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!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

How can I prove that the gift of prophecy has ceased?

[This is the third instalment in a series of blog posts in which I am answering questions posed by my Facebook "friends" who are between the ages of 15 and 25. I took a rather long break due to other demands on my time but I am now back. This was actually the first question that I got, but I did not want to make it the first one to get an answer. So, SS, you actually made it. You were the first!]

QUESTION: “Hi Pastor. I was hoping I could be the first to ask a question. Hehe! I have a friend from school and we are always at each other necks when it comes to the topic of prophecy. He says they still exist and I say they no longer exist. I have been trying to convince him for a while now but it seems like it is not working. I need help on how I can solidly prove to him that those things stopped existing immediately the Bible was complete. He is always saying stuff like the Bible is not complete and asking me why those other books were not included in the Bible. That is another point were I zone out and fail to answer.” (From SS)

ANSWER: There are few areas in the Bible that Christians will always disagree on like the area of prophecy. Partly, this is because prophecy normally speaks about the future and we are not sure whether we are there or not. Hence, how to interpret prophecy will remain a point of contention until the Lord returns.

Another area that Christians will differ on until Christ returns will be the continuation or cessation (ceasing) of the extra-ordinary revelatory gifts that God gave to the early church. This includes the gift of prophecy. It is this matter that you are now asking me to address. This is easier to prove than the first.

When it comes to spiritual gifts, the best place to start is simply to state, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” What do you do if someone says he is gifted as an evangelist? Put an empty tomato box at a busy public square, ask him to get on it, put a Bible in his hands and stand aside. If he stammers into confusion and sends everyone to sleep, suggest to him that perhaps his gifts lie elsewhere. However, if he brings the place to a standstill as he declares the unsearchable riches of Christ and sinners are brought to repentance and faith, who are you to doubt God’s call upon his life? “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”.

Similarly, Moses said in Deuteronomy 18 that if someone claimed to be a prophet but his words did not come to pass then he was not a true prophet and the people were not to listen to him. That is the proof. Are there individuals in our churches today who are so gifted by God that they are foretelling the future and edifying God’s people? If they are there—and their prophecies are coming to fulfilment—then who are we to say that the gift of prophecy has ceased?

However, if the person you are arguing with will be referring to someone in far way in Nigeria who seems to be foretelling the future or if he is referring to his church pastor who is calling himself a prophet but has nothing to show for his title, then what he is referring to has nothing to do with what was happening in the New Testament. In the Bible, many of the churches had a number of prophets. Paul would urge them to wait on each other and take turns. Let your friend show you where this is happening today and why it is not the case in so many other churches? The burden of proof must lie with him rather than you.

There are other theological and biblical arguments but since this series is meant for those below the age of 25, I am reluctant to kill a fly with a ten-pound hammer. This should suffice for now. Let me know what your friend will say.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What I have gained and lost

Our hiding place for the last 13 months--40A Chudleigh Estate, Lusaka
Thirteen months ago, my family moved from the church pastor’s house that is on the church property to our family house some twenty minutes drive from the church. I think that we are now settled in the new home, having done all the initial necessary repairs to the property.

This is the best time for me to reflect on the move—a little more than one year later. Was this a good move? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a pastor living outside the neighbourhood where his church is? Those are the thoughts on my mind right now.

Obviously, depending on one’s circumstances, the advantages and disadvantages may vary. I do not think that my reflection will fit everyone like a hand in glove. However, for what it is worth, I thought I should pen down what I think I have gained and lost by moving away from Kabwata.

What have I gained? I think that the best word to describe what I have gained is the word PRIVACY. When we were on the church premises, our doorbell never stopped ringing until just before midnight. People kept coming for every conceivable thing—church keys, water, directions, money, counsel—you name it.

Where we now live, if you ever hear a knock on the door (or the gate), it is someone who really wants to see you. In fact, I cannot remember when that last happened. Those who come to visit often call well in advance and make an appointment. What a difference!

We do not have cars driving onto the property for other business or school kids running around. The perimeter concrete wall also ensures that our entire property is out of view from anyone. The only non-family members we see around are birds and stray cats.

What have I lost? I think that the best word to describe what I have lost is the word NEIGHBOURLINESS. When we were on the church premises for 18 years, I literally became part of the furniture in the Kabwata area. I am not sure what I was not involved in.

I sat on various neighbourhood boards—in boards for the local YMCA, the neighbourhood schools, the neighbourhood watch, the constituency fund, etc. Hence, I mingled almost daily with the leaders of the wider Kabwata community.

Taking early morning or late afternoon walks here in Chudleigh is a very private affair. From time to time, I get a respectful greeting from a total stranger. In the Kabwata area it was anything but private. Kids would often shout out, “Pastor Mbewe!!!” as they saw me walk by.

At the neighbourhood shops, I would pause to chat with the shop owners before getting my groceries. I would talk with my barber about things in the church neighbourhood as he reduced my net weight. Kids coming out of the shop would demand a lollipop from “Pastor”.

Felistas also had evangelistic opportunities in the area around the church simply because she is a nurse and a midwife by training—and the people got to know about it. So, there were quite a number of first-time contacts with the church that started as medical emergencies.

The people living in the community around the church knew my family and saw the way my wife and I raised our kids. In fact, our oldest daughter got married and now lives a stone’s throw away from the church premises. So, they can see “the proof of the pudding”.

People in the church neighbourhood would refer distressed individuals to me because we had come to know one another through my community involvement, and the church premises in the community spoke of a place to find help.

So many of my ministry opportunities as a local church pastor occurred through unplanned situations. Giving a lift to someone in the neighbourhood, chatting with my local barber, walking past the local play park and finding young people in each other’s warm embrace, etc.

I guess with time I could rebuild a sense of neighbourliness where I now reside—though in an up-market residential area it is ten times more difficult—but the absence of the church premises in the local community makes me less visible and denies them a nearby reference point.

So, today I am weighing my gains against my losses. I think that I have lost more than I have gained. A year away from my parish makes me feel like a stranger in the community of Kabwata. I think that it is preferable, if at all possible, for a pastor to live where he ministers.

Like Jesus, it is good to tabernacle among the people (John 1:14). Thus John was able to say, “We have seen his glory.” Obviously, this happened as they walked, ate, and talked with him in everyday life—and not just when he stood up to deliver his famous sermons.

One change, though, that I would make is to live off the church premises. That one, I do not miss!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Testimonies From Our 2014 Pastoral Interns

I was converted to Christ in 1995 in Lusaka at an evangelistic crusade organised by the Coming Soon Ministry of South Africa. Before I became a Christian I used to go to church regularly. I joined the Pentecostal Assemblies of God and even sang in the choir. Eventually I even became a choirmaster for eight years. I had no sense of my spiritual condition because I was dead in sin. When the Coming Soon Ministry came to conduct the evangelistic crusade, I participated in it because I felt it was my duty to do so as a Christian. The message that was preached was from Romans 3:23 and 6:23, and the Lord opened my eyes to my true condition before him. I realised how sinful I was and asked for forgiveness there and then. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.

In 1995 I sensed a call to the preaching ministry and in 1996 a number of us opened a church in Lusaka. Then I was sent to Mumbwa where I opened another church. While in Mumbwa I enrolled in a Bible college. After graduation in 1999 I began to serve the Lord as a full time pastor. I was introduced to Kabwata Baptist Church by pastors Curtis Chirwa and Lichawa Thole. While on this internship programme, I hope by God’s grace to learn a lot concerning pastoral work in a practical way, more especially because the pastor of KBC is my lecturer in Pastoral Theology at the Lusaka Ministerial College.

I got saved in December 2001. The sermon was about going to hell or heaven. The preacher gave an illustration likening how a hen protects its chicks with its very life to how Jesus Christ left heaven and gave his life for our sins. That really touched my heart.  After the service I asked one of the leaders how I can get saved. Through the Bible he explained to me about my sins and the love of God. On that day I got so convicted about my sin that I could not leave the church premises until I gave my life to Jesus Christ.

I had a great desire for pastoral ministry for a long time but I first wanted to have a secured life with a good income so that I could help my family. But man’s plans are not God’s. In 2008, God took everything that I depended on and bought me to the point where I surrendered my life completely for his use.

I came at Kabwata Baptist Church to learn about pastoral ministry from a pastor whom I consider to have a successful pastoral ministry. I want to learn what it takes to have a successful ministry. I want to learn how a church should be organised with all the elders and deacons at work. I also want to learn how a church can be missions oriented through its church programs.    

I come from Sierra Leone and was born in a non-Christian family. I gave my life to Christ through a brother who invited me to his church and also told me about Christ and the beauty of being a Christian. Initially, I was very excited about the Christian life because I realised the pitiful life I had been living. However, as time went on the pressures upon me as a young man assaulted my devotion to Christ.

Through the vibrant teaching of a local church I recommitted my life to Christ. It was then that I began to sense God’s call for me to enter full time pastoral ministry. This was also confirmed to me by my pastor, friends, elders, and loved ones. I went to Bible college to further study the Word of God and to equip myself to tell others about Chr
ist. After completing the training I wanted to come for this pastoral internship program at Kabwata Baptist Church to learn how I can practically implement and practice what I had been taught. I wanted to know how to function as a pastor and teacher in the local church.

I hope and pray that after my one year of pastoral internship at Kabwata Baptist Church I will be able to understand the importance of the pastoral ministry and how it operates in the life of a church. I hope that after my period here I can go back to Sierra Leone and make a change in my generation by the grace of God.

I got converted during a camp organised by the Scripture Union in 1980. Then I was baptised at Bethel Baptist Church in Kafue. Since then my life has been at peace with God and I have enjoyed my relationship with him. I came to know about Kabwata Baptist Church through Pastor Albert Ngoma of Calvary Baptist Church in Chipata and then I learned of the internship program last year after my graduation at Covenant College where I got a diploma in theology.

My expectations during the internship are that I may grow spiritually and be able to understand the Reformed distinctives. As a missionary pastor, it is not enough to just graduate and then accept to pastor a church. I need to know more about what I am getting myself into. Therefore, I thank God that Kabwata Baptist Church has accepted me into this programme. It is my prayer that I will make it to the end and be fully baked for ministry.

During my internship, the following are the specific items that I would really love to learn:
How a Reformed church is run.
How a pastor works with fellow elders.
How two pastors can work together in the same church.
How cell groups are organised in a big church like Kabwata Baptist Church.
How deacons work with the elders.
How missions work is coordinated in a local church.
I have mentioned but a few items only. The list is long. May God help me during this period!

I come from Canada. I was first introduced to the gospel of Christ in the summer of 2003 at the age of 12. A good friend invited me to a teen activity at Cornerstone Baptist Church. I attended these youth meetings and even Sunday and midweek services for almost a full year, though I rejected the gospel that was taught weekly. It was in the summer of 2004 while at a camp organised by Heritage Baptist Church that I finally confessed my sinful condition and accepted Christ as my Saviour.

Upon completing high school in 2008, I began my studies at Faith Way Baptist College, where I was enrolled in a Bachelor of Christian Education. It was in my third year at College that I recognised the Lord’s calling to full time Christian service, particularly among the people of my home province, Newfoundland and Labrador. I attended Camp BIMI in the summer of 2012 to pursue these missionary interests. Since then, I have enjoyed the privilege that the Lord has granted to serve in my home church in many capacities—preaching, teaching, youth work, children’s clubs, and menial labours.

In the summer of 2013, my pastor, Dennis Seely, and a fellow church member, Allan Mweemba, took a three-week trip to Zambia that was grounded in philanthropy. Shortly thereafter it was proposed that I undertake a similar but more extensive trip. I am currently enjoying the opportunity to serve at Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, as a three-month intern. Your prayers are greatly appreciated.

My name is Monametsi Chapman Bahudi. I have been married to Tshoganetso Bahudi since November 5th 1998. We have four daughters. We live in Gaborone, Botswana.

I came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at a Scripture Union meeting in July 1992. A sermon was preached on the story of Naaman. We had gone to the meeting to mock the Christians but the Lord had his plan for my life that day. I delayed going to any church, but in 1994 I started attending Gaborone Baptist Church (Southern Baptist) where I became a member. I experienced much growth and involvement in the church. I began teaching and rose to a point where I began to be treated as the pastor's assistant. I became confident in the church ministries and felt what I thought was a call of God to the pastorate. Sadly, I had to quit the church over doctrinal conflicts.

The desire to serve God grew after I joined Central Baptist Church in Gaborone (a Church plant of Kabwata Baptist Church) in 2004. I informed the elders at Kabwata Baptist Church about my call to the pastorate and I was ordained as a missionary of the church in July 2012.

I enrolled in this internship program so that I can learn how to plant and lead a biblical church. The internship is expected to give me the practical skills and disciplines on pastoral ministry in an environment of observing and interacting with experienced elders and an active church membership.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to get into the work of ministry

[This is the second instalment in the series of blog posts in which I am answering questions posed by my Facebook "friends" who are between the ages of 15 and 25. The question below is fairly common and hence I thought of making it the second one to be answered. I trust that many young people who are considering getting into the ministry will find it helpful and that it will save them many sleepless nights!]

QUESTION: Hi Mr Mbewe, I always appreciate your ministry. I have a question and I better ask it before I turn 26 later this year. My question is: What is the best way for a young man in Africa, during a time of political and economic uncertainty, to get into ministry? Many thanks. Looking forward to listening to the G3 conference sermons when they are ready for download. (From FB)

ANSWER: My answer to your question will not really be situational. In other words, whether there was political and economic uncertainty or not, I would give the same answer. This is because the Bible only has one way in which to get into ministry and it does not depend on the circumstances in which you are. So here goes!

My first task is that of definitions. Let us make sure we are singing from the same hymn sheet. I trust that by the phrase “getting into ministry” you are speaking about becoming an ordained preacher of the Word of God. This may be either as a church-planting missionary or as a pastor of an already established church. There are many other roles one can play in fulfilling Christ’s mandate in his church, and they can loosely be called “ministry” but I will limit myself to this understanding fin answering your question.

If you are considering getting into the ministry in this sense, your first responsibility is to talk to your spiritual overseers about it. By spiritual overseers, I mean your church elders. If your church has a pastor, i.e. someone who provides overall leadership within the elders of your church and is an ordained preacher of the Word of God, then that should be the primary person you should share your desires with.

Christians are not loose individuals seeking God’s will for their lives on their own. Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, has left his sheep in the hands of undershepherds in local churches. Hence, the apostle Paul urged the elders in the church in Ephesus to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28). Their task is to look after the sheep, including guiding them as they make such epoch-making decisions as finding their place of service in the life of the church.

It is the responsibility of your spiritual overseers to ascertain whether you truly have the basic rudiments of what it takes to become a minister of the gospel of Christ. It is also their responsibility to ensure that you are adequately trained for the task ahead, through informal and formal training. And finally, it is their responsibility to pray with you and to commend you to the work of ministry as the Lord opens doors. Even the apostle Paul, despite the peculiar way in which he got his extraordinary calling, went to those who were considered to be pillars in the church in his own day to, as it were, present his credentials (Galatians 2:1-10). They gave him the right hand of fellowship in the work of ministry and commended him to the sphere in which he went on to labour.

Finally, when people speak about the circumstances in which they live, e.g. Africa’s political and economic uncertainty, what they usually have in mind is the subject of security. In other words, should they not first have another career qualification and perhaps even a house and a hefty bank account before they enter the work of ministry so that in case things turn sour in the church they will have something to fall back on?

My answer to that question is that you should discuss that with your church overseers. It is their responsibility to guide you according to the circumstances in which you are and also according to what they know of you and your potential. As a general rule, however, those of us who are called to the preaching ministry should trust God to look after his servants. He owns the cattle upon a thousand hills. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field. Surely, he cannot fail to look after those he is sending to do his work! So, I would echo the words of Jesus and say, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).