Category Archives: Four31

Some times the news is still good

It does not happen often… ok it has never happened to me before… that we can “fix’ a problem so easily. We have a little girl ho is a part of our gospel community. Her mom used to be a part of our community until we had to confront her with a few hard truths. Now A. comes along with her older half-brother. A’s home situation is not good. She lives with her unemployed father, and a bunch of other people, in an illegal squat with no electricity or running water. Her dad gets a child grant of about R300 a month to clothe, feed and educate her.

Due to a mixture of apathy and ignorance A’s parents failed to get her into a government school for this year. At a government school she could have applied for a government education subsidy through the school. But now all the school were full. And although she could do Grade R at a pre-school these do not qualify for government funding and can turn away kids whose parents cannot pay.

First things first I thought let’s find A a place at a scholl and then worry about the cash. Yeah I know, but that’s just how I roll people. I easily found her a place at the small pre-school my boys attended. The principal offered a generous discount but still an amount that was out of reach for A’s parents.

Working late that night I sent out an email to some friends before going for a quick shower and turning in for the night.  Just before turning the light out I noticed a mail. I checked it. Someone had responded almost immediately saying they would cover A’s fees for the year.

The very next day we went down to the school, filled in the papers, sorted out all the logistics and A could start school the very next day. A good news story? I hope so. I really do pray God blesses these efforts to love in his name.

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Let’s Go Down the Hill

The other night a few of us in our gospel community got together to listen to this talk by Steve Timmis entitled Being Neighbours: A Gospel Strategy.

What was apparent to us as a community was that we need each other to help us intentionally “go down the hill.”  The hub for our community at the moment appears to be our house.  Our house’ it seems, is rather strategically situated at a confluence of at least two vastly different worlds.  If you go up the hill, broadly speaking, you encounter the cool, funky, hip (hipster actually) community.  The food is good, the beer is crafty, the people are nice (which is to say remarkably like us).  The vibe is creative, quirky and just a little bit grungy.  This is the fun and exciting part of our community.  All of us enjoy hanging out there.  We don’t need help going “up the hill.”  It’s going to happen.  Whenever we feel like grabbing a pizza or watching some sport, it’s natural and easy to take a walk up the hill.  This is also, perhaps it goes without saying, a community that deeply needs Jesus.

But down the hill a simple five-minute walk away from the hip side of town’ life is completely different.  Poor, drug ravaged, high unemployment, little or few role-models.  Kids wander the streets, sometimes till late at night.  Family breakdown, crime, drug addiction and jail sentences are fairly common aspects of many families lives “down the hill”.  These are not “our people” (and our community is fairly mixed racially).  It is not comfortable, fun or safe by our usual standards.  This is the kind of place we have to intentionally choose to be.  It will not just happen, naturally or organically.  It will take sacrifice, effort and a grab me by the neck kind of reminder these are exactly the kind of places where the light must shine brightest in the midst of the greater darkness.  And sadly these are also the places where traditionally churches have been at their least effective.

I don’t need my community to help me go up the hill.  I like them when we go up the hill.  But I need to get me to go down the hill.  Perhaps we don’t fully understand the mutual necessity that Jesus builds into the church as body image simply because we simply do not go down the hill enough.  We like each other when we go up the hill but we need each other when we go down the hill.

Mental illness, gospel community and the rocket tree

Tonight we cancelled our team training, took our dinner and together as a Gospel Community (GC) went to visit a friend who was struggling with depression and had been booked into Kenilworth Clinic for a couple of weeks. It was cold outside on the benches (even the smokers were not venturing out) but we ate together, prayed together, laughed together and encouraged one another in the gospel. It was great to see our friend who we came to visit encouraging other members of the GC in the gospel.

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We have been a few times to visit friends who have been booked into clinic. What encouraged me the most was that the last time we were there, it was just Jo, myself and the kids but this time we went as a community. A community who are learning to love Jesus and to love others.

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The boys of course got to play in the famous “rocket tree”… I love the fact that my kids know and look forward to playing in the tree at Kenilworth Clinic. I hope that they grow up visiting hurting and struggling friends at places like Kenilworth. I hope it is normal that they learn to follow Jesus as we try to love and serve our hurting, broken and struggling friends.

Will you take a risk?

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We are in somewhat tricky stage of ministry.  While we find that God increasingly is giving us more to do, in terms of people and discipleship and ways to better connect with our community.  In a strange twist of God’s sovereign sense of irony we are have the most forward movement in ministry than at any time over the last few years… and yet we have the most backward movement financially.

Over the last year we have steadily lost a number of our supporters, through changing life circumstances as well as the rising cost of living.  Currently we are at about 65% support from donations.  Our baking business The Cake Faerie takes us up to about 77% of what we need.  However, it does take a lot of time and energy.  Next year we are aware that we will lose another major financial supporter, which will take our base support to around 52% support

While we continue to explore different ways to finance our work.  Including getting a “regular” job of some sort we are also somewhat hesitant to do that.  Because as with all choices there is always a trade-off, and in this case it limits the time that we have to invest in people and discipleship, just at a time when we feel like God is opening doors… All a bit confusing really.  First prize for us is still that we can get a substantial or all of our support from those who resonate with it is that we are trying to do.

But we are not naive enough to think that this does not involve a risk on your behalf?

The gospel calls us to adventure, risk and innovation in taking the unchanging, beautiful and true gospel to the whole world. What would it look like to take the gospel to those not being reached? To the dark, broken and forgotten places of our cities? There are no simple strategies or answers to those questions, but there is a call to risk, to pioneer, to venture beyond where we are comfortable and what we currently know.

In many ways this is something that we figure out and learn on the road. We adjust, change course and risk failure, but in the midst of all that we can take heart that God is at work. And we pray that his glorious gospel will shine in all its beauty and splendour in the dark and forgotten places of our cities.

We invite you to join with us in this gospel risk, by considering financially partnering with us. We realise that we are asking you to take a risk on us, on something that is hard to define, messy, not clearly mapped out and open to failure. But is this not the life of risk that God calls us to? We do not fear failure, only the failure that comes from the unwillingness to risk and try new things for the sake of the gospel.

Would you or your church community consider committing to taking a one, two or three-year “risk” on this gospel endeavour? Or perhaps you might consider a once off gift if you feel you cannot commit to monthly giving. We would love to meet with you, speak to your community, pray together, dream together and talk over how we may partner together for the fame and glory of the Lord Jesus.

If this is you… contact details here

Photo Credit: Derek Gavey via Photo Pin

A Picture of Good News

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Last week we threw a birthday party for our friend J, who has never had a birthday party or even a birthday cake. Friends who are a part of our wider Four Three One community drove through from the other side of Cape Town. We ate together, gave presents, prayed for her, took a bunch of photos, ate cake, laughed and, of course, sang happy birthday. J and her family are a real part of our community even though she is not sure she want to “be converted” as she says. We talk about Jesus a lot with her but on that night we just wanted her to see that the gospel is good news. We wanted to show her that our God is a good king and to follow him is taste life, hope and joy now in part and one day in full.

It seems like a lifetime ago… part six

So now you know how we got here.  Confused, yes me too. I am not sure really where here is either, except we are not there anymore.

One last thought, if you are part of a church, which you love, then you probably will not understand the need for what we are doing.  You could not imagine that anyone would not be loved and feel welcome at your church.  Without breaking down something that is obviously good in your life, trust me on this… they will not love it, they might hate it, they might be offended, they most probably will just not care! Your exegesis may leave them cold, your worship may freak them out, your liturgy may confuse them and the fact that you smile a lot, only sing happy songs, don’t swear and all seem ok, will probably confirm what they already knew when they walked in… they don’t belong!

Having to nip out the back for a sneaky smoke will confirm it.

They have problems, questions, doubts and bills to pay.  We have seen too much and felt too little.  They hear everything and yet often know nothing.  How might they possibly justify their existence when they’re broke and stuck in a dead-end job?  Or perhaps we are living their dream but don’t know how to pay the rent or perhaps they are unemployed (unemployable?), homeless, cold and hungry.  You probably don’t know what it like to live just for today or what it’s like to go to bed hungry?  You have forgotten what it is like to be all alone in a crowded room?  We long for the simplicity of good friends, a place to belong, a place to kick your shoes off, put your feet up, a place of honesty, a place to breathe…

As the community of God’s people we are set free to once again discover what it is to be truly human.  And it is this life of the Trinity, this life of Creation that we are busy discovering.  It is into this life together that we invite others to come and join with us, journey with.  It is a life of peace, of joy, of hope and of rest!

Vincent Donovan once said about mission work, “… do not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, as beautiful as that place might seem to you.  You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have ever been before.”

You may also like to read part one, part two, part three, part four and part five of these ramblings.

It seems like a lifetime ago… part five

I don’t believe in lone ranger Christianity or disconnected Christians but here I was, I was one.  How did this happen?  Perhaps these last few posts have been my attempt to make sense of it all in my head.  Perhaps I just talk too much?  But while I prayed and wrestled with God about leaving us all on our own, no community, no wider network, no older, wiser leaders… God whispered to me (not really sure what that means but I am pretty sure it was God).  “You are homeless because you need to build your own home.”

God has laid on our hearts the misfits, the discontents, the broken, the hurting, the forgotten, the addicts, the homeless, the lonely, the churchless ones, the misunderstood, the fringe-artists, the wacky, the lost ones… and he knew that just as we have struggled to find a home within the established church, so would they.  “Start building a home for them. I have chosen you because you know them and you love them.  Because you are them!”  (Ok, God never said all that to me, but it just writes better like that!)

And so Four Three One was born, a simple church network whose desire is to see authentic, missional communities of light scattered throughout the dark and forgotten places of our cities.  We are committed to church as primarily small, easily reproducible Gospel Communities, networked together in Gatherings and a wider network.

Our heart is to reach those who are not being reached by contemporary church structures.  Those who perhaps would never darken the door of a church building or even think to attend a church service.  We are not trying to compete but to complement the existing church.  For all its problems, failures and weaknesses it is still the bride of Christ, and in Him she is beautiful.

You may also want to read part one, part two, part three and part four of these ramblings