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!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kabwata Baptist Church Clocks 25 Years Today!

“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities” (Isaiah 54:2-3)

Every husband who has remembered rather late his wife’s birthday or their wedding anniversary will identify with my experience as I write this blog. It was as if the Lord just tapped me on the shoulder yesterday and said, “Conrad, are you sure you’re not forgetting something?” A moment later it hit me like a thunderbolt: Tomorrow, Kabwata Baptist Church turns twenty-five! I quickly sent text messages to all the elders and we soon talked about the need to work towards some celebrations later in the year to thank God for the work he has done among us. As we sang five years ago, during our 20 years celebrations:

“He has brought us this far by his grace,
He has led us by fire and by cloud;
He will bring us to Zion to look on his face,
O blessed, O blessed be God.” Amen!

Kabwata Baptist Church Then
When Kabwata Baptist Church clocked 20 years, I compiled its history in a book entitled By Fire and By Cloud. In it, I wrote:
Kabwata Community Hall--the first meeting place of Kabwata Baptist Church
“Although the church was formed in 1984, after three years of outreach by the members of the Lusaka Baptist Church, it was not until 25th January 1986 that the church was finally constituted, with its own eldership and diaconate, and a membership of about forty. On that occasion, the members covenanted together to become the Kabwata Baptist Church. Their covenant read as follows:

‘We, whose names are hereunto appended, being assembled or represented before God our Father in a meeting convened in the Kabwata Community Hall, do solemnly dedicate ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer, and to one another as brothers and sisters in Him. We declare ourselves to be a church of God formed after the New Testament pattern, and composed of those who, upon profession of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus, have been buried with Him though baptism and raised to newness of life. Believing that we are thus a habitation of God by his Spirit, we will seek by the help of God to walk worthily of our profession, to live with each other and with all who may hereafter be added to us, in unity and brotherly love. We pledge ourselves to observe the ordinances given to us by our Lord, namely, the baptism of believers and the Lord’s Supper, to maintain the preaching of His Word, and to labour together, under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, to do all that in us lies for the salvation of our fellow men.’
The Kabwata Baptist Church congregation in 1992 at the end of a service
At that time, the leadership team comprised Messrs Alfred Nyirenda (elder), Roland Msiska, Ken Makala, Emmanuel Milapo, Dapson Mwendafilumba, Grave Singogo, Nicholas Mutale, Simon Mwale, Michael Mwanza and Charles Chinambu. None of these are at KBC now, but their labours in the church’s early years will never be forgotten.”

That was on 25th January 1986. On 1st September 1987, I became the church’s first pastor.

Kabwata Baptist Church Now
This is now twenty-five years later. What began as a small stream has become a major river, and is still reaching further to become a mighty ocean—filled with the glory of God. The church moved from the Kabwata Community Hall to a newly built auditorium in 1997. The forty members have turned into more than four hundred, and the church deacons are presently reviewing building plans to expand the present facility. The one elder has become six elders, and the church has just voted in a second full-time pastor (Chipita Sibale). We also currently have five pastoral interns who are being prepared for missionary and pastoral ministry.
Kabwata Baptist Church present building as seen at night
Of course, the twenty-five years have not been all rosy. We’ve had members leaving, especially in the early years as we reformed the government and worship of the church. We’ve also had some very difficult disciplinary cases that have left a sour taste in our mouths. On one occasion, difficulties within the eldership left us with all but one elder stepping down. From time to time, we have experienced the pain of losing wonderful saints through death. However, as we look back, we are certainly grateful that most of the time the gradient was going upwards rather than downwards.

The statement in the initial covenant which said “...to labour together, under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, to do all that in us lie for the salvation of our fellow men” has been realised far beyond what the initial group of believers would have imagined. The church functions as a bee-hive, with all the members encouraged to function through its many outreach ministries under the oversight of the elders. On any single Sunday morning, a significant number of the church’s members are out preaching, leading worship, and evangelising in the many outreach points of the church.
The present elders of Kabwata Baptist Church
Last year, our senior youth conference and our junior and intermediate youth camp brought together over one thousand youths for a few days under the sound of the gospel. To do this, one not only needs an active membership but also a growing list of staff members. Our payroll now, including administrative and ministry staff and missionaries, is almost forty individuals. The fruit of all these activities and all these labourers continues to be seen as we baptise more and more people who are saved through these various outreach efforts.

As for the work of missions, the church has already planted two churches, which are now fully self-governing, and are in the process of planting another twenty, which are at different stages of establishment—some of them being in neighbouring countries. As we celebrate the church’s birthday today, our current missionary roll totals ten, and we are about to send out another two, and possibly a third one later in the year. Clearly, the last 25 years have been years of growth. We have been enlarging our tent and spreading out to the right and the left, for the sake of Christ.
Conrad with KBC missionaries, interns, and a visitor from Kenya (photo taken today)
What shall we say then?
Today is 25th January 2011. For me, it is significant that in the Lord’s providence, Kabwata Baptist Church is celebrating its 25th birthday during its annual missions week. Today, seventeen of our missionaries and interns are holed up with me at a missionaries prayer retreat, where we are in the midst of reviewing 2010 and praying for ministry direction from the Lord for 2011. Then from Thursday up to Sunday this week, we shall have our in-house missions conference, where our two former missionaries, Pastors Kennedy Sunkutu and Lichawa Thole, will be ministering to us on the theme of “The challenges and joys of indigenous missions work.” What a divine coincidence!

As pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church for the last twenty three and a half years, it has been my joy to see these developments with my own eyes. The greatest joy continues to be when I hear testimony after testimony of individuals who first came to KBC broken by sin but who heard the blessed gospel and experienced its transforming power. Only God can do this. That is heaven on earth for me—right there! I have also had the privilege of seeing my first Sunday school kids grow up, get saved, get married, raise their own families, and even become responsible citizens and leaders in God’s world.
Kabwata Baptist Church congregation in August 2010
As we celebrate our silver anniversary as a church, we sense that we are indebted to many. We are grateful to the leaders of Lusaka Baptist Church who in 1981 decided to commence the Kabwata Baptist Church in the Kabwata residential area of Lusaka. We are grateful for all our former members who are now scattered in different parts of the world for the role they played at the various stages of the church’s life. We are grateful to all our former and current partners across the world whose prayer and financial support have enabled us to do what we are currently able to do. Ultimately, and far above all else, we are grateful to God whose grace has brought us thus far. SOLI DEO GLORIA!

11 comments:

  1. Praise the Lord. We rejoice with you in the Lord's faithfulness and your faithfulness to Him.

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  2. Dear Pastor Mbewe,

    We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Kabwata Baptist Church, through you, on the occasion of having clocked 25 years of existence. My wife and I (as singles then) were part of the team that walked the streets of Kabwata and Libala, sharing the gospel with the people and making invitations to the launch of the church, that was way back in 1981. The experience we had in that work, helped greatly in our own spiritual growth process.

    Having been part of the starting of the works in Emmasdale and Nyumba Yanga (before Evangel Baptist Church), that later went different ways doctrinally, we are delighted to join you in this happy occasion for the way you have managed to remain steadfast in keeping the truth preached, thereby keeping the church doctrinally sound and firm.

    Yes, the church went through turbulent times in the growth process, but the Lord has preserved you and now we can all be witnesses to your faithful gospel labours.

    Happy Silver Jubilee!

    John & Vivian Mthetwa

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  3. Happy 25th Anniversary KBC. Indeed those photos bring fond memories of a church and brethren that helped ground me in the faith and provided true christian fellowship. Teaching sunday school behind the hall and attending the different church programmes was enriching. It is only appropriate to echo the words of the apostle Paul who writes, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
    To God be the glory for the many great things he has done through KBC and truly join you in singing "He has brought us this far by His grace" having confidence that He is still leading you to higher heights.
    Sylvia-Botswana

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  4. Friends at Kabwata,

    On behalf of Chileya, Taonga and Lusungu, I would like to congratulate Kabwata Baptist on your 25th annversary. The Lord who has worked in you and through you will continue to do so as you seek to follow Him and point people to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

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  5. Congratulations and praise God for His faithfulness to you and the KBC family. Your testimony has gone out throughout the world commending the gospel of our Lord Jesus. May your next 25 years be even greater!

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  6. Congratulation to the leadership and members of Kabwata Baptist Church on the happy occasion of recalling God's faithfulness to you over the last 25 years! Indeed, He has brought you this far by His grace. You have lived up to your church motto to be "A light to the nations," and the Lord has been pleased to give you increase and a broad and wide influence across the globe.

    You have distinguished yourself as a place where the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is faithfully preached, and I pray that the Lord will keep you true to the "faith once for all delivered to the saints."

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  7. Hi Conrad and all at Kabwata Baptist Church,

    We rejoice with you in the Lord's grace towards His people. Faithfulness and obedience brings God's blessings from meager beginnings to enjoying the riches of His glorious grace. We here at the Nashik Reformed Fellowship, Nashik, India, want to encourage you to reach for even higher heights as there is still so much more to enjoy in Christ. May God use you mightily for the furtherance of His kingdom.
    It is an encouragement for us to see God's church grow in leaps and bounds in other parts of the world.
    God bless.
    Pieter Swanepoel

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  8. It was a joy to my heart to review with you the great things the Lord has done in your midst over the past 25 years. Kabwata Baptist Church and the whole fraternity of Reformed Baptists in Zambia are a pace-setting beacon for the countries around you of commitment to the five solas of the Reformation fleshed out in Baptist, local churches. May the Lord of the harvest continue to bless you for His great honor and glory. Amen. Frank Maxson, missionary in Malawi

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  9. Conrad and KBC, our warmest congratulations; we rejoice before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for His great work and your faithfulness over 25-years. Pray in turn for us, that the LORD will be pleased to raise up a faithful work where we live in Tauranga, New Zealand. God's choicest Blessings: Richard, Bernie, Stuart & Geoff Roodt

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  10. Dear Brother Conrad As a pastor in South Africa in the Vryheid Afrikaans Baptist Church I am motivated and encouraged but what I have read. we are going trough similar situations as you did in the beginning. Elders leaving ande people leaving due to difference in theology. as a reformed Pasotot it is difficult for me o see there are solittle interest from people in good theology. but is wil continue to preach the Word as Paul commanded Timothy in 2 Timothy capter 2. And i will fighjt the good fight All for Jesus Christ our Saviour. Happy 25th birthday in the Church may the next 25 yers lead from 400 to 4000 people who will attend the Church there as you preach the Word of God.

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  11. Dear Conrad,
    Praise the Lord for His great mercy and power demonstrated over a quarter of a century. To Him be the glory in the Church, by Christ Jesus, to all generations forever and ever! Amen!
    Jim Savastio

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