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!

Friday, August 31, 2012

2012 Annual Reformed Conferences – Day Three

It was again a full day at the Annual Reformed Conferences. As I warned yesterday, this report will be slightly awkward because I was preaching in both the Family Conference and the School of Theology. So, it will be slightly ego-centric. Those who know me will appreciate my sense of discomfort about this, especially when I know that the other preacher doing the other sessions was no other than Dr Voddie Baucham. It is like preferring to talk about the moon and not the sun at noon day!

Pastor Voddie Baucham lecturing to the School of Theology
After the usual prayer meeting at 08.45 hours, I handled the Family Conference. Sydney Kombe (a pastoral intern at KBC) led the meeting and I basically handled part 2 of “The Call of ‘Macedonian’ Today”. This time it was about statistics. I showed how the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia has grown from 4 churches to 40 in 20 years. All the major cities in Zambia have been covered, with Lusaka alone now having 10 Reformed Baptist churches—and counting. This was work already accomplished.

I then challenged the brethren to consider two areas of Zambia that had the least Reformed Baptist churches—the western and northern regions of the country. I also pointed out the rural areas, which are filled with ethnic religions and Christian cults. These were areas we needed to serious enter with biblical churches.

Sydney Kombe leading worship during the School of Theology
Then I went into the famous 10/40 Window and showed shocking statistics of how so few people groups there were evangelised. The Jews, the Moslems, the Hindus, the Atheistic Communists, etc., were all in this region and they were the least evangelised on the planet. There was need for us to be relevant to world evangelisation by going to such places with the everlasting gospel. 

I repeated this message to the School of Theology in the second part of the morning.

In the afternoon, I handled a seminar at the School of Theology on raising funds for missions. I insisted that the first method should be through the tithes of church members. It was crucial to teach Christians to be faithful in tithing. The second method I turned to was that of free-will offerings and pledges. This was over and above the tithe. The third method was that of partnerships. Churches without missionaries (or with a little more money to spare) should join hands with those who have missionaries. They should regularly send funds to help them sustain their missionaries on the field.

"Yours truly" lecturing at the School of Theology
The last method I dealt with is often referred to as “tent-making”. I call it “selling services”. In other words, you sell what you have to the world and use the money the world pays you to support the work of missions. In this, I encouraged individuals who run personal businesses to consider using some of the funds they realise from such ventures to support the work of missions. In each method of fundraising I emphasised integrity and transparency on the part of those handing money. The question and answer session that followed this could have gone well past our ending time. It was clear that this was a very relevant subject.

In the evening, Chopo Mwanza (another pastoral intern at KBC) led the meeting and Pastor Kalifungwa preached from John 6:22-40. He said, “This is beyond our reach,” is the average attitude of many churches towards missions. Many say this because of their small size or because they think they are too weak to be God’s instruments in missions. Others are merely lazy and see lions standing in the way of their dreams. Against all this, we must realise that missions is not beyond our reach—because God did not fail to lay the foundation of the salvation of the elect. He went on to open up four points:

"Your truly" teaching during the afternoon seminar at the School of Theology
A. The nature of the mission of the Father (v.39-40): It was about the salvation of all those given to the Son by the Father. He was not to lose any of the elect. He was to raise them up on the last day. If you are saved today then you are elect of God and thus part of God’s eternal purpose to bring you to glory.

B. The challenge to the mission of the Father: Pastor Kalifungwa pointed out the challenge emanating from his nature. There was the challenge pertaining to his transcendence, the challenge pertaining to his eternity, the challenge pertaining to his perfection, the challenge pertaining to his holiness, the challenge pertaining to sending his only begotten Son, and the challenge pertaining to giving his Son as a propitiation for sin. He also spoke of the challenge of breaking down the rebelliousness of his elect people scattered across the earth.

Chopo Mwanza leading worship during the combined evening meeting
C. The agent in the mission of the Father (v.38): Jesus did not come on his own—he was sent. He was a missionary. This Jesus is God. So, God sent God as a missionary to this world. How was he to meet this challenge? He left the riches in glory, perforated time, appeared in a body, became poor, became sin and sent his Holy Spirit to transform the hearts of the rebellious.

D. The fruit from the mission of the Father: It consists of elect people who have been saved, who know and love Christ, who live to the glory of God, and who will worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in heaven.

Ronald Kalifungwa preaching during the combined evening meeting
Pastor Kalifungwa ended by exhorting us to see that nothing is impossible with God. We must reflect this image of God in the work of missions. We must be motivated to pay the price of missions because there is a reward. The reward is the heathen. We will receive the satisfaction of winning the heathen.

That was how the day went. My next report will be less ego-centric. Since the photos on this blog post were from the School of Theology (most of them per kind favour of Pastor Isaac Makashinyi), I will report from the Family Conference stream so that the last treat for your eyes will be from there. So, watch this space!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Annual Reformed Conferences – Day Two

I missed the prayer meeting this morning due to some early morning errands. For the purpose of this blog post, I attended the School of Theology this day. This stream, which is treated as a semi-independent conference on its own, is tailor-made for church leaders and their spouses. The teaching takes more of a lecturing than a preaching format (though the preachers still end up preaching - "you can't teach an old dog new tricks!") and it emphasises leadership issues.

Pastor Wege Sinyangwe led the meeting and Pastor Voddie Baucham was the first preacher. He was teaching on the role of the family in the success of missions. He had begun teaching on this yesterday. His message was very clear: The family has an important role to play in the work of missions. It is the first mission field for any missionary because his children do not yet know Christ. It also plays an important role in validating his claims. He quoted John Stott, who said, “It is not enough to receive the gospel and pass it on; we must embody it in our common life of faith, love, joy, peace, righteousness and hope.”

Wege Sinyangwe leading the meeting at the School of Theology
Pastor Baucham asserted that in the work of missions, the gospel spread from house to house as the churches were being planted around the world. The most common way in which people came to faith in Christ was through their families.

Pastor Baucham emphasised that it was important that we train men to wage battle in their homes and to train men to wage war in their homes first. The local church was a training ground for family shepherds. He took the meeting through a survey of Titus and showed that its theme was, “The knowledge of God that accords with godliness”. Paul wanted to see godly mature men and women in the church.

Voddie Baucham lecturing at the School of Theology
Ultimately what Paul wanted to see were biblically functioning families (2:1-5). That was where the older women were to exercise their gifts of instructions. It was the place where the qualifications of the elders were to be proved. The heretics were those who upset whole families (1:10ff). The family was a disciple-making institution (Eph. 6:1-4). Fathers, therefore, were to be family shepherds.

Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa was the second preacher. He preached on church oversight over church plants, using Acts 15. He asserted that oversight was necessary because of (a) the instability caused by the Fall, and (b) the devil’s hard work to harm the cause of God. Thus, young churches being established needed oversight outside themselves.

Choolwe Mwetwa lecturing at the School of Theology
Pastor Mwetwa said that oversight involved spiritual protection, material provision, and purposeful piloting. It was very clear that the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15) was concerned about the welfare of the churches they had planted.

Pastor Mwetwa taught that the recipients of the oversight were the churches that had been planted by another church. Then the providers of the oversight were the churches that planted those churches (Acts 15:36). This work demanded high competence from the best of competent men. This was teamwork. Thus, although the elders had the primary role in oversight, they worked with others who checked on the church plants and even taught there on their behalf.

Part of the attendance during the School of Theology
Pastor Mwetwa noted that the very epistles we read in the New Testament today were part of the oversight provided by the apostles to young churches. Part of the oversight involved praying for young churches, as can be read in all Paul’s epistles. The missionaries were not free-lancers but were held accountable to the church that had sent them (Acts 14:26-28).

Pastor Mwetwa stated that one major challenge in oversight over the young churches was that of training and appointing leaders. Until resident elders were appointed, elders from the planting church must provide oversight. Suitable deacons could be appointed to play their role under the elders of the planting church. Church autonomy should be next as soon as resident elders were appointed. Financial support may continue when the church had become autonomous. Self-governing was not synonymous with self-supporting.

Thandika Chirwa leading the evening combined meeting
I missed the afternoon seminars again. One of the seminars was on “Dating and Courtship” by Pastor Raphael Banda, while the other was on “Giving to the Work of Missions” by Mr Cheta Musonda. I asked those who attended and the feedback I got showed that both seminars were greatly appreciated.

As I arrived for the evening meeting, I was given the statistics. The registered attendance was now 1,200 people. This was the highest we have ever had. Praise the Lord! Thandika Chirwa led the evening meeting. Michael Hudson from the UK was attending the conference for the first time. He sang, “It is well with my soul.” Anyone who has heard Michael sing before will understand when I say that we were lifted up to the highest heavens by the time he finished the song!

Michael Hudson singing "It is well with my soul" at the conference
“Yours truly” was the preacher for the evening. I preached on “The call of ‘Macedonia’ today.” Basically, this message was meant to urge the churches to go further than the next neighbourhood or town in their church-planting efforts.

Using Acts 16, 17 and 18, I showed how nothing short of spiritual obedience on the part of the apostle Paul enabled him and his team to go as far as taking the gospel into Europe.

"Yours truly" preaching during the combined evening meeting
I also warned that there would be a price to be paid—a price of sacrifice and suffering—if we obeyed the Lord and took the gospel further afield. Finally, for the encouragement of those present, I showed from Paul’s example that our overall strategy need not change—that of going to population and economic centres first and then starting with those people who, humanly speaking, would be easier to reach.  This we were already doing!

Thus ended the second full day at the Zambian Reformed Conferences—the School of Theology stream. Today, I am preaching the whole morning in both the Family Conference and School of Theology, and then handling a seminar in the afternoon on rising funds for missions at the School of Theology. I will see how I can do all that and blog at the same time. As someone once said, “Impossibles we do; but miracles take a little longer”!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Annual Reformed Conferences – Day One

The day began with a prayer meeting at 08.45 hours. The main prayer items were related to the work of God in Kenya and in the African Christian University here. These prayer points were shared the previous evening. For the purpose of this blog post, I decided to attend the Family Conference today.

At 09.30, Pastor Kabwe took the Family Conference through a message on the call of the church to missions. He read the Great Commission passages in the last chapters of all the Gospels. It was very clear from this that Jesus gave the reason for the existence of the church. The King himself commissioned the church to go and make disciples of all nations. He also promised that he would be with the church during its evangelistic/missions labours.

Kabwe Kabwe preaching to the Family Conference
Pastor Kabwe urged all in attendance to think again as to our relevance to this work of missions and, therefore, the need for us to invest into this work. He urged us to embrace a simple life-style, putting all that we can spare into the work of the kingdom. There was need for us to stop thinking of missions as something “over there” but that we should think “mission” when dealing with anything in the life of our churches. It was certainly an impassioned plea.

After tea break, at 11.30 hours, Pastor Baucham took the Family Conference through a message that began the theme of missions from the Old Testament all the way to the gospels in the New Testament. Reading Matthew 23:15 he drew our attention to what he called “the great clue” about missions from the Old Testament. Pharisees, obeying the Old Testament, were crossing “land and sea” to make proselytes. That’s missions! Pastor Baucham then went to Genesis 12:1-3 where we saw that “all the nations of the earth would be blessed” through Abraham. He then went on to show passage after passage in the Old Testament—from the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the Prophets—that God wanted “all the nations” to know him for who he really is. Our God is truly a missionary God.

Voddie Baucham preaching to the Family Conference
From the Old Testament, Pastor Baucham went into the New Testament and started with the Gospels showing how passage after passage showed that missions was at the centre of God’s purpose for his people. Thus when Jesus gives “the Great Commission” he was not giving a new instruction! God has always been on a mission. God has always called, taught, and sent his people to be on mission. The whole of biblical revelation is missional in nature and scope.

I missed the afternoon seminars in order to attend to other matters. There were two seminars. One was on evangelistic strategies in mission fields by Pastor Lichawa Thole, and the other was on giving towards the work of missions by Mr Cheta Musonda. I am sure those who attended these seminars greatly benefitted.

Ferguson Kcofie sharing about the Reformed Baptist work in Ghana
Paul Lupunga led the evening meeting. Pastor Ferguson Kcofie shared with us about the Lord’s work in Ghana. He took us region-by-region and then talked about the Reformed Baptist churches. He talked about the four conferences that they have, which are still small. He also briefly spoke about his own testimony and how the Lord had led him up to this point in his life. He ended by giving some prayer needs. He ended with a reading from 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2.

James Williamson came onto the platform to speak about the Copperbelt Ministerial College (CMC) and the Lusaka Ministerial College (LMC). He drew attention to the first graduation of the CMC that had 14 graduates. The CMC presently had 25 students. He talked about how this college operated. He also spoke about the LMC and its slightly different model of operation. He drew attention to the fact that all the Zambian preachers at this conference were lecturers in these two colleges. He ended with some prayer pointers.

James Williamson sharing about the CMC and LMC work in Zambia
Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa brought the Word of God to us for the evening. He preached on the call of the man to missions from Acts 13:1-3. There were essentially four lessons that he showed us from this initial text. (1) It is God who calls men to the work of missions. (2) The Lord calls men whom he has endowed with gifts appropriate for the work. (3) The Lord sends men into the ministry through the instrumentality of the church. (4) The Lord calls men to his work.

Pastor Mwetwa particularly showed us how the calling of men to the work of missions is a work of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus the calling of men to this work includes capacitation, motivation, and compulsion. He did not hide the fact that he wanted to persuade a few “Jonahs” to put their hands to the plough. Among the signs that God is calling a person, Pastor Mwetwa pointed out (1) personal desire, (2) ministerial abilities, (3) moral stature, (4) spiritual satisfaction, and (5) the church’s affirmation.

Choolwe Mwetwa preaching during the combined evening meeting
Pastor Mwetwa drew attention to the fact that despite these signs, everyone who is truly called of God still feels a sense of inadequacy. He urged those who are sensing these signs to prayerfully seek counsel, use any opportunities in the local church to serve God, and let the church finally usher them into a field of service. He warned against raising the bar so high that many despair and never come forward to serve God. It is godliness that must be the chief qualification!

Pastor Mwetwa asked a pertinent question: “Why is it that so few young men are answering the call to missions?” He suggested a few possible reasons. He began with inner factors. The first was that of worldliness. Another was that of unrealistic standards or perfectionism. Yet another is the fear of failure. He went on to refer to external factors. The first was that of poor remunerations. Another was the suffering of those already in ministry. Yet another was that of those who have previously disgraced the ministry. They do not want to be part of all this.

Part of the congregation during the combined evening meeting
Pastor Mwetwa ended with brief exhortations meant to encourage both the men sensing God’s call and the churches represented in the meeting to go forward and do God’s bidding in the work of missions, while awaiting the Lord’s reward.

It was on that note that we ended the first full day of the Family Conference. God willing, the next instalment will be the School of Theology. Watch this space!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

2012 Annual Reformed Conference – Opening Night

The Zambian Reformed Conference and School of Theology commenced today. About 700 individuals have registered. Almost all the provinces of Zambia are well represented. Some of the people also came from Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Dubai, Wales, and England. The opening meeting, which commenced at 18.30 hours, was led by Charles Bota.

Charles Bota leading the conference in worship
After General Phiri read out the ground rules at the commencement of the opening evening meeting, Pastor Sam Oluoch shared about the Reformed Baptist work in Kenya. He was grateful for the work done by missionaries to establish the Reformed Baptist work in Kenya. He, however, bemoaned the effect this had on indigenous men, who sat back instead of rising to the challenge of leadership. He mentioned the start of REFCOK, which was started with a view to challenge Kenyans to provide leadership to the work of Reformation. He mentioned the towns in which the churches were but bemoaned the fact that most of the churches were in rural areas and many major towns and cities did not even have a single Reformed Baptist church despite the fact that the movement in Kenya started earlier than the Zambian movement. He ended with a few prayer points

Sam Oluoch sharing about the Reformed Baptist work in Kenya
Ken Turnbull talked about the African Christian University and Seminary. He spoke of the sudden departure of Bruce Button but was grateful for the coming of David Wegener to take his place in January 2013. He took us through the various support bodies and persons of the university, and the management that is being put together. As usual, Ken emphasized the uniqueness of the university, which aims at a worldview transformation of students through a Christ-centered education and a student labour programme. He ended with a few prayer points.

Pastor Ronald Kalifungwa introduced the theme of the conference and then went on to introduce the preachers. Voddie Baucham (USA), Choolwe Mwetwa (Chingola), Conrad Mbewe (Lusaka), Kabwe Kabwe (Ndola), and himself (Lusaka). 

Ken Turnbull sharing about the work of the African Christian University
Pastor Kabwe Kabwe was the key-note preacher. He preached on the topic: "The church is a sent-out community." He asserted that it was the very heart of missions. He expounded John 4:27-38 by starting with a question, "What would you refer to as, 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me.'?" He then gave seven observations from this text.

(1) The church has been sent out into the world just as the Father sent out Jesus. (2) This missions he has given the church is a very fulfilling and satisfying one (v.34). That was why Jesus called it his food. (3) The mission of the church demands our immediate attention (v.35a). Souls need to be reaped NOW!! (4) If we are to do the work of missions it must be intentional (v.35b). It matters where you are looking. (5) The work of missions is a most rewarding work (v.36). There are eternal rewards that will give fullness of joy. (6) The work of missions demands hard work (v.38). It is about labour and toil and even death. (7) The work of missions is one to which you must contribute only in this life (v.34). You must finish your work, and then others will build on your foundation. 

Kabwe Kabwe preaching the key-note address at the conference
Pastor Kabwe pleaded with us to use our gifts in the positions they are meant for in order to push forward the work of evangelism and missions. We are a sent community. We need to repent of those things that have become our food other than this work. Like Isaiah, he wanted more and more of us to respond, saying, "Here I am, Lord, send me." 

This was the opening night. I am looking forward to seeing what the Lord will do in our midst this week. 

Congregational singing during the opening meeting of the conference