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!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Goodbye 2010, Welcome 2011—A Word from our Pastors

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

As the year 2010 draws towards an end, I have asked my fellow editors of our local magazine, Reformation Zambia, to share with my regular blog readers something of their observations about 2010 and also something of their burden and challenge to us for 2011. They are all pastors of churches here in Zambia and, therefore, are sharing what is very much part of their oversight over God’s people. Not all of them have been able to beat their deadlines and so this blog entry will grow until, hopefully, it has seven contributions. So, until you see all seven of us, keep peeping on this page!
ISAAC MAKASHINYI—Pastor, Emmasdale Baptist Church, Lusaka

On the last Saturday of each month, members of our congregation go out for evangelistic outreach in the community around the neighbourhood of our church. Through these evangelistic efforts, it is becoming increasingly clear to us that the number of Moslems in our area has been growing as we have continued to encounter professing native Zambian Moslems. I think Islam is undoubtedly gaining remarkable momentum in Lusaka and parts of Zambia. Due to poverty levels in our country, Islam has made significant and conspicuous inroads into our religious landscape through the construction of mosques, schools, orphanages, and other development projects. By these means, there has been a subtle Islamization of native Zambians, posing one of the greatest challenges to Christians in Zambia.

As we move into the New Year, we cannot afford to ignore the growth of Islam in Zambia. We need to acquaint ourselves with the Islamic faith’s presence in Zambia and the various methods it uses to proselytise native Zambians. We must emphasise the exclusivity of the Christian faith in our witness of Jesus Christ. I pray that the Lord will open wide the doors of opportunities to witness to the Moslem community, to build a robust apologetic towards Islam, and for the salvation of some of our native brothers and sisters who have been caught up in the web of deceit that Islam weaves.

KENNEDY SUNKUTU—Pastor, Kafue Reformed Baptist Church, Kafue

As a pastor, what I find most challenging is getting church members to regularly participate in the work of evangelism. The year 2010 was no exception. Our evangelistic efforts in the past few years have been centered around “the Book Table”, on the first Saturday of every month. This is when we display Christian Books and Bibles for sale at a strategic point in the town centre and engage in street evangelism. We also distribute a monthly bulletin, which has a gospel message and some information about church activities that month. The year started off with most members turning up to participate in this activity, but as the year went on, sometimes only two people would turn up to engage in this important work. I am sure other pastors will testify to a similar experience!

Therefore, as 2011 commences, I appeal to those of us who are pastors to teach our members the importance of consistently participating in the work of evangelism. At KRBC, there is a seminar on evangelism planned for January. Other seminars and Bible studies on evangelism are also planned for later in the year. Let us not give up training members in this important work because, as the saying goes, when we stop evangelizing we start fossilizing!

KABWE KABWE—Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Ndola

One great challenge in the life and ministry of the church during 2010 is the clear absence of the transformative power of the gospel in our communities and a strange silence from the church on several issues affecting society.  This obviously suggests that there is something amiss. The church may still be embracing a compartmentalized Christianity, which separates personal salvation from the rest of life’s activities. I say so because many Christians have entered the corridors of powers at political, economic, social, and civil levels. Ordinarily, we expect to see great social transformation, but alas, we continue to hear reports of increased malpractice and corruption. One wonders, where is the salt and the light?

John Stott once said, “You cannot blame the meat for going rotten. That’s what meat does. You should blame the salt for not being there to preserve it!” I believe the church is largely responsible for the moral, political, economic, and social decay of our society. Why should the gospel, which is the power of God [Rom 1:16-17], have such a weak influence on our world? Maybe it’s time to take stock of our gospel. There could be a hole in our gospel, in our lives, and in our churches!

VICTOR KANYENSE—Mount Makulu Baptist Church, Chilanga, Lusaka

2010 is speedily coming to a close and 2011 is right at its heels. It is easy to become so used to beginnings and endings such that we lose sight of spiritual realities. It is easy to allow other concerns of life to cloud our vision and we become so insulated to those things that ought to weigh heavily on our hearts as of primary concern: evangelism and missions. Let us always hear the voice of our Saviour calling us to the unique mission He commissioned the church to carry out (read Matthew 5:13-16).

Let us also not become insensitive to the plight of people around us. By plight, I mean both the spiritual and physical conditions that people are in. Let us not close our hearts to them as though they didn’t exist. Let us beware, as Reformed Baptists in Zambia, of the danger of reinventing ourselves from a spiritual force for evangelism, missions, and biblical reformation into a middle-class social clubbing society of friends, insulating ourselves from the disconcerting realities that stare us daily in our eyes. Let us not withdraw into our middleclass comfort-zones. Beloved ones, let us get out of the saltshakers!

CONRAD MBEWE—Pastor, Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka

As 2010 draws to a close, I am reading Mark Dever’s book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. I am realising afresh what effect healthy churches have on the entire fabric of a nation. To begin with, they produce a generation of Christians who are God-centred in their personal, family, community, and professional lives. Isn’t this our nation’s greatest need? If each town had one or two robust churches that have a regular diet of solid and powerful expository preaching, and ensure their evangelistic and missions zeal is at white-hot heat, imagine what difference this would make to our nation.

Therefore, let us pray and pay the price to plant churches across Zambia that are robust and truly God-glorifying. Let us also ensure that churches thus planted maintain their evangelistic and missions fervour. Let us see to it that the pulpit ministry in such churches challenges Christians to “subdue the earth” as part of their daily worship. It is such churches that will be fertile nursery beds for godly families, professionals, politicians, and businessmen and women. Since only God can give birth to such a spiritually robust movement, let us be much in prayer for this across 2011. Amen!

Ronald KalifungwaPastor, Lusaka Baptist Church  

2010 engendered a fourfold concern for me: The first relates to the pressures our church members are living under in our increasingly sophisticated society. The more they are caught up in the web of career advancement and the trappings of modern society, the more their churchmanship is being eroded. Next comes the apparent lack of interest in reading, in theology, and in the vocational ministry in a growing number of our young people. Furthermore, some of our more prominent churches were unable to adequately support their ministers. And finally, the inadequacy of our witness and influence in our society and culture, as a church at large, is a matter of great concern. 

Going forward, I don’t think that the answer lies in imbibing the strange spirit of much of the modern church; rather, we need to re-emphasise and contextualize, not just the old time theology, but also the old time devotion that went with it. If we would avoid becoming a society of the theologically and spiritually stunted in days to come, we must urgently reverse the above mentioned trends and pray and work for a second reformation that is firmly rooted in Christ and in that form of sound words that reformed theology so eloquently expresses and which, under God, can transform not just our churches but also our society at large and the largely godless culture that shapes it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lord, I’m Grateful…

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

I have just returned from our church’s annual junior and intermediate youth camp, which was held from Thursday 9th to Monday 13th December. The publicised theme of the camp was “The Wrath of God” and the main preachers were Pastors Saidi Chishimba and Kennedy Sunkutu. Whereas I feared the theme would keep away many young people, I am reliably informed that registration exceeded 700, which was an increase on last year’s camp by more than 150 young people. As I have reflected on what I saw and heard, I have said to God over and over again, “Lord, I’m grateful.”

Pastor Kennedy Sunkutu preaching in the evening session
I am grateful for the opportunity that God has given us as a church to minister to pre-teens and teenagers in this way. The camp is evangelistic and we continue to see a number of young people coming to Christ as a result of these camps. Our daughter, Mwape, came from last year's camp a totally different girl and I baptised her five months later. When people come to Christ while they are still young, they are saved from the devastating effects of sin that destroy many people later in life.

Mrs Sarah Kalifungwa handling a seminar with females on godly dressing
I am grateful for the many churches that send their young people to our camp. Most of the 700+ young people who attended our camp were not Kabwata Baptist Church young people. They were from sister churches in and around Lusaka. In fact, some of them travelled from right across the country! The relationships being forged at this camp will last a lifetime. When these young people become church leaders in the next two or three decades, the unity of the churches across the country will be stronger because they would have known one another for a very long time.

Sports activities during the camp
I am grateful for a church that is like a beehive, with everyone busy serving the Lord through its ministries. These camps would have killed me if I were their chief organiser. Apart from asking members to contribute financially towards the camp budget (and designing the camp brochure), I did nothing else. Under Elder George Sitali, the young people themselves came up with the theme and the preachers. They found the venue and worked out the budget. They publicised the camp across the country and raised funds for it by holding a music concert. They literally did everything even during the camp itself, with one of them even giving the key-note address at the beginning of the camp! They themselves maintained the discipline across the days of the camp. Yes, behind the scenes were older church members who contributed financially to the hosting of the camp, prepared the meals, led small group seminars, counselled young people needing someone to talk to, etc.

Young people eagerly waiting to get their share of the meal at lunch time
I am grateful for church officers who see the Great Commission as the chief business of the church and are willing to pay the price for it. It was not always like this at Kabwata Baptist Church. George Sitali, who oversees the church’s ministry to youths, literally camped among the young people. It also should be no surprise to learn that hosting the 700+ young people emptied our church coffers completely—I mean completely! Yet, talking to two of our deacons during the camp, their words were, “This is ministry. This is where church money should be going. This is truly worth it!”

The only way to get everyone in on the group photo was from the sky!
I am grateful for the preachers who take time out of their busy schedules to come and minister to these young people. What an investment! Pastor Saidi Chishimba is now so much a part of the camp that we can hardly imagine a camp without him. He preaches to our youths literally every year—and they love him. “Pastor Saidi, see you next year!” they shouted to him as the camp came to an end.

Pastor Saidi Chishimba preaching to the young people
Finally, I am grateful for the grace of God. I have already heard testimonies of lives that have been transformed during the just-ended camp. When the camp came to an end, I asked one teenager who came from another church what he liked most about the camp. He said, “I loved the theme—the wrath of God. I now know how to escape it. It is by repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus.” Surely such clarity does not come from the flesh. The Spirit of the Lord was ministering to many young lives during the just-ended camp. For all this, all I can say is, “Lord, I’m grateful.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Baptist Mission of Zambia celebrates its 50th Anniversary

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you” (Hebrews 12:7)

On Monday, 29th November 2010, the Baptist Mission of Zambia (BMZ) celebrated their golden jubilee. It was a very brief event, which only took 2 hours and was held at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zambia here in Lusaka. I attended the event as part of the Zambian Baptist Historical Society and participated in the program by speaking on behalf of this Society. The theme of the celebrations was “50 year on Mission with God in Zambia.”

Misheck Zulu leading in worship
We had a number of presentations. Franklin Kilpatrick and his wife, Paula, who have served as BMZ missionaries for about 40 years took us down memory lane and, using a PowerPoint presentation, shared some highlights of the BMZ work in Zambia. Their son, Andy, also shared the experience of missionary kids growing up on the mission field and the impact this had on their lives, especially as they moved on to taking up their own callings in life. At one point, he was overcome with emotions as he recollected some of his childhood experiences. Sharon Harrell also shared with us from her experience as a Journeyman in the early 1980s, so that we could look into that part of BMZ work.

Franklin and Paula Kilpatrick recalling the past
Part of the program also included the presentation of service pins to three missionaries who had clocked 15 years and 30 years on the mission field. Messages of goodwill were given by the Zambian Baptist Historical Society (as earlier mentioned) and the Baptist Fellowship of Zambia through its Executive Secretary, Luke Buleya. An offering was also taken for the Baptist Theological Seminary. The whole event ended with a sermon on “Reaching Toward the Future” by David Hooten.

Conrad Mbewe bringing a message from the Zambian Baptist Historical Society
I expected more. I don’t know why, but I just expected more.

Maybe this was just one of the many celebrations of the 50 years of gospel triumph by the BMZ and so my expectations would have been fulfilled had I attended the other events. Surely, when I think of the major role played by the BMZ in establishing the Baptist witness in Zambia, and then look at the skeleton congregation that gathered for this jubilee celebration, it doesn’t square. I was expecting a crowd that no man could number—well almost—from every corner of Zambia to be there. I am still asking myself, “Where were the beneficiaries of the sweat and blood of the BMZ?”

The congregation that gathered for this special historic event
I would have loved to hear about the convictions that shaped the early missionaries as they brought the gospel to Northern Rhodesia. I would have loved to hear in more detail about the challenges of the pioneering days as well as the challenges being faced by the BMZ missionaries today. I would have loved to hear testimonies from some of the early converts who are still alive, telling us of the great works of Christ in those early years. I would have loved to hear a challenge to the Zambian church today to emulate these international pioneers by taking the work of missions seriously.

David Hooten preaching the Word of God
I would have loved to go away with a publication in my hands, perhaps with short biographical sketches and pictures of some of the main luminaries that make up the vast constellation of missionaries within the BMZ in the last fifty years. I would have loved a compilation, even if it was an appendix, of as many of these soldiers as possible—when they served in Zambia, for how long, in what specific role, where they are now, etc. To me, biographies, however brief, are vital to our faith. The one-paged historical survey that was part of the program bulletin was far too little.

American Baptists reach out to Zambia--what a picture!
Personally, I do not blame the BMZ missionaries themselves for the paucity of information. I think that one of the most difficult things to do is to organize an event when you are yourself the subject. We shun self-publicity and so we will not blow our own trumpets. Maybe that was why so little information was given out. Or, perhaps, the event was more “in house” and so all this is common news to those for whom the event I attended was tailored—so why repeat what everyone knows? Whatever the answer, I feel that justice is yet to be done to the rich history that makes up the work of the Baptist Mission of Zambia. Someone must compile this history before we lose it altogether!