The Spirit Gives Life

The Spirit Gives Life is a session built upon our new discipleship material, “Foundations for Life”. I’m currently writing a few chapters for my organisation Dignity. We have multiple authors from multiple backgrounds all callaborating to make a fantastic resource. As you can tell from the recording it’s really informal and the session would normally be done as a small group study in a village.

I’ve intentionally left the banter and interpretation in so you can get a feel for what speaking in Africa is like. This session is being translated into Bemba as I speak.

Also note, the importance of ‘story’ in speaking within Africa. The story of Faith and her sail in the Okavango Delta is designed to be memorable and a modern day parable of how the Spirit works in our lives.

Have a listen and visit another world!

Recorded at Dignity EQUIP Camp September 2016, Mkushi, Zambia.

© Jon Paul Witt and Dignity 2016.

© Image Copyright. Spyderonlines.com

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Religious and Indifferent in Sardis

In this talk we look at the Letter to the Church in Sardis, Revelation 3:1-6. There doesn’t seem to be much good said about the church in this once thriving city. We examine what it means to be truly alive and truly a follower of Jesus. Even thought this message is hard, it contains some fantastic encouragement. We can walk with God into eternity proud of what we have achieved here. For those of us who struggling, maybe even dying spiritually, we can be turned around so that we can live. No-one is ever beyond hope.

Click below to listen to the talk audio

Download the Powerpoint Notes for the talk below

light-in-a-dark-world-the-letter-to-the-church-in-sardis

This podcast was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia 4th September 2016.

© Copyright, Jon Paul Witt, 2016

© Image Copyright “Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland.” Jon Paul Witt 2016.

Enduring in Smyrna

This is a guest appearence by my wife Judith Witt.

In this talk we look at the Letter to the persecuted chruch in Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11. Endurance and overcoming fear are key messages to the church in Smyrna, that was not only poor but also persecuted. We can learn important lessons from their example today.

This podcast was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia 14th August 2016

© Copyright, Jon Paul Witt and Judith Karen Witt, 2016

Truth and Love in Ephesus

Summary

I take to time to examine Jesus’ words to the Church in Ephesus, Revelation 2:1-7. Commending them for their hard work and perseverance, Jesus focuses on their lack of love in word and deed for those around them. In this thought provoking sermon, we examine the question, what is more important, Truth or Love? What do these traits have to do with bringing people to what the passage calls the ‘Tree of Life’ which is presence with God in paradise forever?

You can download the Powerpoint Notes for the Podcast using the link below:

Light in a Dark World, The Letter to the Church in Ephesus

This podcast was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia 7th August 2016

© Copyright, Jon Paul Witt, 2016

The Otavi Lesson

The mountains to the left of me stretch to the horizon, merging with the dry veld in front of me. The view is truly stunning. Leopards, various buck and baboons clamber over the rocks of the various kopje’s that are scattered high behind me. This is Ghaub in the Otavi Mountain Conservancy, Central Namibia. It’s now a guest farm with a view to remember and a very poignant history.

Ghaub used to be a mission station. Started in 1895 with the aim of reaching the Bergdamara and Hai communities, this Rhenish Mission was established in what must have been a very tough assignment. Walking around today, you can still see the humble mission origins of the buildings. Although of course they have been significantly upgraded.

The shame is that within 25 years of the establishment of the mission station at Ghaub, land was already being sold off and eventually in 1968 the mission came to an end. You can read more about the history here.

Walking with my children on the vast farm, we came across the old mission graveyard. As they ran on ahead, I was left alone to savour the considerable silence and vista. Over a few minutes I was overcome with a great sadness. Here lay children who had died of malaria and missionaries who had given their lives. All of them in unmarked graves with small piles of quartzite stone arranged as a simple headstone.

What had they achieved? 120 years after they began, the answer was they had built a guest house. The Bergdamara and Hai communities didn’t settle on the land, today it is all commercial farms. In short they gave their lives for seemingly not much at all.

Yet, it wouldn’t have felt like it. I’m sure it was very tough, I know Africa enough to realise that. I can imagine though the sense of pride, thankfulness and achievement that must of accompanied the establishment of the mission buildings and operation. These were true pioneers in almost every sense of the word. Standing there however, I can’t help that they fell for a lie that still shapes so much in mission, aid and in the wider church today.

To put it simply, they believed the modernist notion that infrastructure, buildings, “stuff”, would be the transformative element within the people they wanted to reach. Not quite “build it and they will come”, but not far off.

If they could see their efforts today, a lovely guest farm, I wonder how they would feel?

They are not the only ones.

There are many churches who in an effort to re-invent themselves change the physical structure of their building. Their assumption is that if we make our building more accessible to the community, then they will come and they will be transformed. We end up with a plethora of sports halls and multi function buildings with mainly crèche and child care being provided. We have a few cafes thrown in too. The buildings themselves are not the problem, although they do cost an awful lot of money, it is our view of the mission God has given us. Mission is meant to be with people where they are, not with us where we are. The direction is wholly wrong. That’s quite a costly mistake to make. In terms of people it is wholly disastrous. The church mainly sits and waits for people to come………… and spends a lot of money doing it

I’m not for one minute saying we shouldn’t serve people, a cafe is a good idea, so is helping people with their children, but let’s go and do it in the heart of the community. Let’s spend our cash on that instead. I bet that way we will bring the truth and love of God to far more people.

History is littered with lessons like that in Ghaub. We have cathedrals and church buildings that cost a small fortune to keep. The tourist attraction is a witness people say. I’m yet to meet anyone who had their life changed via a stained glass window. There are other buildings that have become offices, mosques or even simply demolished. In Manchester I even remember an old temperance hall that was now a pub….. What irony!

Mission is the same. There are thousands of buildings built in an effort to transform Africa. Orphanages, child care centres, schools, everything you can think of. I know I’ve done it! I wonder however, if this really transforms anything at all? Is it the same lie that we are falling for. A simple case, transforming people equates to providing buildings. From the African side, there is a thirst for development and buildings satisfy that thirst. They can be status symbols both for the community and more sadly the organisation that built them.

I wonder what we will look back on in 25 years time and see? A litany of neglected buildings (they’ll be ruins here in Africa) and re-appropriated churches? There’s a great rush to build churches in Africa, and yet I don’t see the same rush to transform people, especially in the remote areas.

The lesson for me is to always prioritise people. Instead of believing that physical structure is the key item in transformation, let’s go wild and build real community with real people in the heart of real places. Let’s be sure that we take God with us too. Of course, sometimes a building will help. It is very much a means to an end, but they are not the integral item that we think they are and very often our money would be better spent elsewhere.

Our lives in Christ have the very real power to transform society. When we speak we can speak the words of Jesus to people. When we act, we can bring his love directly to people.

Standing in Otavi I cannot think for one minute why we would want to do anything else. Looking past the graves of those brave pioneers, past the quartz stone piles to the mountains beyond, I yearn for reality and a cutting edge in the mission that I’m involved in. I certainly don’t want people to look back in years to come and wonder what all the fuss was about, or stay in a building that was once my office. I don’t want to spend my life making stuff that simply wears out. I want to build love and eternity in real people.

There is a lesson to be learnt from Otavi. I hope that we are listening.

Africa: It’s Dead ‘Ard….

 Every MBA student, every entrepreneur, every businessman should try and work in Africa…… I’m serious. If you can cut it in Africa, you can cut it anywhere in the world.

You may or may not know that Jude and I are currently trying to build a house here in Zambia. The purpose is to give ourselves and others a base to work from and develop the site more in the future. We work with people all over Zambia, and well you just need a place to hang it all on for a while.

Now Jude and I already work in Africa. We lead the work of the UK charity Dignity and over the years we have amassed some “experience” of not only working in this part of the world, but also with each other as well. Sometimes I’m not sure which one is hardest…….

Over the last month I have spent more time chasing “stuff” than I think I ever have done. Today it has been a water tank and plumbing fittings coming up from Lusaka. Last week at one point it was cement and an apocryphal 30 tones of stone that a company had. I’ve also had to open a new bank account to get a cheque book here in Zambia. I’m told that the cards and cheque book are on the way……mmmmm of course they are. Finding builders was fun. Negotiating, getting people to turn up and the like. Some days I feel like the man in The Scream by Edvard Munch 🙂 If I’m honest I’ve often felt like that here, that feeling is not new!

It’s a curious collision between difficult logistics, distances, cost, lack of education, a clash of culture and a thousand other things. That’s why every self respecting self made person should spend time in this continent. I really do believe it is true that if you can do it here, you can do it everywhere.

Now please don’t think I’m moaning, because I’m not. Yes it is chaos sometimes, yes it’s frantic and yes there are days that I cannot be bothered. However, somewhere it’s fun and somewhere I like this continent with all it’s dust and mania. There are days (usually when things go right) where I would not be anywhere else in the world. The people are generally lovely and some of the needs are just to big to be ignored in my nice European bubble. God has also brought me here as well, so I know I can’t be too far off His direction, and when the chips are down that is reassuring.

Now I don’t have an MBA, and will probably never have. However this post is for all those students of Africa who have cut it, who can make mountains move with little more than a piece of metal and gaffe tape and fix vehicles with a paperclip. To all those pioneers, to all those distant missionaries and entrepreneurs, to Roger who spent hours hitting his Soya machine with a hammer and won!, you are all deserving of some well earned praise and recognition.

To use my slightly scouse heritage…..

Africa, it’s dead ‘ard it is…….. 

Much Ado About Nothing

I received an email the other day regarding what is popularly called the New Atheism. In other words, the atheism made popular by Dawkins et. al. Within the email was the following point that I think is so brilliant I thought I would re-produce it here.

“What is conspicuously absent is what they actually are for. Once you get beyond the furious barrage of attacks on any form of religion all you find are some rather sad statements to the effect that ‘we are alone in the universe’, ‘because there is no ultimate meaning we better make one up’ and when we die ‘all that happens is eternal darkness and silence’. These are not inspiring words and they are matched by a lack of inspiring deeds. There are no grand visionary atheist projects that I know of: no schools for the poor dedicated to unbelief, no humanistic hospitals, no atheistic cathedrals, no campaigns in the name of evolution to put social wrongs right. True, there is a proposed ‘New College of the Humanities’ with very strong atheistic overtones, but with student costs of £18,000 a year it’s hardly going to be for the struggling masses.”

I think that is utterly brilliant. One of the points I am always making in regarding to Christianity is that you can measure the quality of your faith by what you do. It is a yard stick if you like.

Does this then mean that Atheism is not up to much…..?????

quote taken from J. John of The Philo Trust, you can read the rest of the article here.