“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:
“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.’
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.
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.
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.
|The present elders of Kabwata Baptist Church|
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.
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.
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!