Reformation

On 31 October 1517 a 33-year old university professor by the name of Martin Luther nailed a series of theological propositions and arguments (that came to be called The Ninety-Five Theses) to the doors of the church in the small city of Wittenberg in Saxony, eastern Germany where he lived. “In doing so, he was imagining he would spark a debate in academic and ecclesiastical circles. In actual fact he changed Europe and ultimately the world. Today there are over 800 million people across the globe who could be described as ‘Protestant’ in one way or another. The stranglehold on Christian faith excercised by the Roman Catholic Church through the ministry of the priesthood was broken forever and the Bible became a book that was open to all to read and explore” (Andy Johnston in Convinced by Scripture).

“As the Reformers (Luther and others) looked at the European church, they saw an institution that had wandered from the heart of the gospel. And when the heart of the gospel is lost, the Christian faith is lost. Therefore these men and women were moved to put their livelihoods, homes, fortunes, and lives on the line to restore to the church the essential teachings of the gospel. These have come down to us by five Latin phrases: Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Soli Deo Gloria. Translated into English, they assert that salvation is according to Scripture alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, for the glory of God alone. Each of these Solas proves to be essential to the gospel. We neglect them to our harm. When the church loses its understanding of these rallying cries of the Reformation, it loses the gospel” (Jason Helopoulos in These Truths Alone).

Rosebank Union Church is an evangelical Protestant church . . . the fruit of the Reformation. We thank God for our heritage and, together with Protestants around the world, celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation by remembering the Reformers and, above all, returning to the Scriptures to refresh our understanding of the Five Solas.

It is my deep prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this sermon series to strengthen our faith, sanctify our lives, and spur us on to be faithful witness of this amazing, life-changing gospel.

We live in a beautiful country! My Christian orientation tells me that God, in his sovereign will, orchestrated the birth of our democratic dispensation. Out of a divisive past and disjointed history, we emerged in 1994 as a people bound by the common vision of building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic country that is prosperous in character, benevolent in spirit, and united in diversity. The hopes of many, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, were raised high as a promise for ‘a better life for all’ became the mantra of the day.

So, I woke up in a new South Africa that had the potential to be great among the nations; led by imperfect, and yet determined leaders, seemingly willing to put the people first (Batho-Pele), and above their personal interests. As Church communities, we pray for righteousness that exalts the nation, for shared moral values that shape a people, and integrity that defines servant-leadership. We believe hard work and honesty, along with faith in God and commitment to serving the people, are essential traits in those who represent us in public service.

Today, however, our country is at the crossroads. Never did I dream that I would, so soon in our democratic order (23 years to be exact), find myself among concerned citizens and leaders of civil society, gathered in a conference to reflect on the future of South Africa. Weeks later I joined a #no-confidence-march to parliament in Cape Town. Somewhere along the journey, erosion crept in and we lost the plot. Values we purported to uphold no longer seem to apply.

Ubuntu, the sheer principle of recognising the worth and the dignity of fellow human beings, is sacrificed at the altar of “me first.” The pervasiveness of corruption both in the private and public spheres, is not only shocking, but evil and an affront in God’s eyes. Lack of a high code of ethics and morality required for public servants is a serious indictment.
The Church is again required to stand up for what is right. We cannot afford to be silent and complacent in the face of the scourge that ravages our nation and steals our future. Yes, we must fast and pray! And at the same time – be ready to speak truth to power!

Nkos’ sikelel’ izwe lethu (God bless our nation).

After nearly six years of “weeping”, there was “joy in the morning” at Rosebank Union Church on Sunday 20 August when Stephen McGown and his wife Catherine stepped to the front of the church.

Stephen was kidnapped by Al Queda in Mali on 25 November 2011 and was held by them in the remote Sahara North until his miraculous release and return to his family a few weeks ago.

Immediately following Stephen’s capture, hundreds of members of RUC began praying for him. Inspired by the American wartime song about tying a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree, one of our members, Frances Cowen, made hundreds of yellow ribbons available at the church. We tied them around trees and shrubs in our gardens and on our gates and doorposts to remind us to pray for Stephen and his family. These faithful yellow ribbons were blown by the wind, bleached by the sun, chilled by the cold, and soaked by the rain. As trees grew over nearly six years, the ribbons bit into their trunks and branches leaving permanent scars as reminders. As we saw our ribbons day by day, we would shoot up arrow prayers for Stephen and his family as well as pray on our knees, in our homes and in our church services. Sometimes there would be more than a year between a proof-of-life video or any news of Stephen and our faith would flag. We wondered whether he would ever be free again. I have to confess that there were times when I began to prepare his funeral sermon in my mind as I despaired of him ever been released.

Then came that glorious day when the news broke: STEPHEN IS HOME! Our private rejoicing found corporate expression at the 10 am service last Sunday when I invited Stephen and Catherine and their family to the front of the church. As one person the congregation stood, and applauded and cheered for a solid three minutes. Weeping had stayed for the long night of nearly six years, but joy came that morning. It was a great Sunday!

When the applause died down I handed the microphone to Stephen who shared is joy at being home and humbly thanked the Rosebank family for our prayers.

Stephen removed the yellow ribbon from the “old oak tree” at the McGown home (see picture) as have many of us, but their need for our prayers remains as they move into the future facing many adjustments.
Stephen’s story is an encouragement to all of us to persevere in prayer for people and situations where we need a miracle. Remember . . .

“Weeping may stay overnight, but there is joy in the morning” Psalm30:5 CSB

The 30th July was our annual “Rays of Hope” Sunday where we have a specific focus on the work of our non-profit organisation working to bring lasting change to the people of Alexandra Township.  Thanks to all the staff and volunteers of Rays of Hope for all the effort they put in to give us a glimpse into the Alex Stories.

The video above is a brief overview of a few of the projects of Rays of Hope.

Thanks to AG2G Entertainment for putting the video together.

One of the disciples (Thomas) asked Jesus a fascinating question. A question that many of us can Identify with. A question that John the author picked up on and dedicated three whole chapters (Ch. 14,15 & 16) to answering. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5). In other words, Lord where are you going? We’ve been with you for three years, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve whined and we’ve dined. Our horizons have been broadened and our hearts have been opened. Lord we’ve done life together and now out of nowhere you are just going to leave us! Just imagine the scene amongst the twelve disciples.

“Gents,” Peter says, “the person we’ve given everything up for, is going awol. Caesar Tiberius and the whole political climate is rotten to the core. Religious institutions profit margins are at an all-time low. Frankly, synagogue leaders, sacred priests, scribes and the various legal regulatory boards have had enough of plummeting religious stocks and now they want blood. Lord I’m not saying it’s bad timing but Lord where are you going?”

Over the past few months I’ve sensed the pastors, elders, leaders and my own heart ask a similar question to Thomas. “Lord where are you?” Our nation seems to be in turmoil; our church is thankful for the trickle of authentic conversions but Lord we are desperate for a torrent because so many are perishing apart from you. Lord so many are broken, so many are isolated and lonely, so many are going through the motions. “Lord where are you?”

It was at our mid-year core leadership gathering on Saturday (22 July) where I sensed the Lord say two life altering things to the heart of Thomas. Like the disciples and especially those entrusted with the gift of leadership we can feel “troubled” (14:1), “orphaned” (14:18), “withering” (15:6), “fruitless” (15:2), “hated for no reason” (15:25) and tempted to “fall away”. We constantly seem to project that everything is ok but if we are truly honest, inside we’re either mad, sad, bad or scared. It is this that Jesus wants to transform and it is to this that Jesus says “…I will ask the father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth” (14:16-17b). Jesus is saying I may be exalted in heaven and seem far away but you will still have the fullness of my presence with you to help you (14:16), to enable you (15:26), to convict you (16:8), to guide you (16:13), to assure you (Rom 8:15) and to grow you (Gal 5:22-23).

More than this, right in the centre of this deep meaningful conversation Jesus sobers his followers by saying “I am the vine, you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing.” (15:3). This is the nerve that I believe the Lord touched at this gathering. It was as though God was saying to the leaders, in the midst of what you feel and see it is the Lord’s presence and power you crave.

God may be mobilising the leaders and his people at RUC to take more seriously their time alone with him. To prepare a highway in our hearts. To remove any obstacles of sin and make smooth rough paths through which he can travel more freely. He may be moving us to a season of focused corporate prayer. In the words of Jonathan Edwards I think in hindsight the core leaders gathering was “A humble attempt to promote explicate agreement and visible union of all God’s people in extraordinary prayer for the revival of religion and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom” because we have come to the end of ourselves and realise afresh that “apart from him we can do nothing”, absolutely nothing.

Lord bend me to pray, Lord bend us.

We held our second successful Holiday Club in the July holidays, with over 140 students attending over five days at Altrek, the sports and recreation centre in Alexandra.

As background to these Holiday programmes… a few years ago we decided to concentrate the Saturday academic teaching to just two subjects, English and Mathematics. We identified these as the core subjects that children in Alex need to concentrate on to improve their academic skills and their ability to progress beyond school. But this left a gap in terms of non-academic subjects such as Lifeskills. For this reason, we added extra-curricular activities on Saturdays after classes as well as two Holiday Clubs and the annual camp each year. These are our best opportunities for Christian teaching and instilling Christian values and they have proved to be so influential in shaping our student’ mind-sets and actions.

The theme for THIS Holiday Club was “Who am I? Who are we? Who is Jesus?” We chose this to fit into the national “What’s Your Story” campaign initiated and driven by the Heartlines Media Company and adopted by the Rosebank Union church. Children examined their own stories in the light of the stories of other children…What are the differences between us? How do I feel about these differences? How can I be more accepting of other people who are different from me? What expectations do others have of me and I have of myself? Then they looked at Jesus’ ‘story’…Who was He? What did He say about Himself? What did others say about Him? What do YOU say about Him? What does HE say about YOU?

The Holiday programme was packed full of art and craft activities as well as games and sports. Each team competed against itself to improve its sporting performance over the week, which further built on knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and working together as a team.

The Holiday club leaders – key players in the success of the event – are usually compiled of ex-Rose-Act students and volunteers at other Rays of Hope projects. We made a significant change at this Holiday Club by inviting some Grade 9 learners to be group leaders. Putting a Grade 9 child into a leadership position was an important move in developing these young students’ leadership skills and developing their own maturity. To assist these young leaders, we used four supervisors who were experienced in leading groups. Each supervisor managed four groups. All in all, it went well and the young leaders rose to the occasion. Everyone learnt a lot from this experience.

An out of the normal highlight came on the Thursday, when YFM 99.2 FM radio station set up a three-hour live outside broadcast from the Holiday Club. This was part of its Mandela Day partnership with Rays of Hope. 2 000 blankets donated by listeners and corporate supporters of YFM and were given to Rays of Hope projects, including Rose-Act. They played music and in-between interviewed some of our leaders as well as other senior staff members of Rays of Hope, including our director Sihle Mooi. Then all the students gathered around and sang their newly-learned Holiday Club song, ‘You’re a V-I-P to G-O-D.’ It was amazing and the YFM DJ’s were bowled over.

The Children’s Ministry, in conjunction with the Youth Ministry, ran a fun-filled enriching Holiday Club from 3 – 7 July. Entitled “A Lego Adventure”, the week focused on the children building their relationships with Jesus. We shared with the children about building our lives on Jesus; building a strong relationship with Him through being part of a community and focusing on His word in the Bible; learning to serve and love one another; and having a personal relationship with Him.
Thank you to all who contributed in terms of food and drink – especially the hot chocolate on the cold mornings; stationery for the crafts and work books; the ladies who braved the chilly early mornings to help with registration – a total of 316 children registered, comprising 130 girls and 186 boys; and the monetary donations. Your giving is appreciated.

We had an average daily attendance of 218 children. We give thanks to the Lord for the 48 new commitments that were made
Some of the feedback we have received:

“Wow is all we can say. Thank you for the most awesome week! Nina couldn’t stop talking about how much fun she had during the day at HC and couldn’t wait to get there in the mornings.”

“Thank you all for a wonderful HC experience. Olivia had a great time! Much appreciated.”

“Thank you Lee and Nicola for putting together another awesome programme. Not only did the kids have loads of fun, plenty seeds were sewn and for that I am eternally grateful.”

Holiday Club Leaders

By Dave Myburgh


The Annual Holiday Club is an exciting week in the life of the church. There is a certain ‘buzz’ amongst the staff, the Jerusalem Hall is transformed into ‘another world’ and over 200 children arrive for a week of fun. Very few things bring me more joy than God transforming lives and by the end of the Holiday Club week we saw just that as 48 kids gave their lives to Jesus.
But as the Youth Director, I have to celebrate what God did in the lives of some of our teens at the Worship Night on Wednesday the 5th of July. I always know going into the Holiday Club that not all of the teens who sign up are followers of Jesus, and so I always make it my goal to preach the Gospel to them wherever I can over the course of the week. And so, on the Wednesday evening I gave a simple gospel message. The gospel message truly is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16) because by the end of the night, 9 teenagers put their faith in Christ. I had the great privilege of praying with three of them and all three spoke about how it felt as though a weight had been lifted off of their shoulders. What an incredible joy this was for me to witness and be a part of! God is at work in the lives of our young people.

Rightnow Media RUC

This month RUC signed up the church to RightNow Media. This is an amazing resource for every conceivable area of the Christian life with top-quality bible teaching from some of the world’s best Christian leaders.

  • Over 18 000 Bible Study Videos
  • Real Life Stories
  • Over 2000 Kids episodes
  • And even customised training tracks directly form our own church leaders.

All these resources are available directly through your browser or through any number of mobile and smart TV apps.

If you are part of the Rosebank Union Church community we would like to give you unlimited access to this amazing digital resource library FOR FREE!

Please follow the link below to signup. We are able to make this available for free due to a very generous donation from one of our church families.

Next to our bed (and obviously our stove and fridge) the most important piece of furniture in our home is our dining room table. Shortly after our marriage, nearly 40 years ago, Irene and I purchased a round dining room table that seats eight – nine at a squeeze. It was the best money we’ve ever spent! Over all these years it has been the hub of our home as far as good food and rich fellowship are concerned. In addition to being the gathering place (and feeding trough) for our family, it has been a place where guests from all walks of life have sat — famous preachers and missionaries, next-door neighbours, strangers and members of our church family, happy young couples contemplating marriage, and couples whose marriages were barely holding together. It is a place of laughter and tears, a place of questions and answers, a place of inquiry and information, a place of Bible-reading and prayer, a place of discussion and discipleship. And the question that has sparked so much rich interchange has (in so many words) been, WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

A few Saturday nights ago, we invited a group of Campus Outreach staff to our home for a meal – ten in all, including two delightful children. Obviously, the dining room table was too small so we sat around the lounge. After the main course, we asked the question, WHAT’S YOUR STORY? We listened in awe as one after another shared their story. They spoke of their family backgrounds, their coming to Christ, their call to ministry, their studies and struggles, and their future aspirations. The stories were rich in their diversity, but held together by the common thread of God’s amazing grace and keeping power. Irene and I shared our stories too and answered some of their questions about the church and theological issues.

After they had left and we were tidying up the kitchen, we commented to one another on what a rich and rewarding evening it had been. It’s amazing what a little intentionality and the simple question, WHAT’S OUR STORY? can do!