What’s Your Story? can help the church serve communities better

For the past three years, Gerhard de Koker has been instrumental in getting the church in Tshwane to move towards greater social cohesion. “Getting involved with Heartlines has been a blessing. I see the significance, value and difference we are making through the What's Your Story? programme by helping churches with diverse congregations in Tshwane to improve their diversity programmes,” he says.

“We also help leaders in township fraternals to open up in story-sharing so that they can build relationships with each other. There have been two major reconciliation projects in Tshwane and the churches we’ve worked with have improved social cohesion, awareness, understanding and trust.”

“Churches are important in communities but in order to have successful fellowship, we must improve relationships. Once we hone on what it is to be human, through better understanding and encouraging one another, we will be better Christ followers and in that we will better members in serving our communities.”

Gerhard grew up in a middle-class Afrikaans home, his dad was a reverend and his mom was fully involved in church ministry. His life consisted of school, church and the occasional visit to hang out with his cousins who had a TV.

As a child, life felt a little bit lonely and Gerhard was not completely sure what he wanted to do with his life but as he grew into his teen years, he discovered he had a talent for playing volleyball and enjoyed playing the guitar. He loved competing against other churches in volleyball and joined the church worship team.

Journey to ministry

“I knew that I couldn’t attend university, even if I qualified, because money was tight at home. My first job was selling mobile phones and security systems, I earned about R1 500 monthly, I was 18 years old and I continued to work to pay for my studies and complete a three-year certificate,” he says.

In 1995 Gerhard attended Nazarene Theological College in Vanderbijlpark in the evenings, where he completed an advanced lay minister certificate in youth ministry while holding down a job as a salesman at Diesel Electric.

“I joined the Gauteng district youth council for our family church and we were merged across race. I was aware of the political climate in South Africa and I wanted to become involved in reconciliation programmes,” he says. “I’m naturally introverted but I decided to push myself and become a go-getter.”

His love for modern Christian music grew so much so that he would go on to start Youth Corporation doing events and bringing some of the world’s top Christian bands perform in South Africa, the greatest highlight being bringing UK Christian rock band Delirious? to perform at some of South Africa’s mega churches. At the time their music was topping musical charts in the UK and the US.

Youth ministry opened opportunities for Gerhard who’s work gradually transitioned into advocating for reconciliation and racial unity. Joining the Heartlines team over the last few years was a natural progression in his career and he has been involved in reconciliation efforts through the What’s Your Story? church mobilisation programme.

Gerhard looks forward to rolling out the other Heartlines programs, Fathers Matter and Values & Money because he believes the foundation of being a better Christian is developing meaningful relationships and advancing biblical values.