A peep into life in Africa, through the eyes of an African Reformed Baptist pastor.

Water, water, water, everywhere. What else do you expect? I am a Baptist, and I live in the land of the mighty Victoria Falls!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Some common birds of India

"Look at the birds of the air..." (Jesus, in Matt 6:26)

As my time in India draws to an end, I thought of sharing with you the photos of some of the birds I came across. Between my preaching and my surgery, my schedule was too packed for me to have time to go bird watching and so these are birds that literally brought themselves to me. I was still obedient to the Lord’s injunction that I should “look at the birds of the air” and be refreshed by them.

Oriental magpie-robin

This is the female Oriental magpie-robin. As with most birds, the female tends to have duller colours. The male Oriental magpie-robin is black-and-white. It has a long narrow tail (like a wagtail) that it normally holds upright. The Oriental magpie-robin is a very common bird in India, whether in city gardens of rural forests, and has a beautiful song. It is the national bird of Bangladesh.

House crow

This is the House crow, a very common bird in India and has been exported around the world. It is a smaller version of the famous Mwankole of Zambia. Like most crows, it is very invasive and causes damage to crops and other wild life. They are normally found together in flocks and are found around human settlements in villages or cities because they tend to scavenge human leftovers.

Indian Myna

I first came across the Indian Myna in South Africa. Its reputation was not good. It is certainly not a bird you will describe as “friendly”. The United Nations has declared it one of the top three invasive birds on the planet. It is stated that the Indian Myna has been exterminated in Australia, where it was also exported from Asia and where it gained the name “The most important pest/problem”.

Jungle babbler

This is a picture of the Jungle babbler—a bird that is hardly ever seen alone. Both males and females have the same dull colour. They are often in small groups and have gained the name of “Seven Sisters” or “Seven Brothers”. They are found in both cities and forests, and are very noisy. We have babblers in southern Africa (e.g. the Arrow-marked babbler). You cannot miss them when they are around!

White-naped woodpecker

The most colourful bird that I managed to capture on my camera is the one I have left for last—the White-naped woodpecker. This one is male, identified by its bright red “hat”, while females have their “hats” in yellow. Their ability to balance themselves on vertical trees with their toes and tails and then use their strong beaks and long tongues to dig and dart into trees for insects is what sets woodpeckers apart from other birds.


Rock dove

I had already posted this blog post when this Rock dove came to peep through the window at the home of our hosts (the Nsendulukas) as though to make sure I was still alive inside the home. Rock doves (sometimes called Rock pigeons) are common all over the world and are identified by their grey colour and two dark stripes on their wings. They are found in huge numbers among humans, especially in parks where they are being given free food (seeds).

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Let’s revive the lost art of Christian polemics

The tragedy on today’s ecclesiastical landscape is the number of heretics who are thriving inside evangelicalism. They are having a field day and hardly anyone is raising a voice against them. Behind closed doors we all seem to agree that these “brethren” are spreading serious error. But as soon as the door opens and one of them walks in, suddenly, we seem to be unsure and would rather be silent for the sake of Christian love.

This begs the question, “How should we as Christians respond to the many wrong teachings that surround us, especially those serious heresies being propagated by people who are in the church?” This is an important question because we are living in days when the very nature of evangelical Christianity is being turned upside down. This is especially true because of those who are teaching what we call “the prosperity gospel” in its various shades. Many lives are being destroyed. The way of salvation is being confused. How should we respond to all this?

We should respond to this by deliberately engaging in Christian polemics. What does the word “polemics” mean? Polemics means a strong verbal or written rebuttal of someone else’s belief. It is an argument that disputes another person’s opinion and shows that it is not true. It is the opposite of apologetics, which is a strong verbal or written defence of one’s own belief in the light of the attacks of other people. In other words, polemics and apologetics are two sides of the same coin. An apologist begins with the truth under attack and seeks to defend it, while a polemist begins with an error being propagated and seeks to refute it.

Church leaders must be polemists

The Bible teaches that one of the responsibilities of a church elder is that of polemics. The apostle Paul said to Titus, “[An elder] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). Notice that it is not only the positive but also the negative. An elder must positively give instruction in sound doctrine but he must also negatively rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine.

Why is this important? The apostle Paul said that this must be done because “there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:10-11). If we keep quiet, heretical teachers will continue to upset the faith of many because of their personal quest for shameful gain. So, it is the responsibility of those who are in charge of Christ’s sheep to silence them.

That is what polemics is all about. At one time, it was taken for granted that Christian pastors and teachers would engage in polemics as part of their duty. Being politically correct was not a virtue in those days. Error needed to be vanquished. The great American theologian B.B. Warfield held the chair of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1887 until his death in 1921. There was nothing extraordinary about that in those days.

Jesus the great polemist

The question is often asked, “How should we engage in polemics?” Thankfully, we have the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus spent some time refuting the teaching and lifestyle of the scribes and Pharisees. A whole chapter in the Gospel of Matthew is occupied with seven woes that Jesus issued to these men because they were leading many astray. Let us look at one section of it, Matthew 23:16–22, to learn how we can resurrect the lost art of polemics today by following Jesus’ own example. There are four lessons we learn from this…

Stating the wrong teaching

Jesus stated plainly what the wrong teaching was. What were the Pharisees and the scribes teaching? Jesus said, “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath’… And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath’” (Matthew 23:16, 18). What Jesus was opposed to was this clever way of telling lies or making false promises and getting away with it. Men were seeking to remain religious while they were inwardly ungodly. Jesus was not willing to let this go unchallenged. He pointed out that it was erroneous teaching. We too should not be afraid to point out the wrong teaching that is upsetting the faith of God’s people.

Using strong language

I will take a little longer on this because we are living in a day of political correctness that is turning even God’s servants into wimps. Jesus used very strong language when referring to these false teachers. He said to them, “Woe to you, blind guides…. You blind fools! …You blind men! (verses 16, 17, and 19). In the same chapter, he also called them “Hypocrites, children of hell, serpents, a brood of vipers…” (verse 13, 15, 33) and he likened them to “white-washed tombs” (verse 27). Let us admit that Jesus was using very strong language here. Such language is not politically correct. Gentlemen do not normally speak like this.

How should we explain this? First of all, this was not how Jesus spoke everyday. He was normally one who spoke with gentleness. However, it is evident that Jesus had been teaching true spirituality for about three years and these men were bent on resisting this and instead teaching error. This was Jesus now removing his gloves and telling it like it is. That is important. Sadly, there are some Christian teachers who seem to possess a perpetual split spleen and their entire ministry is full of nothing but vitriol, sarcastic contempt, and hurtful scorn. Hiding behind Jesus’ example here is to swallow an entire camel and strain a gnat.

Having said that, Pharisees and scribes were not Jesus’ sparring partners with whom he needed to be gentle so that they could keep coming back to give him a good sweat. They were enemies who were destroying souls. They were rejecting the truth and teaching error, leaving destruction in their wake. They were closing the door of heaven on other people and making them twice the children of hell as themselves (verse 15). It was crucial that Jesus shows something of his feelings about these teachers of heresy. Paul did the same thing when he said that those who were teaching another gospel should “go to hell” (Galatians 1:8, 9). In fact, elsewhere he calls them "dogs" (Philippians 3:2).

Jude was more scathing when he called such heretics hiding in the church as “…hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 1:12–13). All I am saying out of all these citations is that let’s not be shocked when strong language is used in polemics against heretics. Jesus and other inspired writers led the way in the use of strong language.

Appealing to logic and reasoning

The Lord Jesus Christ used logic and reasoning when showing the error of the scribes and Pharisees. He asked, “You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?” and “You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (verses 17 and 19). Jesus was essentially asking, "How on earth can you make the gold more important than the temple when it is the temple that makes it important? In the same way, how can you make a mere gift more important than the altar when its very value depends on the altar on which it lies?" His message was clear: The logic is faulty. You simply need to think to see through it.

Herein lies the power of polemics. It is not in simply stating the wrong teaching or using scathing remarks. It is in showing the absurdity of the doctrinal position taken by those who teach error. You see, human beings have brains that still function, especially when the grace of God has washed them from sin. Appeal to those brains. Heresy is irrational. Through logic we should show the absurdity of wrong teaching and win back those who are willing to think.

Giving the right teaching

The Lord Jesus Christ finally gave the right teaching to those who were listening to him. He said, “So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it” (verses 20–22). Jesus was stating the truth here. It was not enough to state what the wrong teaching was, or to use strong language to give a verbal slap to those who are dosing, or to argue logically and thus show the error of the false teachers. He needed to finally state what should be believed.

In the same way, one reason why error is thriving today is because we are too apologetic about the truth. We are living in a Post-modern age when there is no longer “true truth”. Thus, all we seem to be willing to do is question the correctness of others but not state unequivocally what the truth is. Our church members are thus left in doubt about the teaching of others but they do not know what to believe. We are telling them that they should not believe what others are teaching but then what should they believe instead? What is the truth?

A final appeal for polemics

O that we may follow the example of Jesus. I plead for the revival of polemical teaching and preaching today. We are living in a very dark day. It is very sad what is being propagated in many a Christian pulpit in the name of evangelicalism. I say this with love: Many of the followers of the prosperity gospel are not Christians at all. This movement has become a sordid moneymaking enterprise. It is full of scandals. Its advocates must be publicly rebuked. Souls need to be salvaged from them through following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I close by saying, thieves love dogs but they love dogs that do not bark. If you have a dog that wags its tail when thieves come into your home to steal you had better sell it off quickly. God once described the prophets of Israel as silent dogs that cannot bark (Isaiah 56:10). Could he be saying the same things about us? Thieves have entered into the church. They are stealing from people’s pockets and destroying many lives. Are we barking at them or are we wagging our tails as they wreak havoc in the church? O that we may revive polemics again!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pastoral self-appointments must stop

It is a well-known fact that state governments in Africa are deciding that enough is enough and are moving in to arrest the rot taking places largely in Charismatic churches. The stench cannot be ignored any more. This has already begun to happen in Kenya under President Uhuru Kenyatta. South Africa and Zambia are also preparing legislation. It will not be long before other African nations join in.

Why are national governments beginning to do this? It is because their citizens have been sexually raped and financially defrauded by men of the cloth with impunity and they can no longer look the other way. Sadly, this is also because they have noted with dismay that the church is doing nothing to arrest the trend.

I have my ears to the ground. After all, I live in Africa. I am hearing the church cry foul to the intervention of governments. The cry is that this is a form of persecution by the state because the church is expressing its misgivings about injustices being done by state machinery.

To some extent this is true. However, the question still begs to be answered. What is the church—especially the Charismatic church—doing to stop the rot that is taking place within its own ranks? I have my ears to the ground and can safely say that there is precious little being done about it. That is very sad.

Is it not obvious that the fountain that is gushing out this stream of imposters is the failure in Charismatic circles to regulate who should become a pastor? Pastors are appointing themselves and conferring on themselves titles like “apostle” or “prophet”. Anyone can put up a sign saying, “Signs and Wonders Church International by Prophet John Banda” and, hey presto, a church is born!

Is that not wrong?

Think about this for a moment. To be a president of a country, you must belong to a political party. To stand in national elections, a certain number of people should nominate you and you must pay a hefty amount of money. You must also undergo strict screening to ensure your character is impeccable. Then you must present yourself for elections. If you lose you cannot be a president. If you contravene the law you can be impeached by your party or by a court of law.

To be a doctor or an architect or a lawyer you have to go to school in that field for no less than four to five years. You then have to undergo internship under a seasoned individual in that career. You must also go through licensing examinations. If your mentor does not endorse you or you fail your licensing examinations you cannot be allowed to practice in that career. If you are ever guilty of professional misconduct your licence can be revoked.

Why are presidents and doctors and architects and lawyers subjected to such stringent measures? It is because of the many human lives that are likely to be destroyed if you have the wrong character in such practices. The president has the army and the police at his disposal. Imagine what he can do if he is the wrong character. Doctors look after our lives, architects design our shelters, and lawyers protect our freedoms. They can mess you up if they are charlatans.

Let us now look at pastors who look after the eternal well being of our souls. What does it take to be a pastor, especially of a Charismatic church? Nothing! There is no school that you need to go to. There is no official mentoring. There are no exams. All you need is a bit of eloquence, swag, and spring in your step. If you can throw in an American or Nigerian accent that will only be a bonus.

Thus we have individuals who have been total failures in every other area of life who are now making a living as Charismatic pastors. Some of them impregnated women outside marriage even before they became men of the cloth. They are already moral failures and yet they are now in pulpits teaching us how to live.

How are these charlatans managing to escape the dragnet despite having such a checkered past? It is simply by claiming that God spoke to them and told them to do what they are now doing. In Charismatic circles that claim seals the mouths of anyone who tries to prevent such an ignoble character proceeding to pastor a church. Who are you to prevent what God is doing in the life of his anointed one?

The only way we are going to address this flood of evil men and imposters filling the pulpits of the land is by a return to the Bible. What does the Bible say? For instance, how did the apostle Paul become a leader in the church? God spoke to him on the road to Damascus, but was that all? No, Paul himself states that he had to bring his credentials to the church leaders for them to give him the right hand of fellowship as a fellow minister of the gospel (see Galatians 2:1-9).

How has it been across history? Exactly the same! Pastors did not appoint themselves. They had to be trained under recognisable tutors. They had to undergo stringent exams on matters of doctrine. They had to undergo character assessments. Only when they had passed all these were they allowed to take “holy orders”. All this was being done to preserve the souls of the people who they would be overseeing. By claiming that God still speaks to us as individuals independent of Scripture, we have thrown all this away and now quacks are running and ruining churches. We have discarded the means to hem them in.

How you go in also determines how you go out. If other people appoint a pastor, when he messes up those people will defrock him. But if a pastor has appointed himself then the church becomes his personal possession. He is not accountable to anyone. He is untouchable. He can commit adultery and even divorce his legitimate wife in order to marry a sweet sixteen he admires in the pew and he still remains the prophet of the church. Who can dare to kick him out? He will tell you that if you do not want him you should be the one to go. This is his church!

Let us face it. We have failed to address this problem. If the state does not come in, this growing monster will consume the little that is left of the reputation of the church as a safe haven. It is no use crying out against the government for overstepping its jurisdiction if we ourselves who are the church are not addressing this stinking elephant in the room. Magistrates and judges are tired of handling cases of sexual defilement and financial fraud by apostles and prophets, which we are not addressing because we dare not “touch the Lord’s anointed”.

Every human being must be accountable to both God in heaven and humans on earth. Pastoral self-appointments must stop. If the church will not regulate who is allowed to become a pastor then let the state do it. For heaven’s sake, someone had better do it before the church becomes a laughing stock on earth and in hell!

Monday, February 29, 2016

KBC 30th anniversary and missions conference—Day 5

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The final day of our 30th anniversary celebrations and commemorative meetings was here. The meeting began at 09.00 hours with a Q&A session with all our missionaries lined up in front of us as members asked them very pointed questions about our role in their lives and their work out there in the field. Mr George Sitali moderated this event.

Mr Charles Bota leading the church in worship

Then at 10.30 hours our normal worship service began, led by Mr Charles Bota. Apart from the songs and hymns that we sang, we enjoyed one of the most animated songs I have ever heard from our music ministry. It was very well sung. Then during the collection of the offering, Mr Logan Nyasulu took us through a summary of the last seven-year period of the history of KBC (2010 to 2016). This comprised the period when the youth camps and conferences and the pastoral internship program grew by leaps and bounds. It was also the period when KBC called its second pastor, Chipita Sibale, who brought the number of current serving pastors at KBC to two. It was also in this period that the African Christian University project started together with KBC’s campus outreach ministry. The report ended by stating that KBC now had a payroll of 51 individuals and the Lord continued to supply the funds to remunerate all of them.

The music ministry singing their song with exuberant joy

After the historical summary, Logan interviewed Mrs Monde Mulunga who recalled how an invitation from a friend caused her to visit KBC for the first time in the Kabwata Community Hall. She said after that visit she never went back to her previous church and has been with us since. She also spoke about a series that Pastor Sibale was recently preaching on the life of David that really ministered to her after her eye surgery and her car accident. She urged the members to be grateful to God for what he has done among us and to faithfully serve him in the church.

Mrs Monde Mulunga testifies about life at KBC

It is on this final day of the conference that KBC members take a collection (and pledges) towards a missions project or projects that the elders choose. As stated in earlier blogs, our goal was to raise K150,000 towards the construction of a “majestic entryway” to our ACU Chisamba campus. At this point the collection was taken.

Mr George Sitali invited the current missionaries together with the elect missionary (Emmanuel Komba) to come forward and be prayed for them. After he prayed for them, we went into the ordination of Emmanuel Komba as our latest missionary to Sierra Leone. Mr Sitali read the charge to Emmanuel and then invited the rest of the elders to come and lay hands on Emmanuel. What a glorious occasion this was!

Elder George Sitali prays for the current missionaries

“Yours truly” was the preacher yesterday. My subject was, “The resurrection and glorification of the bride of Christ.” I preached from 1 Corinthians 1:30, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” I argued that the redemption being spoken about here is not what took place at Jesus’ first coming but what will take place at his second coming (Romans 8:23 and Ephesians 4:30). That was why it came at the end of the string listed by the apostle Paul and not at the beginning. By using the picture of the redemption or liberation of a slave, I went on to look at this theme under three heads:

Missionary elect Emmanuel Komba responds to the charge

What we will be redeemed from. I stated that we would be redeemed from the curse of the fall. To begin with it will be all that everyone goes through—whether saved or not. Then added to this is the persecution that the bride of Christ suffers from the non-believers. Lastly, it was the remaining or indwelling sin in our hearts that often leaves us in tears and sorrow. We long for these sources of misery to come to an end perhaps more than a slave longs to be liberated from his chains and enslavement.

The KBC elders lay hands on Emmanuel Komba as an act of ordination

When we shall be redeemed. I stated that we would be redeemed at the second coming of Christ. That is “the day of our redemption” mentioned in Ephesians 4:30. On that occasion, we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and our earthly bodies will become like his heavenly body.  The effect of the fall will be over. The persecution of the world will also be over. We will be taken by Jesus and will forever be with him in glory.

How life will be after that redemption. I stated that the life after our redemption beggars our imagination. We will live a life that is totally free from sin. External sin will be no more because all sinners will be consigned to hell. Internal sin will be no more because our very natures will be totally transformed into the absolute holiness. We will be reunited with our lost loved one in Christ. We will worship God with an unsinning heart. And above all, we will see our Saviour face to face.

Newly ordained missionary Emmanuel Komba thanks KBC

This was how I captured “the resurrection and glorification of the bride of Christ”. After the sermon, we sang

“Jerusalem the golden,
With milk and honey blessed,
Beneath thy contemplation,
Sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, O I know not,
What joys await us there;
What radiancy of glory
What bliss beyond compare.”

We spend the next hour in a fellowship meal. How the ladies managed to feed the 300 to 400 people is beyond me but they fed us well. After lunch we gathered for what is called “the grand announcement”. This is always the last event at our missions conferences where the funds collected are announced. For me, as the church pastor, I am always anxious while I wait for the deacons to tell me how much the people of God have given. Yesterday was no exception. How much have KBC members given or pledged to give towards the ACU entryway? I announced the amount. It was K151, 086. I was relieved and full of thanksgiving to God for the generosity of his people. Dr Ken Turnbull came forward to respond to this. His tears told us what was in his heart. It was an emotional moment for all of us. He prayed for KBC and on that note we were all dismissed!

Teary-eyed, Dr Ken Turnbull thanks KBC for its generosity