Wilberforce Academy returns to South Africa

8 March 2024

Earlier this year, we brought Wilberforce Academy to South Africa for the second time. Embeth du Toit and Ryan Smit of Wilberforce Academy South Africa reflect on how believers from SA, Namibia and Zimbabwe gathered around the goal of shining the light of the gospel in an increasingly dark world, in this annual equipping week.

At the end of 18th century England, at the height of the transatlantic slave trade, there was a man, not unlike many of us today, with a choice to either respond to the call of Christ on his life; or to give in to the pressures and pleasures of the world he lived in. He picked up his cross and walked a life of obedience to his Lord.

Persisting for decades in the fight to restore dignity to his fellow man, he brought the cries of the commodified before the British parliament until the abolition of the slave trade was accomplished. This man, William Wilberforce, had one thing to offer the world, as do each of us – his life as a sacrifice to the God who works in us fruitful faithfulness for the sake of His Name (His praise and glory).

The life of William Wilberforce is a striking reminder of how God uses the obedience of His people to accomplish His purposes and the Lord’s word to us in Esther 4:14, that in His providence, we are here exactly “for such a time as this.”

Counting the cost of following Christ

The question is how Christians can live faithful lives in a time marked by the rejection of truth, the embrace of deceptive narratives, the abandonment of objective morality and applauding of evil around every corner? It often feels overwhelming when we see the opposition, but what if Wilberforce looked at his opposition — and you best believe there was enough of it — and decided the cost was too great?

This is why the Wilberforce Academy exists — to equip and strengthen believers to take a stand for Jesus in service of His Kingdom purposes. More than just being a training programme in the practical application of a biblical worldview, the Wilberforce Academy also connects members of the Body of Christ to one another for encouragement and support in seeking the Kingdom of God together in their vocations.

These vocations include law, politics, public service, education, healthcare, media, entertainment, creative arts, ministry, the STEM fields, economics, business and finance. The Wilberforce Academy exists to see South African society renewed by Jesus.

In the week of 21 to 26 January 2024, we already started to taste of the fruit of faithfulness as a group of almost a 100, consisting of delegates, faculty and team members from across the country, including delegations from Namibia and Zimbabwe, congregated for the second annual Wilberforce Academy Week.

The speakers’ group consisted of experts, practitioners and leaders in various fields. They taught on topics like gender ideology, abortion, cultural reconciliation, biblical governance and many others, with authority and soft hearts, leading many delegates to testify of “changed mindsets” and “eye-opening encounters”.

One delegate remarked: “One of the biggest testimonies of the week is to see the joy that the speakers carry. Although they are dealing with extremely serious and heavy topics, we see the joy of the Lord in their lives.”

For this, we honour our faculty who truly are 21st century Wilberforces.

As the week progressed and our minds were wrestling with big questions about pervasive ideologies indoctrinating our society and causing moral decay, the importance of being rooted in the Word of God as our ultimate authority was confirmed once more. The reality of our dependence on the Word was tangibly felt as each morning started with corporate devotions from the Word and worship, before tackling the topics of the day.

When our hearts become troubled by the cares of the world and the injustice around us, it is the Lord himself – through His Word, the Holy Spirit’s communion and the family of faith – who keeps us rooted in Him and focused on the call to make disciples of all nations.

During the final morning’s devotional, Pastor Ludwig Alberts encouraged all to take heart because the Word will produce the crops, since fruitfulness does not depend on how much you know, but on the One who’s made us His own.

As Andrea Williams, founder of the Wilberforce Academy UK, also said: “If your true affection is the Lord Jesus Christ, you won’t grow weary of doing good.” Ultimately, although it can become difficult and disheartening doing the work of the Kingdom, our hope lives on because our King lives.

God is not done with Africa

Throughout the week, a golden thread of hope was highlighted: God is not done with Africa. Pastor John Mathuhle shared of his conviction that the Lord has released a special grace on His children in Africa — a grace for a redemptive purpose, to reconcile and bring about a harvest for the Kingdom.

This theme permeated the week as testimonies of God’s faithfulness on our continent were shared — from the stories of how God used the Early African Church for His purposes, to the miracle of Senekal where God thwarted the plans of man to fan the flames of civil unrest. To the film screening of African Enterprise’s The Threatened Miracle of South Africa’s Democracy which shows God’s divine intervention in the peaceful democratic transition of our nation. What remains to be seen is whether in a hundred years, historians will look at the Church in Africa today and be able to speak of our faithfulness to God.

If we believe there is a bountiful harvest coming from Africa, the Church must prepare for it. This readiness starts with taking seriously our commandment to be fruitful in all that we do — living faithful lives in how we love our families, take care of our neighbours, steward our resources and conduct our businesses.

As Advocate Keith Matthee SC said: “We don’t know what God will do with our fish and loaves, so be brave!” While this call weighs especially heavy on the eve of our upcoming general elections, the Academy Week encouraged each one in attendance to do their bit faithfully and entrust the fruitfulness to the One who is able to make much of our little.

The heart of the week was powerfully captured by one of the delegates during the vocational group feedback session on the final day of the week:

“At the end of the day, when we leave out these gates, each of us is going to encounter the opportunity to share with someone what we’ve learnt here. In that moment we’ll be confronted with the choice to either sow our seeds, or shy away.” – Josh Ramsey, 2024 WASA Delegate.

Find out more about the Wilberforce Academy at https://wilberforceacademy.org.za and by following their various social media pages.

This article was originally published on Gateway News and has been reproduced with permission from Embeth Du Toit and Ryan Smit.

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