I think that we have nearly maximized the capacity of the Cape Town International Convention Centre. There are very few places to sit outside of the meeting rooms. During meal times a few chairs are available, but most people stand around in small groups or find a bit of floor space on which to sit. As the conference goes on, I am seeing more and more people taking naps on the few comfortable chairs that exist. Some are even slumped in corners on the floor. I have found it increasingly difficult to get up in the morning, so it must be getting to me as well. We have not been particularly physically active, but as I learned on the trivia quiz on the plane ride down from Malawi, the human brain uses 40% of the oxygen from the blood that your heart pumps around, so maybe there is a lot of thinking going on.
The topics of the day called for more introspection as issues of character dominated the sessions.
The first session was led by Calisto Odede (Kenya). He spoke from Ephesians 4 & 5. He started by talking about the African hunters who used to track animals. He said that from looking at a few footprints they could tell many things about who had passed. They could tell if it was a man or woman, if they were old or young, if they were carrying something, if they had started walking recently or had been walking for some time. He asked the question, “What story does your walk tell about you?”
He went on to say that the church has lost its credibility in many places because of the lives of its believers. About preaching, he said, “We have substituted the preaching of the gospel with pep talks.” We were challenged to walk as children of light, to walk in love, and to walk in wisdom. He spoke about hidden things and said, “Transparency is not an option for believers, it is mandated.”
He finished with a story about the danger of making small compromises. A man was in a land where it was illegal to eat porcupines. One day he was hunting a porcupine when someone warned him, “It is against the law to eat porcupines.” He responded to say, “The law does not say I cannot hunt porcupines.” Later he was caught carrying a porcupine when someone warned him, “It is against the law to eat porcupines.” He responded to say, “The law does not say I cannot carry porcupines.” Later he was roasting the porcupine when someone warned him, “It is against the law to eat porcupines.” He responded to say, “The law does not say I cannot roast porcupines.” Later, he was tasting the porcupine when someone warned him, “It is against the law to eat porcupines.” He responded to say, “The law does not say I cannot taste porcupines.” He continued to taste the porcupine until it was finished. In the end he had eaten the porcupine and was now in trouble.
Chris Wright (UK) spoke on the issues of personal humility, integrity and simplicity. He said, “The greatest obstacle to the mission of God is his own people.” The modern day idols that entice us away from God are pride and power, popularity and success as well as wealth and greed. These things can be seen in church leaders pursuing status and titles and the prosperity teaching that is popular in much of the world. These teachers are ignoring the teachings on suffering and taking up our cross. On success, he spoke of the manipulation of statistics to make a ministry look bigger than it is or to try and get funding for projects. “We have become a stumbling block to the mission of God and need to be called back to repentance and simplicity.”
Ferni Adeleye (Nigeria) spoke about the Prosperity gospel. He told of his cousin who had given his car to his local church with the expectation that he would receive a Merces-Benz from God. After waiting for some months, he became disappointed with God and stopped attending church. Ferni had to tell his cousin that it was not God who had let him down, but his pastor who was not faithfully teaching. He talked about the manipulation of scripture that takes place to support prosperity teaching. They tend to distort the mission of Jesus from coming to save to coming to make people rich as well as teaching that giving to God is an investment rather than an act of worship. He mentioned some passages of scripture that are avoided by prosperity teachers (Luke 12:15, Matt 13:22). He finished by talking about simplicity and quoted John Stott who said, “Our life is a pilgrimage between two points of nakedness. We should travel light and live simply.”