I am not one of those that can claim to know Archbishop Guti well and those who claim to do so, at times only know a facet of him and usually the most unimportant part of his being. Attempting to fully know such a great man is like hoping to take a full picture of a tall mountain range from its foot.
With all the turmoil the church is going through today, the diminished impact the church has on societal transformation, the irrelevance and polarisation that has caused the world to look at the church with disdain and derision. It is very critical that church leaders, in spite of our denominational divide, look to the example of such a leader as Archbishop Guti and Amai.
Few days ago I am heading to London from Harare airport. Making a connection inquiry at the South African Airways counter, Archbishop Guti comes into the airport with his entourage and aides. He is always having meetings. Sits down and as I leave the counter, he is speaking with Director Joseph Guti.
As I passed seeing him engaged, I slowed down and his security details immediately tell me to pass and not stop; I comply and he immediately notices me, then calls out and waves that I should come back.
It’s a humbling experience, and warm moment with one I call A FATHER and my Ordaining archbishop, but one that would continue later uninterrupted in the business class lounge. It was a blessing seating opposite his seat in the first row of premium class, allowing me a very cordial time with this great Apostle. As we recline, he wants to know more, after London, where to.
I tell him I am heading to Madrid-Spain after two weeks and will return for a week to Zim for our annual end-of-year staff banquette, then back to the UK.
‘May God continue to bless you, my son,“ he continues.
I consider it the greatest and most providential spiritual encounter of my life to have had the privilege to know and serve closely under Archbishop Guti. I was a young man at his AMFCC College, raised by Rev Langton and Ndomupei Mupanduki, who have been parents to me in every sense of the word and one of the longest-serving leaders with Archbishop Guti.
More than a year ago Sarita and our church leaders surprised me during my 50th birthday by having Apostle Mupanduki and Amai present. I had risen in the last two years of my studies to student president at AMFCC.
Customarily, Archbishop Guti would come to the campus and at times consult briefly about the school. He always loved me and following my graduation gave me to pastor the large Waterfalls Church which was at the International head office.
He allowed me to serve directly from his office and would later ask me to join the faculty of the college while serving as Regional Youth Director.
On few occasions, he would ask me to drive with him seated in his coveted black Mercedes some used to comically refer to as “Mhungu”. I assumed numerous responsibilities that were much older than my age then, from occasions of addressing his premier leadership meetings to being assigned to accompany a few foreign missions trips regionally.
More than 20 years ago, I vividly remember the last day Dr Guti released me, after years of serving in the Assemblies. It was a frightening moment that had taken me months praying about. The first evening there was a stalemate, he declined to release me and said you go and pray and I will also pray, we meet tomorrow evening again.
The following day was a longer evening, many questions he wanted me to answer. He wanted to know if I was leaving because of any grievances or was there something he could do to prevent that, did I need to be relocated somewhere or was it financial. It was none of the above. My prospects were very bright and manageable in the church. He asked me questions about some of my teachings and certain assertions I had made about the church. My answers, satisfactory or not, were up to conviction. I assured Baba that I could never do a work as monumental as he had done, however, the small calling I had and its scope required a different environment to see fulfilment.
Archbishop Guti is truly a kingdom man, long story short, he finally asked me to kneel down so he can pray for me. That I did and he graciously pronounced his blessing as he laid his hands on me. Two last things he mentioned before I left the room, “Son if you ever find it hard out there, do not be worried about coming back, I am still your father“. I thanked him and he added, “I want you to know that you are one of the only ones who chose to come to see me in person about your intended departure, most like …( gave few names ) just left and I just learn later that they are not coming back.
As we spoke few days ago on the plane about the amazing things God has done now, all he kept saying was –“It’s the Grace of God, Son”. “The Lord answered your prayer from that day,” I replied to him.
The last few days I have reflected deeply on the ministry of this 95-year-old General and took the liberty to share on my own gleanings from a remarkable Zimbabwean Spiritual leader. Few men know the power of prayer, the refinery of rejection, perseverance and persecution like Archbishop Guti. Raising a ministry which now has a presence in more than 100 countries is no luck, it’s the doing of the Lord and it’s marvellous in our eyes.
Here are my few takeaways from the pilgrimage of this legend.
He Always Had A High Regard For Knowledge:
In life, you must never enjoy being illiterate. This is one thing the Archbishop is remarkable about.
One African theologian years ago once described the dilemma of Africa’s church in these sad words, “The problem of the church in Africa is- it’s 50 miles long but one inch deep”. The most frightening thing in Africa is that many church leaders, bereft of knowledge, think they are free to reinvent Christianity. The emergency of counterfeit Christianity and voodoo version of the church, testify more to human ignorance and a disregard for the authority of God’s word on kingdom affairs.
Dr Guti has always been a learning, progressive and transient leader. He was always a man ahead of his time and his wisdom comes from being a person who esteems knowledge. He always knew that the anointing does not educate a man and giftedness does not replace information. The scripture teaches that fools despise knowledge. It was Wendell Holmes who said, “the mind of a man, stretched by a new idea, will never return back to its original dimension”.
Raising AMFCC and many of its campuses worldwide is the nerve centre that sustains the exponential growth which Forward in Faith has experienced globally. The archbishop has remained a very relevant and practical leader, who was spared from fringe practices, theatrics and current madness, which are commonplace in many places of worship today. He still serves as a great example of a spiritual sage in our time, whose level-headedness, wit and sobriety are an admiration to all.
He Kept Soul Winning At The Centre Of His Ministry:
It was Oswald J. Smith who popularised the statement, “You are not Evangelical unless you are Evangelistic”. Until today at 95 years, Archbishop Guti still conducts public and street crusading and they are still opening new churches. Few years back, we had met in Johannesburg and Sarita was with me coming from England. Incidentally, Sarita was reading Amai Guti’s book on the plane, and I later learnt he made a public comment about the encounter in his Deeper Life Conference, about how his children continue to learn from him.
He was quick to ask many questions, how the Seminary was doing, how far is the Mutare church building? What about the Namibia churches, how many cities we were in now? He wanted a quick summary of my missions’ trips and the nations we were active in. He encouraged me to maintain missions and reminded me of the return of the Lord. As we travelled, he opened his hand and counted the few nations he still wanted to go to. I was next to tears looking at this man who has done so much, yet at his age was still raring to take more territory.
The subject was still the same even few days ago, this time, as we sat in the business lounge in Harare, I discussed with him about his new church plant in Nashville. Last September Sarita and I had visited Nashville few weeks after he had been there. Missionary Jesse Berry who married our dear daughter Sista from Bulawayo had attended the meetings and Dr Guti leaned over to tell me they are still waiting for Dr Mbongeni Ndlovu, our Bulawayo regional pastor to release them to become full-time members at Forward in Faith Nashville. We had a good laugh about it.
With Archbishop Guti, it’s always about people. Mama Guti handed him the phone, speaks briefly and says a quick prayer then turns to tell me the name of the prominent political figure in our nation who was on the phone.
As few officials come in to greet him, I moved to the seat next to speak to Steven Simango, his son-in-law travelling with him. We go a long way with Steve, besides he was my best man at our wedding. I expressed to him how I marvel at the Archbishop’s ability to remember minute details. I don’t stay in touch with him much and I don’t know if he has a Facebook account that keeps track of the things that happen in my life. He knows so much, beyond what I expected, for a person who deals with thousands of people weekly.
I think there are many reasons why people do ministry today, but it’s refreshing to meet someone whose single reason for ministry is the same reason why Jesus came…to seek and save that which is lost. When ministry shifts from reaching the world, become inward-looking and worried about entertaining the present and preoccupied with keeping the faithful, a lot of rot begins.
I have often taught that Christians are like manure; if you just heap them, they stink, but if you spread around they fertilise. Archbishop Guti is an example of a Christian leader who is running his race to the end, focused on the most important treasure of the field which when a man found it, sold everything he had to secure it. Keep the main thing. The ministry loses relevance when its preoccupation is self-preservation.
He Filtered The Western Version Of Christianity.
Being probably the most travelled preacher in the nation, his experiential knowledge of God, safeguarded him from being foolishly impressionable. There is much harm to Christianity in Africa today from the television tube than anything, because of half-backed preachers with a money bag to buy the airwaves and ill-informed leaders in third world countries, who don’t know the difference.
Their discernment antenna is very low, their Biblical knowledge and conviction is very basic. Not everything you see on television is worth emulating, nor is it Biblical Christianity. Archbishop Guti has always been the most self –correcting leader I know of. Even if a practice was popular, or trendy among prominent ministries, there was always the boldness in him to shoot it down, if there was a conviction in him that it was a departure from the Bible. He completely avoided riding on charismatic fads, no matter how appealing they were.
Always Considered The Word Of God Superior To Any Spiritual Expression.
To understand the complexity and confusion of the church in Africa, you have to begin from understanding our worldview. Our heritage from ancestral worship has a lot of paraphernalia and paranormal experience as opposed to Biblical Christianity where it’s about the WORD and its assurances.
When you start churches whose emphasis is touchable things like wristbands, oils, water bottles, handkerchief, talisman of sorts; the reason you grow popular and woo crowds is not that those people love Jesus. It’s because your Christian practice is close to home. They find an affinity to their past, no wonder the comfort. The loss is less from where they are coming from.
It was hilarious and sad to me one time to read in the Zimbabwe national press that the witch-doctors association was demanding certain pastors to register with them because they were practising without licenses. You can conclude that the observation of the association is that preachers were meddling in their territory.
Our nation will always be grateful to Archbishop Guti, for being a father and a pioneer who emphasised Biblical Christianity that is solidly based on nothing but faith in God’s word. The distortions in the church community today are alarming to such an extent that Africa governments are finding a reason to intervene in church practices to reign in sanity because of all these posturing morons who in God’s name are practising such barbaric things in the name of Christianity.
In the early eighties when I was saved in the Assemblies of God, Archbishop Guti was intentionally steering the church to a word-focused movement. Our popular evangelistic preachers were slowly eliminated from the conference programs, replaced by seasoned word-based preachers. He would take more time to teach than excite.
He wanted the church to understand that you do not feed on hysteria but information. If you preached in his presence and the message was bankrupt of details, his common remark in vernacular was, “haane soko”. That meant he may be loud but uninformed. It’s a heap of words in a desert of ideas. Evangelism grows the church but teaching grounds the church. Dr Guti `s model is truly the perfect balance of both.
He Was Always Apolitical.
I once read about a preacher who was contemplating joining politics. He observed that preaching and politics are pretty much the same, however in politics, it is your enemy who confesses your sins.
When preachers run into the arms of politicians, there may always be a problem with that. One of the sad realities that has rendered some of Zimbabwe`s preachers ineffectual is a highly compromised relationship with the political establishment and some of them are benefactors of political patronage.
With the clout that Archbishop Guti has, it is understandable why politicians would want to tag on. In fact, the relationship between politicians and preachers is so humorous to me, because each one is trying to use the other one.
Dr Guti could have been roped into activism, but he maintained his major role of advocacy, keeping middle ground and neutrality on politics, urging the church to always pray for the government, but speaking against injustice when need be. Members of the church are free to belong to any political persuasion, but a preacher must always be apolitical, than becoming an open pawn of some political group.
He Possesses A Strange Ability To Sniff Leadership Potential
From my early college years, I always marvelled to see that the Archbishop would distinguish those who are leaders from those who are gifted. At times it would almost be painful to hear how he spoke with derision over what we considered to be powerful preaching. There were those who could woo crowds with oratory and yet you would hear him remark “ he is just gifted but is not a leader”.
Today I know the difference. Leaders are not necessarily the motor-mouth, it‘s those with inner fortitude, an ability to bring vision from conception to manifestation. Talk is cheap and has always been; execution is what makes the difference. For a man who works with thousands of leaders, it’s amazing how he distinguishes the gravity of each. You can tell the greatness of a leader, by the quality of the leaders he leads.
He Never Surrendered His Ministry To Human Praise
When greatness comes, human praise is a natural consequence. The onus always remains with the benefactor. This may very well be the hardest part for all principal leaders, you see, you cannot glorify God and self in the same breath, it’s impossible.
One virtue that has always distinguished the Archbishop has been his humility as the humble apostle. Some years ago, I learnt that there are a lot of preachers who give you the feeling, that it was God who was lucky to find them. While we all pray to get to the top, how do you stay there without the awareness that they are all looking at me? Or as Tupac would say, “All eyes on me.”
Simplicity is a hard thing to accomplish.
Some years ago Sarita and I spent 3 consecutive years studying at the Olford Centre for Biblical preaching in Memphis. It’s certainly the leading homiletical institute ever and now a campus of Union University. This gave me occasion to meet one of the greatest Christian leaders I was ever privileged to know, the late Dr Adrian Rogers. He was pastor of Bellevue Baptist, which for many years was America’s largest church. 16 Acres of roof, Bellevue was a city as it was commonly referred to.
One day I heard Dr Rogers answer the question on how he managed to retain such simplicity after being a three-time President of the Baptist convention, a global ministry and meeting virtually every American president during his tenure. His answer stays close to my heart, “It’s not hard, all you need to know is the difference between God and Man”.
The dilemma many of us fall in today is trying to play God. Grandstanding and self-promotion seem to be the reason social media exist for today, as one colleague once remarked that, “the problem with social media is that it gives a voice, even to those who have nothing to say”.
Human honour is a minefield very few survive. Archbishop Guti has been honoured by men, whether some were sincere or not, and many may have done it for themselves than for him. He chose to take ONLY God’s honour and never surrendered his leadership to human praise. “Thank you, Jesus,” or “Glory to God,” may be the commonest phrases I ever heard from his mouth, and my favourite song I would ever love to hear him sing was “Love Lifted Me when nothing else could help me out. Love lifted me”.
In an age of pretenders, there is still a living example with such an impeccable record of grace and consistency – We love you Baba & Amai!
Written by Dr Cleopas Chitapa, Senior Pastor & Founder of Cornerstone Fellowship International (CFI). He is one of the Servants of God who has remained true to the proclamation of the unadulterated Word of God. He has a clear passion for The Great Commission. He is a missionary, travelling the world with the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ
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