The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped – Proverbs 11:24-25

Your church is not white enough!

I recently had a conversation with a person who left our church because our church is not “white” enough for him.

We think generosity is about money and material things. The reality is material generosity can be a smoke screen to what generosity is.

Off to America

After 6 months of marriage, Christine and I went to study in the USA. We arrived in Dallas, Texas on the 3rdJanuary of 1980. We were 22 at the time!

The world was very different then. Everything was analogue and making a phone call back home was a process. Of course there was no internet and we wrote letters home on “aerograms”. For you youngsters, an aerogram was a letter that folded into an envelope. It was of a light paper and because it was light, the cost of sending it was cheaper. It only took about 7 days for it to get from USA to South Africa.

Have I mentioned that R1.00 got you $1.30!

Culture Shock!

We were not prepared for the culture shock when arriving in the USA. Everything from the huge V8 cars, to bread and milk was different. Globalization was in its infancy, and so, there were very few international brands.

We were a little “doey” eyed. MacDonald’s, drive through banks, pick-up trucks with rifles hanging across the back windows. This was a lot to take in for kids from Estcourt and Vryheid.

Carl Nine – the Texan

But nothing could prepare us for Carl Nine. As we recovered from an awesome worship experience at our first chapel, Carl Nine got up to speak. Mr Nine was one of the lecturers. He was Texan! Added to his Texas drawl, was the fact that he had recently obtained new dentures. I thought he was talking in tongues. He was talking “Texan”, which is a dialect of the English language.

Living Small

Yes, we had culture shock!

One of the effects of culture shock is criticism. And with criticism comes an increasingly small world. With other “British Commonwealth” students we enjoyed our “British” superior heritage. “These Americans” all drank coffee in their cars. They called the post, mail, a tap is a faucet, a bonnet a hood, the boot a trunk, petrol gas, and they drove on the wrong side of the road. And in their prayers, they often told God He was “neat”.

Same, same but different

One of the courses I did at Bible College, The Principle of World Missions by John Garlock, had a massive impact on me.

He taught, Culture is not better or worse, it is different.

When we left for the USA people told us that we would not come back to South Africa.  We were determined to come back to South Africa. And so, we thought by diminishing American culture we would ensure our return. Our attitude was “stingy” and our world was small, even though we were living in a large country.

 It was liberating when we realised that culture was neither better or worse, good or bad, but different. Now Christine and I could embrace American culture and living. We loved our time in the USA, we loved the Americans we met, we loved the many other “foreigners” on campus and our world became larger.

Smaller and smaller

The man who finds our church not white enough is now considering being part of a “house church” movement. I am not sure what that means, but it feels like it may be a gathering of people who are like him. I fear that his may make his world become smaller and smaller, which would be a pity.

Stinginess

Our world is at the risk of increasing stinginess. The gravitational pull for me to only be with people like me is strong. The problem is, my world will become smaller and smaller. I don’t judge our ex-member. Generosity can be a slippery customer, and it is all too easy to feel threatened by a changing world and be pulled into a smaller and smaller world.

Pray for me

Pray for me, I want to be generous, I want my world to get larger and larger. I want to be radically inclusive. I want to see all humans as image bearers of the God who loves me, loves others and whom I love!

I hope you feel the same.

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