Culture is a beautiful and mystifying thing. Being back in South Africa is a stark reminder of how the unique flow and force of culture requires its own unique approach as we preach the unchanging message of the cross.
It requires as visitors that we listen more than we speak. It calls for a certain humility and agility as we find how our story connects with theirs. It requires more than simply offloading our story on to theirs. It requires some finesse, I guess.
It has been a blurr of people so far - precious people who mean so much to us, and whom we feel, deserve more of our time than we have been able to give. We live with an incredibly rich inheritance when it comes to friends, family and churches.
The Corinthians series we have been preaching through as a church has been immensely helpful to me on this trip. Firstly,that irrespective of culture, we have been called to be a one-message people - 'Christ and Him crucified. If the Gospel is at the center of our life together, we get the whole package with it. Christ the power of God, and Christ the Wisdom of God. Where so many churches here seem to have divided along these lines, when the Gospel is the deepest seat of our unity we do not have to choose between power and wisdom.
Secondly, that Love honestly is the 'Lingue Franca' - the universal language of every culture. Some churches we have been with are flourishing, others are taking tender, tentative steps forward, others who were once seemingly impregnable powerhouses are now fragile and limping forward from the fray. No matter the season,every church needs love. Not the sentimental, slap -on the- back, glorify - the - past kind of love. But a tender, firm, practical, persevering, truthful love which will call forth that which God entrusted to it. A love which will draw attention to the gold which has been refined by the fires of trial. A love which will lift heads to see the Father in whom there is no shifting shadow.
Thirdly, that all around the world there seems to be a hunger for a more sane, mission-orientated expression of the life of the Spirit. Not just a happy hour for the church. But a happy hour for the world, where sinners repent because of the present power of God.
Who is equal to such a task? It has me running back to our Father asking for the kind of love Paul had for the church in Corinth. And it has me praying furiously for Southlands, the community we love and miss, that we would be a people who give others courage as we follow the way of love, and give ourselves to the fullness of His Gospel.