BIG Change is a self-help, bottom-up strategy to change South Africa.
The strategy focuses on the Christian network that is interwoven with the fabric of the South African society. The Christian network is the biggest common denominator across South Africa’s diverse society. If you choose to look at South Africa in this way, then we are not such a diverse society after all. What if this is a largely unrecognised and therefore underutilised resource? What doors can it open for South Africa, if any?
The images that we use to represent BIG Change first illustrate the inequality within South Africa. South Africa is social-economically a very unequal society. This is a historical but also an emerging inequality. More and more people are “falling” off the cliff as our economy continues to contract.
With the help of the BIG Change strategy, we believe that South Africa can move to the second image: a zigzag road with a moderate slope, where groups of people progress at different rates or speed. The important element is that every group can see a different group that has already progressed a little further, and that brings motivation and clear direction on how to progress. This approach breaks down an impossible situation into more achievable challenges. It ensures small wins and therefore promotes momentum and hope. A lack of hope discourages action.
In the second image, each new year is a little better than the previous year. Do we even know what this feels like? For years now we have experienced increased unemployment, corruption, violence, black-outs, and poorer service delivery. We need to create an upward movement for the people of South Africa, even if it is initially small. We just have to be relentless and push forward in hope.
To unpack BIG Change, we will answer three questions:
To answer the WHY question we will look at:
The first image of BIG Change is used to visually represent the problem statement that motivated the development of the BIG Change strategy. We are all living in South Africa and experience first-hand the pressure of a failing South Africa. It is our children who battle to find a job after leaving school, it is us who wait for hours on end for medical care, it is us who do not get the basic services from our municipalities, who battle with blackouts after a long day at work, and the list can go on. Because we, the ordinary people of South Africa, experience all these challenges first-hand, ATS thought that there is no need to formulate a problem statement, yet as we worked with people we realised that they do not understand the magnitude of our problems. As one man said, “I did not know it was so bad – maybe because I do not watch the news or read the newspaper anymore”. We think that people have so little hope for South Africa that reading and hearing what is going on only makes them more depressed and unmotivated – therefor they ignore understanding the problems all together.
BIG Change is a strategy that is built on two key success factors namely, the Christian network and Revival. This might sound like a “cliché” but we believe we have solid reasoning to support this statement. You can find our reasoning in the links below:
In the context of BIG Change, the key to our success may be a national revival, or said differently, a large-scale spiritual awakening. Such a spiritual awakening is not new to our country. In 1860, there was a revival in the Cape Colony which commenced on the day of Pentecost in the parish of Rev. Andrew Murray. There have also been other revivals such as the Pentecostal revival around 1908. What is also very important is to understand the longevity of the effects of such a national revival. Today, more than 160 years after the revival and with a volume of documentation on the revival, we get an exciting picture of the impact of a national revival as well as the longevity thereof.
WHO will be the role players in BIG Change? In the previous section WHY we have set out exactly why we think the answer for South Africa lies within the Christian network. For years ATS has been advocating that independent research has shown us that the solution for South Africa lies with the “Moderate Majority” : the Christian network. ATS said that if you understand the data correctly, then the “Moderate Majority” are moderate in their views because of their Christian convictions. Based on this fact we find it difficult to understand why people who want to:
keep on insisting to focus on secular intervention plans.
BIG Change is a bottom-up strategy within the Christian network but we want to define this group more specifically, namely the family and the cell (or Bible study or small) groups within a congregation. We have asked ourselves how are we going to get the closest to the people in the Christian network and our conclusion was to focus on the family; a father, mother and children, and to focus on the small groups (cell or Bible study groups) in the church.
The role players in BIG Change are ordinary people found in the family and the cell groups.
You can read the book “Ordinary people” and “Gewone mense” (available for free), if you want to understand the importance of the family in changing South Africa from the bottom-up.
In a doctoral study supervised by ATS, it was found that the key success factor in community transformation is the individuals who have had a personal experience with the living God through the working of the Holy Spirit.
“Although the research highlights the church’s central role with regard to community transformation, the argument really is that individual people who have experienced a true encounter with the living God through the working of the Holy Spirit, develop a new orientation towards life and have a positive impact on community transformation.”
Implementing the BIG Change strategy consists of different steps. These steps can be followed linearly but a group might also decide on a different sequence to best fit their needs and situation.
The first and foremost focus of BIG Change is to motivate and facilitate a true personal encounter with the living God through the working of the Holy Spirit in the individual, be it in the cell group or the family setting. Without such individual experiences, BIG Change will not succeed. This is very important, if not the most important element of the Big Change strategy. If you underestimate/miss/skip this step it would be like pouring water into a leaking bucket.
Some of the tools that ATS has made available to facilitate this personal spiritual encounter are:
1. Prayer Bible study course
A workbook that focuses on developing a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father, to communicate with God and understand the important building blocks of the Christian’s faith. This 13-week course provides a sound foundation for a Christian’s life. Cell groups but also individual family units can work through this interactive study.
2. The Holy Spirit Bible study course
The Holy Spirit, working in us, is beyond measure. Without the Holy Spirit, ordinary people will stay ordinary people. Paul writes in Ephesians “... His power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of.”
Prof Hattingh writes “The baptism in the Holy Spirit is about the power of the resurrected Christ in us. When you experience God in His greatness and love, you will also experience God’s thoughts about yourself. People under the anointing of the Holy Spirit will always find insight into God’s calling for them; His great plans for them, God’s destiny for them.”
3. The Eschatology
A practical workbook for Christians that gives a balanced and reliable examination of the doctrine about the end times, including:
4. Victor Kids
This is ATS’ Sunday school curriculum in English and Afrikaans that can be downloaded for free. This curriculum can be utilised by parents as a resource for Bible study at home. Parents can even decide to cherry pick certain themes, for example Pentecost, salvation, creativity, etc.
Register online to become part of BIG Change. We want to build a BIG Change community that can support and motivate each other. This community can also provide valuable insights during the process. Although BIG Change is essentially a self-help strategy, we will be stronger together.
Anonymous questionnaire for congregation members
Download a questionnaire to be completed by the congregation members. This questionnaire will help the church leadership to have a reference point as to where the congregation is, identify growth areas and later this data can be used to quantify (measure the quality of) the change. We have experienced that sometimes the leadership of a church might feel criticised by these questions. ATS however believes people appreciate a leader who asks tough and real questions, and then come up with practical solutions. It is much better to understand what is going on and to provide a plan to address issues. We are on a journey - we have not yet arrived.
A fruit of a personal encounter with God is that you become “outward-looking” and directed to fulfil a calling.
“When you experience God in His greatness and love,
you will also experience God’s thoughts about yourself.
People under the anointing of the Holy Spirit
will always find insight
into God’s calling for them;
His great plans for them,
God’s destiny for them.”
~ Prof Jan Hattingh
To aid this process of becoming “outward-looking”, we help the cell groups to do an audit of their community or their sphere of influence in a practical way. To talk to God about their community and decide together in the cell what the issues are that the Holy Spirit lays on their hearts, for example:
Working systematically with a plan and sporadically evaluating yourself against the plan, will increase the likelihood of success. ATS has created a tool to teach the cell how to develop such an action plan.
The cell becomes the one that initiates, implements and monitors the project (even if it is very small).
Development of specific skills
Understanding what the community’s needs are might now present a new challenge namely, that skills and equipment are needed to effectively address it. ATS has been developing and will continue to develop tools that will equip ordinary people with the skills needed to be able to provide assistance. We call this the “BIG Change Toolbox".
ATS will regularly add new tools so as to help with the equipping of people in order to best address the needs they have identified within their communities.
The Institute for Race Relationships (IRR), previously under the leadership of Dr Frans Cronje, have for years been talking about the “Moderate Majority” of South Africa. Their research found that despite deliberate racial incitement, the majority of South Africans have moderate opinions and agree on what needs to be done to solve the country’s problems. It is this “Moderate Majority” that the IRR believes could be mobilised to resist the government’s lust for overall control and power.
We at ATS however have a slightly different angle on this “Moderate Majority”. We note that in the census of 2001, 79% of South Africans identified themselves as Christians. We therefor reason that the “Moderate Majority” is largely (not exclusively) Christians. ATS said that if you understand the data correctly then the “Moderate Majority” are moderate in their views because of their Christian convictions. We believe that strategically the best target market to induce rapid change in South Africa is the Christian network, and that you cannot connect with them only in a secular fashion. You will not fully unlock their vast potential and motivation in such a way.
We also repeatedly conceded that we know all too well that this network has problems, simply because it is our business to understand this network. We also have our own, decades long traumatic experience at the hands of people central to this network (see https://www.ats.ac.za/blog/finance-vs-gods-will/). Yet, we believe that this network has unimaginable possibilities and that we can trust God for a revival of His people. The deterioration on the part of God’s people is not new; history is full of this tragic story. But surely, history also testifies to the fact that God, through His great mercy, brings purification and a revival of His own.