“Siki; but why are you rocking the boat?”
“Why are you..” he pauses, becomes a little more uncomfortable as he looks to see who could be standing close by. He continues and whispers – afraid of being heard. “But why are you bringing up Pastor Paul’s name? I read your blog.”
It was even harder for his mouth to release the sound the name Paul makes. It was as though he had just blasphemed and it was my fault. He had spoken a name ought not to be uttered within the courts of His People or anywhere.
If I wanted to rock the boat I would have written something titled “How to Steal a Church,” but that is not my purpose.
This fear is the reason I have written as clearly as I have. Fear belongs to dark forces and so does intimidation and silencing of voices.
The name Paul Daniel, as clearly demonstrated by this conversation, became spoken of only in private corners and even there, it was most difficult to utter. In church meetings Paul Daniel’s name became the elephant in the room no one wanted to acknowledge as though the church, His People, had fallen out of the sky and came into existence all on its own. Its energy and spark was lost. The light dimmed and the name His People became heavy on our tongues when asked: “which church are you from?” Though the name had once sprung from a joyful tongue confessing what was evidently true.
Shame replaced confidence; self-doubt and fear replaced a robust faith culture. Before we came up for air, the Americans had arrived, taking charge of the church stage as our new masters, rearranging our spiritual lives, telling us how to do church properly. It was a confusing time. After all, we had been taught well, arguably we were a church of Bible geeks. We were not mere Bible lovers and readers but we lived to test its power in action. We had lived the story and we knew the faith story of the church itself. Our very lives were a living testament. Was the sin of one man the burden of all? We would all repent. We would all question ourselves, our beliefs; wives would question their husbands’ faithfulness. If what we were taught was questionable, surely whatever was replacing it would not be received without even more vigorous questioning. But it was not so. It was a confusing time.
After Adam and Eve had sinned before the Lord, who were they now? Their glory was no more and they were naked. Naturally they covered themselves with fig leaves and hid. We imported a covering and like Adam and Eve, the glory did not return.
Sin has a way of scattering, of separating and that happened in large scales.
We never saw Paul Daniel in the flesh again, not in the church he founded, prayed for or believe for. His name never again to be spoken of or acknowledged while it remained hanging over every sermon, every pastor, every usher, every revamped logo, every blue chair, everything the church tried to shape itself into or not.
Can Israel deny Moses? Did David deny Saul? Saul sought to destroy David and yet when Saul was dead, David killed the messenger who brought him news of King Saul’s death. David bitterly lamented the death of his leader who had sought to kill him. He did not pretend Saul never existed. He said his name. He recited a poem lamenting: How are the mighty fallen. He praised Saul and did not attempt to erase him from the history books of God’s people. Today, we read about Saul just as we read about David, though our Paul was no Saul.
After a few years after the church incident, my mother was in Cape Town for my cousin’s graduation. I took her to my church His People. I could tell that she was hardly impressed and I was disappointed, why wouldn’t she be? I took her to another service and still I failed to impress her with my church. I had not told her about the history of the church. I was not about to tell her what happened, just to avoid being told about the unstable nature of Charismatic churches who are here today and gone tomorrow. Two years ago she finally confessed her thoughts, she said: “I had this deep sense that this was once a very great church but something happened and it was no longer.”
I was stunned. Such insight.
That which once drew Nelson Mandela to walk through the doors is gone. Perhaps the name change then is fitting. Though my natural instinct is to speak the words of the prophet Joel, rend your hearts, not your garments. But, before the garments of His People are torn, let me say the name Paul Daniel, loud and clear.
The Bible does well to spell out the names of those who handed us this faith we now have. Hebrews 11 has been a His People favourite; it lists people of faith by name. The Gospels have names attached to them, e.g. Mark, Luke, because God sends people with names to bring the Good News to other people with names. Names God intends to remember, in fact our destiny rests on whether our names are written or not. These names build up other believers’ faith so that when we say the name Enoch we think one thing, when we say the name Esther we think another. Each name means something specific; it is not something to blot out because of personal discomforts. If there is a personal discomfort then that is an open door to repentance. Where freedom is lacking, God’s Spirit is absent. Where fear is present, God’s love is absent. We are after all living epistles. I am not saying much about the erasing of the name His People yet but let me speak of the name Paul Daniel. This name was banished out of buildings, books but not out of hearts, certainly not out of God’s heart. Paul Daniel is to many the Acts 29 man and I refuse to be ashamed of a man who left such a great inheritance for the church, not just in Cape Town, but the world over. His seed has been tested in great fires and yet it still stands. Works of faith must go through the fire.
“Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names stand written in heaven.” – Luke 10:20
I want God to remember my name even if others may shun it for whatever reason. I will therefore not shun the name of Paul Daniel. His faith and teachings have given to a generation of leaders in every sphere more than words can say. I will therefore speak his name as clearly as David spoke the name of Jonathan and Saul, as clearly as Jesus spoke the name of John the Baptist, as clearly as Paul spoke of Timothy, as clearly as Jesus spoke of Abraham, the Queen of Sheeba or Mary. Yes, let the name His People fade if it must, though I doubt that God will write it out of His book, but let Paul Daniel hear God utter his own name loud and clear, because then his true glory will be revealed. It is God who crowns us after all. All other crowns are worthless. All other voices are nothing if God’s voice is absent.
“The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will never again leave it. Upon him I will write the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from My God), and My new name.” – Revelation 3:12