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!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

“Why did we not start doing this earlier?”

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

James Williamson preaching at the retreat
“Why did we not start doing this earlier?” This is the thought that gripped me as our 2011 in-house missions conference drew to an end on Sunday 30th January, 2011.

The missions conference, as usual, was preceded by our missionaries prayer retreat from Monday 24th to Wednesday 26th January. This is a time when I meet with all our church’s missionaries (and our church’s interns) for two full days of devotional exercises and prayer. This year, we were challenged from God’s Word by James Williamson, an American missionary who has come to help us with the training of pastors. He spoke on the terminus of church-planting; namely, the production of self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating churches. The challenge could be sensed as the missionaries discussed and prayed after each sermon. This is our dream—and we trust that, because it is a biblical dream, God will bring it to pass. We want to see more and more self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating churches being planted through our missions enterprise.

KBC missionaries enjoying a meal at the prayer retreat
From Thursday 27th to Sunday 30th January, we had the missions conference. The experience is indescribable. You have to be there to really appreciate this. The theme of the conference was, “The challenges and joys of indigenous missions work.” Our two preachers were two of our former missionaries, Pastors Kennedy Sunkutu and Lichawa Thole. What a joy it was to hear these men speak about their years in the trenches as they planted their churches from scratch. They talked about the years of loneliness and discouragements. They also talked about the years of blessings and joy. They preached from Paul’s epistle to the Philippians and appealed to our consciences to take missions work seriously.

The banner for our just-ended in-house missions conference
Each day we also had four PowerPoint presentation from different mission stations. It was encouraging to see the progress in attendance, conversions and baptisms, in land acquisitions, in new buildings going up, in new leaders being groomed, etc. A few of the church-plants reported that they were already beginning to plant other churches even before they are weaned.

KBC missionary, German Banda, thanking the church for his hearing aids
The missions conference always ends with what we call “The Grand Announcement”, where we read out what the church’s membership have given or pledged towards our one-off missions project and also our monthly missions giving (over and above the tithes and offerings). This takes place on Sunday after the morning service. We have lunch together on the church grounds and then return to the church auditorium for this closing session. This year, our goal for the one-off missions project funding was to raise money for three mission station: Two are seeking to buy land, while the third wants to roof their building. Let me say that the Grand Announcement is always an encouragement and this year was no exception. It exceeded the funds we aimed to raise as our contribution towards those three projects. Praise the Lord for the sacrificial generosity of his people!

Kennedy Sunkutu preaching at the missions conference
While the missions conference was taking place in the evenings, the missionaries’ wives were also having workshops during the day, conducted by our women’s ministry. These workshops were meant to better equip them to assist their husbands in the arduous work of church planting. Church members also donated clothes and other household goods especially for the more rural missionaries. They needed a truck to help them ferry these goods to the bus station on the day of their departure. Looking at all this, I asked myself, “Why did we not start doing this earlier?” It has really made our missions work a live issue to our church members.

George Sitali praying for the missionaries on the last day of the conference
Come to think of it, how did KBC commence these in-house missions conferences? You can be sure it was not due to hearing a voice from heaven. It was as a result of my itinerant preaching ministry. I recall preaching at a missions conference at the Bible Church of Little Rock, in Arkansas, USA. For some reason, it did not click that we could do something like this, though I was impressed by what I saw and heard while I was there. The penny only dropped when I preached at a missions conference at the Brackenhurst Baptist Church in South Africa. I guess because this time it was being done on African soil, it hit me that we could also do this.

Joseph Masunga bringing fraternal greetings from Kenya
Two things struck me. The first was the reports from the mission field. If I recall correctly, the church had two missionaries—one in north Africa and the other in India. They reported using PowerPoint presentation with pre-recorded messages. It was a wonderful way of seeing what the church was supporting in the mission field. Our own church had about seven missionaries but we never took time to “see” what was going on in the field. The second thing that struck me was the raising of funds from the membership for the support of missions. The members pledged to give towards the work of missions, over and above their tithes and offerings. This made their commitment to the work of missions very personal—which was lacking in our case. What I saw there made me realize that we too can do this—and should be doing this. I immediately wrote to our elders about starting a missions conference and they unanimously agreed that we do so the following year. Since then, we have not looked back. This was our fourth year and we are still counting…

KBC missionary to Malawi, Percy Chisenga, and his wife, Betty
The in-house missions conference has done a lot for us. To begin with, the fact that our missionaries come back home once a year, enables our members to connect with them face-to-face. This is possible because they are all either within Zambia or in a neighbouring country. Each missionary is connected to one of our home groups. So, when they return, they are hosted by that home group and on one of the evenings, they have dinner together and the missionary shares in more detail the challenges he is facing in the field. This makes their relationship with the group more meaningful, as the missionary also goes back with fresh memories of his immediate prayer partners.

KBC missionary to St Bonaventure, Oswald Sichula and his family
Then the Powerpoint presentations make the work that we are supporting so vivid. To see the missionaries doing visitation, preaching in classrooms or grass-thatched meeting places or partly completed church auditoriums, baptizing new converts in streams or baptisteries, organizing various kinds of evangelistic meetings, etc, is a real eye opener. Members are also encouraged as they see their fellow church members who visited the mission field on some of the pictures. This makes supporting missions work much more meaningful and fuels prayer.

Congregation listening to God's Word during the missions conference
Whereas it is impossible to measure how much prayer support has increased since our missions conferences started, I can certainly say that our giving towards missions has been going up exponentially. Our annual one-off giving towards certain missions projects has certainly doubled and our members’ monthly giving towards missions has trebled. One can also see the number of church plants growing. We are presently planting about twenty churches, with only half of them being manned by missionaries—and a few more are planned for this year. As a church, we are certainly more active in going into the whole world to “make disciples of all nations.” This could not have happened without the missions conference. I say again, “Why did we not start doing this earlier?”
Elias Mutale, one of KBC's founding members, bringing greetings from Canada
As I post this blog, let me thank the churches that invited me to preach at their missions conferences—especially the Bible Church of Little Rock in USA and Brackenhurst Baptist Church in RSA. I do not think we would have known the joy that we presently know if I had not been exposed to their missions conferences. Having experienced it myself now, I think that every church should have a missions conference. Try it and it will completely revolutionize your involvement in missions. It has certainly done so at Kabwata Baptist Church! When you see your church’s commitment to missions grow exponentially, you too will ask, “Why did we not start doing this earlier?”

3 comments:

  1. Reading this rejoices my heart. I remember taking part in last year which left an indelible mark in my life and missions philosophy.Thanking the Lord for opening a door for ministry as a youth pastor and the statement I go with there is "we need to start this". I am thankful that a have friends and churches that know this game and will be helpful in achieving this.

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  2. Conrad
    I love your blog. You are so practical.
    Your feet on African ground and your heart filled with love for Christ. It is so encouraging to see what you guys are doing.
    God bless you brother

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  3. the questions you are asking "why did we start this a long time" is a question that we ask many times in life.
    when i got saved i asked myself why i did not get saved earlier and when i married i asked the same question.
    the answer is simply God works all things as He please, may if kabwata baptist church started this work earlier we many not have done much but God was preparing His church for this work through the sermons heard and the work that was been done and we can thank God that He has now begun His work among His people
    Blessed be God and blessed be the people of God

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