Martie and I moved to the Bushveld town of Modimolle (Nylstroom) for a short stint in 2004 before returning to South Africa’s West Rand region. We returned to the town a month later for a farewell service in the wonderful small congregation we had been privileged to be part of, and where we experienced a lovely relationship with the pastoral couple and the members of the congregation.
It was during the worship that Sunday morning that I had this vivid vision of the town’s well known White Church - also known as the Dutch Reformed Mother Church of the town. This church building, as you can see on the photo, is a majestic, impressive one that is a notable landmark in the town.
But then I sensed in my spirit that the Holy Spirit was saying: “This is, sadly, what so much of the church looks like. They have impressive buildings and programs, but you first have to pass through the graveyard of traditions to get to the true church described in Acts 2".
I then remembered that the congregation had not too long before built a garden of remembrance in front of their church building - see the front right of the photo. The intention was sincere - to provide safety for church members to tarry where the ashes of departed loved ones were held. The traditional graveyard had become unsafe due to criminal activities. But not only had the garden of remembrance been built in front of the church, benches were provided for the comfort of the visitors.
In the same way, the message I received indicated, people have become accustomed to the false security and rest that the man-made traditions they grow up with provides.
They have become as sheep in their understanding of the Bible. Sheep have some distinct characteristics in the way they act and behave. If the leader (or perhaps I should say the one in front) falls into a ditch, the rest will obligingly follow, never realising what is happening. When the shepherd carefully lifts the sheep at the top of the pile out, it will probably turn around and immediately try to go the same route again!
Partridges do something similar. If you shoot the one sitting on an anthill, the next one will get on the anthill to see what is happening.
Christians so often do likewise. When Martie and I share our understanding of what the biblical record teaches us, many immediately turn around back into the ditch. Sadly, this is what we find also of many preachers and leaders in the institutional church. Instead of taking what we say or write and measuring it against the scriptures we show, they answer us by almost mechanically repeating a description of the doctrine as they know it. And we understand, for we were at that place too.
Debates on religion in the printed media recently have almost always ended with accusations that people are post modern liberals (a term many seem to identify themselves with), or fundamentalists. Some are called dispensationalists, while others are preterists. Martie and I avoid labels. We are simply two people who have grown tired of all the man-made misrepresentations of the Bible record, of all the false or artificial doctrines that keep people in bondage, often wounding and driving people from Christ instead of drawing them near. It is the Truth that will set one free, not impressive man-made doctrines and philosophies.
And perhaps the greatest tragedy of the situation is described in the words of Jesus of Nazareth as he took to task the Pharisees and Scribes, saying they have nullified the Word of God by their tradition (Mat. 15:6). Is it any wonder that we see such a powerless church out in the world?
God bless you all in your own contemplations of His truth.