Interview by: Gillian Fraser
Article source: JOY! Magazine

Rescue, Restore, Rebuild, and Release – this is the strategy that Pastors Chris and Phindile Mathebula focus on to achieve their mission to restore hope to our world, in Jesus’ Name. Hope Restoration Ministries (HRM) was founded 2001 in Kempton Park. Through God’s grace, the church has seen rapid growth, reaching multitudes with the truth. HRM has established several dynamic ministries that are designed to reach, touch and restore lives around the world. Chris and Phindi lead with strength, with passion, with power, and with humility.

QUESTIONS FOR PS CHRIS:

 

Q. Your church’s goal is to be a place where the hopeless are restored, empowered, and equipped to change their world for the better. How do you achieve this?

We ensure that those who walk through our church doors are ministered to and restored from any form of brokenness. We achieve this by first winning them to Christ, and then walking them through the journey of salvation (discipleship) by assuring them of their salvation, helping them deal with their unpleasant past (forgiveness of self and others), establishing their faith through God’s Word, and equipping them to become disciples to all nations. We always encourage and train those who are saved and whose hope has been restored to win others to Christ and thus advance God’s Kingdom. As a local church, we have no doubt that every believer can become a leader and thus influence their sphere of influence. We believe this is how the world’s hope will be restored.

Q. You are a ‘father in the faith’ to many church members and church leaders. What have you learnt in your years of ministry that has helped you lead so many people?

During my years of ministry, I have learnt that fatherlessness and irresponsible fathering is a scourge that undermines many Christians’ relationship with the Heavenly Father. This is because their earthly fathers or father figures have failed dismally in representing the loving and caring character of God to them. Having grown up without a father myself opened a void in my heart. It negatively impacted my life and led me to run away from home when I was 10 years old. This horrible childhood experience led me to be intentional in how I lead and care for Christ’s Church. God, through His grace, has helped me and is helping me to be an exemplary father and leader in society and to be intentional in raising and mentoring men who will be purposeful in fathering not only their biological children, but also the fatherless children within the community. It’s such a pleasure and delight for me to be afforded this divine opportunity to influence and father my own children and God’s children, to be good and devoted citizens in the nation.

Q. Who are your spiritual mentors, and why do you believe mentors are so important to one’s faith journey?

My late pastor was my spiritual mentor – Pastor Mondlane from Community Baptist Church in Tembisa, Gauteng. God has also blessed my wife and myself with Pastors Drummond and Lindah Robinson, who are walking with us as our spiritual mentors. This precious couple has been with us through the bad and the good times, praying for us, encouraging us, giving us a word of counsel, and rejoicing with us at all times. This is the very couple who hold us accountable for our marriage and how we lead God’s church. I believe that every one of us needs a mentor who will walk with us, pray for and encourage us when life gets tough, as well as show us our blind spots so that we may thrive in whatever we are doing. I do not advise anyone to do life alone, as every one of us needs someone to help sharpen our sword so that we can be on the cutting edge in our endeavours. Having a mentor has made me a better husband, father, and pastor and has kept me on the straight and narrow road.

 

Q. You are not only a full-time pastor, husband, father of 5, author, and more, but you were also a Mayoral candidate in recent local government elections. What prompted your move into politics?

Look, my ambition has never been to become a politician, but to be an agent of change. I wanted to bring about change through service delivery for the people of Ekurhuleni, hence the move to be a mayoral candidate in the previous local elections. I was really tired of remaining silent in the midst of corruption, poverty, unemployment, rising crime, the collapse of the nation’s infrastructure, and lack of moral leadership. The other reason I did that was to deal with the stereotype that says, “Christians and pastors are not supposed to be involved in the nation’s governmental structures and politics,” even if they have the capacity to lead and serve the people. I strongly believe that the body of Christ is filled with men and women of skill, character, and integrity. Although we managed to get 1 seat in our municipality parliament, I hope and pray this unprecedented move I made has challenged the body of Christ to be more involved in governing and leading our country, especially in this time when our nation has a bankruptcy of leaders of honour and integrity. This we must do not only for our generation, but for future generations too.

“Fatherlessness is a scourge that undermines many Christians’ relationship with the Heavenly Father.”

Q. More often than not, the Church is told to stay out of politics. What do you believe is the church’s role in national transformation?

As I have mentioned, the church is filled with great, godly, Spirit-filled, skilled, and wise leaders who have the capacity to bring about the national transformation we have all been praying for. In fact, the Bible is filled with people who brought a difference in government during their time. The likes of Joseph, Nehemiah, Daniel, Esther, and Deborah, to name but a few. These are the people who were involved in the politics of the countries they were in, and they brought transformation that led to the prosperity and peace of those countries. If we decide not to be involved in the government then the poor, needy, and the weak in our nation will be doomed because we, Christ’s body, are supposed to be the consciousness of the nation. Our skills and capacity should not be used within the church only, but should be taken outside the church walls for the benefit of our nation. I believe the time of taking the back seat – hoping that things will work out for our good without our involvement – is over. We cannot be in the backseat of a bus and hope that a drunk driver will take us to our destination, we need to be able to take the driver’s seat and lead our people to an anticipated destination.

Q. Traditionally, many Christians have voted along political lines rather than biblical lines – how do you marry the reality and challenges of politics (eg representing your community if they want an abortion clinic vs your Christian principles)?

The thing is: South Africa is not a Christian state but a secular one where everyone has freedom of religion hence we are governed by the constitution and not by God’s word, the Bible. So, our vote as Christians should be informed by the values and the policies of the political party we are voting for and whether the party has ethical and visionary leadership. Unfortunately, many Christian have previously voted along the political line without understanding the party’s values and policies. We have few political parties in SA which stand for biblical values which leaves us with few voting options as Christians so the onus is upon us to check and understand what a party stands for and what it seeks to achieve. We have sadly seen Christian parties whose values and policies are biblical yet do nothing to serve the poor, weak, and defenseless. Yes, we need to be governed by God’s word and principles, and that needs to reflect in how we vote but when you step into government as a Christian you need to be aware that you are stepping in, to better the lives of all people and all you do must be governed by the constitution. However, we are living in a country that respects the rights of other people. My rights as a Christian must be respected and this is what I stand for. I would always walk within my parameters as a Christian according to my conviction and serve people. And when voting for a political party you need to vote for a party that represents your belief, however, this means that you should stand by your convictions but respect the constitution. We are not governed by the bible as a nation but by the constitution, although as an individual, I’m governed by the bible.

“I strongly believe that the body of Christ is filled with men and women of skill, character, and integrity.”

Q. You are blessed to be in a position with so much influence, why do you believe God has brought you here?

I think it will be foolish of me to attribute my position of influence to my strength and wisdom. I believe God has brought me here because of His great mercy and favour, and to fulfill God’s purposes in my life. One of my God-given purposes is to restore hope to the hopeless and thus make this world a better place for all. South Africa has gone through a lot over the years and I think God has brought me here to reconcile God’s people (especially within the church), regardless of colour or creed, to work and to walk together for the sake of future generations. Because as the Church of Jesus, we are better and stronger together. I also believe that God has blessed me with such influence so that I can better the lives of others and pave the way for the next generation.

Q. Many believers struggle to reconcile their culture with their Christianity – especially in South Africa with our rich cultural history and practices, which sometimes contradict the Bible (such as ancestry worship, etc). What is your perspective on this?

In every culture there are good and bad values and practices. As Christians, there is nothing wrong when we embrace good values from a culture. Values such as Ubuntu (which encourages us to take care of other people in spite of who they are or where they come from) and respect (which encourages children to respect their parents and elders, even if they are not related to them). However, If the cultural values and practices contradict God’s word, such as polygamy or ancestral worship, Christians should never ever embrace them but rather stand on God’s word at all cost. I believe this is the time where we need to stand on the word and for the word as Christ’s bride. This is the time where we need to worship the only true God and also proclaim that Jesus is the only way people can be reconciled to God.

“We don’t stumble into a future, we create the future we want. So let us step into our occupations and play our part to create the future we want to have!”

Q. Many prominent church leaders are falling due to burnout or sin. What can leaders do to safeguard themselves?

This takes us back to the issue of having someone you are answerable to about your life and ministry, someone who loves you enough to tell you the truth about your life and blind spots. This will help keep you safe from sin and burnout. The truth is there will always be people in need within the ministry, hence the need to create healthy boundaries around ourselves. Especially those of us who are overzealous and are thus prone to overworking ourselves, we must constantly and consistently remind ourselves that we are not machines or super humans. If we don’t have margins in life and do not take time out to rest and regroup then we will be exposing ourselves to compromising circumstances which include burnout and not managing our time well. The Bible says times of refreshing are found in God’s presence and it’s no wonder Jesus would often leave the crowds to go spend time with His Father. Unfortunately, some of us are extremely busy doing God’s work and we neglect to rest in God in order to renew our strength. Resting and having time for yourself and your family is very important so that you can remain effective and safeguard yourself as a leader Jesus rested, and if Jesus had to rest and withdraw from people, how much more with us as leaders. We should be wary of prioritising the urgent and neglecting the important such as spending time with family and resting your body. We should never feel guilty for saying no to what is not aligned with our purpose and life’s vision. Depriving yourself of time to rest in the name of commitment will only lead to physical and emotional burnout and everything can become a curse rather than a blessing.

QUESTIONS FOR PS PHINDI:

 

Phindile Mathebula is not only a full time pastor, but she is also a dedicated wife, mother, and author. In her most recent book, Dealing With Grief & Loss, Phindi shares from her own life experiences with the hope to empower you, comfort you, heal you, and mend your broken heart. Phindi has a passion for empowering women, and in this interview we open up and get to know what makes this Christ-driven powerhouse tick.

Q. You have a phenomenal women’s ministry, focused on helping ladies to walk in their God-given identity with destiny and victory. Please tell us a little more about this?

When we started the Victorious Women’s ministry our main focus was to make sure that every woman knows their value and true identity, and the basis of that value and identity. The sad reality of our day is that women in South Africa are faced with so many challenges and, because of that, many of them come to church battling anxiety, depression, other kinds of mental illnesses, and hopelessness. Hence this ministry is geared towards healing them of their brokenness and empowering them to conquer all these struggles and become all that God has created them to be. The amazingly beautiful thing I have seen over the years is that those who have been healed and restored from their brokenness are now the ones who are strengthening and comforting the broken-hearted.

Victorious Women was birthed through my own brokenness – after losing my son and my voice. The Holy Spirit reminded me that my victory is not circumstantial, but that I am victorious despite what I am going through, because of what Christ has done for me through His death and His resurrection (1 Cor 15:57). When my voice was restored I made it my mission to remind God’s children that – in whatever circumstances we find ourselves – we are not fighting for victory, but are fighting from a position of victory. Therefore, we are victorious through Christ Jesus and we can fulfil our God-given purpose in spite of the challenges and difficulties we encounter.

Victorious Women continues to help both young and old women to embrace how God has wired them, and to see themselves as God’s workmanship created by God for good works (Eph 2:10), and thus fulfil the same.

 

Q. And what programs do you offer through your Victorious Women ministry?

We offer programs like the Victorious Nights, where we teach and talk about issues that are relevant to both young and old women such as: “dealing with rejection”, “dealing with shame”, “parenting an unruly child”, “the importance of unity” “made for community” and sisterhood to name just a few. We also run annual Victorious conferences where we further equip women to become all that God has created them to be. There are other programs we offer through the church such as ‘grief share’, ‘recovery dynamics’, and ‘position for blessing’ which have helped many women deal with loss and any kind of adversity. We offer these programs in order to facilitate holistic healing and growth, spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially.

We are not fighting for victory, but are fighting from a position of victory.”

Q. You are a strong and powerful woman – what is your advice to other strong women who are married and struggle to be led by their husbands (as this is a tough challenge for some women)?

What always keeps me humble is being aware that all that I am and all that I have is because of God’s grace upon my life, and the fact that I firmly believe I am married to Chris not to compete with him but to help and compliment him in the work that God has given us. My advice to all the anointed and powerful women of God is that let us submit ourselves to God and He will help us walk in harmony with our spouses even when we do not see things as they see them. May we always remember that God commands a blessing where there is unity and that disunity or division always undermines what we seek to accomplish. I know this is simple truth yet it does not make it easy. Could it be that your ministry or church is stagnant because of the disunity? That’s why the prophet Amos asks “How can two walk together unless they are agreed?” Let’s make it our aim to stop division in its track for the sake of our ministry’s progress.

Q. As a pastor and a pastor’s wife, one is often criticised and there may be certain expectations put on you. How have you been able to withstand the pressure of this position?

To be honest, the journey was bumpy at the start of our marriage as I tried to be the pastor’s wife they expected me to be; another problem with that is that the church people did not have common expectations and at times their expectations were contradicting each other. I was often sad because of the criticisms (of how I dress and how I carry myself at church) and the unreasonable expectations (to sing & preach well). I am really grateful for one of my friends who was able to make me understand that it will be impossible to please everyone, no matter how much I try. To date, people still criticise me but I take solace in the fact that I am not alone in this journey. I have intentionally looked for and found mature pastors (one of them is Lindah Robinson) to help me manage those expectations and constructively deal with the criticisms. Another thing that has helped me was to know and understand my purpose as God’s daughter as that made me draw a line between what I can and cannot do. I realised that I cannot fulfil God’s purposes for my life while trying to fulfil people’s expectations of me. All that I do right now with the help of God’s Spirit is to love His people no matter how unkind they are to me. The love I have demonstrated to those who are unkind to me has turned some of them to be my friends. Love conquers all, indeed.

Q. How have you and Chris managed the exponential growth of your church, and what do you attribute this success to?

The words of Paul come to mind when he said “ By the grace of God I am what I am and His grace to me was not without effect. No I worked harder than all of them – yet not I but the grace of God that was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:10 Yes, both Chris and I are very diligent in God’s work and we never take people for granted, we never go to the pulpit unprepared, we always set aside time to study God’s word, pray and spend time with God, we love to ensure that there is order and excellence in how things are done. Most of these things we never learned in bible school but I believe God imparted them to us. Hence I firmly believe it’s not our doing that our church is growing but we attribute everything to the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace working in us. It is by God’s grace that we walk in obedience to God’s word and we live according to His principles and standards. By God’s grace, we honour each other privately and in public and harmoniously work together. People who know us know us as a team that works together rather than rivals who compete or contradict each another. With great humility, we take to heart what our mentors and those who love us warn us of. The Bible says in a multitude of counselors there is safety.

“The loss and grief that I have gone through myself inspired me to want to help others.”

Q. You have recently written a book about loss and grief. What inspired this book?

The loss and grief that I have gone through myself inspired me to want to help others. I wanted my pain to be the source of hope for the bereaved. The countless people within our church and within our extended family were another reason that inspired me to write it. This made me want to write words of comfort that they can always go back to when they are sad. My periods of loss and grief were not easy, but it was during that time that I experienced the healing power and comfort of God. Hence I want the readers to know that the very same comfort and healing of God is available to them. I hope those who are grieving for their loved ones will also seek help from counsellors or therapists who can take them through the process of healing so that they don’t end up battling mental illnesses and suicidal thoughts.

 

Q. What are the areas that you would most appreciate our readers praying for you?

May they please pray that we remain in the path of faith grounded and rooted in Christ, in order to lead God’s people with excellence, diligence, patience, honour, and love. May you also pray for our children to remain in God and to be intentional in growing their relationship with Him. My prayer is to leave a Godly legacy, even through my descendants.


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