2014 brett pool duncs

so today we fly back to americaland and i leave a changed man.

but maybe not in the way you would expect… i don’t feel like i have grown so much as i have regressed, but in a good way though. as in ‘returned to former state’ – or returning at least.

in some Christian senses i guess we have been living the dream – 19 months at the Simple Way [you know, the mecca of christian intentional community… will write something about that sometime], attending Wild Goose Festivals, CCDA conferences and involved in two non-profits… you know, changing the world. or something.

i was having lunch with my new mate Bill yesterday and i heard him say the words… he was talking about living an actively following Jesus life and really taking this stuff seriously and he threw in the line, “But of course you know all this, you’re living it”, which is great to hear of course, but my heart thudded a little bit when i heard it, because i feel i still have so far to go.

AMERICALAND: land of the free… king confused.

oh Africa, who looks jealously across the ocean at Americaland

land of hope, land of plenty

land of money and opportunity and adventure 

land of blockbuster movies and high speed internet and space tourism programs

and really bad mayonnaise. no seriously, i’m talking that stuff needs a new name cos that is NOT mayonnaise.

what the raiSIN-infested-custard were you thinking?

and i will be speaking in generalisations here so please don’t see it through a one-size-fits-all lens, and remember that Americaland is a huge country and our experience of it is largely Philadelphia and Oakland, and the church tribes we have encountered there and online…

but we have noticed that as advanced as Americaland is in many areas [and it is, or maybe developed is a better word because being more developed does not mean more advanced – i remember a glorious time when telephones were not able to be carried around with us and people at restaurants actually looked at and spoke to each other] there are some where it seems completely backward or in need of catchup. mayonnaise is one such area [throw all of yours out and start again] and another is banking systems [so much of backward in many areas of that] and public toilet doors [mind the gap!] and so on.

and your church. while there are incredible church congregations doing incredible things and while we have met some truly amazing and brilliant people and also been super privileged to find a congregation we enjoy being a part of in Re:Generation, your church as a whole [or in large pockets within the whole] feels very confused and in need of a bit of a shake up [and not because it’s not new or post-post-modern or ‘with it’ enough].

the church of Americaland has for a long time seen itself as the Saviour of the rest of the world in many ways – must. save. Africa. [wait, where is Africa? oh, there it is… must.save.Africa] but you seem to largely [remember the generalisations, if this is not you, let it go and move on] be taking your lead from the world and not from Scripture or the Holy Spirit [or the glorious combination of them both].

tolerance has become the big deal where the definition of tolerance has become ‘whatever you want to do or be is fine, anyone who tells you you cannot do or be what you are doing or being is intolerant and judgemental and Jesus who loved and embraced and welcomed all people is sad with those people for not just accepting everyone, however they choose to be. ‘

the church was always meant to be modeling the love of Jesus and the worship of God the Father and the power, love and discipline of the Holy Spirit to the world in a ‘Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me’ kind of way which feels like it has been largely been replaced by a ‘this feels good’ or ‘this will keep people happy’ mentality which is just not evidenced all that much in the Bible.

there is also a strong sense of 1 Corinthians 1 dejavu going on…

12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ Crucified Is God’s Power and Wisdom

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Except that we have replaced Paul and Apollos and Cephas with John Piper and Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans and Shane Claiborne… being influenced by people is great [follow my example as i follow the example of Christ – 1 Corinthians 11] but when you start following people, that is when it gets dangerous and the cross of Christ starts to be emptied of its power.

church of Americaland – the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing… once our message starts to make sense and be completely acceptable to all those around us, we need to be checking if it is still the same message of God.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

and so, church of Americaland, there is so much good in you and so many passionate and committed people doing some incredible and amazingly creative things, but as a whole, you do seem quite confused and really in need of plugging back into your source and being led by Him. also it wouldn’t hurt for you to take some time in Africa [and beyond] just simply looking and listening and learning… you might be surprised at the work God has been doing there and what they might have to offer you.

REFUSE THIS THING

so for me, this trip has been so good, and two things stand out:

[1] connecting with people who are passionate about following Jesus – i have been leaning towards staying in Americaland for longer because i love the Re:Gen community we are part of and the opportunities to preach and work with young and older people there. God is doing some good stuff there and it has been great to be a part of it and i definitely feel like i have a lot to offer and hopefully learn from them… but it was one night in Hillbrow [my first, back in South Africa] that changed everything for me and reminded me how African my blood is. and i’m not so sure it was Hillbrow. it was spending time with Nigel Branken and his family, who in the messiest of ways, are trying to re-imagine their faith in Jesus and live where they feel He has called them, as well as meeting some other great people in that community that night. it was reconnecting with my buddy Rob and his wife Nicky who are in the midst of planting a church with some friends. it was breakfast with Bruce and Bex and hearing how they are wanting to have an impact in the community where they are. it was listening to my old youth mate Fezile and how he is wanting to create a program to clean up the township where he lives. and it was lunch with Bill, listening to how he is wrestling with really wanting to follow Jesus completely and how that feels like it looks so different from the regular Sunday church meeting he has been attending and how that affects finances and hospitality and work ethics and beyond. and it was sitting with a bunch of people over a meal discussing how we could give away the pot of money we had all contributed to, to meet the needs of other people we know. and more. conversations, people, ideas, passion for kingdom things and transformation of the world as we know it – seeing the kingdom come on earth and not waiting for the big escape from this messed up world

[2] getting hijacked with worship music – we had an amazing gift from an old youth friend Kerstin and her husband Carl in being gifted the use of their car which has been an incredible present to tbV and me while we have been here. but it took us a while to realise there was more than one cd in the car and until we did, there was this worship compilation that i would just play over and over and two songs in particular stood out for me, the one being by a guy called Ben Howard titled ‘I will be blessed’ [anyone who knows me well knows that that is a unlikely title for a song that would be liked by me] – just a completely haunting song that just overwhelmed me in some ways and the lyrics don’t do it justice at all without hearing it so head off to Uncl Google, but here is the chorus:

Oh hey heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
Oh hey, heaven is the place we know
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go

but just the gift of worship and having it around me every time i have been in the car has been so great for me and an even bigger gift than the car itself. it feels like my very soul [the whoness of who i am] has been bathed in this river of just holiness and love and grace and brought me so much closer to God and helped me focus on Him. a reminder of Who and what this is all about.

i have a plane to go and get ready for although i feel like there is a whole lot more to say, but the focus of this post is that for me this trip has helped me to become a little more unsettled than i’ve been – hence the regression [which is usually seen as a negative thing but can also be describing something that returns to a former state] – one of the biggest dangers of life as a follower of Jesus is that we settle – with the way things are, with the routine of life, with the squeezing down of our passion and belief that God and His church can actually make a difference in the world and actually just kind of semi-give up and start to resemble everyone else, in a kind of boring and bland and grey kind of way…

that is NOT what we have been called to – we have been called to live and thrive and be agents of transformation in a world that is desperately in need of God… i am so glad this trip has rekindled some of the fire in me and so expectant [and nervous] about what lies ahead… we have been in Americaland for a reason – it has been both great and hard and amazing and difficult and frustrating and exhilarating and angrifying and more… but it has been good…

and i’m not sure what is next or how it looks or anything like that [we are committed to church and non-profit work til August] but i want to continue to fan into flame the things that God is starting to work in my life.

if you’re a praying person, i can definitely use a lot of that. we both can.

my nickname is FISH which stands for Faithful In Serving Him – i am definitely not worthy at all of carrying that as a description of who i am, but as a path i try to follow and live out and aim towards, that is something i hold strongly to.

i love Jesus. i love His church. and i believe that when the church starts being the church, every one of us, then the world will be completely turned upside down.

which, ironically, is right side up.

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