An Alternative Look at “Church”…

We used to be part of a traditional, Afrikaans church but a group of us felt lead to look for more growth in our faith walk, including organising small groups for fellowship and to be able to sing different, alternative songs and so forth. This made others uncomfortable and we were asked to rather go than to upset the status quo. I was very unhappy but we decided to look for alternative places and ways of worship in surrounding towns. At times we came across congregations who did things differently, using new and upbeat music, alternative ways of dealing with traditional baptism and confirmation, things that made worship a growing experience and something we could relate to. However, in time all the extra travelling to get to church and to also take our daughter back to boarding school on a Sunday afternoon got to us and we started to rather meet with fellow believers as a house church. When we visit together as a group of believers we fellowship, share Scripture and support each other in prayer. At times we still get to different congregations as we miss praise and worshiping in song as well as being part of the community of believers, who can share with each other and support each other. On most Wednesday afternoons a few of us women meet together for some fellowship or some Friday evenings a group of our believer friends get together for a Shabbat meal and some sharing and fellowship. This alternative, new way of doing church takes a lot more self-discipline, to focus on your own spiritual growth and what needs to be done to enable that.
Being baptised was a need that my husband and I both felt. The opportunity came while on an outreach in the Kalahari, which is basically a desert area, very dry and desolate. As we were walking along in the veld one day, my husband, Christo, remarked that if only there was water, he would have loved to be baptised there and then. Low and behold, we soon came across a small stream of water but I remarked that I did not feel like being baptised in that dirty water and left it there. As we continued our stroll we suddenly came across a lake of pristine water, provided by God for our baptism. That night we approached the minister, Johan David, and asked to be baptised, which he then did early one quiet morning.
At another time I went with a minister and 3 young students from Bloemfontein, on a prayer outreach around the outskirts of the whole of the Free State Province. It took us about a week to complete. We had arrangements in different towns, to stay over at some congregations or just to pass through. Each of us got a few towns to research beforehand as to use the history to direct our prayers. Sometimes we stopped and prayed at the entrance to towns. When we got to Smithfield we went into a small coffee shop and when we explained the purpose of our travels the young lady in the shop welcomed us, we praised and worshipped and prayed together. She even quickly phoned the new minister from their church to join, a young guy who came rushing by with his scooter. Later she referred to their previous minister who was very old fashioned and controlling and how it used to hamper their church. To my surprise I discovered that this was the same minister who, after he left that congregation, came to Bultfontein, the same person who did not want to allow any growth or change in our congregation. This explained why we found it difficult to grow and had to look for alternatives. In Viljoenskroon a few of us stood on the traffic circle in the middle of the main road, praying for the town while others went to do some food shopping. A guy, Lucas Steyn, whom I briefly new when at university, came by and drove around the circle, watching us. He then parked and came over to ask what we were up to, thanking us for our care for their town. Later years we joined him on his farm for a wonderful Christian New Year’s Eve celebration.
Sometimes we have to trust God and when receiving message from Him to travel to a faraway part of the world, in this case, the northern parts of India, we consider it part of the ministry that we feel called to. One day we ended up sitting on a flower box in front of a Sikh temple. (Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region in the Northern part of India, based on the revelation of Guru Nanak). Tourists are not common in these areas and many people stared and considered it strange to see us sitting there. A young man joined us and soon after carefully showed us his cross and asked if we were Christians too. We were delighted to meet him and, in spite of language barriers, spent time singing, praising and praying together. He joined us for a meal and we still keep in contact with him. Sometime ago he asked to become part of our family by marrying our daughter! I said to him that this was not how we do things but that he can become part of our family through shared faith. He regularly sends encouraging messages, like “God bless your family”. He did find a Christian girl to marry and promised to come and show my “daughter in law” to me somewhere in the future. I am amazed at how God created this strange connection out of nowhere.
Our visit to the Philippines was the result of a reaction to a friend’s statement on Facebook, from a Roman Catholic guy who ended up inviting us to visit. We were 5 ladies who went on a prophetic prayer trip to call back the priesthood that used to exist in the Philippines in the past. In Biblical times priests found protection in those areas as well as the persecuted Jews during the Second World War. We ended up baptising our Roman Catholic friend and proclaiming Jesus on the plains in the city by blowing the shofar as we went along. Someone came to check what the sound was that he was hearing and when we stated that this was the sound to which Jesus will be returning, he remarked that this was what he had been waiting for all along!
In a nutshell, we are the church, responsible for our own spiritual growth. Relationship with Jesus is my own responsibility and we, as the body of believers, support each other by gathering to praise and worship together. Home Church / cell groups / life groups can be the vessel to spiritual growth. We need to make sure that we are not just going through the motions and that we really and truly keep growing in our personal relationship with Jesus.
Blessings
Matty Marx
Bultfontein, Free State

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