If the church of our Lord Jesus cannot help, then who will?

Have a look at the figure below. According to an article in the Daily Maverick this is what South Africans need…. WORK!

Work, or the lack of work, is by far the single most pressing and overwhelming need for South Africans. Should an institution not take note of this, they will render themselves irrelevant.  ATS and the church in general should carefully consider this need.

Listen to this essay (read by AI services).

Who is responsible to help?

We might make the assumption that people think that it is the responsibility of the government to provide work. The heading of the above figure supports this assumption, but is this a correct assumption?  Do all people look to the government to fulfill their most pressing needs?

The greatest percentage of unemployment is among the youth of South Africa. Can it be that they do not fully agree with this assumption?  Or is it that they just do not trust government to deliver on their greatest challenge of unemployment?

Dr Frans Cronje said that the most recent public polls show that many young South Africans will not vote. He said it would be wrong to think that this is because they do not understand politics or are uninformed.  According to his experience, their argument is that they do not believe that anyone would deliver on their political promises and therefore, they will not vote.  In a very logical way, it makes sense: They are not interested in playing political games.

Is it part of the church’s task?

Is it not here that the church should step up to the challenge? If the church cannot provide guidance to the most pressing existential crisis of our people, it risks becoming marginalised.  At the same time, should the church attempt to provide an answer that does not have God’s blessing, we risk becoming part of the disillusionment that the youth has toward political solutions. What shall we do then?  Shall we try to convince them that a political party is the answer?  Do we truly believe that?

Should we advocate for more and larger grants for young people? Do we really think that energetic young people will be satisfied to waste their lives away from one grant payment to the next one?  Why would they not want to work to make the best of their “life capital” (in the words of Prof Hattingh regarding the parable of the golden coins in Luke 19)?

A meaningful life

We are created to live a meaningful life and to make a difference in our world – without it we wither away in this world, and in the world to come, we will be judged accordingly (see Luke 19:11-27).  Surveys in the UK and Netherlands showed that as many as 37 – 40% of people believe that their fulltime job makes no contribution to society.  They believe that their jobs are pointless, and should it stop to exist, it would make NO difference (note: cleaners, tailors, gardeners, teachers, farmers, nurses, street cleaners, dentists, plumbers, and school road patrol guards, are rarely, if ever in this category)[1]. They experience their work as meaningless, and this leads to unprecedented high levels of depression.  It is not just about work but about doing meaningful work; work that flows out of our personal relationship with God and that we experience as an answer to His calling on our lives.  ATS believes that all people are called, not just the pastor or people working in the church. Our calling may differ, just as Christians differ.

What shall we do?

Back to our original question: What shall we do?  Is it not an opportunity for the church to fill this gap?  Of course the church cannot create jobs to the magnitude of what is needed in South Africa and it is also not their job to do that. I wonder however, if one option might not be to augment our youth (young adult) ministries and start working toward a people’s economy[2] – an economy of entrepreneurs?

I appreciate the fact that it might feel like a contradiction: a church’s youth mission and entrepreneurship development.  I have in the past made numerous attempts to explain why we believe that entrepreneurship is one of the by-products of a personal experience with the resurrected Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit (refer to https://www.ats.ac.za/blog/what-if-we-could-eradicate-poverty and https://www.ats.ac.za/blog/says-who).  We have also tested this assumption in a doctoral study (A practical theological model for a community transformation strategy implemented by the church in Sesheke). A very significant comment from one of the participants in this study was:

“So, these entrepreneurship meetings we had, …. from what we have learnt so far, I can assure you that will never ever suffer in life because I’ve seen too many opportunities!”

In our own history, we have seen evidence of it: A result of the 1910 Pentecostal revival that took place amongst the poorest of the poor in South Africa, was that their lives changed 180 degrees. They cleaned themselves up, they cleaned their houses, they became hardworking and innovative, they became a “dynamo” of the economy where previously they were a burden to the economy.

I know that there are many entrepreneurs who are not Christians and who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.  But what I am saying is that there is a significant number of academics (some who are not Christians) who have observed Christians and they have noted a characteristic that they described as “entrepreneurial”.  It is this “side note” from the academics that have caught our attention and that have intrigued us for years.  We started to ask ourselves: what if the origin of entrepreneurship is not in the field of economics or the social sciences, but rather lies with our Creator and Saviour? What if sound theology becomes a frame of reference for the theory and practice of entrepreneurship?

What if the answer is closer than we think?

We think that there might be an answer to the pressing need of unemployment that might be closer to the church than what it seems. It is however important that the church makes the correct analysis and understands that the determining factor is an authentic, personal experience with the resurrected Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit. To use a metaphor from the sport of cricket, the church must play on its own pitch and not try to play on someone else’s pitch (e.g., economics, corporate world, etc.).

As a theological seminary we believe that it is part of our duty to assist the church in understanding our challenges and provide guidance in how to address them. This line of questioning led to the development of Big Change: a practical plan for a local church where we explain the Why, Who and How of a socio-economical strategy for South Africa.  It is a self-help, bottom-up strategy, relying on the wisdom and insight that the Holy Spirit gives.  But it is more: it is a strategy that encourages ordinary people to pray and faithfully trust God for a Holy Spirit revival in South Africa. The BIG Change Toolbox includes an online entrepreneurial course that differs from other courses: it is for groups and was developed on the analysis as explained above . 

To conclude, the desperate need of the majority of South Africans is WORK. If the church of our Lord Jesus cannot help them, then who will? And here lies an anomaly that we should understand and celebrate, namely if God does not intervene through a Holy Spirit revival, this task will be too big for us. But we should take up the task precisely because we understand our own shortcomings and trust in His unreserved faithfulness. “…for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

If you are a front line youth worker and this post resonates with you, please contact us or leave a comment below.

[1] David Graeber. (2018) Bs Jobs: A theory: 17.

[2] A concept that Clem Sunter deliberately uses and that should not be confused with a socialistic and communistic philosophy.


  1. P Potgieter

    I have taken the liberty to forward this article by Dr Hattingh-Rust to my sister in Hawaii.
    She is an architect in process of retirement.
    However, she serves the Lord and has a heart for the homeless of Honalulu.
    I am of opinion the she could use this concept in having a different approach to helping the homeless people other than just supplying housing.

    • The ATS Team

      Thank you. Your sister is always welcome to contact us. Rene

  2. Pernell

    Greetings in the Name of Jesus!

    This is a crucial issue that the church needs to address. Practical theology in progress but how do we reach these objectives? By being practical and less religious. Thank you.

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