Tag Archive: scripture union


One of my favourite weekends of the year, when i’ve been privileged enough to be a part of it [which is quite often!], is the weekend known as October Leadership.

i have been part of at least ten of them and spoken on about 8 of those and it has never failed to be a life [and hopefully school etc] transforming weekend.

Run by Scripture Union, the purpose of October Leadership has been gathering together the Christian Union committees from the various high school around Cape Town and training up the leaders to lead the Christian groups and impact their schools for the year to come.

The two pictures above are of October Leadership as i remember it to be, 7 to 10 years ago, when we had the campsite at close to full capacity with close to 20 different schools represented, and then camp this weekend which must have been about half the size.

[Apparently last year they only had about 30 people and only had to make use of the top half of the campsite]

With the theme of Live Out Loud [LOL, but not really] this year felt like another significant time of inspiration, challenge, opportunity to deal with the crap in our lives holding us back and being handed the question, “WHAT IF?”. Inviting the young people to start to imagine and dream and wonder – what if God pitched up* at your school? What would it look like if the kingdom of heaven really broke into your school in a big and real way?

[* where by ‘pitched up’ i am not suggesting for a second that God ever left but for me the idea of God doing some discernible and very noticeable work]

So i have no doubt that it was a significant weekend for a number of the people who attended. Hopefully everyone in different ways.

But, during worship on Friday night, i did something i really don’t do all that often. [We’re talking once every ten years, if that, although i would be more than okay if it was more]

I started to cry. 

Looking around at the people who were there, it was almost more obvious to me who was not there. My old high school, Westerford, was one of the schools that was not there. S.A.C.S. and Bishops and i think Wynberg Boys were not there. Rondebosch boys was represented by one person. Most of the schools from the Stellenbosch and Somerset West side. Parel Vallei. Fish Hoek. Many more…

The worship session followed a time when the young people had gathered in their CU committee groups and written down a little bit of their current reality and they shared that with the big group. What added to my breakdown was hearing from some CU groups that used to be really huge and influential in their schools who now had more people on their committee than attending meetings. Listening to at least three schools that had to bribe people with biscuits or chips to come to their meetings. Schools represented that didn’t even have a Christian group of any kind.

It was quickly obvious to us that something had gone wrong. Someone somewhere had dropped the ball. Somewhere along the line, people had just started taking this camp for granted or had just not had a clue about the significance of it. And these poor kids [and many of those not represented and possibly a bunch of schools in the Western Cape who have struggling, dying or non-existent Christian groups] had been caught in the crossfire.


Val and i had a bunch of conversations about a lot of the reasons that may have led to this and hopefully i can tempt her into writing a post to express some of them more eloquently than i did. What resulted was that she ended up doing the last talk this morning and just hitting it out of the park in terms of confession and being able to name some of the things and being able to inspire, challenge, encourage and hopefully give these young people something to work with.

God showed up [as He does when you create space for Him and invite Him and step out of the way] but it should have been such a more significant weekend for a whole lot more individuals and schools represented and something needs to change to get us back there. Who in the Western Cape will stand in the gap to help Daryl Henning [old mate of mine who has just become the leader of the SU work in the Western Cape and who i am so grateful for and know has some great plans in mind to head things in the right direction] and others lead this thing back to a great place? i have heard that Schools United are doing some great vibes and there are some cool youth ministries and leaders around. But the legacy of strong schools ministry feels like something that should not be let go too easily.

The one passage that followed us around the weekend and is one of the inspiring pieces we held onto as we said our goodbyes and moved out was this passage from Ezekiel 37:

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”


So i think i have a different understanding and idea of church than a number of people i know.

And my picture of what church is feels a lot bigger, rather than smaller, than some other peoples. i am not saying that the Sunday church local congregation vibe is not church, but i am suggesting that maybe it is more than that.

One example for me has always been so-called ‘para-church’ organisations like Scripture Union and Youth With a Mission. Kingdom-focused people doing kingdom-focused things. How is that not the church? It fits in with both the ‘bride of Christ’ and the ‘body of Christ’ metaphors that Jesus used to describe His church.

Yet, for a whole lot of people, if you are not attending a meeting at that particular place on that particular day [which must be a Sunday, by the way] then you are on some kind of a slippery slope and should be very careful.


Something like that. And while people we know would probably not quite put it in those words, there is a strong sense of ‘Not Alrightness’ when people hear you are not attending a local church.

“We must pray for the Andersons.”

The beautiful Val [tbV] and myself went to visit a church yesterday morning. And on the way home we were chatting and really interested in the idea that ‘This’ [our morning experience] ‘is the thing people are very concerned we become a part of.’

i wrote a piece recently on how we [as christians] have far too often gotten caught up in majoring on the minors, while neglecting or sometimes skipping completely the things God seems to think are majors.


For example, there are literally thousands of verses in the Bible that talk about the poor and our attitude and action towards them, the fact that to Jesus, having some kind of outreach or relationship or investment with the poor seemed to be a big deal.

There are not thousands of verses talking about being part of a local congregation and giving them ten percent of your money.

Yet, which of those two get church-going-people freaked out when they are not happening?

That’s right. We are more than okay with attending a meeting once a week with a majority of people who have absolutely no engagement with the poor at all [beyond the ten percent we throw in the bag, box, tin as it goes past because then job done, conscience cleansed, someone will now be looking after the poor with that money, slash paying the church electricity bill] but panic stations when someone we know who professes to love Jesus, are not in regular attendance.

So first of all, i think it is imperative to figure out what are the things God is wanting us to major on, to prioritise, to make essential in our lives and to make sure we are doing those, and then to fill in whatever gaps may appear around those with everything else.

And secondly, before you get too concerned that tbV and i have ‘not found a church yet’, look at yourself in the mirror and then at those who sit next to you at church and through the lens of giving-to-the-poor see if you should be more concerned about that. Then continue to pray for us.


A lot of this is stuff i have covered in my book which i am furiously working towards self-publishing. So watch this space or something.

The service we visited yesterday was not particularly our style. One of the things we spoke about as we drove home was, ‘Is THAT the thing people are so concerned we are a part of?’

And so this is my genuine question [and i’d love it if you would take a few minutes and leave an answer in the comments section cos i really am interested in how you would answer this question], what exactly is this church you want me to be a part of?

When tbV and i were part of the Simple Way community in Philly, we had morning prayer times [with a group of gathered people]five times a week where each time we read a passage from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, a Psalm, sang a song together, read some liturgy together and had an open time of praying for whatever was on our heart. Our weekly ‘work’ was largely serving those in the community around us [so trying to love our neighbours well].

In fact, when i talk about it to other people, i usually conclude by saying, ‘the only thing we missed in terms of regular congregational church services was corporate worship’ – singing together in a group. Which i am not now even convinced is the way tbV or i would particularly primarily choose to worship God. [There is not a lot of space or patience or understanding in the church for those who don’t particularly like to sing – typically it is met with a suck-it-up-this-is-the-only-way-to-really-worship-God attitude].

So please tell me, before you let me know my views on church are wrong or how important it is that we are part of a local church, what does that mean? What exactly is the thing you are wanting me to be a part of?



tbV and i have visited a few church services since being back [as people have invited us] and i definitely have Common Ground Wynberg on my list for the next free Sunday we have cos that sounds like a great mix of people. But we haven’t been panic’d about it. We are in a period of transition where we don’t even know where we are going to be living yet and so committing to a group of people in an area far off from where we land doesn’t seem like the most sensible of things.

So on the one hand, not desperate in terms of ‘Must. Find. A. Church.’

But on the other had, we chatted about it during the same conversation and both agreed that we are not happy with our current state of non-regular-community as an ongoing thing. We both realise and acknowlege that gathering is good. That breaking bread together feels essential. That journeying with a specific group of people can be really helpful.

i do imagine however, that neither of us would be too concerned if that did not happen on a Sunday. Regular gathering with a group of Jesus-following people on a different day of the week feels like it might be okay to us. [Runs to check bible]

i also imagine that not meeting in a church building would be okay with us. And probably more than okay. I imagine if we were given the choice of church building or home or pub on the corner or coffee shop that church building would probably come in 4th. Jesus spent time in the Temple. Absolutely. But He also spent probably a lot more of His time churching outside of the official building – in boats and on hillsides and at dinner tables and at wells.

i have a deep hunger for the Word of God [the bible] – understanding it better and knowing it more and so whether by myself or with other people, i imagine that will likely always be an important part of what we do. Wrestling with the words and actions of Jesus and the early church and how they often look so different from ours. Engaging with the Scripture as opposed to merely having it spoken at us. [This feels like a definite area the local church would do well to have transformation in, although it would require a LOT of work and would more than likely be EXTREMELY messy, which is perhaps why we stick to man at the front giving the message and no or little space for questions or push-back or engagement].

i want to see people brought into relationship with God. i really don’t feel like i have a gift of evangelism and think actually that i am particularly bad at it [although every now and then God manages to use me anyways] but i believe that it is important and want to see it happen and am not convinced that a Sunday meeting in a church building is the best place for those outside of the church to be brought near [because the stuff we do when we get together is PRETTY WEIRD to those not used to it – think singing and arm-raising and dipping tiny pieces of cracker into pretend wine which we refer to as blood and so on]. But around a dinner table might be, or in a lounge where an intentional conversation has been initiated and so on.

And so on.

Do i think Sunday church gathering in that particular building is church? Absolutely [as long as it is much bigger than just that hour and a half meeting – if that is all your churching is, then you need the prayer] – if the Sunday gathering does not inform or empower the rest of your week experience and your whole life, in fact, then i seriously think you need to rethink that area of your life.

But bigger than that, i see ‘the church’ as a singular entity made up of smaller and larger church congregations and what we call para-church organisations [a horrible name, cos they are not outside of/separate from the church] who are the gathering people of God working together for His kingdom things. Or more simply the people of God doing God stuff together.

i absolutely don’t think it is healthy or even biblical to be a  ‘christian-without-church’ because God definitely calls us to do His stuff together. But i also do understand why so many people have walked away from traditional sunday church services as the expression of the only way church can be.

We are the bride of Christ, not the harem.

We are the body of Christ, not the bodies of Christ.

There really only is one church, although many smaller expressions of how that plays out.

i think, when we truly understand what church is all about, then it will become the question of Monday to Saturday, rather than Sunday, ‘Are you going to church today?’ [where church is a verb, rather than a noun of place]. Are you going to be being the body of Jesus and the bride of Christ to all of those who you encounter this day?

i would absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts and response on this one… [be gentle]

[to the tune of ‘I am Spartacus’ and yes it’s okay that most of you don’t know who that is but let google be your friend – ignorance away!]

so this last week tbV and mself had been invited to speak at the national Scripture Union staff conference held at Rocklands campsite in Simonstown. as we interacted with them on the first night and during the next day this one lady stood far out from the general crowd

and yes, her name was Cynthia, well done Holmes!

Cynthia is an elderlyish lady type person – if you go by years – and small of stature but absolutely ginormous of heart – she was one of the youngest people on camp and so the next morning session i wanted to honour her and so i said something along the lines of, “Cynthia, you are slightly older than a lot of the people here and i don’t want to ask your age but…” “I’M
66!!!” she shouts out…  priceless

so at 66 this lady was really one of the youngest people there and i said a few things about that like i know people who are 23 years of age who are incredibly old and yet i know her – and this other lady Rita Reed at my last church congregation – who in years appear to be old, but in heart and character and action are completely young and vibrant and living and completely modelling what Jesus called us to when He spoke of “life to the full” in John 10.10

i think people die pretty soon after realising they are old – but when i grow up – and it’s bound to happen sooner or later – i want to be as young as Cynthia. She competed in a hardcore arduous Amazing Race they ran which was not for the faint hearted and where one of the 9 teams pulled out completely to go to a coffee shop and a few individuals from other teams gave up, Cynthia and her team finished in third place.

for me age is just a number you can work out by looking at your birth certificate or id – how old you are is how you choose to live life – do you embrace it or do you try to survive it?

Be pro-life. Start with yourself! Live! Breathe! Embrace! Jump! Dare!

[as an aside i want to brag about the beautiful Val who had to endure a meal of scrambled eggs – which she is not the biggest fan of – and snails – which made her puke and yet continued to finish the race in the freezing cold with her team, while a bunch of ‘old people’ had given up and were drinking coffee!]

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