Thursday, May 2, 2013

My Call to the Ministry—Pastor Emmanuel Sakala

[In this blog post, I continue with interviews of Zambian friends who left their jobs to become pastors in Reformed Baptist circles right here in our country. This time, we have the testimony of Pastor Emmanuel Sakala. I continue to pray that many who are in the valley of decision may read these interviews and be made to hold the arsenal of the gospel with both hands and join the gallant soldiers of the cross in the trenches of ministry in our country and beyond. Read on...]

Emmanuel Sakala with his beautiful wife, Margaret
Conrad: Emmanuel, tell us briefly about your doctrinal journey prior to your entry into the pastoral ministry.

Emmanuel: I got converted in 1980 in the Pentecostal and charismatic movement. My involvement can best be summarised in the language of the apostle Paul to the Galatians: “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal 1:14, NIV).  This went on until the mid 1980s when I was living in the Copperbelt town of Mufulira. New light dawned on me and resulted in a dramatic doctrinal shift. I came out of the Pentecostal and charismatic faith and instead embraced the Reformed faith. I later joined a newly established Baptist church of a Reformed persuasion, which was pioneered by a Dutch missionary. At this time I never accepted any responsibility related to teaching or preaching in the church. In fact, no thought ever crossed my mind of becoming a pastor at this juncture.

Conrad: How did you move from this situation where you never ever thought of becoming a pastor to the point of considering this as an option?

Emmanuel: In 1987, I found myself in the town of Kabwe, located in the Central Province of Zambia, through a work transfer. In this town, there was no Baptist church of a Reformed persuasion. In the providence of God we established one. This was done together with other brethren of like mind doctrinally who were also new in the town. I found myself thrust into the leadership of the church and became a teacher and a preacher contrary to my expectations. This was a decisive development for my character and for my future calling as a pastor. In the sequence of events, our new church called to the pastorate the same Dutch missionary I worked under in Mufulira. I worked very well with him so that in the end I became the de facto “assistant pastor” to the missionary. This development was positive for my training.

Conrad: I am given to understand that you moved towns quite a bit in the 1990s before you finally quit what is called secular employment to become a pastor. Tell us about that.

Emmanuel: Later in 1989, I got married and started a family. This in a way indirectly re-directed my desire from taking up the pastorate. This was also largely because no church extended a call to me even though I myself was ready and ripe.

In 1992, we moved to Luanshya. Again I found myself in a small local Baptist church. The name of the church was Luanshya Central Baptist Church established under the Urban Outreach Program of Lusaka Baptist Church. Before long, I assumed eldership duties and, hence, became again a de facto pastor. The church had two elders including myself. Therefore, our joining of the Luanshya church ignited once again the passion for the pastorate.

In 1993, we moved to the town of Kitwe after a change of employment. This move once again precipitated the establishment of another Reformed Baptist church under the auspices of Chingola Central Baptist Church and this took place in 1995. Again, I found myself as a de facto pastor.  Again it heightened my desire for the pastorate.

In August of 1995, we went back to Luanshya after a change of employment again. This time, I joined a company that was more stable and promising. This new job changed everything for me, especially my direction in life altogether. In this new Job, I found myself rising through the corporate ladder until I reached the managerial level. The rise was accompanied with fringe benefits, such as a big company house and a car. In short, my life was now defined in terms of remaining afloat in the corporate and secular world. In conjunction with this success, we as a family found ourselves diversifying in terms of sources of income. We acquired many pieces of land for farming and thus became part-time famers in the end. We also established various business ventures.  This is what changed our outlook in life and the previous desire to serve God in a full time capacity was shelved.

Conrad: How did the Lord move you from this state where you had literally shelved any desire to serve in the pastorate to where you are now?

Emmanuel: It was in 2000 that a number of changes occurred. Firstly, I started receiving invitations to preach in sister churches. This development was overwhelming. Thus, it was because of the invitations from sister churches that our minds were redirected to the call to full time ministry. Most of these churches were new and so we found ourselves providing leadership counsel to them whenever we visited them. One of the questions that would be put bluntly before me was why I was not yet serving in the full time ministry. Of course, I could neither give myself a church to pastor nor send myself into the mission field. I needed to be called and this was not forthcoming. This is where the problem was for me even though the brethren were oblivious to it. Secondly, the onset of the millennium also compelled my wife and me to make assessment of the extent of our involvement in the corporate world and also in the business world. We were convinced that our calling was not there. Se, we decided to disentangle ourselves from our depth of involvement in the moneymaking industry. It was a costly decision. We sold off our farms and our businesses and began to wait on the Lord to open a door into full time ministry.

It was in 2003 when a call finally came. I was asked to serve as missionary pastor. The call was extended to us from Central Baptist Church of Chingola (CBCC) to establish a church in the town of Chililabombwe. Kabwata Baptist Church (KBC) who pledged to back us financially also encouraged our entrance into full time work. In view of this support, I resigned my secular job to take up the call. This was in December 2003. From that time to date, we have been serving faithfully and with much contentment. 

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