Connecting in Community

Have you ever considered some of the statements that people have made about the future? In 1899 Charles H. Duell the U.S. Commissioner of Patents was quoted as saying, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” What about Thomas Watson the president of IBM’s memorable citation that, “There is a world market for maybe five computers?”Or Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates thinking that, “640k ought to be enough [computer memory] for anybody.”

In hindsight we may think that they made ridiculous statements and had no vision for the future and that they were completely unaware of the potential that God had placed in their hands.

Today we can so easily fall victim of looking through glasses tainted with mediocrity and lack and like Mr Duell have the view that “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” In ministry we are surrounded by needs, agendas and so much ‘busyness’ that can at the best of time suck out all our energy and leave us feeling that we are unable to do anything more for God. “This is it!” We say to ourselves, “there is nothing more to be done.”

In one of his books John Maxwell tells a story about two boys on their way to school that were talking and about their families. The one boy said, “I’ve figured out a system for getting along with my mum and it’s very simple. She tells me what to do….AND I DO IT!!!”

Which brings me to the question; do I have a steadfast unshakeable hope in God? Do I believe that I have invested everything possible to see His kingdom grow? Have I exhausted all my resources and time into the plans and purposes He has set aside for me? Has, “everything that can be invented, been invented?”

The interesting thing about hope is that it motivates us to keep going and not give up. Without hope we don’t want to do anything, but let’s be clear that when you and I embrace our Hope in God it has the potential to open doors in places where we never even realised that there was a door. And as we approach the “new invention,” hope also moves us through this new door of opportunity.

In the book of Isaiah we see the prophet have such an encounter. We pick up the story in chapter 6; It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” – Isaiah 6:1-8 (NLT)

One experience in the presence God and Isaiah is ready to invest his life. Ready to do something new! Gone are the thoughts that, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” God I want to be part of this “new thing” you’re about to do. Teach this “old dog” some “new tricks”, Lord”. “Here I am. Send me.”

In November 2014 while I was mowing the lawn (This seems to be my “Lawn Moments” with God ) a song that I grew up with seemed to pop into my mind and before I knew it I was singing Boney M’s hit, “By the rivers of Babylon.”

If you know the song you know how difficult it is to get it out of you mind. Seriously don’t YouTube it kids! But as I sang it maybe for the tenth time, the words got me thinking and so I got off the mower to get a drink and used my Bible app to read what the context of the song was.

Psalm 137 (NIV) 1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill? 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy?

This Psalm gives us a glimpse of the conditions that the Jews experience as slaves in a foreign country. Their despondency is evident as we see this “singing nation” hang up their instruments of music despite their captors asking them to sing. Verse four gives us the answer for their reluctance, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord in foreign land?”

As I pondered the verses I felt the Holy Spirit remind me of my first few weeks in Australia. The verse seemed to flood into my emotions and soon I became rather teary. I was not prepared for the next words that seemed to come up out of my Spirit. “Well, Jake you know how you felt…and there are scores of Afrikaners in Brisbane that feel the same way.”

I immediately knew what was about to happen, as I thought to myself, “So Lord how do You want me to help out my fellow South Africans?” What is this “new thing” You want me to embark on? The idea of getting a new culture group together started to play around in my head and I knew that a Lifegroup would be the simplest to manage.

After some soul searching and prayer I approached the local South African shop manager in North Lakes and asked if they would let me place some flyers and an advertisement in their window to which they responded positively. I was also able to get an appointment with one of the directors of the company and he graciously made their coffee shop available for free on Sunday evenings.

On Christmas Eve 2014 we had our first Carols service and to my amazement close to 35 people arrived on the evening. We sang “Songs to our God”, in our mother tongue and not having done it for close to 6 years it was one of the most refreshing experiences I have experienced in Australia. After the event, while there was a lot of wishing each other a “Blessed Christmas”, I told those present that if they would be interested in have a weekly get together they could write their names down on the name list on the back table.

After we had packed up I noticed that a few families had put down their names.

In February 2015 I set up a Facebook page for the group and emailed them to say that we were going to meet Sunday evenings in the Springbok Coffee Shop. The first evening looked promising and new faces started to come and later we had a few regulars. We moved from the coffee shop and one of the attendees made the Stocklands sales offices available to us.

This group was starting to gain momentum and it was around August last year that we were no longer just a life group but we saw the possibility of the group becoming a new Church plant.

I called for a meeting at my home and during much eating and fellowship an action group was formed and asked to look at some options that the group could consider in the future. On that evening we discovered that the majority of the group came from the Reformed stream and so the question of, with whom they would affiliate and how this would happen became the action group’s main focus.

During the next few weeks I assisted the group to investigate the Christian Reformed Church of Australia (CRCA) as well as the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia (WMCA). We attended two meetings with the CRCA and after much discussion we put out a document for the group, outlining the views of the two denominations.

On the 25th of October 2015 we held our first Special Meeting at which the group, after much discussion unanimously voted to become part of the WMCA.

The action group was then actioned to determine how the group would become part of the WMCA that is, 1. Do they become members of Lifebuilders Wesleyan Church with a ministry that is focussed on the Afrikaans speaking South Africans in the North of Brisbane? 2. Do they become a Pioneering Church under the leadership of the District Superintendent and a Pastor? 3. Do they become an Established Church with their own Pastor?

On the 24th January 2016 Lifebuilders Wesleyan Church voted unanimously to that the Afrikaans group become members. We had our first combined bilingual service on Good Friday. What a day, two cultures singing the same song in their own language at the same time.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented?” Today I am not so sure about this statement. God’s word so clearly says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”. Lamentations 3 22-23(ESV)

May our “lawn moments” encourage us to be open to that which God wants to do in our communities and together with Him may we “invent” some new ways to connect people to Jesus.

Living life together for the GLORY OF GOD!

Jake Gerber

Lifebuilders Wesleyan Church