TGC Africa creates faithful Christian content to strengthen African believers. Through this process ministry friendships develop with like-minded churches and parachurch organisations across Africa. We long to amplify the presence of gospel centered ministries in their home countries, pointing local Christians to trustworthy, edifying resources available on their doorstep.
The Academy of Theology seeks to Intentionally Contextualise Christianity in the African Context. We are excited to feature two of the South African writers who presented at their 2023 Christian Writing Conference in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this year. To find out more about The Academy of Theology follow their regular webinars on their YouTube channel.
The thrust of this talk is this: your writing must first and foremost serve Christians around you. It’s easy to address issues in the Church that everyone else is, usually those across the Atlantic. But Africa needs writers that look around them and set out to address local challenges and questions. As Afrika puts it in his talk, “Don’t write what’s popular, but what’s needed.” He goes on to say, “You have to write, in my view, as a response to what’s happening around you.”
We need thinking Christians to answer difficult questions.
Writing to Respond Biblically
He also offers a crucial qualification to his imperative. That is, we can’t merely observe and address our local contexts. Our writing must be grounded in the Bible, what God has made known. The faithful writer dives deep into the scriptures and comes up with pearls for the present. When asking what to write, the answer should always consider these two elements: God’s truth and our world.
Writing is you responding theologically and correctly in the context in which you live.
As Afrika puts it, “If you’re faithful to what God wants you to do, he might be the one that promotes what you write and make it popular, if that’s what he wants; but you’re not the one who has to seek for that. You have to seek to be faithful to God and let him do the rest in terms of what he wants to do with your material.”
There are very real, often unaddressed, and peculiar issues facing the Christian faith on our continent. If you desire to serve the church by writing then look around you and figure out what those are; then pick up your Bible and learn what God has to say about them.
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Pastor, Cast out Demons, but Concentrate on Christ
Date: 22 April 2023
Location: Academy of Theology 2023 Christian Writing Conference, Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Write in Response to What’s Happening Around You
While thinking on what to write, I was thinking to myself about it – how do I tell people what to write? You know, at least Norma told them that they should write, they should write something. So, I thought about it and I and I looked at the Book of Revelation 1:19. Just one verse and I just found a Bible here. I thought let me just make use of it. And Revelation 1:19, it says, “And we have a prophetic word more fully…” No, sorry. I’m reading something else now. I’m reading Peter. Revelation 1:19. Let me get to it quickly.
“Write, therefore, the things that you have seen – those are and those that are about to take place.” (Revelation 1:19) I was reading this in the New Living Translation which I think sounds better. Let me read it from there. I was looking at it there. So, it answers the question really briefly of what to write. “Write down what you have seen—both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen” (Revelation 1:19) Okay so, “Write down now what you have seen both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen.” (Revelation 1:19)
So, I think this is a start. You have to write, in my view, as a response to what’s happening around you. For you to write in response to what’s happening around you, I believe you have to have a foundation of your faith well established, so that your writing is in response to – what fathers of our faith did. Because remember, we have a faith that we’ve inherited, that has been passed down to us and had those who lived before us not been faithful in writing what they’ve written down, we would have lost the faith completely. And so, when they wrote, they dealt with a number of things that were challenging during their time: controversies that were taking place in the church and false doctrines and issues that were affecting the centrality of the Gospel, and to them, in response to that, they began to think it’s important to record this stuff so that future generations would know what is it that Jesus said, what Jesus taught.
And so, when we read the Old Testament for instance, we have a book called the Book of Chronicles which chronicles, as the word says, the kings that lived in Israel, how they behaved. And you’ll have stories like, “And this king rose and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Or “This king rose and did what was good in the sight of the Lord.” And then we see that king’s life and we see the result of what that king, what come afterwards and the impact of that in the nation of Israel during the reign of a particular king.
So, there’s writing that chronicles what’s happening around. But also, alongside those kings, God raised prophets. And those prophets would obviously speak the word of the Lord to those kings: correct them, judge them, try to bring them back into alignment, but also prophesy what will take place if those kings continued in a certain path. So, writing therefore chronicles – it takes into consideration what is happening around, responds to it, but also predicts what were likely to happen if people continue in a certain path.
Write to Address Real Issues
And so, Christian writers don’t just write for the sake of writing. I know I have this habit of meeting a lot of pastors who tell me they want to write. And “I want to write a book.” And so, when I check on the reasons why they wanted to write, I sadly find that they want to write for the sake of writing. In other words, they like the idea of being published. The idea alone appeals to them, so that they think it’s just, it’s a cap in their ministry, and so, and also, they think that you’re gonna sell books.
Now we do sell books. I must say that. We don’t give books away, we do sell books. But South Africa is a very small book market. So, if you’re going to write because you want to sell books and be rich, I have bad news for you: it’s very unlikely to happen in South Africa! I don’t know, the last time I checked, I think if you sold five thousand copies, I’m not sure but the number is so small, you’re already a best seller in South Africa, because of the lack of reading that is being done in South Africa. So, I’m here to tell you I am a bestseller!
And so, I don’t mind, I won’t mind to be like, to be like Rick Warren and write a book that sells 30 million copies like Purpose Driven Life and be a millionaire, but it’s very unlikely to happen in the constant South Africa.
But then why do I continue writing if writing is not going to sustain me financially? I write because I have to be faithful to the call of God. I write because, when I look around at what’s happening and I see people misrepresenting Christ, people making statements about Jesus that are inconsistent with Biblical truth, and I have to apply my mind in addressing those issues.
One of the things that you see concerns, concerning theoretical controversies that are happening today, in my book on leadership I touch on this, A Passion for Position. I wrote this book because I was concerned about patterns of leadership that are inconsistent with the values of Christ, so I decided that I need to respond to this.
Now, I actually, I don’t know what’s happening with me, but I tend to address issues that are very difficult. I asked the Lord one day, like why didn’t you give me a nice topic like, “Seven steps to answered prayer,” something like that. Something light, something enjoyable, something that makes me popular and famous. And then I have to write “The veneration of ancestors” as my first book. I’m like, why? And then and then… So, I don’t know. I just respond to things like that.
So, I write here about the controversy that took place in the church in AD100. I said, “Between AD 100 and AD 313, the church had to deal with internal problems and heretical teaching and consequence schisms and externally, to deal with the prosecution from the Roman State. These issues faced forced the church to close ranks by developing “canon” by the creation of creeds and by obedience to the monachal Bishops.”
So the church in those days, AD 100 onwards, faced stuff that we are currently facing, similar things where, within the church the way internals gives him the way it’s in the church not only external threats of being persecuted by being a Christian, but in internal schisms and controversies and doctrinal errors that Patriarchs, fathers of faith, had to rise up and close ranks by making sure that they have the creeds properly codified and the statements of faith proper articulated, so that there’s understanding of what it means to a child of God. And so, they did that and for that reason, that’s why we have the faith we have passed down to us.
Write to Respond Factually
Such a simple, a simple example of a thing that may come up. I was at Wits last night ministering there. So, when I deal with students, one of the things you find: people making and throwing away spurious statements and arguments against the faith that have no foundation. Something like, “The Bible was written by white people to oppress black people.” I like that one because it’s so foolish, it’s just it defies logic.
So, when I deal with that one, I just simply say, “Oh wow, this is very interesting conspiracy that only you and your three friends, in it’s a dark corner…” I mean, in an information age, nobody knows about this controversy except you and the three friends and some dark corner somewhere. I mean, and nobody else is supposed to buy a book that is published, and the Guinness Book World of Records tells the Bible has been sold five billion copies around the world. So, nobody else knows about this controversy except you and your three friends and some dark corner?
And other people are reading the Bible, supposedly written by white people to oppress black people. And white people wrote in the first chapter of the first book, black people are made in God’s image, and they’re trying to oppress them? I think to myself saying, “The white people are not thinking very well about this, are they?”
So, you understand that writing helps us. And some of the people we’re dealing with today are practicing what is called “historical revisionism,” so they don’t even apply history properly. So, some of them will say but you don’t have to read the Bible to answer the Bible’s authenticity. I mean, everybody who reads history knows that Europe was barbaric, was backward, it was not Christian just a few thousand years ago. Europe was not, was cannibalistic, it has no health system, it has no literacy or hygiene. Christianity saved Europe and gave it its civilization. That’s history. That’s not a Christian claiming that. History puts that very clearly.
When Paul went to Corinth, the missionary journeys of Paul, which are well recorded, shows that Paul went to Corinth, went to Galatia. These are European cities. So, the gospel came from Jerusalem to Europe, and these are Chronicles, these are recorded, that Paul did this.
And then, of course, if you deal with leadership today in the church and all the issues that we face in terms of “Larger than Life leaders” and with grandiose titles. So then, in my book I mentioned that look, “The word “Apostle” is used in the Bible about 81 times in the New Testament, never before a person’s name.”
Writers are Readers
Just this important fact of when you write, and you read… the fact it was so important: writers are readers.
And so, it’s difficult to write a well if you don’t read, because you think you are the best. Because you only have your style “mos”, you are only exposed to your style, and you think that no one’s like you. You think you, like you are the top dog in writing, until you read other people’s stuff.
I don’t know if you were listening to Norma, it was the question she was answering towards the end, and she used words in English I don’t think I’m familiar with. And I thought, I thought “Yoh, hey!”
Do you guys know what I’m saying? So, I’m a writer, but I could benefit from that. So, I’m like, “I need those words! I gotta get those words! To find out what she means by that. By ‘tautology’ I mean!” There are some words I thought, “I don’t know what she was talking about!” I thought, “Where’s dictionary now, where’s dictionary?”
So, reading – one of the things that reading does that improves your writing. I mean, I had the privilege of writing for the ‘Daily Dispatch’ in East London, a newspaper. I was not preaching. I’m a preacher. It was not preaching, it was an analysis, it was a political analysis. This person asked me to do an analysis every week – 650-word article. Analysis. No sermon, no word, no Scripture – just get something in the current times, and analyze it, and write as a political analyst. I’ve never done that in my life. And I don’t have a degree in writing, I have no experience.
And therefore, I’d always get feedback from the Christian editor, and she’d give feedback, and she was a child of God, her feedback was not flattering. It was not, it was not Christian. She’d write something to me, “What are you thinking? What is this? Where’s your mind?” What? I’m thinking, “Where’s kindness? Where’s grace?” So, I’m like, “I thought we’re believers. We love the Lord together!” She just had red pen everywhere.
So, I held on to that. Every week I must come up with something: whether it’s corruption, whether it’s something happening in the country. I just sit down and sit and think. But there’s no way I was able to do that without reading widely. I mean, I don’t understand how they construct sentences nowadays. I didn’t understand how people can have short sentences and start with a “but.” When I was told the whole time in school, “You don’t start with the conjunction!” Or “because” I thought, “What’s happening?” So, journalists have their own style, that’s not normal for people, right? So, I said, “What’s going on?”
And so, I learned that. I learned how to express myself better and how to read what you’ve written quite a lot. And read and read and read and just try and be as objective as possible. And so, your mind is being stretched when you’re doing that. So, it was very helpful. It was a training ground. I moved, then I asked to be moved from weekly to bi, bi a month, because it was just too much and then to once a month and then I just disappeared.
But it was a two-year training, a two-year hard training because it was secular media. It’s not, it’s not a church. It’s not, it’s not going to be kind to you, but it trains you not to think church, not to think in a box that I’m writing for Christians. I’m writing, I’m writing for my church people, right? So, that was very important training.
So, one of the things we do and when we write, we write to respond, especially as theologians, to respond to theological controversies. We become faithful to the craft. We have become faithful to the call of God, and we want to respond to issues.
Responding to African Issues
Now, we live in Africa, and I like the fact that we’re talking about African writers, so we want to respond to issues that affect this continent, that are unique to this continent. One of the things that challenges me is that when people talk about discipleship, they often use material that is not responsive to the context in which we are, something that has been imported and parachuted from overseas, that is not speaking to the context that is unique in Africa.
Like, I had titles that I mentioned by Gospel Coalition, things like polygamy, patriarchy and there is, those are unique expressions in Africa that need to be responded to, preferably by African theologians, not by foreigners, right? And so, which means African people have to be thinking people and think through the things that affect this continent uniquely. Meaning we can’t go back to a stage where we simply listen to a preacher, who preaches things out of context, and just preaches out of topic and shouts to people and think that’s a good service.
We need to come to a place where theology can come into play so we can debate the stuff we preach. People have the right to ask questions, like the church in Berea, where I’m accountable for what I preach, where I should be open to be asked questions just immediately after my sermon.
You can’t say, “I’m under the anointing, I’m under the anointing. No one should talk to me. Don’t touch the anointed!” The stuff we do!
We’re like, “No, but we want to know the word of God, which you just preach, which is supposed to be an objective truth. It’s got nothing to do with our anointing and your opinion – it belongs to somebody else and you’re his representative, so we want to know have you represented him well, the One to whom the Word belongs to. And we think that you have misrepresented it in some area. If we are calling you out on that, so that’s not personal. You’re a messenger of somebody and you have to be true to the One you represent, not true to your own views. So, you’re questioning that thing not you. We’re not personalizing the issue.”
So, because we’re dealing in the continent where things are coming up all the time, there’s lots of false things that are coming up, false prophets and such things. Here in Johannesburg and here in Gauteng, you have them in abundance, so that’s why I don’t, I don’t want to stay here.
You eat grass! I mean, the things you do here are incredible! When I hear things, I’m like, “What? what are they thinking?” How do you eat grass? I mean, everybody knows you can’t eat grass! I mean, I just, I just, we watch on tv and we’re like, we can’t understand how you can eat grass.
Because what has happened is this: the reason why they can manage to convince people to eat grass is because they’ve managed people to stop thinking. Somehow, they mastered the art of getting people to stop thinking, then they can make people do anything. Jesus never said that. Paul never talks – the Bible never talks – in the Bible Romans 12. It’s about the renewal of the mind, not the removal of the mind. Renewal, not removal. So, we don’t go to church and our mind is removed. It’s renewed, not removed. But it seems the church is the one place where thinking must be stopped, like the church is an unthinking place. If you want to go to a place where people stop thinking, go to church. It’s like there is a sign on the door: “Check your thinking at the door.” Come without thinking, you know.
But we’re supposed to think, and, in fact, we’re supposed to think hard concerning what faith is today. We even more so if you think because the world is getting to a place where philosophical controversies and issues are coming against us at a very high speed, and so thinking is required among now more than ever before. We need thinking Christians to answer difficult questions and deal with conversations regarding our faith.
And so, and therefore one of the… I think, I think if you ask me what to write, one of the questions obviously: don’t write what’s popular, write what’s needed. Because I think you are being unfaithful to God if you write for sales.
Now if you want to write another genre to a novel whatever to sell, that’s something else. I’m not discounting that. But I’m saying in the area in which we write Christian material like – One child asked me, I was in Cape Town, she saw my book on the veneration of ancestors and this child asked me, she says, “Do you have, can this book be read by a child?”
I had just got feedback on my second book. I said, “Yeah it’s not like difficult.” But obviously I was just not saying what is true. And so, the child was asking this question and the father was driving us home and he says, “Maybe God is speaking to you.” And I asked, and I thought to myself, “Ja if a child is asking that, maybe, really, we need to think about how to be so simple but so profound in our writing that children should be able to grasp this stuff?”
So, it became a challenge for me that maybe I’ve never thought of children in my writing, you know? So, I then thought maybe I need to ask myself, “How do I go to the level where I think of the next generation when we write?”
Write what is in Line with Biblical Truth
So, you write what is necessary in life, not what is popular. If you’re faithful to what God wants you to do, he might be the one that promotes what you write and make it popular, if that’s what he wants, but you’re not the one who has to seek for that. You have to seek to be faithful to God and let him do the rest in terms of what he wants to do with your material. But if your focus is popularity, then you probably will be unfaithful to God.
So, I use the analogy of a GPS when I talk about leadership and I say to people that when you listen to GPS, whatever we use now for navigation, the lady who speaks – it’s often the lady. I don’t why, I think, I think because they know guys never listen to guys for directions. So, it is often a lady’s voice: “In 200 meters, turn left.” You know. “Make a U-turn.” It’s not a guy because I probably would say, “Why? What’s this bro thinking?” You know, I’m like probably, I’m not going to respond. But it’s often late so you listen to this. The voice prompts coming out of the GPS are based on the destination you have put.
So, when you come into this kind of craft or even leadership, the people you gather around you to listen, the voice you listen to, the conferences you attend, the books you read are based on the destination that you’ve already preset. So, if you come into leadership for instance the idea of making yourself great, you’ll read books that speaks to that, but if you come in leadership with the idea of making God’s people great, you attend conferences and read books that speaks into that. So, we all gather voices around us that validate where we want to go.
And therefore, you read books that speaks to where you want to go and go to conferences that speaks to where you want to go. So, and therefore, I’m sorry to say this, but you are not going to avoid theology if you’re going to be serious about the gospel. And I know it’s unpopular today to do theology. Everybody is just called. They know three verses and they just go. It doesn’t work.
The Biblical illiteracy in the church is a shame. And now we’re a generation with more Bibles than ever before, but probably the generation that reads them less. So, there’s a high level of biblical illiteracy in the church. We carry these books, these Bibles. We read them on a Sunday because somebody asks us to page to Genesis whatever, and they will sometimes think you said page to the book of Micah.
You know, Micah is going to meet with you in heaven one day and ask you, “Did you read my book? I was also anointed. You only thought Isaiah only is the only prophet. You classified me a minor prophet, but God didn’t call me a minor prophet. You decided to call me a minor prophet and Jeremiah a major prophet and you never read my book, but I also was faithful to God, and I wrote what God told me, but you never read my book.”
Or Zephaniah will meet with you one day. He says, “I did my job, even if it’s five chapters. You think Isaiah chapter 6 is better than me. You only read Isaiah, but what about me? You didn’t read my book. And Zephaniah has got that wonderful verse,
“He will quiet you with singing. He will sing of you with rejoicing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 paraphrase)
It’s a wonderful verse of God’s comfort over us.
So we need to read the whole Bible, the whole cannon from cover to cover to get the full context and the full counsel of God’s mind. You write better when you read, I promise you.
First of all, one of the things you do when you read the Bible is this: the verse you’ve only been hearing about being misquoted, now you know where it is and what it actually says. Oh, the verse is there!
“Touch not the prophet. Touch not the anointed. Do my prophets no harm.” (1 Chronicles 16:22)
Right, you’ve heard it so many times. But when you read it for yourself in Chronicles, you realize it’s not saying what people are saying. It says the whole nation of Israel there are prophets, not just some select few people. It’s speaking of the nation. “Touch not the anointed ones.” He was thinking about the nation, not some few people on the stage. “Touch not the anointed. Do my Prophets…” Now you realize, “This verse, I’ve heard it all the time but it’s not saying…” Oh, now you get it!
So, that’s what reading does to you. It brings you back. It centres you and then from that position they always say – I’m trained from a school, from a background that says “Preach from the overflow. Preach from the overflow.” Don’t preach your last sermon. Don’t empty yourself. Preach from the overflow. Have more than people need, that is, gather more, eat more than you’re actually gonna dish out.
So now when you stand in a place – I’m not saying that’s pretty critical and always been negative – but I’m standing at a conference or a church service when somebody stands on the things that are not true you can tell them, “I’ve also read that stuff. it doesn’t say that.” But you forgive them because the preacher stands there and says, “The Lord says to Abraham, “Abraham, Abraham, take off your sandals for the place you’re standing on is Holy Ground…” So, you think to yourself, “No, it wasn’t Abraham. But it’s ok.”
Or Jonah swallowed the fish or the fish swallowed Jonah. Something swallowed each other.
Or the issue of the loaves and the fish. Sometimes it gets me: which one is five, which one is two? Do you know? The fishing. Which one is five, which one is two? See, you see, you see? It’s five and two, man. It’s five and two. It’s five and two, you know. it’s five and two.
Just read it. Read. Just go and read. I mean just pause and read. Was it five fishes? Was it five loaves? Just read the stuff. I say, “It’s five and two and I said five and two.” Which one is five? Because it matters, context matters. They wouldn’t have written it down there if it was not supposed to be read correctly.
So therefore, we live in a time where we need to respond. I mean you have here some… I’ve been told I must debate some of you guys here, Mapongwe and others and I said I’m not interested. But I said if the time comes, I’ll come but I’m not going to chase after him because then I’m glorifying him.
But I said to him one day on Facebook that, “The reason why you’re so popular is because you’re a small fish in a small… you’re a big fish in a small pond. You don’t debate people who can match you intellectually or theologically.” They come and get him to debate pastors who don’t know much, and who are just nice pastors, but they don’t really know intellectually so then he trounces them on debates and then he becomes a big shot, you know.
It’s because we don’t understand the stuff these guys are reading, to obey, to respond to them appropriately. Now they think they know.
I mean, one day he wrote something on Facebook, and he has this picture of Jesus, white Jesus, blue eyed – that’s not an even issue to discuss, right. And I said, “But there’s nothing to discuss. I agree with you that the depictions of Christ as a white man applied is wrong, but it has nothing to do with Jesus. You’re chasing after…you’re clutching for straws.”
The false depiction of Jesus has nothing to do with Jesus himself. So, I agree with you, but I understand why you make an issue of it and you’re making about Jesus. I mean, the messenger of Christianity is discredited, but not the message. You can find fault with the messenger for all you like, and I agree with you, but show me one fault with the message. For you to find Jesus guilty, you must conjure up false evidence, like they did when they crucified him. You must make up stuff, because you’ll find no fault with the man.
Write from a Relationship with God
So, when you are a person who’s allowed your mind to be stretched like that as a believer… I’m very spiritual. Look, I’m very spiritual. I believe in, you know, falling and crawling and jumping around and I’m as spiritual as you can get. You know, devil chasing, chandelier swinging – all that stuff. Not grass eating. I don’t go there. I don’t go that far but definitely I believe that the tension must be balanced between reasoning and thinking and spirituality. The Holy Spirit and his Word are not in contradiction. It’s not like a battle for the, “No, it can’t be too much theology because then the Spirit will be quenched.” It’s not like the Spirit, and the Spirit has a problem with his word that he wrote.
The two are held together. It’s like the river and the banks. The Spirit is a river. The banks is that which gives shape to the flow. Without the banks, the river has no, there’s no river, it’s just chaos. It’s spiritism. We’re not spiritist people. We are the Holy Spirit people. So, we have a Spirit – holy – not spirits. So, we have to define what Spirit we’re referring to, because “I’m spiritual” – what do you mean by that? “I’m a spiritual person.” I am also but I’m not sure if we mean the same thing. What do you mean you’re spiritual? You know, because I’m talking here about the Holy Spirit who makes us do holy things, who makes, he brings out the nature of God, who is His character and nature.
And one of the things you’re going to find therefore, and I think this is some of the things that I think needs to be addressed in our writings, is that if you study anything about African religion and African philosophy, you’ll understand that one of the things it does is that it changes the nature of God to fit the shape of the people. So, one of the things you’ll find is that God is seen to be lacking communicative competence and definitive personality traits. God doesn’t speak, he’s translated. He’s an absent deity. So, if he doesn’t speak, it means other things must speak on his behalf. So, to justify why they don’t consult God directly and they go via mediums, they have to out God out as if it doesn’t communicate, he can’t communicate.
Yet, if anything, God speaks. If there’s anything we know and read in the Bible is that God speaks, voluminously and abundantly. The word “God said” is used 10 times in Genesis chapter 1 alone. “God said, God said…” And we’re told very clearly in Hebrews 11:3 that the worlds were framed by the word of God. So, God indeed does speak. And if God speaks, it means we have a lot to write about then, if we are hearing God. If God speaks and we’re hearing him, there’s a lot to write about. So, let’s say you are, like Norma talked about this book about, responding to injustice or poverty from a place of privilege. She was observing. Now you observe the world around you and then the observation of what you pick up – you’ve got ears, eyes, your gates to your soul. You see, you hear, you feel, you touch, you taste, then it comes into your spirit and your spirit – which is centred around God – is now challenged by what you are seeing and hearing.
Then there’s a response that must come out, but the response is Word-based because you are centred around the Word. You’re not just a social justice warrior. You’re not just fighting battles from a worldly perspective, you’re centred around God as a God of justice, and from that perspective you bring out what God’s perspective is in response to this situation, other than what the world is thinking about it.
So therefore, I believe there’s a lot of things to write about. I read one day that in 50 years’ time there’ll be more plastics in the ocean than there are sea animals. That’s something to write about. How do Christians respond to conservation and pollution? That’s something to write about. Pollution is not some white people’s crusader who hugs trees and who love the rhino. It’s for every child of God.
When I, so when I see a child of God throwing away paper, I know that there’s something wrong with your discipleship. They’ve not been discipled well. There’s no child of God who should pollute because we are stewards of creation. Not some people, but all of us have been given the mandate to steward creation on God’s behalf.
So, if you don’t understand those basic things, it means we’re not ready to write in a way that responds to where the world is. We’ll have people in the world leading us all the time and us always following them, because we don’t understand that we are the custodians of the earth. Not the UN, not some multinational organization – we are the stewards of the earth. The mandate to care for creation was given to us, not the UN. So now, we have to read the UN’s development goals to know how to respond to poverty. We should have been telling them how to respond to poverty, not them telling us because we are the ones supposed to be at the forefront.
We should be the one responding to human trafficking because human trafficking is one of the most evils of the world that exists. It should have been us – broken by the heart of God. The things that break the heart of God should break our hearts. We should be the ones writing about how to respond to human trafficking. I think AW Tozer once said, “God will never use you greatly until he wounds you deeply.”
So great leaders are wounded people. They’re wounded over injustice. So, we don’t write because it’s a nice thing to do. We write, we’re like Jeremiah. This word is shut up in my bones if I don’t write it then I’m finished. (Jeremiah 20:9 paraphrase) I have to write this thing because this is the response. This is my catharsis. This is my way of responding to what I’m experiencing. I have to write. I have to say something.
So, therefore, as people who have the Spirit of God and who are people who worship the Living God, he does impress upon our hearts a response to the world in which we live, but we’re not always paying attention.
Now, there is definitely technical skills, which Norma touched on briefly, of how to write. You can learn, you can improve, but don’t make the lack of knowing how impede you from starting the process.
People always tell me, “What do I do when the book is finished?” And the book is not even started! They’re already thinking which publisher, which market, where do I sell it? I’m thinking myself you, know you, “Don’t put the cart before the horse!” Just write, for goodness’ sake. Just write.
My first book I wrote it without knowing where it’s going, who’s going to publish it – I just wrote. In fact, I did a prayer in PE. We did a prayer in the stadium and in the prayer, we’re praying and then I prayed around the veneration of ancestors. And in the prayer, afterwards, five or six months down the line, people ask me “Do you have a book on this subject?” I thought, “No! I don’t have a book on the subject!” And a few people asked me, “Do you have a book?” I don’t know why people are asking for the book. I just did a prayer.
I didn’t know I had a book, but people had to call it out of me. So, my first book is a result of people calling it out. I didn’t know I had the book in me. People then decided that and then they asked me, “Can you write at least a page for us to know what are the main things to consider when you deal with the veneration of ancestors?” And those points became chapters to a book. I did not know until I, until I started writing, I did not know I could write. I didn’t know I could write but I’m going to start writing and 18 months (I wrote) unbroken.
Now here’s what I did when I was writing: I made sure I opened my computer even if I went into the text to put a comma, remove a comma so the computer would say to me, “Do you want to save changes?” So that I feel I’m doing something!
I had to tell myself that you gotta open, you gotta do something. So, I’ll open it and I look at it. If anything, I would do is read everything I’ve written so far and see if it makes sense. And then I’ve got to do all the stuff that writers do: pull the material apart that I’ve already written, turn it around, upside down. The next thing I’m stuck again because I’ve messed up the whole thing and I thought it was sounding very well. But in the process, I was refining how the thing is sounding. And that’s how my book came out. So, people were instrumental in calling out what is inside of me.
But obviously, being a black South African, I was always concerned about that veneration and the consultation of the dead, but I was aware of the fact that a lot of material has been released on this, but mostly by missionaries. And therefore, I was concerned about indigenous people writing on this stuff. And then when I started writing this, I have an experience of this, so there’s anecdotes, so there’s experience, there’s also theology. So, I’m more equipped to write on this because I’ve walked in it, I’ve lived it.
But also, I’m drawn to the idea that God expects every generation to respond to the challenges of their time and holds every generation accountable for their response to the things that they faced in their lifetime. So, God holds me accountable for my challenges of my generation, not another generation. So, the fact that I keep quiet in my lifetime means I’m held accountable.
Like Mordecai said to Esther, “If you keep quiet at a time like this, God will send salvation from elsewhere. But how do you know if you have not been brought into the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 paraphrase)
So, I wrote. And when I wrote it, I wrote so much, I wrote so much that I never stopped. I had to travel overseas, all over, you know. When I travelled, I’d have to wait for planes and wait for connecting flights and get bored. I never got bored again. It’s amazing. I don’t care if the flight is delayed for two hours. It wouldn’t matter. I just need a plug point to plug my computer. I mean, I never got bored. I mean, imagine that. I would entertain myself everywhere in the world just by writing.
And I occupied my time, and I wrote so much that most of the material of the first part became about culture. I had to remove it and it became the next book. So, the second book was birthed by the first book because I realized it was beginning to be thicker and thicker and thicker, and I took material out. So, only to discover that once I start writing, I just don’t stop. I enjoy it. It’s there. It exists. It’s the thing that’s inside of us if we just allow ourselves to put that effort into it.
Respond to the Issues Around You
Read, Write, Speak
So, the writing forces me to read, right? So, I read, I write, and then the mind begins to be stretched in how to collate, how to store information, and how to bring out facts at the right time, and now you train your mind how to work well with you when you speak. Then you find your speech now is also improved. And so, I found that this feed one to another.
And so therefore, it’s a problem really to even go to a church of a preacher who doesn’t read because I know what he’s going to do. He’s going to preach one verse, out of context, and shouts it, and calls it a good sermon. So, I’m gonna ask him like, “The Zerubbabel that you’re speaking about ‘not by might, not by power…’ Who’s Zerubbabel?”
Haggai (Zechariah) 4:6, it’s not by might, nor by power…” But who’s Zerubbabel? I mean, do you know? Do you know, do you know who’s Zerubbabel?
Josiah, for instance, we speak about Josiah. And Josiah chronicles, “And Josiah rose at the age of eight, prophesied about 300 years before his birth.” But now you read Jeremiah – Jeremiah is the same prophet that lived alongside Josiah, but Jeremiah’s book is down the Old Testament. And if you think it’s chronological, you’ll think Josiah lived and then Jeremiah lived afterwards, if you think chronologically, but it’s not the case. Jeremiah is a prophet who lived alongside Josiah, so the Bible isn’t written in chronological order.
So, if a person doesn’t read, therefore, they don’t give us the full spectrum of what’s going on. They give us their personal view of what’s going on which could be wrong or jaundiced or tend towards a certain direction. So, we don’t get to know what God was doing during that time or when Josiah lived. We just get this guy’s opinion of what God did.
What we want to know (is) what did God do, not what you think God did. Because you’re God’s spokesperson, for goodness sakes, you’re not your own spokesperson. You speak on God’s behalf. You must always speak as be the oracles of God, as though God himself was speaking. So, then you have to go and check what is God saying before you speak on his behalf, which means you can’t avoid reading what God has said.
So, we can’t help it. We have to do this stuff. And you know our youth today. Our youth today are not going to be very happy with you telling them about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They don’t know who that guy is. Or C.S Lewis. C.S Lewis is largely for you to read C.S Lewis. They’re not gonna be happy with you telling them what C.S Lewis said. Or Martin Luther, the German reformer, or John Calvin or John Newton. They don’t want to know that. You have to tell them what you say.
Now you have to read what John Calvin says and then contextualize it and then write stuff on it. They don’t care about John Newton. Who’s John Newton? Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. You have to read what he wrote and then contextualize it. And even now in vernacular as well. So, now you have to read it. I’ll say in my church this Sunday, “Read my books.” And they’ll say but don’t use my English in a context that is not requiring it. Read it, assimilate it, understand it, break it down, then speak it in Xhosa. Because it’s pointless to tell people stuff… “veneration” What does veneration mean?
So, don’t use those words. It’s not good. You aren’t being clever. You’re being very foolish really, because communication is about me being understood, it’s not about being impressive. If nobody understands, you’ve communicated very badly. So, it’s not about, “I spoke. I told them.” Or “I gave them a piece of my mind.” I mean, if you keep giving pieces of your mind, I mean, nothing will be left by the time you are done, definitely. So, you communicate to be understood, right?
And so, we read, you know, to read the stuff and some of the stuff, I guess, guys, it’s very obscure. It’s deep theology and some that uses Old King James that I was, I was, “enhungered.” There’s a verse like that. “Jesus was enhungered.” That’s Old King James. You can’t preach like that, obviously. “Jesus was enhungered.” What? Just say he was hungry, man. Why can you just say hungry?
So, we have to read that. And so much, so much has been done for us. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. So much has been done for us to explain the Trinity, to explain the attributes of God, to explain the nature of the Holy Spirit. So much has been done for us to explain the Canon, how it was put together, to answer somebody who thinks that the Bible just came out a few hundred years ago by some conspiracy. So much has been written for us to explain these basic concepts, but we have to understand them so well, we can explain them in any language.
Respond to Your Own Context
So, for me, writing really, really, really, really, really, really is you responding theologically and correctly in the context in which you live, on the stuff that people are facing around you. And therefore, the stuff is not going to be the same from context to context and from place to place, right? As a last point – I want to just leave it at this – the issue of the pervation of divination right now, of divination in South Africa. Divination has just filled the whole space. It’s crazy. Everywhere, almost like every third person now is a diviner: celebrities, children – it’s crazy. It’s gone, it’s gone mad. It’s like everybody will do to us. So we come around and we speak against divination and then what do people say? “The Bible is against African culture!” So, what do we do? What do we say to that?
So, it’s simple for me. I have to explain to people that the prohibition of divination took place before African culture was formed. So, you’re being, you’re practicing historical revisionism and diversion. When the Torah was written in the Old Testament, the Israelites were actually, in fact moving, from Egypt in Africa to Canaan. They were in Egypt for 430 years. So, when the Bible wrote in Deuteronomy 18 verse 9 and verse 12.
“When you come into the land which the Lord your God has given you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those Nations. There should not be found anyone among you that makes the son that will pass over the fire or practice his divination…” (Deuteronomy 18:9-10 paraphrase)
This was written in the context in which the Israelites were entering the land of Canaan. They’re about to enter then, okay? They’re moving from Egypt in Africa. So, God did not have Africans in mind when he gave the instruction. So, it’s actually historical revisionism to say this is about Africa. God is against Africans. In fact, I tell people, “You think of yourself too highly. You are overstating your importance.” Like God is, you think God is going to write a whole Bible to target you. You really think you really think you are more important than you think you are!
The people of Israel were moving from Africa to Egypt – so from Egypt to Canaan. Then God gave the Torah somewhere in the middle, on the peninsula, on the mountain of Sinai. Firstly, God gives people the opportunity to be in Covenant with him. Moses goes up the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. He hears the voice of God. God proposes a covenant. Moses relays the information down to the people below the mountain. The people agree to the Covenant and on their agreement, God gave them the law as terms and conditions of the Covenant. So, the law is given in response to people agreeing to be part of the Covenant. It’s not arbitrary. It’s not given by itself. So, sequence is important. It’s the Covenant first and then the law.
In other words, if you tell a person who’s cheating on their wives, on their wife, or wife on their husband because they can also… So not wives, wife. Cheating on their wife. I mean if you want to cheat on your wives, you really are a troublesome man. I mean, if you already have wives and are cheating on your wives, I mean, really. You really have, you’re messed up big time!
So, if a man cheats on his wife and then you correct him and he defends it, justifies it, it means maybe we need to not talk about the cheating. We must go back a step back and talk about covenant. The reason why he doesn’t understand why adultery is wrong – he doesn’t understand what marriage covenant is about.
So, the law is given to people who are in covenant. Therefore, a person with a problem with God’s law is an indication that they’re not in covenant with God. They have no relationship with God because it’s easy to understand the law if you’re in relationship with God.
The law – and by the way, the whole issue of Old Testament law is not applicable to New Testament Christians is incorrect. Parts of it are not are not applicable but some parts are. The moral law is certainly applicable. Civil, moral and ceremonial: There’s three parts of the law.
The civil is not applicable. The ceremonial is not applicable. The moral is permanently, universally eternally. God will always be against idolatry at every deepest dispensation, always be against a false witness. So, the Ten Commandments are the moral law of God. That doesn’t change.
So, therefore, you show the people that, look, this law was given maybe about 5000 years ago, thousands of years ago before your culture was formed. So, just on the basis of that alone, you’re applying historical revisionism. You are inaccurate. God prohibited divination for what it is, not for who is doing it. It’s the practice, not the person. The fact that you chose to do it means you put yourself at the crosshairs of God’s judgment.
It’s like, if you like to steal, that you enjoy stealing, the Bible says “Thou shall not steal.” So, should God change his law now to accommodate your proclivities? “No but I like to steal.” What must God do now? Change the law because you want to steal? It doesn’t work like that.
So, I’m just saying to you that, just in the brief. I’m sure you get the idea. Even the issue – I’ve already published a book on divination – I never sat down to do it, but divination is something somebody must respond to because it’s a big deal. For me to respond to divination, I must think. I couldn’t just respond spiritually or emotionally. Divination is wrong – yes and we know that. Most of us know that here but we must make sense of it philosophically and historically and anthropologically and didactically. You must make sense to people.
I’m not really writing to Christians: I’m writing to nay-sayers and pessimists and outsiders, to show them, logical and historically, why divination is wrong. It must make sense, consistently, logically, it must make logical, consistent sense. They must really understand that I didn’t thumb this thing up. It’s four pages of bibliography of research and mostly from African Religion Scholars, from their own philosophers, quoting them what they say that to be diviner, you must be possessed.
I don’t say that. They say that. So, the divination involves being possessed with spirits of divination. We cast out those spirits, they talk about inviting them in. So, these things are incompatible with our faith.
All of this is to show that when you are a child of God and you are a writer, you’re going to therefore, there’s no way (as I close) there’s no way we can write on the same things, on the basis of faith that we don’t face the same things, as Norma has already alluded to.
And second point is this: we don’t… The first thing she did was make us write what we are feeling and to express the fact that we cannot experience the same thing but we’re in the same room, just to show how different we are.
The other thing that is very clear with all of us here is this: we don’t think the same way. We don’t have the same way of addressing issues and therefore, if we follow the same pattern, we will think one way of writing is the best. So, this person is clever, is better. And I always tell people, don’t do comparison. We are different, right? We are equally valuable, but different in function. I respond in proportion to the grace. “To whom much is given…” (Luke 12:48) I respond.
So, I have to be faithful to the proportion of my calling. I’m not Bonge. I’m not accountable to God for millions of people being saved, I’m accountable for the 200 I’m given. So, I must be faithful to the few I’m given, not to the millions that Bonge is supposed to reach. So, I’m not judged on Bonge style, I’m judged by my standard that God has given me.
So, there’s no, “Oh this is the, this guy is like the best.” Well maybe his presence in a certain market is targeting that which God has given him. He must write for that market or that audience. You must write children’s stories, perhaps, and I don’t know how. Who’s gonna write for children, if everybody’s gonna write some bombastic English? So, should we not read stories about the faith that appeal to them?
One day I was asked to preach to primary schools in Eastern Cape, which I will not do again. So, they didn’t tell me, they didn’t warn me, they just invited me and I showed up and its primary schools. I said they should have told me, I would have said no! Children, so I don’t know what they do. David and Goliath – all three schools. What else do you do? “Goliath was a big man!”
What do you do? You can’t talk to children about theology. ‘And David was a small man but he had a sling and he pulled his sling and shoot Goliath and Goliath fell! [Applause] And the kids are going like “whoaaaa!” So, I did that from school to school – that’s all I did. It worked but after I was done, I was tired. I said, “I’m not doing this again!”
And I had a newfound appreciation for children’s ministers, for the people who raised my kids in school, my own people who raised my own kids in my own church. My kids disappeared into a children’s church. The people who take care of my kids are the best. They are top. They are like top dogs. I mean, they are amazing. How do they communicate the Gospel to these people? And they understand it and they live. Like the SCA that reached Norma and others. They are amazing, they’re gifted, but they are faithful to their gift in their level.
That’s why we need people to write to youth, to write to women, to write to men, to write to children, to write about nature, to write about creation, to write about finances, about leadership, about marriage, about the various types of topics. We need all of that to enrich us as people.