Of Fairies and Shepherds

Clearing out superstitions and giving practical advise to realise Godly vision

God has placed a very special character trait into South Africans – a creative freedom that has been allowed to thrive in a rather non-restrictive environment. Due to a minimum of legislation around new business ideas Southafricans pride themselves in a unique entrepreneurial mindset. Don’t fight me on this, chaps. If you think Southafrican bureaucracy is stifling, try to just get certified for freelancing in Germany. If you dare to produce anything, be prepared to undergo tedious quality controls and approval procedures this country hasn’t ever dreamed about. I of course still love the German system, if I buy a chair I am certain it won’t break even if used for other purposes than merely sitting on it, whereas an ordinary Southafrican chair might just give in when you get nervous about the stock exchange. But in Germany there is no such thing as a weekend diploma enabling you to call yourself a certified nutrition specialist etc!). The downside of the ease in which people are allowed to open businesses on which a person or even several families will place their whole livelihood is that due to a lack of know how and work ethic, many small businesses are closed as frequently as they are opened, putting many families through trauma of not being adequately provided for.
One of the main needs smaller and medium-sized communities have from their pastors is sound advice for individual business solutions. There is no money for bringing in specialized advisors, and since everybody agrees that without God’s blessing success isn’t likely to happen, the pastor is the one brought in to help and more than often to try to save the business.

What amused me up to a point of annoyance in our many encounters with struggling businesses and farmers is a rather fairy tale like approach many Christians display when it comes to biblical principles.

A desperate business owner will “sow” some money into the church and expect business return to triple this month. A farmer will give R 5000 to a charitable project and expect God to “make it” R500.000 in wins for him at the end of the onion harvest.
Now that might work if there was something like a business fairy godmother handing out magic potions. I have not, however, found scriptural grounds for such an equation.
That mindset is widespread.

People expect God to “bless” their business if they just sow a financial seed elsewhere, regardless of business habits and procedures they use. If it’s not happening, they will start blaming God, the pastor, the church and end up starting their own “ministry” because that seems to be a general “bounce back” route for failed business owners: start “Frickies global ministry” . Not to get cynical here, let me illustrate what I mean.
Take Koosie. Koosie bought a drilling machine, a dowsing rod and a computer with a printer, employed two friends and had some signs printed saying: “yet another boorgat (borehole) by Koosie enterprises”.
He goes to work. Excited over some success in drilling for water Koosie buys a new house and makes a lot of debt. Him and his friends are putting in over hours to get the business to expand and buy another second-hand drilling machine from a scrapyard. The machine gives problems every second day and it takes a third guy to come and fix it. In the meantime Koosies wife takes money out of the petty cash in the office to pay stationary for their boy and some new shoes, and tomorrow she pays the maid from it. None of it ever gets recorded. For a while, the drilling picks up. Koosie’s marriage however suffers because he is never at home. To make up for it, he invests business money into building a dance studio for his wife’s sister who wants to start a ballet school. Before this gets completed, she meets a handsome stranger and heads off into sunset with him. The dance studio can still become a granny flat, but by now Koosies scrap yard machine has gone to meet its maker and business is slow. They will have to send their two young sons away to friends over christmas because there is no money for food or gifts.
That’s where we as pastors come in.

(That’s why we never go away over december by the way, because at the end of the year, lots of proverbial paw- paws hit the fan and we need to come and clean up the mess.)
“Why did God allow this to happen? We bought 2000 rand of clothes for orphans last year!”
Now exactly what the poor orphans have to do with bad business habits I do not know, that’s the fairies department. The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget attributed that kind of reasoning to children under seven years: I behaved good so the apple tree will bring good fruits for me. Children nine years and older already reason that apples will be produced rather from good soil .

We all agree that superstition plays a big part in African indigenous cultures. Christianity historically played a big role freeing people from magical thinking by teaching them to use the gifts God has placed inside them wisely.  People need to be taught how to apply sober reasoning to their decisions which is what Jesus taught: Luk 14:28  For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he may have enough to finish it.
Yes, Jesus also taught about the principal of sowing and reaping . However, His famous example of the sower (Luke 8 verses 5 ff) clearly refers to the word of God being sown into our hearts, bringing thirty, sixty and hundred fold fruit in our lives depending on the state of our hearts and the diligence of how we put the word into practice. It does not give us a mathematical equation for donating some money and expecting a multiple return. We are to give funds out of love and concern for God’s kingdom and our neighbour, “so that there might be bread in the house of the Lord (Malachi 3:10)”. And God does promise that faithful stewardship of finances in the area of giving will be rewarded.

But that does not guarantee business success when we implement wrong habits.
There is no limit to the areas of life we touch in our counseling. Dealing with debt, getting a degree, managing your staff better, strategic advertising, time management, getting over past disappointments – all in a days work.  It’s often frustrating to find out that small business owners don’t even invest into a good auditor, and don’t keep track of their money, don’t pay their taxes properly. Are we as churches called to advise in such “unchurchy” topics? I believe if the body of Christ wants to shine a light on this earth it has to happen in all fields of daily life.

I am newly energised with fresh vision if I see the Church changing the way she sees herself and her role in society. Training courses will shift from bible knowledge and information to practical involvement in helping one another and utilizing each other’s experience to serve our communities. Succesful businesses are able to generate funds  used to practically facilitate change in people’s lives and not for buildings or luxuries. Exciting children’s ministry, community projects to aid children’s education and sporting events will be normal part of church life. This way, the communities’ relationships with congregations and churches will become stronger. True shepherding to me means that empowerment of community members will come from the church and not the government.

Shepherds sharpen their tools by learning and opening themselves up for fruitful connection outside the ministry circle.

Shepherds are spiritual fathers and mothers with the expertise of many years in many practical fields. Such skilled leaders will be progressively more called into government meetings and been asked for their advice. That’s what I hope and pray for, a change of this beautiful nation through Christians who take up their responsibility towards their communities and stop waiting for somebody else to “do something about it”. I hope many churches will follow the call and practically start training their members for successful personal, spiritual and professional life.

In the end, the poor and orphaned around us will benefit from Christians who get involved in uplifting their community from a place of success and responsibility, not out of guilt and superstition. They will help because they are moved, not because they hope for an automated benefit for themselves.

So, and now I am going to have a christmas mince-pie.

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7 thoughts on “Of Fairies and Shepherds”

  1. Great post! We live in deceptive and confusing times and popular “Christian leaders,” not “the world,” are to blame for much of this deception and confusion. That’s one of the things I like about reading posts from people like you and Walter; it reminds me that there still are common sense followers of Christ all over the world.

    1. Thanks a lot for your encouragement. Especially here in Africa the concept of “a quick buck” has corrupted so many so-called churches … educated, educate, educate. … Never give up.

  2. Excellent analysis of one of Africa growing problems – especially in the church context. Thanks to popular America tele-evangelists with their prosperity gospel and a misguided, if not heretical teaching on giving and receiving, the church in Africa has been derailed from reaching its true potential.
    I applaud your effort…
    But I hope other churches, missions organizations and believers can see the possibilities for a better and prosperous country. Teach and train others to effect that change.
    How was the pie by the way?
    Walter

    1. Hi Walter, thank you so much for taking the time to post a constructive comment! The pie was delicious and – fattening hahaha! Otherwise, yip agree 100% the Christian telly spreads a totally distorted view of Christianity. The thousands of people suffering for their faith aren’t featured, clearly a single preachers private jet could finance the rescue of hundreds of North Korean prisoners. I attened 9 hour long church services in Nigeria interrupted 6-8 times by someone whipping up the poor masses to give more tithe and offerings. Pastors lived in luxurious mansions while the people died on burning rubbish dumps. That’s not Jesus’ s gospel for sure. I had a cell group leader from Sudan who had to flee for his life after getting saved, crossing to egypt by camel and hiking. So many different realities crash into each other. On a day to day basis I often lack wisdom to bring solutions together with need. Thanks for commenting, C

  3. Reblogged this on Bridging Worlds and commented:

    Hi, a lot of my new followers have been asking what am I doing all day 🙂 here’s some of the things that’s part of my job, enjoy and I hope it can clear out some superstitions …

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