(An Article by Jacques Groenewald in 10 March 2008)
Jeremiah 29: 11 “…For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, “ declares the Lord, “I will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile. “
It has been an amazing eight months since my lovely wife Jeanette and I have placed membership in the London International Christian Church. We have seen more baptisms, restorations and place memberships in the past eight months than we have seen in the past five years. It’s been truly incredible. We’ve seen unbelievable spiritual growth in ourselves and the whole church as a result of the regular disciplining and devotional life that is so much part of the church here.
Tim and Lianne truly hit the ground running when they arrived here about six months ago, preaching, disciplining, evangelizing and bringing people back to the Lord. We were about three before they arrived and that small snowball has just grown and grown. Every time we look up from the work we are amazed to see that God has continued to add to our number and our spiritual fruit. They built a mission team that now has achieved a momentum where we are adding a new member almost every week. Things are really picking up steam in a big way!
One thing I have to admit I was concerned about as I visited the London International Christian Church for the first time was that it was a mere “break off” group or an Anti-ICOC group instead of a pro-Jesus group. I had truly given myself in a profound way to the first “five year plan” that that originated in London in 2002 with the “Honest to God” letter from Henry Kriete. I had waited patiently and in great expectation for things to really get better as we were promised. I was not blind to the fact that there was almost no true discipling or evangelism and that the Gospel was not being preached but I truly believed that behind the scenes things were moving and that indeed things would “get better” soon. I listened to countless sermons about how we were now “turning the corner”, “turning around”, “going to improve soon” and I fully endorsed them all.
My dear girlfriend Jeanette Nel became my dear and lovely wife Jeanette Groenewald last year which was one of the best moments of my life. However with the blessings of marriage also come the responsibilities of a husband. A husband must physically and spiritually protect his wife from all harm as Christ protects the church. The truth of the matter is that I was always called to be my brother’s keeper however marriage has a way of bringing that call to protect one another and carry one another’s burdens somewhat more to the forefront.
I have to admit in the back of my mind I started to have some doubts about whether or not the church truly was turning around after all. I started to look more deeply beyond the language of “getting better”, “turning the corner”, “turning around” or “going to improve soon” which were the point of so many sermons. They are awesome hopes however I wanted to see if there was any concrete plan, strategy or goals to achieve these hopes. I had a growing feeling of false hope as I realized that the vast majority of these promises were completely empty and would probably never be materialized. It’s hard to describe how discouraged I was starting to feel…
I now see that it was in fact God who was opening my eyes so that I could see the incredible things he was going to do for me. In the London International Christian Church I saw a standard preached and I saw the leaders lovingly helping people to achieve it. On the other hand I saw a Nehemiah like leadership that insisted that the church only be made up of committed disciples; even if some were weak and needed lots of help. I didn’t hear any promises about the future; I saw a plan, a strategy, goals and action.
In some really poor hospitals in Africa where I am from the staff keep the patients high on morphine instead of actually dealing with the problems that need to be addressed. Whenever the patient feels pain he is given more morphine. This is how I see I was allowing myself to be in the ICOC here in London. I was allowing the morphine of “its getting better” to replace the true disciplining and call to obedience to Christ that I needed. I am now totally rejecting the morphine and I would like to appeal to all my brothers and sisters in the ICOC to do the same. I beg you to come and see what a committed church is like and believe again with me that we can do great things for God.
Even now there are sermons being preached in the ICOC about a new Five Year Plan, again with no actual strategy. As I can imagine hearing people clapping in the audience – that could have been me, I am praying for them. I know they are totally sincere but I really pray for them to come over and get back to the mission.
The passage (Jeremiah 29) is about how God promised the Israelites that He would return to them after being in exile when they pray to him and seek him with all their heart. I can truly say that this promise felt far from coming true for me. But after it became clear to me that God wants obedience rather than promises, I prayed to him and joined a church of sold out disciples and I can now truly say I am seeing that its true for us too more than 2000 years later!
Even if you have doubts come to the Gathering conference later this year in October and find out for yourself where you can hear from Kip and other leaders themselves and get a chance to ask some unanswered questions in person.
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