Thursday, July 26, 2018

An invitation for South African Church Leaders

Here's an invitation for South African pastors and priests and your community leaders to the Divine Renovation Conference that will be held in Johannesburg from the 13- 14th of August 2018 at the Church of the Resurrection Bryanston OR 16 August St Joseph’s Morningside Durban OR 18 August Holy Redeemer Bergvliet Cape Town.
We are honoured to have Father James Mallon, Catholic priest and the author of the bestselling book “Divine Renovation: From A Maintenance to A Missional Parish”, an engaging guide for parishes seeking to cultivate dynamic faith communities centred on missionary discipleship, as our keynote speaker. Father James Mackay of the Docklands in the East of London will also be speaking on his experience with the Divine Renovation model. (See video clip links below…)
The message of Divine Renovation has resonated in the hearts of hundreds of pastors and the laity throughout the world. It has inspired and motivated them to act and seek help in transforming their own faith community.
Registration can be done online on and the cost is R350 for Johannesburg which is a two day event and
R150 for Durban and Cape Town which are one day events.
We are very excited and look forward to having you and your community leaders with us.
Thank you so much and God Bless.
Check out these interviews:

Monday, July 23, 2018


Two excellent articles and a book.

In the first article, Ryan writes: "I had a psychotherapist a few years ago who I often brought personal issues of meaning and vocation to.   I remember him saying, “The need does not necessitate the call.” In essence, he was saying that the existence of an issue in the world—be it social, political, humanitarian—does not mean a certain individual is called to engage it or help solve it. The unique ways in which we are each made informs how we are designed to be in the world, how we are meant to live and serve.

And just as the need does not necessitate the call, the call does not necessitate the readiness. Or put differently, even when we are we called, it doesn’t mean that we are prepared to go.

The call is not enough."

The second article deals with wounds...and, indeed, the need to deal with our wounds.

And...Ryan has also written a book:

LEAD Report: December 2017 to July 2018

Since our last report, Louise and I have trained in the following areas.

December 1-3, 2017: George – 20 participants
February 13-18, 2018: St Mark the Evangelist – 27 participants, including the 7 leaders trained in September 19-20 2017 who assisted in this training
February 22-25, 2018: Johannesburg – we trained 23 previously Strategy trained participants in the second of the four modules called Foundations
March 9-11, 2018: Cape Town Youth Leaders – 26 participants
March 16-18, 2018: Klerksdorp (cancelled just prior to planned training)
March 20-May 4, 2018: deputation in USA
May 16-20, 2018: Natal – Strategy 14 participants
                                                  Rooted in Jesus
June 12-14, 2018: Namibia – 4/5 participants (one participant had to leave after one day’s training)

By invitation of, and fully funded by, Bishop Mouneer Anis, Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa:
June 25-29, 2918: Gambela, Ethiopia – 26 participants
July 3-6, 2018: Cairo, Egypt – 12 participants

Louise has created a contact email database on the My Anglican website to help us keep in touch with those we have trained. A lot of follow-up work is done in between trainings in which participants receive various resources to help them implement the training, namely videos, Bible Studies, different disciple-making manuals, various articles on disciple making, and so on. If we find something that may be helpful, we pass it on, like the recent Thy Kingdom Come Prayer Initiative. We also coach and encourage participants from time to time asking for feedback and questions and stories. When we do receive emails in return, we answer them promptly according to what is addressed.

We have also been trying to settle into our new home and community and have been actively engaged in our own local parish, St Augustine’s in Villiersdorp.

Disciple making requires a huge paradigm shift for many of our trainees that involves modelling, life transformation, multiplication (making disciples who can make disciples), community or people-centred focused ministry rather than church-based programs, changing priorities, and every member ministry. The training is based on what we believe is Jesus’ model for disciple making using the Gospels as a basic platform. It includes a 60-Day Study on the Life and Ministry of Jesus that encourages the trainee to read through all four Gospels.

Investing in the lives of a few, with a view to creating active disciple makers, takes time and a lot of personal effort. It took Jesus three to four years. In an age of instant everything and quick fixes, this initially appears to be a problem. Quality is often overlooked when the focus is on quantity.
Some of the responses to our coaching questions have revealed that many participants are extremely busy. One participant told us that he did not have time for regular prayer and Bible reading, much less personal retreat time, as he served on various committees and guilds, was responsible for several churches, and was engaged in further theological studies by extension, among other things. We counselled him to prayerfully consider his priorities.

We have been encouraged by some forward movements, such as the case with St Mark’s second training where previously trained participants trained others with our assistance. Johannesburg was also the first to host the second module Foundations. Participants in Natal were so thrilled with the Strategy material that they are in the process of translating it into Zulu. Namibia has asked us to come back to train again, using the 4 trained participants, but in the more rural areas in the north and, perhaps, southern Angola.

We have noticed that when the Bishop of the Diocese is involved in the training the participants tend to be more motivated to implement the training. We saw this yet again in Cairo with Bishop Mouneer. Participants in Gambela implemented what we were training even during the training! Participants seem to be more motivated when their leaders show personal interest.

A lack of funds needed to pay for the training manuals, our travel, and our board and lodging costs seem to be a problem for some Dioceses.

Since our deputation trip to the US, we have managed to raise enough funds for a 4X4 vehicle and for fuel for the trips. (Many thanks to our US ministry partners!) When possible, we camp in inexpensive parks or camping grounds close to the training, or stay with friends, family, or parishioners to try to cut down on living expenses. We are also working on the manuals to see how we can cut down on printing costs as well. Louise and I will be part of a two-day revision of both Strategy and Foundations with the J-Life leaders early August.

We still have 13 Dioceses left in which to train participants in Strategy. Those already trained are being encouraged to a) implement the material personally, b) begin planning a second training in which they train other trainers in their Diocese with our help, and c) begin planning to be trained in the second module, Foundations. It is important to be trained in all four modules if one is aiming at a permanent shift in the manner in which disciple making ministry is done.

We also hope to be offering training in Rooted in Jesus in the near future, as it is a very useful resource in the process of making disciples.

Sermon preached at St Augustine's Villiersdorp

I had the honour of celebrating the Eucharist at St Augustine's Villiersdorp this past is a copy of the sermon I preached.

2 Samuel 7:1-14a    Psalm 89:20-37    Ephesians 2:11-22    Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Building God’s House

I love reading the Old Testament…because it helps me understand the New Testament so much better! So much of understanding the New Testament is dependent on our understanding the Old Testament.

Take our reading for this Sunday as an example. Here the great king David announced his intention to build a house for God to the prophet Nathan. The prophet thought it was a good idea and gave the king the thumbs up. But that night, the Lord revealed to Nathan that this was not to be…in fact, rather than have the king build God a house, God was going to build the king a house…an eternal dynasty of kings! And one of these kings would build God a house…

Now, of course, we all know that it was the great king Solomon who built a house for God…a Temple so marvellous that people came from all around just to look at it.

But, like with so much of the Old Testament, there is something greater here than what first meets the eye. God had an even greater kingdom in mind…a spiritual kingdom that would encompass the globe in its entirety, whose King would be His very own Son. A Son who would also be a descendent of David.

We see the same double application in our Psalm for today, Psalm 89. At first glance it seems clear that the psalmist was talking about king David…which, of course, he was…but once we know the bigger fulfilment of this prophetic word, we realise that the “first-born Son” destined to be the “mightiest king on earth” would be greater than David.

The genealogy in Matthew testifies to the fact that the royal line of David ended with Jesus…after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, all the genealogical records of the Jews were destroyed. Since then, no one can claim to be a descendent of David with any degree of certainty. So Matthew presented Jesus as the fulfilment of the covenant promises God made with David. His is the kingdom that will continue before God for all time…His royal throne is the one that is secure for ever…and He is the Son who would build and, indeed, is building the house of God…but unlike Solomon and the ecclesiastical and political leaders of His time, Jesus is building this house with living stones.

And to this day Jesus is still building this house…but He is using us, His Body, His Church, to build it. So, in a sense, Jesus is building the house of God by working with and in and through the living blocks of the house.

Now, we see the beginnings of this house in the Gospels. While the ecclesiastical elite of the day were to be found in the synagogues and in the Temple, Jesus was found walking in the fields, on the lake shore, in the market places, in the towns and villages…you would find Him wherever the people were. You see, the synagogues and the Temple had entrance restrictions…no lepers, no prostitutes, no tax collectors, no sick folks, no sinners, no foreigners (especially not Samaritans!)…but the house Jesus was building was to be open to all.

And the reason for this is quite simple…this house was built on compassion…mercy, grace, love, forgiveness…

When Jesus looked at people, He did not first look to see if they measured up to His standard…in fact He knew that no one measured up to His standard! What Jesus saw when He looked at people were sheep in desperate need of a shepherd.

You see, Jesus came to break down dividing walls…the walls of hostility…walls that kept people out of the house of God…walls that created two exclusive subsets out of the one human family: insiders and outsiders.

In fact, the house that Jesus is building is one that exists for those outside. The Church is the only organisation in the world that exists for those who are not members.

As far as Jesus is concerned there are no such things as divisions in His house…no Jew nor Gentile, no male nor female, no slave nor free…there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.

Is it not tragic then that we, who claim to be followers of Jesus, are all too inclined to do the exact opposite…to create divisions, to build walls, to keep outsiders out and insiders in, to feed fear, distrust, prejudice, and general hostility that separates individuals, communities, and even nations. Rather than imitating the one who came to bring peace and unity between us and God and between other people and us, we imitate the ones who oppose Him and His kingdom. The self righteous, the proud, the arrogant…those who esteem others less than themselves…those who – to use Pam’s story of the village divided by a river – break and smash bridges rather than build them.  

Sometimes these divisions are serious and quite obvious. Divisions based on ethnicity, or on language, or on socio-economic differences. But more often than not, these divisions are more subtle…

The great apologist, Lesslie Newbigin once said that spiritual renewal will only happen when “local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument and foretaste of God's redeeming grace for the whole life of society." Think about that for a while…chew on that for a moment. (REPEAT).

If we want spiritual renewal in our church…our community…our village…our country…we really need to stop engaging in navel gazing. Why are we here? Why do we exist as a church? How are we like the one we call Lord and Saviour?

Our Lord’s final command to His followers was rather simple.

Be a community that creates followers of Me. Tell other people about Me. Live your life in such a way so that those who don’t know Me will see Me in you.

We call this command the Great Commission. Wherever you go in the world, make disciples of every people group, make them part of My house, train them so that they will obediently live out the Christian life, and never lose sight of the fact that I am right there to help you do this.

Most believers know these verses found in all four Gospels and in the opening chapter of the book of Acts. Some have even memorised them. Others have discussed them in committees and sub-committees and sub-sub-committees…and have pondered on what it might look like should we ever actually do what Jesus commanded us to do. We love to talk about evangelism…we love to talk about making disciples…and we love to find the many reasons why we are not able to engage in either one of those activities…

Think on this: If I said to my sons when they were little, “Go clean your room”…I did not expect them to return after a while and say, “Dad, we memorised what you said to us. You said, “Go clean your room.” We can even say it in Greek and in Hebrew. And we have also invited a group of our friends around so that we can discuss what it would look like if we actually did clean our room.” (Thanks Francis Chan!)

No! They wouldn’t do that because they knew better than that. They knew that they ought to do what they had been told to do. So why is it so different then when Jesus tells us to do something?

Jesus said, if we truly love Him, we would obey His commands. Why do we call Him Lord if we do not do what He tells us to do? Why do we say we follow Him when in actual fact we do not walk as He walked…we do not imitate Him…we do not follow His example?

Dearest beloved brethren, why are we here? Why are we here in Villiersdorp? Do we, as a church of Jesus Christ, exist only for ourselves? Are these gorgeous stone walls here to keep others out? Or are we perhaps here to bring them in? Now there’s a novel thought…are we here to break down the very obvious divisions here in Villiersdorp? Are we here to make a dent in the wall of blatant polarisation?

Are we here to build God’s house or our own? May the Lord grant us the wisdom and the humility to answer that question honestly.

Johannes van der Bijl © 2018-07-17

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Gambela and Cairo

We left Cape Town International Airport three hours later than scheduled. Ethiopian Airlines at their best. Consequently, the transfer at Bole International Airport in Addis was rather interesting...we had to apply for a visa, claim our bags, and walk around to the Domestic Airport as there were no transfer vehicles available at that hour...only to be told that we could not proceed to the waiting area by the only security person in the building...and there was no where to sit there other than the floor. After speaking to one of the Ethiopian Airlines check-in people and explaining that we had a connection to make, the security person let us through. But we still had a very long wait for the plane to Gambela and not a coffee bar in sight.
When we finally arrived at Gambela airport, our ride was late. She had lost her spectacles and after she found them, she got stuck in the mud as she tried to leave her compound. Ah, the simple life in Gambela.
We were greeted like long lost family...folks started coming to greet us with gifts of eggs, aubergines, a chicken, cold fizzy drinks, a beaded gourd, and other food items...and our students came to love on us, hugging us, holding us, and calling us their mother and father. Louise wept like a child.

The next morning I preached at St. Baranabas. There was much rejoicing...singing and dancing...oh, how we have missed our Anuak family, but boy were we exhausted after the (long) service!

The following day, we started to train trainers in how to make disciples. All the students, first through third years, were present together with priests and lay leaders who lived close-by.

It was such a blessing to be back in the be with the folks we love so share with them the wonderful material we have discovered since being absent from them. Ah, the Lord is good.

Then the great event itself! The first graduation of St Frumentius' Anglican College! Our babies were graduating. What an emotional roller coaster for us all. This was what we gave our lives for...and nearly lost my life for...but ever drop of sweat, every struggle, was well worth it.

The training continued until Friday.
Here we are with most of our students.

I had also blessed a tribal marriage in the meantime...a first for me. The English teacher had also joined us and we spent Saturday getting to know each other. What a wonderful retired missionary still giving her all for our Lord and His kingdom! Sunday, I preached at St Luke's, a Nuer congregation. Again, many tears and much laughter. We left for Cairo that afternoon.

Our flight to Cairo was late as well...for someone who is a stickler for punctuality, this is a bit of a bother. When we arrived, we could not locate our ride to the Diocesan Guest House. We waited an hour as we did not want anyone to miss us, but finally gave in a took a taxi. Just as well...we found out the next day that the driver had got the days wrong! Driving in Cairo at three AM is interesting. This city really does not sleep!

We met up with our dear friends from South Carolina, now serving with SAMS with us at the Cathedral, Kerry and Cynthia Buttram. We had two full days with them before starting the disciple making training on Wednesday. Bishop Mouneer was present throughout the training...only the second bishop to show such interest and solidarity with his priests! We had a marvellous time and they were so thrilled with the material! Pray for them, as this is a very difficult area in which to live as followers of Jesus!

Cairo airport was quite an adventure, to say the least. Going through security with a pacemaker can be rather interesting when no one understands what you are trying to say. But the most, dare I say, entertaining part was when a fight broke out in the security line as we were about to board the plane. A woman was attempting to knock a man senseless with her shoe. I don't know what he did to her, but it must have been pretty bad for her to lose it like that. Needless to say, we were delayed once again.
Our stop in Addis was wonderful. We spent time with very dear friends, CMS Missionaries, Roger and Lynn Kay. They went out of their way to spoil us rotten.

Louise with Lynn and Roger at Cape Point earlier this year.

We also got an opportunity to say farewell to Rosemary Burke, also with CMS, as she returns to England to wait on the Lord for her next assignment.

Our plane bound for Cape Town...wait for it...was delayed as well. But adding insult to injury, when we arrived in Cape Town, our bags were not with us on the plane. There were quite a number of very disgruntled fellow passengers, especially those with connecting flights! But, I must say, they did get our bags to us in Villiersdorp the very next day...actually just before midnight. So, alls well that ends well.

We are back home now, trying to catch up with emails and life in general. A dear family friend was killed shortly after we got home in a car accident. We are all still in a state of shock as he was so young and leaves behind his young wife and two beautiful daughters. Please keep them in your prayers as they try to move forward.

Thank you once again for your love, encouragement, and support. Thank you for being our partners in the Gospel!

Hugs, love, and blessings.
Johann and Louise

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A powerful reminder

A powerful reminder...especially the last sentence. Taken from Nabeel Qureshi's book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.
THERE IS A SIMPLE REASON I never listened to street preachers: they didn’t seem to care about me. It wasn’t that they were annoying. I found their passion admirable, and I appreciated people who stood up for what they believed. Rather, it was that they treated me like an object of their agenda. Did they have any idea how their message would impact my life? Did they even care?
Sure, there are street preachers who share their message while still greeting people kindly, getting to know others’ troubles, and praying over personal pains, but I never saw them. What I saw were men who would stand on street corners accosting the public with their beliefs. No doubt they reached a few, but they repelled many more.
Unfortunately, I have found that many Christians think of evangelism the same way, foisting Christian beliefs on strangers in chance encounters. The problem with this approach is that the gospel requires a radical life change, and not many people are about to listen to strangers telling them to change the way they live. What do they know about others’ lives?
On the other hand, if a true friend shares the exact same message with heartfelt sincerity, speaking to specific circumstances and struggles, then the message is heard loud and clear.
Effective evangelism requires relationships. There are very few exceptions.