In the blink of an eye, I’ve been with The Message Trust for ten years. I’m filled with gratitude for the past 10 years with this amazing ministry. Although no organisation is perfect (because it’s made up of imperfect people like me), I want to take this opportunity to reflect and express my gratitude for what God has done. Therefore, I thought I’d post 10 things I’m grateful for about being part of The Message South Africa and global family. In fact, I have most of these points noted as an outline for a book I’d like to write, so consider this a highlights package and maybe there will be a fuller version to come in the future.
1. Keep prayer hot / keep mission hot
I’ve been a Christian for 40 years. Over time it’s easy to stop growing and to settle into a comfortable Christian life. I’m grateful that being part of The Message hasn’t allowed me to plateau. That’s largely because of this double-edged-sword focus. Firstly, we keep mission hot. The Gospel remains at the centre of everything The Message does. And secondly, we keep prayer hot. We recognise that we remain dependent upon God’s grace and goodness. Whenever my mission or prayer life begins to cool off, I’m part of an organisation that provokes me to action and provides an environment for me to continue to grow in my faith.
2. Light wins
The Message SA serves in some dark and dangerous communities where poverty and gangsterism are endemic. Cape Town itself is a broken society with incredible inequality between rich and poor. The world is aware of the bad news stories that emanate from this city. However, we believe that light ultimately wins. And we see the evidence of this in the young people who we’ve seen come to Christ. They are proof that, the darker the night, the brighter the star. We long to see the bad news stories become the good news stories in order that God receives so much glory. Over the past 10 years, it has been amazing to see God turn so many broken lives around and then for those lives to shine in the darkness (see Php. 2:15).
3. Pace Setting and Grabbing Towels
My personal passion is to invest in emerging leaders. I often describe The Message as a movement that is raising up Christ-centred servant leaders. Another highlight of the last ten years has been the support to develop resources that enable us to invest in emerging leaders. Releasing my first book, The Pace Setter in 2014, was a huge highlight. However, that was eclipsed by the collaborative process of writing Grab a Towel which was released in 2018. This has given me many opportunities to give servant leadership training in a variety of contexts, which has been an absolute joy.
4. Space to flourish
From day one, we believed God had promised that we would have permanent premises in Cape Town. We’d received assurances from the bible and numerous prophetic words. We even had a funding pledge to give the finances so we could purchase our own accommodation. However, for the first five years, we were nomadic, moving from office to office. Every building we sought to buy ended up being a closed door. Until, just when we’d given up hope, everything changed. In 2018 we were able to make a cash purchase for our Leadership & Enterprise Centre in Mowbray. This was a game-changing moment. The physical space has enabled us to flourish in so many ways, not least through Gangstar Café. Please come and visit to find out more (www.gangstarcafe.com)!
5. Steel in our spines
In 2016 my world was devastated by the loss of my wife, Laura. For the full story, please see my other website www.griefandgrace.org. But, at my lowest point, The Message stood with me in prayerful and practical support. The Cape Town team was incredible, stepping up to the plate while I was on compassionate leave. At this time, God gave us the word “steel in our spine”. You’ll need to read the final chapter of Grab a Towel for a deeper description of this phrase, but essentially, this is an unwavering commitment to remain faithful to God who is always faithful to us. The Message stood with me during this period and helped me have steel in my spine through the most challenging time of my life.
6. Teamwork (does make the dream work)
It’s a corny phrase but my experience is that it’s true. I am grateful for every person who has been part of The Message SA team. Some have journeyed with us for multiple years. Others for shorter periods. However, I’ve learned something from everyone who has been part of the team and am grateful to have served alongside so many incredible people.
One of our values as The Message is community. A specific highlight of the past ten years was the formation of the first Eden Team that moved into Salt River in 2014/2015. That 18-month period is truly one of the most special periods of my life as we saw God hand-pick each team member as they made the sacrificial decision to follow His call on their life. For the first year, the team met regularly in our home and my family felt so much joy through that period. The formation of that team was not just one of the highlights of my ten years with the Message but one of the highlights of my 25 years of ministry in South Africa. It was a beautiful time of community.
In 2018 I remarried. Christina has been part of The Message for a lot longer than I have as she was previously employed by The Message UK and it’s been wonderful for us to be on mission together. Each of the 10 years I was the leader of Message SA, I asked God for a theme word and scripture for the year. In 2020 our word was Expectant. We were full of faith in God to continue to expand and grow the ministry. Little did we know that lockdown would happen and many unexpected events transpired that meant all our plans had to change. Yet God mercifully redeemed the word as Christina expected our baby. 2020 was a tough year in ministry but God once again reminded me that we make plans but he directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
In 2022, “transition“ became almost an unmentionable word at The Message SA. We called it the “T” word as there had been so much change. However, although all the memories listed above are extremely special, my absolute highlight has been the fulfillment of the goal to hand over leadership of The Message to a South African national. This transition was finalised when Shaun Pretorius became CEO in January 2023. Yes, transition is not easy. But it’s worth it. And I believe The Message SA is embarking on a new season of incredible impact under Shaun’s leadership.
Finally, in 2018, one of our visiting prayer day speakers shared the word “effortless” with us. This word has become both a description and an aspiration for our ministry as The Message in Africa. I define “effortless” as when the fruits of our ministry far exceed the effort we’ve put in. And when that happens, we can only give praise to God because he takes our efforts and multiplies them to his glory. Richard Foster writes,
“In fact, one of the clearest signs of the grace of God upon us is when the results of our labour are far in excess of the amount of work we do.”
When I look at the last ten years I have to say it has been an effortless journey because God’s grace has been so apparent and the fruitfulness we’ve seen far exceeds the work we’ve put in. For that, I’m truly grateful.
And, God-willing, I’m looking forward to an effortless 10 years ahead as we look to expand the ministry of The Message into other African countries.
To find out more about The Message South Africa, please see www.message.org.za
For more information on my new role with The Message global development, please see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm6SXoin43k&t=910s