However, the sermon introduced a new take on prosperity gospel--one that has helped me to bridge some disparate elements in my own thinking. In my time in South Africa as a Mennonite, working with various Pentecostal forms of church, and doing weekly Bible study with mainline Anglicans and Presbyterians, I have often reflected on what each tradition views as God's will for us. As a Mennonite, I believe that God calls us into a life of discipleship which means means taking up the cross and suffering for the sake of the gospel. I observe mainline Protestants to emphasise spiritual faith without God seeming to care what happens to our bodies. And Pentecostals are known for their teaching that God wants us to give and in so giving we will be materially blessed, without ethical limits.
Pastor Tlali upheld the best of this tradition while subverting it at the same time. He said, "there are principles in here [the Bible] that work. But that is not the point. They work whether you are righteous are unrighteous. The point is to be transformed into Christ."
These "principles that work" have been endlessly teased out by one charismatic pastor after another. And indeed in a context of historical oppression in which people have had very little control over their lives it is good news to hear that the widow's mite was honoured, that even a person with one talent can invest it and please the master, and that the leper's expression of gratitude saved him. Thus when the pastor asks the people to give and to support the work of the church, they are given a chance to contribute to something larger than themselves. This message is often turned into a promise that they will receive direct, tangible, ostentatious rewards as a result of giving which is also not an unwelcome thought.
Pastor Tlali recognised the hope that this reading of the gospels gives to people. Yet he didn't stop there, he said that there was salvation beyond this and that the point was that we be spiritually renewed and live as disciples of Christ. In so doing he pulled together the major emphases which I have lived between for eight years. I thank him for that.