By Thato Ramakoba, Botswana
Is pledging time for church really worth it?
Allow me, for minute, to take you back to my childhood. We had quite a big family, an extended family for that matter and we weren’t well-off, sometimes we’d sleep on empty stomachs, be it on a Saturday night but one thing for sure we did was to go to church on every Sunday. Grandma would wake us early in the mornings and have us prepare and get ready for church, which would be situated just a stone’s throw away from our compound, we obviously walked, and along the way we’d go knocking at our friends’ houses and have them tag along. We didn’t have so many ties and obligations, and indeed life was wonderful! I was in the choir and yeah I sang a little bit in Sunday school. Grandma taught us the golden rules, the 10 commandments, and she said, “Son do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, she said, “Don’t steal”, “Don’t bear false witness against your neighbour” and so on, you know all the things good parents try to instil into their children. But as a child, particularly, a teenager, trouble was never far away from me, time and again, I would find myself in the wrong side of what I was advised against. And umm, she said, “Thato, stay out of trouble”, I tried to be as good a child can be amidst all the confusion.
With that said, let’s now get back to the substance of the question which has been put forth. Is pledging time for church really worth it? I am going to leave it all up to you to decide if the answer given really satisfies the praiseworthiness of pledging our time to the church.
Let me first start by reflecting on what the church is.
The church is the body of Christ—a group of people unified (Ephesians 4:1-3) under Christ, who represent and reflect Him to the world (1 Corinthians 12:12-17). The purpose of the church is to join people of different backgrounds and talents and provide them training and opportunities for God’s work. It accomplishes these both internally, within the body, and externally, in the world.
Acts 2:42 explains the internal function of the church: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Jesus entrusted the church with the task to teach the body sound doctrine. There are many influences in the world that claim to have the truth, but God entrusted His word to the church (Ephesians 4:14). Still, knowledge of doctrine is useless if it isn’t used (1 Corinthians 13:2): “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV). Sound teaching leads to spiritual maturity which leads to building up the body of Christ.
The purpose of the church is also to provide a place to “break bread.”
Often, this means just eating together and living life together (Acts 2:42). Formally, we break bread at the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The practice of the Lord’s Supper unifies us as it reminds us that we are all saved by Christ’s sacrifice. Practically, it also provides an opportunity to reconcile differences and right wrongs as we examine our interactions with fellow believers (1 Corinthians 11:27-28).
The natural result of sound teaching and a unified body is that the members of the church will take care of each other. The most powerful way to care for others is to pray for them (Acts 2:42). Just as the early church prayed for each other (Acts 12:5; Philippians 1:3-4), so we should bring each others’ needs before God (Philippians 4:6-7). Within the church we are also called to show honour (Romans 12:10), compassion (Ephesians 4:32), encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and love (1 John 3:11). And we are to meet each others’ practical needs. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” One of the primary purposes of the church is to provide for the needs of its members (Acts 20:34-35; Romans 15:26).
Externally, the purpose of the church is to fulfil the Great Commission as Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:18-20. There is no nobler purpose for the church than to introduce others to Christ. We do this in part by making sure we faithfully represent Him and become who He has called us to be. Philippians 2:15 exhorts us to be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.” Whether we witness to people in our neighbourhoods or send others to foreign lands, the church is called to manifest the Holy Spirit in us by embodying Jesus’ character and telling others about Him.
The purpose of the church is to be the believer’s spiritual family.
It is through the church that God takes people with different personalities and gifts, unifies them as a single body, and equips them to care for each other and reach the world. We were not meant to live the Christian life alone; surrounded by the biblical teaching and loving community of the church, together we find our own purpose in life.
The (LWF Strategy 2012 -2017) demands that young people must have a place and a voice in all aspects of church and communion life,
including decision making and leadership; its in this respect, that Warriors In Christ, an initiative by Thato Ramakoba of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana came into being. The main aim of Warriors In Christ is to help mobilize the youth to take interest in church activities, it supports the view that the interest of the church lies with the youth who are in truth the moral fibre of the church, therefore, its the responsibility of the youth to ensure that the welfare of the church is maintained sustainably without discrediting it in anyway. Like warriors our interest lies with the church, we would do anything for the church to ensure that it achieves its set goals and targets. Our audience is the youth themselves; simply put, we’re the stewards, and we provide our services as per our varying talents to the church without any expectation.
As Warriors In Christ we stand by the values of commitment
and shared responsibility thus we long to know each other and through this initiative we also intend to recruit other people to take the interest in sharing responsibilities in the church and come up with more ideas which will see the church changing its complexion for the better. In the fall of August, we launched our first activity at our Youth Centre (Galaletsang Youth Centre) where our Head Office is housed. . Prior to the 9th of August 2014, we sat down as an Interim Committee and decided on what activity to embark on; we then unanimously agreed that we’d do the cleaning of the entire centre. We started off the activity with introductions and a mini orientation of what Warriors In Christ is and its intentions as well as the introduction of our first activity. With pleasure, majority of the youth from the Central Circuit were in attendance, the activity started, we did all that was agreed upon in one spirit. Early evening, we had barbecue with some veggies and pap (pap is a traditional porridge/polenta made from mielie-meal and a staple food of the Bantu inhabitants of Southern Africa) around the bonfire. It is at the bonfire where we got to know each other at a personal level; we passed jokes, told stories and shared our visions for the ELCB. Seeing that it was getting late, we had a closing mass prayer and called off the day. Fun we had, thanks to LWF and the Central Circuit Youth for the cooperation!
Author: Thato Ramakoba who is the Warriors In Christ Coordinator in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana
Info: This youth participation initiative was funded by the LWFyouth program “Inclusive communion-Youth Participation”, small grants can be applied here: http://lwfyouth.org/2014/03/20/lwf-supports-your-initiative-on-youth-participation/