Why I will be Praying with Angus on Saturday

images-23I have never been to one of Angus Buchan’s meetings.

This is not because I have anything against Angus, or his meetings, but because I stopped attending huge Christian gatherings many years ago.

There are a number of reasons for this, and I am not even sure I understand all of them. When I stepped out of denominational Christianity, I stepped into a world where crowds did not matter, where personal relationships took precedence over group dynamics, where celebrity preaching and performance worship were exchanged for nights with friends and their Bibles around kitchen tables.

So I don’t have a problem with huge Christian gatherings. I just happened to embark on a route where I stopped running into them.

I do have a problem with something else, though: Bandwagons.

As a young Christian, someone told me that as light attracts insects, revival fires tend to attract strange people with strange agendas and even stranger teachings. Anyone familiar with the history of spiritual awakenings will know what I am talking about.

Whether we like it or not, Angus Buchan’s ministry has become a type of brand here in South Africa (brandwagon?). As it is with great brands, a lot of people are attracted to it for the sake of the spectacle. You can make money out of a brand. You can promote your cause because of a brand. You can spread your teachings under the name of a brand.

Some of us believe that this is the greatest danger facing Angus’ ministry: People who would like to use his wagon for their band. And so we resolved at our fellowship to start praying for Angus instead of just praying with him.

For those with misgivings about Angus: Remember that there is no problem with someone functioning as a type of “spiritual uncle” for South Africa, as long as such a person does not see himself as a mediatory figure between God and the rest of us, or make any absurd assumptions about his authority. This is why a lot of us appreciate the fact that Angus does not have some or other ridiculous title tied to his name, that he does not wear a religious costume and that we cannot pin him to a denomination.[1] Also, it is as clear as daylight that he has been instrumental in turning many South Africans to God.

These are great credentials, and they dare not be ignored by those of us who have turned our backs on institutionalised Christianity.

But I will be lying if I say that some of us are not concerned. There’s been a lot of Dominion talk amongst some of Angus’ supporters – the type of triumphalist theology that is especially popular amongst certain segments of the Religious Right in the USA, and that sometimes gives one the impression that God is more interested in penetrating the governments of this world than establishing his own Kingdom as an alternative to them.

There are also emails flying around promoting questionable spiritual warfare tactics, and strategies to bind and loose, and recipes for breaking curses, and so on – and some of them seem to be riding on the back of Saturday’s gathering.

And then there are those who are crusading for something called a New Apostolic Reformation, and who connect their particular vision (which happens to be highly controversial) to Angus’ gatherings.

The point is that quite a few of us have lost the taste for all of this. We have been there , we have done it, we have a cupboard full of T-shirts. And so we gravitated towards a different understanding of Christianity – one that doesn’t see strongholds as places and entities outside of us to be overthrown, but as our own miserable opinions that differ from God’s wisdom and will – opinions that take our thoughts captive and leave us entitled, greedy, narcissistic and unjust, and that call for a heart circumcision followed by a progressive renewal of our minds.

At least this is how we interpret Paul’s teaching on strongholds.[2]

Of course you may differ, and indeed it is your right. I just don’t think Angus’ wagon is the place to do it. Neither do I think it is the place for promoting any of the stuff mentioned above.

You see, none of my misgivings has anything to do with Angus’ call to come and pray for our country and for one another. And so I have no objections about Saturday. On the contrary, I think it is a wonderful and noble thing for the body of Christ to show their solidarity and unite in fervent prayer. (I would have thought the same if Joe Soap organised it.)

I also think that the snooty liberal professors at some of South Africa’s famous theological faculties, who speak condescendingly about Angus and his gatherings, accomplish nothing except to provide further proof that they are in fact heretics. How can anyone with a heart for God criticize an earnest appeal to believers to unite in prayer?

This is why someone like me, who have drifted away from the big stadiums and big names, and who have no inclination of returning there or endorsing anyone’s agenda, felt a stirring within when I began to think about this particular gathering.

And this is why I decided that I will be there. We are followers of Christ. Let us pray together! What could be more wonderful than that?

But let us cut the background noise. Let us leave our pet doctrines and agendas at home. Let us commit ourselves to what this is, and not try and turn it into something else. South Africa has enough hijackers as it is.

[1] I am not trying to be nasty. Jesus spoke against ecclesiastical titles and tailoring one’s clothes for the sake of making a spiritual impression. And Paul condemned factions in the church. See Matthew 23:5-12 and 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 2:1-5.

[2] See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; 11:3