The Church Providing Solutions
A young church in South Africa that is making an extraordinary impact on their community through acts of service and the preaching of the Gospel.
Dino Cicatello is the pastor of View Church Tygerberg Hills. Tygerberg is a city in the northern suburbs of Cape Town in South Africa. Dino and his wife Kelly have two young children.
Q: Your church is very active in reaching out to the community. Why do you think it’s important for the church to seek justice in addition to saving souls? What would you say to someone who thinks the church should be focused primarily on preaching, since souls are eternal and poverty or hunger are temporary?
We get a lot of people who ask that question. My first answer would be to look to Scripture – Romans 2:4 tells us that it is the kindness, or generosity, of God that leads people to repentance.
I also answer this question with my testimony. When I was a kid, there were nine of us living in a 2-bedroom house, and my sister was the only one with a job. It was quite hard for us. I went to a really good high school but personally stayed in a really bad area. So I never told anyone where I lived, I was very ashamed. And my dad was an alcoholic and absent from my life, it was a really negative environment.
But at school, I had this rugby coach, and his name was Andre. He was a great guy, but a terrible coach – we lost all our games!
Andre sort of picked up something in my life. I didn’t go to church or anything like that, but I used to find pocket money in my schoolbag after every practice, which was weird. I wondered what was happening.
Anyway, I was a bit slower than other kids because I was a bit bigger. One time, I was still doing laps around the field and saw Andre walk up to my bag at the end of practice, and put something in my bag. I said, “Andre, have you been putting money in my bag?” And he said, “Yes, I just want to bless you. You’re awesome, and I think you’ve got a great future. I really believe in you.”
I’d never told him we were struggling or anything like that, so it was very weird for him to do something like this and help me with pocket money. No one had ever told me that I had a future. Andre then said, “I believe God has a vision for you.”
The point is, I didn’t know he was a youth pastor, but I experienced the love of God before hearing the Word of God. And because of his actions, I said, “I want to spend my whole life being just like Andre.”
Andre told me, “Don’t be like me, be like the man that I want to be like: I want to be like Jesus.” If Andre wanted to be like Jesus, and Jesus loved me before I knew anything about Him, I wanted to know Jesus. That was my introduction to the gospel.
“If we want to reach people in all walks of life, I think focusing on both natural and the spiritual needs is the best way to do it.” – Dino Cicatello
I think it would be an injustice just to provide for people their physical needs and not meet their spiritual needs, but Andre did both. He let me experience the love of God and then he told me that God had a future for my life. And I’ve seen that generosity and love given without strings bring down so many walls. If we want to reach people in all walks of life, I think focusing on both natural and the spiritual needs is the best way to do it.
This seems to be the thrust of your church’s 2019 vision, which is 52:7 “Seeking measurable change in heaven by saving souls and measurable change on earth by seeking justice”. I love this idea – bring change to your sphere 52 weeks a year, 7 days a week. How did you receive it?
This comes from Isaiah 52:7 and came to us right after our church’s first birthday. It’s a phrase we got from Jimmy Rollins. He put out a question at the end of 2018 that stuck with me: “If somehow, something happened that removed your church from the world, would your community know you were missing? Did they ever know you were there?”
That question really struck me. I mean, I know we’re a young church, but I really want to be outward-focused. So this is the goal of 52:7, seeking justice outside the walls of the church.
What are some of the ways the church has tried to fulfill this vision?
This year, we’ve organized and gone on two mission trips. We’ve also talked to a number of primary schools and taken them on as donors for stationery drives, which has been amazing. We’re looking after a creche (pre-school) in the local community, where we now do a feeding program on Saturday morning. We’ve got discipleship groups full of moms from a very gang-infested area—an area that’s just devoid of hope, full of drugs, strife, and gang violence.
We are also building up to launch a literacy program next year. What we find is a big gap where the children are not prepared for school, because they’ve never been exposed to reading or learning. We’ve also started this fundraising campaign called Vintage Haven, which is selling secondhand or previously-loved clothing. Last month we launched an after-school literacy-numeracy program, and from the funds we raised, we were actually able to employ a full-time teacher. Our goal is to be really outward-looking.
There are so many ways your church is helping the community. How do you encourage your people to do this on a smaller level? How do people apply this to their everyday life?
We encourage every small group to have their own initiatives outside of the established programs that we run. We encourage them to adopt their own part of the city or part of the community, to raise food or resources. Day to day, we’re always encouraging people to reach out.
After hearing all your church is doing, I want to go back a little bit to the beginning. How did you enter into pastoring? How did the vision start?
The dream started in 2006. I had the choice to study theology or business—I was passionate about entrepreneurship. God really touched my heart that year, and a number of things added up for me. I realized I wanted to be a part of a life-giving church, and with my entrepreneurial bent, I wanted to launch a church from scratch.
“I was so inspired to see what God can do when we build a life-giving church experience – it’s relevant, refreshing, and relational.” – Dino Cicatello
I became a pastor at a great, dynamic church called The View Church. I didn’t talk much about my desire to plant a church from scratch, but my leaders were quite apostolic and mission-oriented. I waited for them to initiate the next step in us planting something new. After several years pastoring there, the vision for us to plant really started to come together around 2016. I started to feel a real affinity for Tygerberg Hills. I didn’t know why – it’s not a huge area and there are quite a few traditional churches there.
What I didn’t know was that about 20 years ago, the founding pastor of The View Church, Greg Evans, along with one of the other leaders of the church, were on a hike and stood on Tygerberg Hill. As they looked out over the city, they sensed that God was going to use The View to plant a church in this very area.
So God was speaking to me about the same area he had spoken to my pastor about 20 years before. It all started to come together, and when Greg came to us to speak about planting a church there, it all made sense.
What was the most challenging aspect of launching a new church?
I think the most challenging aspect was and still is our personal lives. When you launch a church, especially with a young family (my son was 5 and my daughter was 1 when we launched), the balance between throwing yourself in the ministry and still keeping your family healthy can be tough to find. The challenge was finding balance between family and ministry and not wanting the church to flop.
I recently finished reading books by John Mark Comer and Jefferson Bethke on the concept of Sabbath. I think these books opened my eyes for the first time to a proper Biblical definition of the Sabbath – one proper day when we take time out as a family. As a competitive-achiever and workaholic, I have the tendency to overwork and think about the ministry all day. I needed to learn to spend time with God and with my family, making sure my kids weren’t burning out.
South Africa is a very “Christianized” country. Do you think that makes it harder or easier to grow the church?
The trend I discovered is that when you launch a church, evangelism is always a key focus.
But when we started, we found that a lot of nominal Christians came to our church – not complete unbelievers but people who knew of Jesus and the Bible. They had a semi-good moral compass, but weren’t involved in church. This type of people flocked to the church rapidly, and our attendance exploded.
We suddenly had 150 volunteers available to us, these formerly nominal believers were almost desperate to be a part of a big vision. But I asked myself, “Where are all the unsaved people?” I didn’t want to be ungrateful, but my attitude was, “We’re here for the broken – where are they?”
Then God spoke to me, “I’m building a nursery, and I need you to have contributors in the beginning so you can feed consumers in the long run.” In hindsight, that made sense: in terms of our financial situation, we were self-sufficient from the first month. We’ve always made budget and we’ve been able to sow generously into the community, which is almost unheard of for a church plant. It was actually these formerly nominal Christians, who knew about tithing but were not living out a vibrant Christian life, who helped us for the first 6 months, as they found a new vision. Now, we have droves of unsaved people coming in.
What would you say to other people who are feeling inspired to plant a church? Any last tips you can give them?
I’m so happy that we were able to plant as part of the ARC network. When we were getting ready to plant, I checked out the Church of the Highlands and other ARC churches, and we discovered the ARC model fit exactly who we were.
I was so inspired to see what God can do when we build a life-giving church experience – it’s relevant, refreshing, and relational. The process of planting the church has been amazing and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us in the future.
Dino Cicatello is the Lead Pastor of View Church Tygerberg Hills. The church launched as part of the ARC network on February 25, 2018 and currently has over 400 people worshipping weekly. The young church is also making a major impact in their community through community programs and evangelism.
Editor’s Note: The most striking aspect of my conversation with Dino was how active the church is in their community, and how their heart for community outreach is actually driving church growth. But yet church growth is not their primary purpose in their outreach – loving people and living like Jesus is their motivation. And as they love their community through acts of service, church growth inevitably comes. Formerly disengaged believers see the church really loving those around them, and are motivated to join and serve alongside them.
I’m reminded that the church doesn’t serve the world just so that we can grow in size or influence, but that as we serve the world faithfully we will grow in size and influence.