Lessons learned from church planting 4 – the blessing of relational influence

The blessing of influence

In the early years of Shofar Pretoria the church grew almost exclusively through salvation of new believers.  The first adult who salvation in church was Danie Ferreira – a heart-broken young man who were referred by a mutual friend to visit us.  That day Danie met Jesus his Saviour and his life was radically transformed.  He became a pillar in the church, was ordained and today Danie and Jacomin Ferreira pastor Shofar Christian Church in Secunda.

Evangelical outreach

Because we had a burning passion for the lost to meet Jesus, we did many outreaches in the city.  At times we did attractional style outreaches with dances and music in the parks; we would do do two-by-two outreaches, or make hot dogs and give free hand-outs to start conversations and witness to everyone who would listen. In addition, Shofar in Stellenbosch would send outreach teams every six months to come help edify the church, also doing outreaches in the city.  Although many people prayed the sinner’s prayer during those three years of frequent outreaches, only three of those converts became members of our congregation (in spite of very deliberate follow-up and invitations).

Relational growth

So how did the church grow in Pretoria intially?  The church primarily grew through relational influence as each member impacted the environment in which he or she lived.  It was very visible through the groups of people that made up the early church, for instance there was a big component of Air Force engineers, because I was an Air Force engineer, and my friends brought some more.   Magriet, who later became my wife, was a medical student, and therefore from the very start we had several medical students in the church – which is still the case today.

My brother Conrad came because I invited him, and he brought a big group of Military Medical students.  I was with him when he invited the first students one Friday afternoon very early on in the church plant.  We were having coffee in his cafeteria at work when a few young nursing students were giggling in the corner. My brother, their superior, got up and sternly rebuked them for their immaturity, then promptly told them they must be ready at 8:30 on Sunday – he will pick them up for church. That Sunday they reported for church on time, but he sent them up again to dress more appropriately.  They obeyed their lieutenant, and that Sunday they became part of the church plant.  And because these initial military students were young girls, we soon had young military men who came to church for the girls, met Jesus and stayed on for other more noble motives.

Ester Venter was part of the church plant right from the offset and brought friends whom she stayed with and some who studied with at the dancing academy.  Some of the graduated engineers like Braam Visser, Thinus van As, Jaco Wagenaar and Jaco Kirstein invited their friends and collogues.  Thinus Olivier connected with the church via family friends in Shofar Stellenbosch and recommitted his life to the Lord.  He worked at Mugg & Bean in Centurion, and invited all his colleagues; a group of them stayed on.

Charné Bloem started with a student ministry, deliberately connecting with students on the Pretoria University campus.  When Phillip Boshoff joined the church as youth pastor the campus ministry took off and brought great momentum to our church – but mainly because the students brought their friends to small group and church.

Later, when Annerie Logan (formally Strohfeldt) joined the church via her sister in Shofar Cape Town, a big part of her Performing Arts class at the Tswane University of Technology joined because of her influence.  Today she is part of the staff and ministry team at Shofar Cape Town.

The church also grew through members from Shofar Stellenbosch who relocated to Gauteng after their studies and subsequently invited their friends, families and colleagues to church.

The names mentioned above are just a few to give an example of how each member in our church plant had the power to bring a whole sector in their community into church where they would meet Jesus and grow in godliness.

Pale hearts

It is interesting to note that, in spite of the location of the church and in spite of all the outreaches the church did in the inner city of Pretoria, that the congregation consisted of primarily white, higher educated people.  This, in spite of the services that were deliberately conducted in English, and the many, many black people who prayed the sinners’ prayer and accepted Christ as Lord.  Our conclusion was simple: we had no black friends, and therefore our church had no black members (apart from Robert Ramwisa mentioned in an earlier post).  Only later, when our members (and notably the students on campus first) had friends across cultural and racial boundaries, did it reflect in our congregation.  As our hearts grew wider to welcome different people in our lives and homes, so the church grew bigger and more diverse.  Hospitality flows from generous hearts.

So Shofar Pretoria grew via relational influence, in sincerity and love.  The church grew as members witnessed to and invited their friends where they were.  As our friendships grew more diverse so did our congregation.  The people who felt comfortable and stayed on in our church were the people we felt comfortable with and invited to our homes.  After all – church lives in our relationships, and church is family.

In the next two posts we will consider the blessing of an anointed and humble worship leader in a church plant, and the blessing of having a mother church supporting a church plant.

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