to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19), he wasn’t just referring to adults. Yes, children were not seen in the light as they are today, considering the patriarchal society of the Bible, but they are part of humanity that Jesus died for. When witnessing about Jesus Christ to the nations, we should include the youth.
  2. The world is young
  3. The youth is the church of now
    • As clichéd as it might be, we need to remind ourselves again and again that our youth is important now! Not tomorrow! Now! We need to put our resources, our time, our prayers, our support behind our youth. They are not an investment where we hoping for some good return in a few years. Youth matter and they matter now like the present church because they are the present church. By saying they’re the church of tomorrow is telling them that they do not matter right now, that their youth is frowned upon. This goes against the very verse that Paul told Timothy, “don’t let anyone look down on you because of you are young” (1 Tim 4:12).
  4. Economically – they are the influx of finance
    • While this may not sound very spiritual, but where the youth are the money is. If youth attend your church, you can almost be assured their parents will follow and so will their finances. When youth graduate, hopefully they will be following in the footsteps of Christ as personal saviour, but also that they would not leave the church. By not leaving the church, neither would their resources. If you looking for a sure way to cripple the church, then ignore the youth. Treat them as unimportant, as a minority and make the way wide open for them to leave at the end of their schooling years to seek purposes elsewhere.
  5. By ministering to youth, we shape society
    • If you want to know what our society will look like in the years to come, then don’t look at our current political leaders. While they may make policies today to govern tomorrow, they are not what will shape society. It is our youth that will shape society. Have a look at our history, it has always been our youth that has shaped South Africa. Have a look at our youth today to see what our society will look like tomorrow.

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So, why have youth ministry? You tell me…

Life Is Short…And People Die Of Cancer!

So I’ve been watching Greys Anatomy over this week-end and it’s as addictive as always. With the themes of life; death; friendships; relationships; betrayal; hope; personal introspections and struggles continually up in your face, though I do sometimes wonder why it has to take media to hit home these messages?

But why did I choose this particular title? Because there is nothing more sobering than loss and death. It is only in the face of losing do we find real value of what we have, which we often take for granted. I guess the question is not so much about what we have that we should treasure more but about what we stand most at risk of losing due to neglect? So, what is the one thing (yes, I know it’s not as simplistic as defining that one thing because we are more complex than a single one thing that can define us) that you take most for granted that when it is gone, you have lost much?

  • If life is so fragile, then why do people live as if it’s not? Is it because of the fragility of life that life is lived recklessly? Or maybe it’s the go big or go home mentality? Sometimes  that mentality does more harm than good.
  • If life is defined by brevity, then why do we put off the inevitable? Does the brevity make us want to hedge ourselves in and shield us from the dangers and risks out there? Sometimes playing it safe robs us from the opportunities that life has to offer. Sometimes we miss big when we risk small.
  • If choices have to be made, why procrastinate? Why? When we choose not make our own choices in life, it is usually made and decided by other people, who often do not have your best interest at heart. So why not choose? But when you choose allow the fragility and the brevity of life to be your plumb-line.

If life is short and people die of cancer,

why allow life to simply pass you by?

Easter Eggs and Buns and Pickled Fish and…

So the festival might be steeped in pagan history and the roots might be nowhere close to Christian. So hot cross buns, pickled fish (if you live on the Cape Flats), Easter eggs and even the Easter bunny might have nothing to do with why we celebrate. Does any of those then nullify or detract from what actually happened and what it means?

The day that Jesus Christ died (be it whatever day), was to free us from the bondage of the power of sin. And his resurrection from the dead was to free us from the power of death. And yes, no amount of rituals, chocolate, fish, or resistance to the various expressions of our modern society will satisfy what really happened. Is it then so bad to have symbols and reminders of that great event?

Don’t lose focus of the big picture!

Time is Power?

Something I alluded to in the previous post on “Time is Money” is the concept that Time is Power.

Now the most basic definition, according to wiki, of power is the rate at which energy is transferred, used, or transformed. Though the power I would like to refer to is not the mathematical definition but one that is philosophical, the power that we are more aware of and see on a daily basis. The definition of power as a measurement of an entity’s ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities.

I’ve noticed at work, as I’m sure many of you may have noticed, that deadlines are killers. If deadlines are not met then we can land ourselves into some serious trouble. What always irritates me of deadlines is how unreasonable most of them are. Surely the one who enforces deadlines should consider those who have to meet them. I mean what are the criteria for setting deadlines?

Do people set deadlines because they like the sound of a certain date? Are deadlines a convenience for the one who sets it? I mean, I want to go away for a week-end and therefore I want a deadline to be one week prior so that I can enjoy myself? Do we that have to meet deadlines even have a choice in the matter? I think in that type of scenario highlights a hierarchy, a structure of authority and power.

The person, or entity, that sets the deadline is the one with the power. Power over my time, power over my situation, and power over me. How do we release ourselves from such an entity that has such control? It does remind me of “The Matrix” where people are slaves and don’t even have a realisation of their bondage to the powers that be.

I guess in a similar light, I need to consider in my life, what are some of the deadlines that I face? The average lifespan is 70 years, and yet, the limited time that we have is enforced and abused by so many people who only considers what is best for them. How much of your time is really your own? How much of your time is really used for what is important?

Who ultimately is the one who has power over your time? Power over you? Maybe it’s time to be released from that, don’t you think?

So…. Who has the power?