Sunday, May 1, 2011

Our time at the Gospel Coalition Conference 2011

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).

From time to time I get an email like the one I have just received from an ardent reader of my blog. The author wrote, “As an ardent reader of 'A Letter from Kabwata’, I am starved of the updates. I think the last post was April 11th! Looking forward to more inspiring news to stimulate us to pray.” This invariably reminds me that there is a readership out there that I need to update. So, let me share with you about my recent visit to the USA—which also explains my silence because it was a hectic 12 days in which I preached no less than 12 times.
Dr Voddie Baucham with his son Trey and daughter Saphia
Felistas and I arrived in Houston, Texas, on Thursday 7th April for my first preaching engagement. It was a church-based conference at the Grace Family Baptist Church (Pastor Voddie Baucham) on the theme of submission and authority. I took the whole of 1 Peter and in five sermons dealt with submission and authority in the context of (1) the whole Christian life, (2) the political or civic sphere, (3) the employment or economic sphere, (4) the domestic or family sphere, and (5) the church or ecclesiastical sphere.
The Baucham family celebrating Jasmine's birthday
Although it was a great joy to minister to Grace Family Baptist Church, the highlight for Felistas and me was meeting the Baucham family—at last! Voddie, the husband and father, has been to Zambia and to our home on two previous occasions with his son, Trey. He has become endeared not only to our church but also to our family. Those of you who know him will know that, like an Old Testament priest, he carries his family on his breast wherever he goes. Hence, we had looked forward to meeting the family of this man that is so dear to him!
The Baucham boys enjoying a book on cars
From Houston, we flew to the Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago, Illinois, on Tuesday 12th April. Felistas and I were honoured with the VIP room on the 28th floor of the Hyatt hotel at the convention centre. It had a scenic view through the main window that made us wish that this were home. The conference, whose theme was “Preaching Christ and the Gospel from the Old Testament,” had seven main preachers handling plenary sessions and over forty other speakers who handled various electives. The main preachers were R Albert Mohler Jr, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, James MacDonald, Matt Chandler, Mike Bullmore, Don Carson—and yours truly! All the sermons had simultaneous translation into Spanish and Mandarin (Chinese) and are available for downloading on the Gospel Coalition website. The attendance, by my estimation, would have been anywhere above 6,000 people. So, it was a sea of humanity!

I attended a few electives and was thoroughly refreshed by what I heard during a panel discussion/interview on the subject “Training the Next Generation of Pastors and Christian Leaders.” Albert Mohler Jr, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, was on the panel, with Mark Driscoll, David Helm, Don Carson and Ligon Duncan. Albert Mohler said again and again that it was not the business of Bible colleges and seminaries to train pastors. Churches must be the ones doing so. Rather, Bible colleges and seminaries are supposed to come alongside churches in order to do what the churches are unable to do—i.e. specialized studies and research. He expressed gladness that a growing number of church pastors were realizing this and were beginning to train the next generation of pastors in their churches—which was the right context. I found this very refreshing, especially because it was coming from the president of a theological seminary!
Keith Getty speaking on writing music for corporate worship
I also attended the workshop on writing corporate worship music. Relax, it was not because I have any dreams of becoming a modern day hymn-writer. I am concerned that our generation of Reformed Christians in Zambia with poetic gifts are not writing hymns for Christian worship. Hence, I wanted to know as much as I could from those who are presently writing some of the most popular hymns finding their way into corporate worship. So, it was good to hear Keith Getty speak about the genesis of “In Christ Alone”, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us,” etc., and some of the principles to bear in mind when writing music for public worship rather than entertainment or even private devotions.
Don Carson being honoured by his ministerial colleagues
One of the leaders of the Gospel Coalition is Don Carson and, on one of the evenings, his colleagues in ministry honoured him for the work that he has done to enhance the cause of Christ and the gospel. Heartfelt testimonies were read out in his honour, which, no doubt, melted his heart to tears. With humility, he accepted the honour, and prayer was offered for him.

At the ACU booth with Linda Woodward and John LaTour
Apart from the plenary sessions and the electives, there were various Christian institutions (e.g. seminaries and Bible colleges, publishers and Bible software companies, etc) that put up booths to publicise their work and products in the open area leading to the main auditorium. The one nearest my heart was the Africa Christian University (ACU)—for obvious reasons. It was good to see the warm inviting smiles of Linda Woodward and John LaTour at the booth. One trusts that some valuable contacts were made at the conference that would result in ongoing prayer and financial support for this very important project. Having just acquired a MacBook Air, I spent quite some time at the Accordance Bible software stand on the last day getting it downloaded onto my computer. That alone was worth the whole trip to the USA.
The Ndambashas - Allan, Lingawako, Abel, and Victoria
With the Gospel Coalition Conference behind us, Felistas and I flew to Phoenix, Arizona, on Thursday evening 14th April for my last series of preaching engagements. These meetings took place on the Lord’s Day at Cornerstone Church (Pastor Jim Adams) and at Miller Valley Baptist Church (Pastor Chris J Marley) in Prescott. A few more meetings in the form of breakfast talks and Bible studies were squeezed in before Sunday. One of the highlights of the Arizona visit was the time we spent with Allan and Victoria Ndambasha and their family. We lived and worshipped together in Mufulira, Zambia, in the 1980s. Allan also joined Kabwata Baptist Church for a number of years when he studied at the University of Zambia. The time with them was all too short, but we had to return to our family and flock. Also at their home was another Zambian, Victor Mubili, who had driven 12 hours to come and meet us over the weekend. We flew back to Zambia on Monday 18th April. As we were connecting on Tuesday afternoon in South Africa, we had the rare opportunity to meet two Kabwata Baptist Church love-birds, whose wedding we missed while we were in the USA. It was Graham and Fungai Chingambu returning from their honeymoon!
Graham and Fungai Chinambu returning from honeymoon!
I returned to Zambia challenged afresh with the importance of the gospel of Christ. It is the heart of God’s message to our world. Christianity rises and falls in any generation with that generation’s grasp of the gospel and how zealous the Christians of that generation are in sharing its message. Sadly, in Africa today, it is clear that this is fast becoming the exception to the rule. Churches that once knew and preached the gospel as it is laid out in the New Testament are now preaching nothing more than messages on morality or “deliverance”. This can only spell death for the church’s future. Those of us who still have a firm grasp of this aroma of Christ need to come together as our friends have done in the Gospel Coalition to remind ourselves of this precious truth and to encourage a younger generation to remain true to its life-giving truths—for the glory of God.


  1. Yes, it has indeed been a while between posts. Always looking ...Great to see the Ndambashas - brings back memories of the days in Mufulira when I was a regular visitor there. "How Deep the Father's Love for us.." My absolute favourite modern hymn! Thanks Pastor and may the Lord continue to bless and sustain you and your family.

  2. Pastor Mbewe, I kept checking the blog in April but gave up when I found no updates, yet as a bonus when I checked today I found two posts. Can't wait to read the other one. Also good to see pictures of the Ndambasha's and Graham and wife and to read about your trip. Trust song writers can take up the challenge to compose sound worship songs. And oh that we may remain true to God's word.