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, August 24, 2017

The 2017 Zambia Reformed Conferences—Day Three

Voddie Baucham preaching on the 3rd evening of the combined conference
I attended the Family Conference today. Pastor Bob Dickie again started with his salvation testimony and how it led to a mini-revival. He then preached on Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”) from Ephesians 2:1–10. He dealt with the need for grace, the work of grace, the source of grace, and the purpose of grace. He gave a quick tour of the New Testament showing its emphasis on grace. He showed the logic of this truth by starting with the fact that unbelievers are spiritually dead and the Bible refers to salvation as recreation, resurrection, and rebirth. In each of those pictures, the beneficiary is passive while God is active!

Pastor Bob Dickie preaching at the Family Conference
The second preacher was Dr Voddie Baucham. He preached on the necessity of creeds and catechisms in gaining a proper understanding of the truths that were brought out in the Reformation.

Dr Voddie Baucham preaching at the Family Conference
In the afternoon, the Lusaka Ministerial College had their second graduation. Pastor Bob Dickie was the guest of honour and 5 students graduated. Pictures are the best witness and so I will leave the pictures to speak for themselves.

Francis Ngoma receiving his diploma

Friday Nyambe receiving his diploma (cum laude)

Gabriel Banda receiving his diploma

German Banda receiving his diploma

Joseph Banda receiving his diploma

Graduation group photo ceremony of the Lusaka Ministerial College
In the evening, Dr Voddie Baucham was back! He preached from Titus 1:1–16, showing the relationship between faith, truth, and godliness. He started by showing how the Roman Catholic Church prior to the Reformation sustained a religion of fear but the Reformers freed the people from fear by the truth of the gospel. In Titus 1:1–16, Paul dealt with faith, truth and godliness three times over (1:1–3, 4–9, and 10–16). Paul ended the first section with himself as the preacher, the second section with the elders as the instructors, and the third section (2:1) with Titus as the teacher. Voddie ended with Titus 3:3–8, showing that this preaching produces a religion of hope and not of fear.

Dr Voddie Baucham preaching in the evening at the combined conference

Monday, August 21, 2017

The 2017 Zambia Reformed Conferences—Day One

The 2017 Zambian Reformed Conferences (plural because there are two conferences running in parallel but being united in the evening sessions) are being held at the Dream Valley Lodge in Lusaka from Monday 21st to Friday25th August. This is the 28th year of these conferences but only the second to be held at this venue. And what a venue! There are few places in Lusaka where you can have a conference while seeing Kudus and Zebras roaming freely around. 

The conference began promptly at 18.30 hours as scheduled with the singing of “Jesus paid it all”. Charles Bota, the conference organizing committee chairman, led the meeting.

“Yours truly”, on behalf of Pastor Ronald Kalifungwa who chairs the inter-church elders meetings that host this conference, welcomed all who were present. Countries already present were America, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe. Attendees from Tanzania and Malawi were still on the way. Also, all the provinces of Zambia, except for Northern Province, were represented.

Charles Bota, conference organizing committee chairman, leading the meeting
Pastor Ndonji Kayombo gave the keynote address. He said that the Protestant Reformation was rooted in the sufficiency of Scripture. The Roman Catholic pontiff’s claims to personal inerrancy undermined this truth. The Reformers said, “No, it must be Sola Scriptura.” The Reformers dethroned the Pope and enthroned the Scriptures. That was the implication of Martin Luther’s position at the Diet of Worms.

Pastor Kayombo went on to say that Paul did not tell Timothy to bind heretics or the devil. Rather, he commended to him Sola Scriptura. Paul urged Timothy to continue in the Scriptures that he had learned from childhood. Which Scriptures was he referring to? He argued that it was both the Old and New Testament (e.g. 1 Timothy 5, 1 Peter 3:14–15). Then he expounded 2 Timothy 3:16–17. He spoke about...

Pastor Ndonji Kayombo preaching on the first night of the conference

The origin of the Scriptures—The source is God and he gave them to us through inspiration.
The offer of the Scriptures—They are profitable/useful. They are doctrinally useful (doctrine and reproof, i.e. teaching and detecting error) and they are practically useful (correction and training, i.e. straightening and nurturing).
The objective of the Scriptures—They equip us adequately for service as men of God.
The operations of the Scriptures—They produce in us good works that glorify God.

In application Pastor Kayombo said—(1) We have a heritage we must preserve. Unless we see the Reformed disinctives from the Scriptures for ourselves we will soon lose them. (2) We have everything we need to know about life and godliness in the Scriptures. (3) We need to validate the sufficiency of Scripture by humbly submitting to the Scriptures in all areas including our homes and in the church, and (4) We will stand before God in judgment to account for the way we have used the Scriptures.

Part of the congregation on the first night of the conference

That was how the first day ended. I have been reliably informed that Facebook Live was used to share the conference sermon on the Internet. The same will be done tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards. If you want to be part of the conference, check on the Biblical Christianity Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KBCBiblicalChristianity/?ref=br_rs)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Experiencing pastoral internship at Kabwata Baptist Church

The two pastors with the 2017 pastoral interns at Kabwata Baptist Church
It has been a joy pouring our lives into 6 men who have left their homes (and for some of them their countries too) to come and experience the pastoral internship at Kabwata Baptist Church. I asked each of them to share how they have found this experience. Here is what they say!

Andrew Mulendema
Andrew Mulendema (from Lusaka) says, “It is a privilege to be part of this internship program here at Kabwata Baptist Church. I beg to express my experience, challenges, and the great lessons I have learned. To start with, my experience in this first six months has been a great joy. Very few churches have such internship programmes. The love and care the church offers to us, the fellowship and the liberty we are given to interact with all, and the freedom to do our work without close supervision is great. The great lessons learned have been integrity, discipline, hard work, and creativity.”

Ntungamili Mashumba leading prayer meeting at Kabwata Baptist Church
Ntungamili Mashumba (from Botswana) says, “During the first six months of my internship in Kabwata Baptist Church, I have learnt a great deal of how ministries operate successfully. I have seen how the eldership works in harmony. I have been mostly impressed by the peace and transparency that reigns in church members meetings. Above all, I praise God for the faithful biblical preaching during Sunday services. In my living arrangements, I’m thankful to God for the allowance I get. For the purpose of the internship I’m happy and privileged for the learning experience. Glory be to God for his mercy and goodness (2 Corinthians 3:5).”

Wal Abraham leading worship at Kabwata Baptist Church
Wal Abraham (from South Sudan) says, “First, thanks be to God for his providence in my internship. It has been a great opportunity for me to be exposed to new things here. I have been learning partly through observation. It has been a great joy to share the gospel with outsiders who have been groaning to be encouraged by the precious words of God. It has also been good to pray for those who are subjected to various frustrations. I have been seeing God’s grace at work. Pray for me to have a greater desire to reach the lost through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”      

Daniel Sitali
Daniel Sitali (from Kitwe) says, “From the time I came here, I have seen a lot and I have learnt a lot in terms of how a church should run. One thing that has stood out for me is the way the different ministries in the church run, including the other programmes that I have been attending. I have attended the missions retreat, pastors fraternals, and some short courses at Lusaka Ministerial College, to mention a few. I have also had the privilege of leading the Sunday worship services and Bible studies. I am also thankful for the fact that all my needs are being met.”

Abutu Peter Joshua with Conrad Mbewe in Lagos, Nigeria
Abutu Peter Joshua (from Nigeria) says, “I came seeking a veritable soil where my classroom experience may be nurtured towards effective God-honouring pastoral service delivery in the African context. My expectations were surpassed in the areas of expository preaching, reformed leadership (especially team work and openness), capacity building (especially freedom and independency of thinking in leadership), training in personal piety (e.g. living by example, prayer, Bible reading, deliberate mentorship), inclusive and participatory church membership, the primacy of the Bible in church life and polity, genuine interest in missions and soul winning activities, and the place of functional home cell groups in church life.”

Hiskia Tjindere bidding farewell to the church after 6 months of internship
Hiskia Tjindere (from Namibia) says, “What I have appreciated the most at KBC is how the elders are well organised. I have learned how they plan and organize church activities, including the visitation of members. They have taught the members of the church well in biblical doctrine by fostering a culture of reading sound books. It was also an eye opener for me to see how missions work is taken as a life’s commitment even by ordinary church members. I will gladly recommend this internship programme to people considering missions work so that they can know how to go about this work.”

NB: In case you get inspired to join this programme, the 2018 space is full but the sooner you apply for the 2019 the better—before even that gets full. Although we have had interns from outside Africa, our preference is for individuals coming from African countries. The application process is quite demanding and we only have 6 spaces per year. It is our joy to serve future pastors and the church in Africa in this way!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Erroll Hulse (1931–2017)—The End Of An Era

Erroll and Lyn Hulse
Today, the remains of Erroll Hulse, a dear friend and elder statesman in the Reformed faith, will be interred in Cuckfield, England. My mind is, therefore, very much in that part of the world as the sun comes up here in the heart of Africa. I wish I could be there to witness the ending of an era.

(Correction: The burial of Erroll Hulse's remains took place on Monday 21st August, 2017)

For those of you who do not know Erroll Hulse, here is what I found on the Semper Reformanda website: “Erroll Hulse was born at Fort Beaufort in the Cape of South Africa in 1931. He graduated from Pretoria University, 1954, in architecture and later studied at London Bible College. In 1957 he co-founded The Banner of Truth with Iain Murray. Hulse also serves as editor of Reformation Today (since 1970) and director of Evangelical Press (since 1974). His pastoral experience includes Cuckfield (1962-1984), Liverpool (1984 to 1988) and as elder and associate pastor at Leeds Reformed Baptist Church (1988 to 2008).” (https://www.semperreformanda.com/men-of-god/erroll-hulse/)

I first got to know about Erroll Hulse soon after I became a pastor in the late 1980s through the Reformation Today magazine, which he founded and edited for many years. In due season I came across a few of his early books. Then when I began to visit South Africa in the early 1990s, I found that his was a household name among the Reformed Baptists there. It was as if he lived there. He had continued to visit South Africa and minister there over the years.

I recall the late Martin Holdt who was then pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in South Africa telling me how he came to the Reformed faith through the ministry of Erroll Hulse. He said, “Erroll used to carry a bag full of books. Each time he visited me he would engaged me in doctrinal discussion and then open his bag to pull out a book or two, which he would highly recommend that I read. As I was reading these books, my understanding of biblical truth grew and one day everything fell into place. I am grateful for Erroll and his bag of books, which he carried around like a physician on home calls!”

Erroll Hulse was an African in a white skin. Although he left Africa as a young adult to pursue theological studies in the UK, his heart always yearned for the health of the African church. He invested immensely on this continent both in terms of time and money. He was as familiar with the church scene in Cameroon (in West Africa) as he was with the church scene in Kenya (in East Africa). There was not a corner of Africa that he was ignorant about. He turned his knowledge into prayer and often sent books and encouraged sound preachers there. He was also involved in the start of the Skogheim Evangelical and Reformed Conference in South Africa, which continues to run up to now. In 1995, he spent part of his year in Namibia filling in for Pastor Joachim Rieck at Eastside Baptist Church who had gone on furlough.

In 1991, Erroll Hulse decided to come and visit Zambia to verify what he was hearing about the fledgling Reformed Baptist movement here and to encourage us. He came in the company of Trevor Roberts, who at that time was pastor of Germiston Baptist Church in South Africa. He dubbed that historic visit, “In the footsteps of David Livingstone”. Erroll was in his element as he spoke to us about the uniqueness of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689. He said it had Reformation roots, Puritan roots, and Baptistic roots. The few of us who were gathered at that meeting went away sensing that we belonged to a great pedigree of those who never bowed their knees to Baal across church history. Erroll had inspired the Reformed Baptists in South Africa to start a magazine called Reformation South Africa. After this visit, he encouraged them to change its title to Reformation Africa South so that it would include the Zambian Reformed Baptist movement. In due season, we began our own magazine, Reformation Zambia, from the same inspiration.

Erroll Hulse (seated) visiting Zambia with Trevor Roberts (at the back)
What I remember most from Erroll Hulse on that trip was the time we were together in the same car for the 4 to 5 hours drive from Lusaka to Kitwe and back. He took out the church membership list of Leeds Reformed Baptist Church and quietly prayed for each member as we travelled. I remember thinking to myself, “Here is a true shepherd. He carries his members with him and prays for them at every opportunity. I should be doing the same!”

Why do I think that the passing on of Erroll Hulse into the presence of his Master is the ending of an era? It is because while Erroll lived he was the unofficial but indefatigable roving ambassador for Reformed Baptists worldwide. He formed the International Fellowship of Reformed Baptists (IFRB), which struggled to take off due to the fragmented nature of Reformed Baptists around the world. The IFRB itself became another point of contention, which did not help matters. Despite all that, in his person, he brought the family of Reformed Baptists across the whole world together.

Erroll was a journalist par excellence. He told us about one another and about what the Lord was doing in various parts of the world through the Reformed Baptist movement. He never attracted attention to himself but always drew our attention to the Baptist forefathers, the Puritans, the Reformers, the apostles, and ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ. Frankly, I cannot currently see anyone taking up the mantle left behind by Erroll because he had a rare combination of gifts—energy, enthusiasm, clarity of mind, doctrinal stability, passion for the lost, prayerfulness, journalistic prowess, etc. Truly, an era in history has come to an end!

Perhaps Erroll Hulse’s final lasting legacy to Africa will be the African Pastors Conferences (APCs). Initially, he worked closely with Dennis Hustedt, a former pastor in South Africa who now lives in the USA. At some point the two felt it better to work independently. That was when Erroll Hulse looped Irving Steggles and me in as directors and the APCs were fully born. That must have been around 2008. The board of directors has expanded further since then. In the APCs, I saw first-hand Erroll’s passion for the health of the church in Africa.

Erroll Hulse canvassed both sides of the Atlantic for finances to buy books, which were then sold to pastors at prices they could afford or even given out to them freely at the conferences that were also highly subsidised. The last time I counted there were 40 such conferences taking place per year right across southern, central, and eastern Africa. In those conferences, Reformed Baptist pastors from Zambia have been the main preachers. The last time I met Erroll on African soil was at an African Pastors Conference in South Africa. He was with Lyn his wife of many years. She was not well and it was clear that this was the last time I would see her. Sure enough, Lyn went to be with the Lord soon after that. It was during one of those conferences in November 2013 in Empangeni, South Africa, that Erroll Hulse suffered the stroke that finally took his life a week ago—almost 4 year later!

At the start of 2015, it dawned on me that my coming visit to England was probably going to be my last opportunity to see Erroll. I asked Kabwata Baptist Church members who had been around long enough to remember how he helped us as a church in our early years to express their gratitude to him in a remembrance book. I carried this book and personally gave it him on that trip. He embraced it warmly. As I travelled to England on that trip I read some of the comments and was really touched by the sentiments expressed in that book. He had touched more lives than he knew here in Africa. Thank you, Erroll. Thank you and farewell, my friend!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bible texts prosperity preachers wish did not exist

Every so often when engaged in discussion on the subject of the prosperity gospel, I hear voices sympathetic to this doctrinal poison say, “But surely God does not want us to be poor, does he?” This is viewed as a trump card, as if there is no middle ground between being stinking rich and being in abject poverty. The Bible has many texts that answer that question.

People who say such things suffer from deliberate amnesia. They choose to forget the words of the wise man who prayed to God, saying, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

If you survey the Bible you will not find a single verse that warns you against the detrimental spiritual effect of material poverty. Yet you will find many passages in the Bible warning you against the detrimental effects of wealth—and especially love for wealth. You never hear prosperity preachers preaching on such verses. It is as if their Bibles do not have such verses.

Here are a few from the lips of our Saviour.

In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:19-24).

Then the Lord Jesus in Mark 10:17–25 dealt with a rich young ruler who wanted eternal life as long as he was not asked to sacrifice his great wealth. When Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor so that he would have treasure in heaven, the Bible tells us that the saying disheartened him. He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Jesus went on to make the unequivocal statement, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God...! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” I repeat; you never hear these words from the lips of prosperity gospel preachers. Rather, they give the impression that being materially wealthy is the sure sign that all is well between your soul and God.

One more example from the ministry of Christ should suffice. On one occasion, someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus refused. This should surprise not only prosperity gospel preachers but also advocates of the social gospel. Instead, Jesus warned the person asking for this favour from him. He said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:13–15). Material wealth is not blessedness.

In order to drive home this lesson even further, Jesus cemented it with a parable. He said,
 “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16–21). Jesus seems to have been saying that the accumulation of wealth can often be due to many lost opportunities to invest into the kingdom of God. So, it is poverty!

What about the apostles? What do they say about financial prosperity?

A good example is the apostle Paul. Writing to Timothy, his protégé, he talks about “people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, [who imagine] that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5). I cannot think of a better description of prosperity gospel preachers. They are people of depraved minds and deprived of truth, who view godliness as a means to only one thing—to become wealthy. They are not interested in the salvation of souls and so have lost the content of the true gospel long ago. All they want is money. But, I digress….

We are looking at Paul’s warnings. He stands where the wise man in Proverbs 30 stood, advocating a middle financial position as the best place to be. He says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (6:6–8). This is the answer I keep giving those who think that by opposing prosperity gospel preachers I am inadvertently advocating for poverty. Why go from one extreme to another?

It is very clear that the apostle Paul warns against an insatiable thirst for wealth. He says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things” (6:9–11). Prosperity preachers need to heed such warnings and preach them to their hearers. It has been a failure to heed such godly counsel that has made many of their followers to pursue wealth at great cost to their spiritual lives, their marriages, and their families.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews seals these counsels for us when he writes succinctly, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5). Nothing can be clearer than that. This is the general atmosphere in the Bible about wealth. It is the exact opposite of what prosperity gospel preachers are saying. The message of the Bible is that we harm our souls and the souls of others when we make them chase after wealth as an end in itself. We are putting them on an impossible task. As Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money!”

Judging from the silence on these passages of Scripture in the pulpits of prosperity preachers, I have no doubt that they wish such verses did not exist in the Bible because they fly in the face of their teachings. Prosperity preachers swallow entire camels and strain gnats. They go to those verses that talk about holistic prosperity (i.e. general success, to use a more modern equivalent) and torture them until they apparently start talking about material prosperity only.

Do not get me wrong. We should praise God for those in our midst whom God has favoured with good jobs and businesses, which have resulted in wealthy bank accounts. Some of them have had a fat inheritance. We need to pray for them that God will give them godly wisdom in utilising their wealth for the eternal benefit of their souls and the souls of others. However, let us not envy them because with riches come many sorrows. Let us rather pray that God will give us neither poverty nor riches. It is a less hazardous load to carry in this fallen world.