Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “transformation”

Could we be the hope of the world?

What if we are God’s solution to the world’s brokenness? Common Ground Church pastor Ryan TerMorshuizen shares why he believes the local church is the hope of the world.

I heard a statistic a while ago that stated that the person you are is pretty much determined by the age of 13. Thirteen? Really?

The research, conducted by the Barna Group, went on to state that there are only three major factors that will cause you to change after this age. The first is if you have a true desire to change, the second is if you’re in a community, which provides an environment for change, and the third is what they called “acts of God”.

It hit me like a wave. Who better to provide those three things than the local church?

Suddenly, I realised that the local church is the ultimate environment for change because it’s where the gospel brings a real understanding of our identity, our purpose, and our destiny – calling us to change.

And not only is it the perfect community to come alongside those with a desire for change, it is also in the local church where we can have the greatest expectation for the miraculous ‘acts of God’ in ours and other peoples’ lives.

This was such a huge moment for me where everything fell into place. I committed myself freshly to the mission of the church, not because of the pay check but because I wanted to be part of bringing this message and building this community of change.

The lights had gone on for me. The church really is the hope of the world.

That’s quite a statement.

Yes, it is. And I hope a few of you are now asking yourselves, “But isn’t Jesus the hope of the world?”

And of course he is! The only reason I can say that the church is the hope of the world is because Jesus is the true and ultimate ‘hope of the world’ and the church is called to represent him.

One day he will return and reveal himself in fullness but until then he has chosen to link himself to human instrumentality and use us – his church – to spread this good news and point people towards him.

And so we, the church, become the hope of the world in our time.

Why the church?

The word ‘church’ is a loaded one that means many different things to different people. So it’s important to clarify that when I talk about the ‘church’ I’m not referring to a building or an organisation.

As Christ-followers, we are all ‘scattered’ as the church into our many different communities, families and work places, while still being grafted into the greater body of Christ. And there is also the ‘local’ or ‘gathered’ church, which is a gathering of believers in a certain area under a specific leadership team of biblically mandated elders and deacons.

William Temple wrote that, “The church is the only cooperative society that exists for the benefit of its non-members.”

Almost everywhere in the Bible, evangelism and social concern go hand in hand. When we look at the life of Christ we see that Jesus held in tension a relationship between evangelism and social concern. It is said that he went about both “teaching and preaching” and also “doing good and healing”.

That’s why the local church becomes the hope of the world, not just in the redemptive potential of people being healed and transformed by the love of Christ, but also in the redemptive potential of Christ-followers being ignited with a passion to restore justice and love one another in a way that brings human flourishing to all.

We are the hope of the world.

When we see the brokenness and despair in the world, it’s tempting to ask “What is the church doing to fix this?” or “Why isn’t the church involved here?”

We should be cautious not to shift the responsibility off our shoulders and onto the shoulders of local church leaders and the church as an establishment.

The role of the leadership team of the local church is to “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4: 12).

But ultimately we, as individual Christ-followers, are the church wherever we are and we are called to live out our faith in very practical ways.

What does this mean for us as individuals?

By saying that we are Christ-followers, we are saying that we are the incarnational, “sent” ones. We are the ones who, like Christ, go out.

We are the ones who leave behind privilege and comfort, just as Christ left behind the splendour of Heaven, to go into our earth, to make ourselves lowly amongst others in order that we may serve, teach and give our lives for them.

Once we start to see that each individual has an intrinsic value as created by God then we will count it a privilege to serve and do everything in our power to bring hope to human life.

Christ is ultimately the hope of the world, but until his return he has commissioned us to bring his hope into the world by living our lives in a way that continually points to him.

If we will fully take on this responsibility and get involved wherever we can to bring Christ’s wisdom and love into everything we’re a part of, then we’ll begin to see true transformation happening in our city.

– Ryan oversees the Common Ground Church base staff team, as well as the leadership team of Common Ground Bosch AM. He is married to Kate and they have three children. 

What are some practical ways you can bring hope to the lives of those around you – particularly those who are in need?

Would you forgive your hijacker?

It’s the kind of question most of us hope we’ll never have to ask ourselves but one which Colleen and Fanie Bantjes had to grapple with after their traumatic experience. Roger Wood reflects on their moving story and how forgiveness has the power to transform and heal.

Photo Credit: Charlotte90T via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Charlotte90T via Compfight cc

I recently challenged a post which had been made on Facebook. The writer had implied that all domestic workers would steal from their employers.  I challenged him on the this and in response the writer asked if I was “living in the real world”.  Sadly, I am and it’s not a very nice world; it’s a deeply divided one.  In many ways these divisions are a legacy of the entrenched attitudes from our past. These can be hard to change but Paul encourages us in Romans 12: 2 to, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” But how are we to do this when hurt and brokenness run so deep on both sides?

One story I read in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago really helped me understand what this could look like practically – and in the process somewhat restored my faith in people. The story referred to Colleen and Fanie Bantjes who relocated from Johannesburg to Yzerfontein in 2004 to escape the crime in that region.

In January 2005, they decided to visit the Fossil Park near Langebaan and just before entering the park they stopped at the side of the road to make a phone call.  Suddenly a man was standing on the driver’s side of the car, pointing a gun at Fanie.  He got out of the car to give the phone to the man but a scuffle ensued.

Colleen, a committed Christian, says, she never prayed so hard in all her life.  Somehow, Fanie managed to get back in the car but stalled it as he tried to pull away.  The man by this time had moved to Colleen’s side and was pointing the gun at her. He pulled the trigger and by some miracle the bullet missed her although she was covered in cuts from the broken glass. At that point a policeman coming off duty who had seen what had happened stopped his car and with Fanie’s help caught the man.

The hijacker, Brian Pienaar, then in his early 20’s was sentenced to 23 years in prison for attempted hijacking and attempted murder.  Colleen contacted Brian in prison and sent him a Bible.  They kept up the correspondence and she sent him items to help with his schooling and clothing, such as a pair of pyjamas.

In 2011, Brian wrote to Colleen and Fanie to say that his mother had died.  He said he cried for a week.  He had had no contact with her for two years and this experience made him realise the need “to make right the wrong that you did to other people, because you don’t know if you will ever get another chance to say sorry.”  He went on to say that he was sorry for what he had done to them in 2005.

Colleen had forgiven Brian long ago and, with her husband’s support, she continues to encourage him knowing that he is beginning to put his life back together and getting training whilst still in prison.

How do we build relationships with those who may have hurt us?  By living out those words which many of us pray regularly, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:12)  It’s not easy, but once we realise how much it cost Jesus to forgive us, we begin to recognise that none of us are perfect.    Ephesians 4 : 32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Many of us have enjoyed the privileges of nice homes, caring parents, good schooling and many career opportunities.  Brian grew up on the Cape Flats, surrounded by alcoholism, abuse, gangs and crime.

In a poem “Who’s to blame”, Brian writes:

The kid is not the owner of the illegal shebeen

or the manufacturer of the deadly methamphetamine.

Nor is the kid the big drug dealer in town

who’s breaking our friends and families down.

So next time if you want someone to blame

first ask yourself, “Who’s running the game?”

– Roger Wood is a retired educator presently working as a volunteer with Common Good.  He is a member of Common Ground Constantiaberg AM.

To read the full article discussed in this post click here.

Can you think of a situation in your own life where forgiveness could lead to healing – or already has?

P.S. Other great posts to read on relationship building: Video: Bridge Walkers and Designed for Diversity

P.S.S. Have you been following the Trayvon Martin case in the US? Here are two articles that really stirred us: His name is Messiah and Lament from a White Father

The Hard Work Of Freedom

In honour of Mandela Day today, Craig Stewart, director of The Warehouse, reflects on how we as a country can enter the promised land.


Every community enslaved by its context needs its Moses figures who confront the oppressive forces lined up against it and lead it out of slavery. As a nation, South Africa has been blessed with many of these kinds of men and women. None greater than Nelson Mandela who, as I write, is heading into the mountains at the end of his life. He was one of those who led us through the Red Sea of obstacles confronting our departure from Egypt, which could have so easily destroyed us twenty years ago.

But the desert on the other side of the Red Sea is never the promised land of freedom. In the Exodus-like journey of community transformation we often find ourselves stuck wandering in the desert between slavery and the fulfilled promise of our potential intended by God. For this, we need to cross the Jordan River into the promised land. The river is smaller than the sea, but the obstacles on the other side can seem bigger.

Sometimes we’re intimidated by that which needs to be done, or the opposition, as we take the promised land. There are giants in that land that need to be faced and in South Africa they continue to stand on the other side of transformation, seemingly mocking us. Our ongoing racial, cultural and economic separation and inequality, the legacy of the 1913 Land Act, and the inheritance of violence and trauma are just three of the giants that need to be faced. If we leave the desert, we will actually need to confront them. If we stay, we can pretend they don’t exist.

Similarly, in the desert we have daily provision of manna and quail.  But manna and quail are not the same as a land filled with milk and honey or bearing large harvests of fruit. The daily manna and quail, though provided by God, are not his ultimate plan for his people, and before entering the promised land they come to an end. Sometimes the predictability and dependency of this provision keeps us trapped in the desert between slavery and full transformation.

Every community undergoing transformation needs to reach a point where it decides to cross its Jordan River and enter the promised land. At the Red Sea, Moses – the leader – stretches out his staff and God makes the impassable passable. But at the Jordan it is the people, in particular the church, who enter the river first, and then God makes the impassable become passable.

If transformation is to happen, we need to be a new generation of bold and courageous leaders like Joshua willing to face the giants of the new land. If transformation is to happen, we need to be a church willing to be the first to step into the rivers blocking our way and the first to lead in taking on the Jericho strongholds blocking our progress. If transformation is to happen, we need to be communities of people willing to take responsibility for entering our own promised land and working to make it real.

Ultimately, Moses or Madiba or any other hero, can only get us to the edge of the promised land, the rest is up to us.

– Craig Stewart is the director of The Warehouse, a non-profit organisation which serves the church in it’s response to poverty and injustice.

This article was first published in The Warehouse Update for July 2013. Read the full newsletter here.

How do you think we, as the church and as individuals, can be part of transformation in South Africa? What role do you think we can play?

Toxic Charity: Lessons from The Field

What happens when our good intentions do more harm than good? We asked three Christian development practitioners to share what they’ve learnt about how we can help people without hurting them or ourselves.

Lindsay 3


Lindsay Henley, Director of Beth Uriel, a home for previously disadvantaged young men

“Be constantly aware of what you are bringing into the relationship/acts of service in terms of your own expectations, needs and attitude. Giving can be ‘toxic’ on both ends.  Over helping to the point of ‘other reliance’ is toxic for the recipient.  It creates issues of dependency and perpetuates cycles of poverty.  While giving out of your own un-met needs and with unrealistic expectations of transformation is toxic to the giver and unfair to put on the recipient.  If the result of your service is not life-giving to yourself as well as the recipient, then hit the pause button and take some more time to think it through.”

Colleen 059


Colleen Saunders, core member of The Warehouse‘s Church Mobilisation team

“It’s easy for the well-resourced church to give of what they have to help ‘the poor’. But unless the recipients themselves recognise the possibility of change and acknowledge the need to change, that help will always be paternalistic and led by the giver – no matter how pure the heart behind the giving. Transformational development is a long, slow walk alongside another, helping them to recognise their own resources, worth and potential, and together with them seeking to restore what was lost.I value this scripture in realising how much this is on God’s heart … ‘The Son of man came to seek and save what was lost’ (Luke 19:10).”

Dave (centre back) and Liz (right) with their son Robin (left) and their grand daughter, Paige (centre front)

Dave (centre) with family

Dave Barnes, manager of Westlake United Church Trust

“Hand outs create dependency and usually don’t help people to move above their circumstances. The toxic spin off for the giver is that one can create a patronizing/paternalistic relationship with recipients where you see the person as someone always wanting something from you, not as a someone who is struggling but who could have some of their own idea(s) of how to try to improve their situation. Our help or charity can rob a person of their own initiative or enable them to maintain bad habits and remain in negative situations.

Read more…

Shifting Perspectives – Story 1

We all have a story of an incident where we pre-judged someone. Maybe it was they way they dressed, or spoke, or ate, or talked. But whatever the reason, Jesus calls us to view all people as equal, loved and valued in His sight. Here is the first in a series of stories from Common Grounders sharing their experiences.

A grocery store encounter

“I’ll never forget being at the front of a long shopping queue only to discover I was 50 cents short. It’s what happened next that really impacted me. An old man, in dirty blue overalls, with holes in his shoes and the smell of smoke on his clothes, tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a rand. Everything in me wanted to refuse it – after all – I didn’t need anything from this man surely? But I did. I needed a new perspective. One where I see all people as bearers of dignity, as able to help, not just be helped. What that old man was offering was not only some change, but a chance to change the way I see people. He offered me a chance to connect on a simple, yet profound level. And I took it.” – Julie Williams

Read more…

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