2009 letter from lead pastor johann eloff
To have this vision, you have to do the hard yards, and climb the bridge - till you reach the summit, standing under the beautiful Australian flag. Then you feel part of it, and you take co-ownership of this lovely country - of its challenges and victories.
It is only when you climb down again, into the streets, that you find uncertain travellers searching and asking for direction.
Most of what I believe I should share with you today, is based on lessons learnt by church leaders across the world, and shared during the 2005 Global Leadership Summit. I believe when we stand ‘on their shoulders’, we will be able to share in a world wide God-given perspective on the church of the 21 century.
When people start perishing for a lack of vision, some ugly things can start happening within months. Members get restless and irritable, start behaving chaotically and some become unloving.
Some start to turn inward and want all the resources of the church to be focussed on the comfort and convenience of the already convinced. Little special interest groups start competing for the limited resources.
Some may get excited about the work of para-church organisations, with clear visions, and want to bend the whole church that way.
The majority simply stop taking church seriously. They know the church is not going anywhere, so they allow the affection of their heart to be captured by their vocational drives, their pursue of money, power, recreational passions.
Others will order take-away food and movies 5 nights per week, while their spiritual gifts waste away, their wills get weak, and their dreams of doing something great for God someday, just die. They perish on the inside each day, month, year, until they are as good as dead regarding God’s things.
Does this picture look a bit familiar?
What you then need, is a picture of the future, that would give you at least some passion about something. You may have given up believing that your pastors have the passion or the guts to rally you around a God-honouring cause - and if some of you happen to gather here on Sundays and participate without any enthusiasm, and drive away wondering why you bother with the whole thing, then I ask your forgiveness for having not succeeded in giving you a clear and meaningful vision of our future as a church, and of how you personally can take co-ownership of that vision.
If this scenario continues, all of us will just perish on the inside. What you need is a target to keep you in the game, because if you dream about God using you some day, you need a clear vision where your faith gets stretched. A vision that will cause you to say “count me in”, “sign me up”, “I’ll give my life for that vision”, “I’ll pray for that vision”, “I’ll give my tithings for that vision”!
About 50 years after God sent the people of Israel into exile in Babylon, mainly because of their idolatry, they got a chance to go back to rebuild Jerusalem, the temple of Solomon and the city walls - symbolising the presence of the Creator God, who made a covenant, saying that He wanted to be their God and the God of their descendants in their generations, and that He invited them to spend eternity with Him (Genesis 17:7).
Out of 2-3 million people, fewer than 50 000 decided to return to Jerusalem, align themselves with God’s covenant, and do the hard yards for His glory, under the leadership of Zerubbabel.
The rest were just too happy to ‘go solo’ and mind their own business. Their personal goals were not aligned with God’s goals for his kingdom.
After about another 81 years another chance arrived to return to Jerusalem, under the leadership of Ezra. Fewer than 2 000 returned this time. They found the returned remnant (including the priests) doing what their forefathers were doing when God sent them into exile… indulging themselves in various forms of idolatry.
About 13 years later, Nehemiah led a third group home with the specific aim to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. After 94 years, the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins and the city doors burnt down! Why?
There are a number of reasons - mainly mockery by their fellows, coercion by their enemies, and loss of motivation and spiritual direction. Their personal goals were not in line with God’s goals for his kingdom.
After secretly inspecting the ruined walls, Nehemiah said to the people, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding’” (Nehemiah 2:17,18).
He then organised the people to just rebuild the parts of the city wall that would protect them and their families from their enemies. He motivated them by aligning their personal goals and God’s kingdom goals.
In Nehemiah 4:6 we read, “And all the people worked with all their hearts.” He also stationed some of them behind the lowest points of the wall, posting them by families, with their swords and spears and bows, to guard the workers against angry enemies, encouraging the people saying, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14).
Within 52 days they succeeded in doing what others hadn’t been able to do in years!
I believe it is time that you become the owning stakeholders of this local church of which you are members, or planning to become members - Mansfield Christian Reformed Church! We are torch bearers of God’s illuminating promise in our part of a dark and lost world, and the only spiritual home for many, specially our children.
I believe you should know that your opinions matter, that your inputs are wanted, that your contributions are valued, that you can plan a future together and move ahead together - that you can speak into the future of this church.
I realise that, without accepting co-ownership of this church, you will eventually disengage from it and move on to find another goal in life. This is the danger we find ourselves in!
Sad thing about the story of the returned remnant of Israel is, that only seven years after they all worked together to ensure that they were safe in Jerusalem behind a strong wall of stone and clay, Nehemiah had to return to Jerusalem, all the way (1440 km) from Persia, to clean the temple!
They were still just minding their own business, and not God’s business - just like the ones who stayed behind in exile. And then God became silent for 400 years - no word from God to his people!
God called me one Saturday morning in 1970 into ministry, while reading the following words: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’” (Matthew 9:37).
I rather wanted to be a game ranger, but that Saturday morning Jesus Christ called me, to follow Him. And as I started studying His word, I started noticing His footprints, and as I started following in his footsteps, I started leaving similar prints behind. I noticed His footprints leading to those in need, and I started following, and He gave me a burning desire to leave similar prints behind.
I believe that God may also have spoken to you in a very personal way at a certain point in your life, calling you to become part of his plan. Maybe He is calling you today to make a total commitment to Him and to his vision for those in need. Maybe He is calling you today to become a fellow worker in his harvest field.
If you have been dreaming about God using you some day, maybe today is the day God will give you a clear vision where your faith gets stretched. A vision that will cause you to say “count me in”, “sign me up”, “I’ll give my life for that vision”, “I’ll pray for that vision”, “I’ll give my tithings for that vision”, “I want to be part of that team”!
I realise you will not sign up for an insignificant, low risk, safe, sanitised, tidy, easy achievable, small endeavour, that can be realised by the pastors themselves. You will only sign up for an imaginative, dangerous, challenging vision where you’re really needed.
Together with many other church leaders across the globe, I believe that where we are, is not as important as where we’re going. I believe that where others see a brick wall, we should be able to see the potential for so much more. I believe that where a vision lands in the hearts of people, they start to soar.
I believe God’s vision for us is this to spread a network of evangelism oriented Cell Groups all over the city. Cell Groups that bear the DNA of the body of Christ. Cell Groups formed by those who received the Spirit of the Risen Christ into their hearts. Cell groups reaching deep into the dark cavities of our society wherever we live - like safe little outposts - healing places for those who have no hope and who are lost. Cell groups where they thankfully serve and edify each other with special gifts received from the Holy Spirit, joyfully worshiping and praising God, listening to His pure Word, praying for each other, holding each other accountable with love and grace.
I believe we should be teaching every Cell Group Leader and member how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ ‘in a Nutshell’ with non-believers. I believe we should encourage every Cell Group Leader to teach his Cell Group members to learn from the Risen Christ independently, by spending time in His presence each day, reading their Bibles, studying his Word, answering Him in prayer.
I believe our Cell Group leaders and members should befriend and invite those in need who cross their paths, into their Cell Groups, where they can come into God’s holy and healing presence.
We have to understand one principle very clearly. It’s not about building an individual church. It is about building the kingdom of God in the hearts of people.
What is our Plan of Action?
Our Session (Church Council) meets every last Tuesday of the month at 19:00-19:00 as Cell Group and then for three hours maximum as Specialised Ministry Team, focusing on their task as governing body of the church.
Our Home Missionaries identify, in cooperation with Session, potential Cell Leaders within Elder’s Districts and invite them to attend initial Training Sessions for New Cell Leaders.
New Cell Leaders who intend planting Cell Groups, invite at least two devoted Christians who are members of MCRC, to join them as potential Core Members for the new Cell Group, and together start praying on a regular basis for people to invite into the new Cell Group.
As soon as the New Cell Leader and his/her Core Members are ready, they plant their Cell Group, with the help of the responsible Home Missionary or Minister, by reaching out to people in need of what their group has to offer as Cell of the Body of Christ, by building meaningful relationships with them, by leading them into a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ, if necessary, and by facilitating their involvement into the Cell Groups.
As soon as Core Group Members of Cell Groups are ready to lead their own Cell Groups, the number of those attending their Cell Groups rise to more than seven, and the members are ready and willing, the Core Groups of those Cell Groups multiply by forming two Cell Groups, each led by one of the original Core Group members, supported by one or two others. Every new Cell Group leader registers his/her group with the responsible Minister, as official Cell Group of MCRC.
New and potential members are invited by our Home Missionaries, to attend Induction Sessions (Coffee & Dessert Evenings) led by the New & Potential Members Ministry, aiming, amongst others, to accommodate them in Cell Groups of their choice.
All Cell Group Leaders and Elders meet once every term, preferably on the last Saturday of the term from 0900h – 1200h, for a Cell Leaders Workshop. The aims of these workshops are to fellowship and build a strong team of Servant Leaders, to share common problems and concerns, to encourage each other and share ideas that work for their Cell Groups, to pray together for their Cell Groups and for each other.
Session identifies the need for Specialised Ministry teams (eg. Missions Ministry; Mercy Ministry; Fellowship Ministry, Counselling Ministry; etc.) on a continuous basis. They recruit leaders for these Specialised Ministry teams, and officially introduce them to the congregation. Session provides oversight and ensures that the necessary training for the above mentioned leaders is available in order to empower them for their various tasks.
On the one hand, leaders of Specialised Ministry teams recruit members for their ministry teams, and on the other hand, Cell groups encourage voluntary members with the necessary gifts, to serve in Specialised Ministry teams, support and pray for them. Ministry Leaders ensure that the necessary training is available in order to empower new members for their various tasks. All Specialised Ministry teams meet preferably once per month.
The responsible Minister and Elders visit Cell Groups and Specialised Ministry teams on a regular basis in order to encourage, support, advise and pray for them.
Each one of us needs to know that ‘I can make a difference’. The most dangerous prayer you can ever pray is, ‘Use me, Lord’. I dare you to pray it!
Someone said, “Life is not a marathon… it is a series of sprints.” Because you can be extraordinary only in some of the sprints, you have to choose where you want to be extraordinary in God’s service.
I realise that you may only totally commit yourself to the future of this church, if we as pastors come and ask you ourselves to do something very specific, because God really needs you for that specific task in our part of his kingdom - and we as pastors promise not to say ‘no’ on your behalf. We will leave that up to God and you.
And if we ask you, we will make it a crystal clear assignment, giving you enough latitude and running room to pull it off, not checking over your shoulder every day, but to give you constructive feedback regarding your progress.
And we promise to occasionally remind you that what you’re doing really matters for all eternity - to tell you that you’re not crazy to take this task so seriously, even though others my think you are.
If God puts something on your heart, please feel free to make a motivated proposal in this regard to Session (on web page / in writing / via e-mail), for prayerful consideration by Session or the relevant Ministry.
You can not expect to have a friend, unless you’re willing to be a friend. People like people who like them. Don’t talk about each other, rather talk to each other. Have coffee together after church. Speak a language to each other that everyone in the vicinity can understand. Invite each other over for tea or lunch, and invite each other back. Hold each other accountable with love and grace (Matthew 18:15-17).
I believe that when people walk through our doors attending a Worship Service, they hope that God will touch their lives, that He will meet them, that his Holy Spirit will whisper to them, that something awe-inspiring will happen - they hope to be moved, inspired, stirred, challenged, convicted - they hope not to leave the way they came.
If this is your hope, why not also consider getting involved in a Cell Group or even starting one? Why not phone, e-mail, text or visit each other on special occasions, and just whenever the Holy Spirit reminds you of each other. Have good times together and create good memories together. Consider referring someone who struggles with some kind of distress to our Counselling Ministry.
Consider attending and participating in the Camp Oven Competition, having a late night around the campfire. Organise and/or attend a ‘Dinner for 6’. Cell groups, why not consider inviting other Cell Groups over for a good time together?
Men, consider attending the Boy’s Weekend Away at Morton Island. Women, consider attending the Women’s Lunch and communicate about getting something special going for women only, while the men are having a good time on the island!
Consider attending our Unite in Prayer meetings before celebrating the Lord’s Supper. In Luke 11:9 Jesus promises His disciples, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Is there anything in your life that is lacking? Do you think or know whether there is anything lacking in the Church? Is there anything lacking in the world around you? Surely, all of us can identify things lacking in and around us. Based on Luke 11, I believe God can change this broken and fallen world through our prayers. If we feel blessed, we at least have reason to praise God’s name, as we are taught in Luke 11:2. Let us be serious about praising God and asking Him to provide in our needs. My challenge to you is to truly Unite in Prayer before God.
For those of you who have spent some time in one of our ministries, remember that, although there is a gloomy side to ministry, there is also a glory side.
I believe that we as leaders have to claim this hope, live in it and radiate it to others. I believe we should proclaim this message of hope to everyone whom God sends our way, and proclaim it till our dying breath!
Let’s start with what we have. It doesn’t matter how it looks or how small it is, but if you put it in the hand of a God who is able, He is able to take little, and do much with it. It all depends in whose hand it’s in. If we put this ministry in our own hand, it’s doomed, but if we put it in the hand of the Risen Christ, we’ll go from the corner of Ham & Wishart road to the rest of this city, state, country and to the ends of the world!
Place your life in Jesus’ hand, and watch God do miracles in and through you.
I would like to inspire you to take hands, and turn this God-given vision into reality - to take risks that you normally wouldn’t take, because you have to! Remember, although the kingdom of God finds its embodiment in the local church, it’s not about building Mansfield CRC. It is about building the kingdom of God.
I challenge you to pray with me, “I love Thy church, oh Lord, for her my tears shall fall, for her my prayers are sent, to her my cares and toils be given, till toils and cares shall end”. I pray that every one that takes co-ownership of this church, will testify, “Here God shapes me, and I walk away with more of Jesus and less of me.”
Yours in Christ
Rev. Dr. Johann Eloff