Original Research - Special Collection: The Reformation, Transformation and Change Agency

Exploring the role of the church as a ‘reformation agency’ in enhancing a socially transformative agenda in South Africa

Micheal M. van Wyk
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4356 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4356 | © 2017 Micheal M. van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 October 2016 | Published: 17 March 2017

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International political, social, economic and religious developments influence how local communities operate. The South African church society is influenced by such developments taking place globally and which clearly influence how local churches function. This article explores the role of the contemporary church as a ‘reformation agency’ in enhancing a socially transformative agenda in South Africa. A qualitative research approach – an interpretative phenomenology design – was employed to negotiate a shared understanding through conversation and intersubjective meaning-making with church ministers, with the primary focus being their subjective experience of the changing role of the church in enhancing a transformative agenda in a South African context. A purposive sampling (n = 6) consisted of local church leaders who participated in the face-to-face and telephonic semi-structured interviews to achieve the purpose of the study. The findings clearly show that deliberate and intentional actions by churches allow them to become a voice for the marginalised, to create spaces for searching for excellence and to increase the quality of servant leadership, all as vehicles for transforming church society. Furthermore, servant leadership is a social phenomenon, a philosophy-in-practice aimed at leading by example to achieve a common goal. To accomplish this, church ministers are required to spearhead the challenge as a prerequisite to creating ‘lived experienced’ opportunities for members as an inward-outward spiritual journey. Finally, church leaders believed that transformation is a secular dimension, but that it can also be aligned towards God’s redemption plan and enhancing a socially just transformation agenda. Ultimately, this study proposed several recommendations to allow the local church to be relevant in practicing and promoting stronger unity and reconciliation amongst all churches nationally and globally.


Transformation; Second Reformation; interpretative phenomenology (IP) design; servant leadership; cultural system


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