We were invited to Stellenbosch, South Africa, through the offices of Coenie Burger and Communitas, and the primary event was a conference on the Book of Acts and the Missional Church. Most of the speaking events I had while there, both in Pretoria and Stellenbosch, revolved around Acts and Missional themes. Here’s a brief on our speaking events to pastors — and I’ll do something soon on the conference in Stellenbosch:
I was given an opportunity to give a public lecture at the University of Pretoria and my theme was on why folks walk away from the faith. The lecture delved into conversion theory and then skipped through a chapter in Finding Faith, Losing Faith: Stories of Conversion and Apostasy
. I was very happy with the invigorating questions and the response to the ideas — it seems the sketch of that chp shows similarities to tendencies also in South Africa.
We spoke to two pastors groups, and here I have to give my appreciation to Willem Pretorius, a church leader in the Pretoria area for the Dutch Reformed Church. Willem funded and organized a pastor’s conference, but did something of abiding value: older pastors were flanked by younger pastors, and some professors were flanked by some students, and some males were flanked by some females. In short, a mixed crowd with lots of perspective. I spoke about gospel and iGens and the gospeling sermons of the Book of Acts. And during breakfast some monkeys entered into the meeting room and began to rifle through my bag but were soon discovered by the staff, leading to a funny few minutes of commotion — including the discovery that one of the monkeys had swiped a worker’s cell phone and it was fetched from the roof of the building! By the way, Kris and I liked the monkeys — the locals find them to be pests. (Great food and a wonderful setting.)
Here’s a picture of Achterberg, the retreat center somewhere around Pretoria and Johannesburg…
Must say this: it was great to see Tom Smith, a pastor in Johannesburg and a friend of ours now in South Africa (and a good blogger), attend this event — his ideas expanded the perspectives at the sessions. Also, last year we met a young theological student, Cobus Van Wyngaard, and he was at these sessions too — and stirred up some good conversation. Cobus is an active blogger too.
Willem and Marius Nel had an excellent idea: we were to read a section of the Book of Acts, find central themes, discuss these with our small group, and then over time interact with the various presentations — both local issues in South Africa and biblical issues from Acts. The last session of this meeting was one of the most penetrating sessions I have ever participated in. The issues, very much the sort of thing that has great significance in the USA too, had to do with exclusion and embrace, unity and diversity, boundary-making and boundary-breaking.
I had a three-hour session down in Stellenbosch with pastors, and we also had an invigorating discussion about gospel and Acts and the current generation. Once again, it was interesting to see that the stuff we are learnign about iGens has some significant parallels over in South Africa. One of the points that came home to me so often in South Africa was the educational level and theological competence of the pastors and leaders. Coenie Burger, in particular, may be one of the most widely-read church leaders in the world. He seems to have read everything — and I saw his library, which proves to me that he has read everything!