In Chapter 4 of Everything must change Brian Mclaren retells the story of visiting Khayelitsha, one of the largest townships in South Africa. As he visited with several pastors, a social worker spoke up and told the pastors that they’re doing more bad than good in the community. Their focus on salvation, healing and tithing does not help the poverty, AIDS and other problems in the community. He confronted the pastors saying:
You know your problem? You pentecostals and you evangelicals specialized. You specialized in healing, in getting people born again, in creating financially successful churches- but you need to go beyond that. It’s time to get a better message- something bigger than just those things. If you stop there all your preaching is nonsense.
This man’s response is sadly too true. The prosperity gospel, which is a neo-platonic and gnostic mixture of the gospel, is rampant here in South Africa. I’ve seen it. From the pastor who believes that AIDS is caused by demons and can be exorcised to the seventeen-year-old that wants to become a preacher so that he can drive a fancy car and appear on television. Fortunately there is hope. Eddie and David are two personal examples of this. I’ve told you about David before so let me talk to you about my friend Eddie.
Eddie is a pastor that walked away from the deceit of the prosperity gospel. I meet with him every other week and then we talk about our communities. Kleipot in the suburbs and Diepsloot community church in a 100 000 squatter camp. My favorite question is to ask what he preached on the previous week. Two weeks ago he preached on violence, and his community’s response to it. In Diepsloot three people were killed that week. Two were necklaced and one was stoned. All of them through mob violence. Eddie preached on Jesus who taught his followers non-violence and how to be peacemakers. He encouraged his community to become involved in their local street committees and serve in the local government processes.
Eddie followed his own advice and in the following week they asked the local government for a meeting to talk about the escalating violence in the squatter camp. I tagged along in this meeting. They talked to the local government on issues like security. Diepsloot has no official police station – the closest station is 60km away. How can this be?
Earlier in the year Eddie challenged one of the two clinics servicing Diepsloot. They were opening at 8am and then would leave earlier than they’re supposed too. Eddie challenged the conduct through the right channels and then facilitated training health workers in his community to provide home care. The clinic is now working the hours that they’re supposed to work.
Currently we’re looking at providing a house for refugees that’s streaming into Diepsloot from other countries (mainly Zimbabwe). The Diepsloot community is already home to people from various African countries.
People like Eddie and David are my heroes …. pastors who are de-constructing versions of the gospel that reeks with Platonism and Gnosticism.