Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How Shall We Best Communicate In This Social Media Driven Age?

In reading through the second and third letters of John, I  was struck  by  his  closing statements:
  • 2 John v.12:  Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.
  • 3 John v. 13:  I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

The apostle John clearly preferred ‘face to face’ talk to letter writing. I, along with many others appreciate the apostle’s sentiment. Why?  I offer the following explanation.

·       Face to face communication involves the whole person. In face to face communication we engage verbally (by use of words) and non- verbally (by means of body language). Our body language (facial gestures, posture etc.) contributes much to the process of communication.  The problem with letters, emails and other electronic messaging and even the cell phone or the telephone is that we just do not have a living person immediately before us. We cannot look into their eyes and see the emotions reflected there.  

·       Face to face communication allows for immediate questioning and clarification. There is no time delay. No anxious waiting for a response. Potential misunderstandings are quickly dealt with. Misconceptions are mostly cleared up   immediately.

Communication can be a challenge at the best of times. I can only imagine that John the apostle must have had his hands full with people whose hearts and minds were filled with emotional overload, anxiety, bitterness, hurt, anger and such things. Writing a letter to them, or rebuking them by way of a letter would be subject to further complications.   Such people easily would allow their hearts and minds to read between the lines of a letter, and into the letter, coming perhaps to wrong conclusions about the writer’s intent, resenting the well- meaning intentions of the writer.

Although a written note is not unhelpful at times, a face to face conversation, together with the human touch is infinitely better. In the Christian ministry we find ourselves, more often than not, better off for having dealt with a conflict or crisis or a complicated matter by seeing people face to face.   

Thursday, May 31, 2018


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2 TIMOTHY 1:13,14

What Paul is saying here is that Timothy has been given something that is valuable and that needs to be protected. It’s a deposit – something that one person has  entrusted to another  person for  safekeeping. Paul says  that Timothy, is to protect it, keep watch over it, and with the Holy Spirit’s help ensure that it’s kept safe. It is  in danger of being lost if it’s not protected.

What exactly is he talking about?  He is talking about the GOSPEL—the  good news that has been entrusted to Timothy. The GOSPEL  must be protected. We are always in danger of losing in the gospel.

A brief glance  at church history teaches us that solid Christian organizations can easily lose the gospel if they are not attentive.  And losing the gospel doesn’t happen all at once; it’s more like a four-generation process.

· The gospel is accepted
· The gospel is assumed
· The gospel is confused
· The gospel is lost

It is tragic for any generation to lose the gospel. So this is one of the most important things we must do as a church: To guard the  GOSPEL. There is in one sense no greater  duty  that the church has than guarding the gospel. 

It is my opinion that  the Gospel  which first was brought to Namibia  by evangelical missionaries  such as Johan Heinrich Schmelen, Carl Hugo Hahn, Martin Rautannen and others was  gradually lost, as the gospel  was  assumed but not assimilated in subsequent generations.    
Today we  have a Namibian church that is often  confused  as to what the gospel is  and  many in  our younger generation  have lost the gospel altogether  and  proclaim themselves to be atheists. 

The Gospel  must  be  preached plainly, clearly  and  passionately. Christ  is the Gospel. Christ, His person and work,  must be  clearly articulated. A clear call must be made to ALL PEOPLE that their sin  will exclude them from heaven UNLESS they come through Christ the Saviour. He is is the ONLY  Door and Gate  through which ANYONE  can and must enter.  But you must first enter ! God the Father  will not accept anyone into His holy presence UNLESS they come  to Him through Christ.  


Friday, April 13, 2018


The  President of the Republic of Namibia, Dr. Hage  Geingob  called for a  meeting with Church leaders, through the Council of Churches in Namibia,  at  State House in Windhoek.  A few representatives of the Bahai community and the Islamic community were also present.  Approximately 70  people  were in attendance,  in addition to a number of cabinet ministers.  The representatives of the Christian church generally demonstrated a good  degree of unity in terms of matters  of common concern. Here  and there a few church leaders lacked clarity of  expression and speech.    

The President  opened the meeting with a reading  from Hebrews 10:24-25, after which the Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Zephania Kameeta, a retired Lutheran Bishop, opened the meeting with prayer.

The President   made a few introductory remarks which were hard to hear. It amazes me that the sound system at State House (or the management thereof) is so poor - after all good communication, and the ability to listen well  is the essence of such a meeting.

The President began by asking each person present to introduce themselves and their church affiliations. Thereafter he gave ample time to listen to the community. 

The subjects, as might be expected related mostly to the  moral issues  facing  the nation.  Gender violence, murder, abortion and baby dumping, land issues, youth issues, pornography and the internet, poverty and unemployment, the need for  the  Bible in schools  and religious/ moral education   were  spoken about by  the members of the floor.  The controversial subject  of  the proposed taxation of churches was  also mentioned.  

The Acting  General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Namibia,  Mr. Ludwig Beukes, raised  the matter of  the  Comprehensive Sexuality Education agenda in our schools. This  agenda  has been introduced  into the SADEC community  via UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). The church perceives this to be  a  subversive  agenda driven by foreign countries and organisations. This agenda has been introduced to our Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa,  and is  intended   to ‘educate’ children  about matters of sex from an early age. This  agenda is supposed to cure the   sexual aggression  of  the future generation.  The church however believes  that  the content  of this program is harmful rather than helpful.  


One would like to believe that the President and  his Cabinet ministers  have truly wanted to hear  and value the opinions of the church community. It is clear that the government is  under much pressure from Foreign Donor Agencies  whose monetary support  is   substantially  linked to  an agenda  which promotes  a re-writing of  not only  healthy cultural  norms and values  but substantially undermines   biblical norms and values.  

Politicians are easily tempted by the prospects of receiving donor money in the name of  national development and job creations. But the church asks, ‘At what cost?  Short term thinking and gratification and short term political gain must be avoided at all costs. We need to  guard the fences  of our Namibian house.  We need to build a robust and healthy nation  for the sake of our children . 
The church is the moral and spiritual guardian  of the nation.  As the church  sees it, the nation  can only be built on the  proven and tested foundations of the Word of God.  

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" [Proverbs  14:34]

Monday, February 5, 2018

Complicated Church Life?

Let’s face it.  

Life in the Father’s  house, the local  church on earth can be exhausting... sometimes. I am not even talking about  the complexities associated with  interacting  with  individual personalities  and  the challenges  that  come with imperfect  communication. 
I am talking about the exhaustion  that comes from  a church life  associated with too  many activities.

At Eastside Baptist Church we are currently doing a series of sermons entitled, “Life in the Father’s House”.  The purpose of  this series is to help  our growing  community to focus on the essentials  of church life.  To that end our Associate Pastor, Frans Brits, preached a message last Sunday on Acts  2:42, 
"And they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”   

The church born at Pentecost  spontaneously exhibited 4 marks (with apologies to 9 Marks Ministries). The  early church  was founded on four  pillars :

(i)                The people all met  to  hear  the apostle’s teaching , the inspired Word of God
(ii)              The people  met to have  fellowship – to connect  with one another
(iii)          The people met to celebrate ‘the breaking of bread’ or the Lord’s supper, by which the     life and death of Jesus  was remembered regularly  with thanksgiving.
(iv)            The people  all  met to pray.  

That’s it!  The simplicity  just resonates in the heart of a tired pastor, and  I think  also  a tired church member. Tired, not because  we are tired of church life and the gospel. NO! Tired because of  endless  activities, which  actually rob us of our joy in the name of  discipleship.  Life needs time for reflection and  business  easily puts a grinding halt to that. The unexamined life  can  become a pain! 

And so, as  I  was  sitting with this text preached by our dear pastor  in my heart and on my mind in the course of the week, I happened to lay  my hand on a book  by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, entitled “Saving Eutychus: How to preach God’s word  and keep people awake”
This  is actually a book about preaching, but in this book  one of the  authors,  Gary Millar makes  reference (pp.  23,24) to  a church  that impacted him deeply. 

Here is the record, and I leave you to figure out  why I am drawn to the idea of a  wholehearted, devoted  simplicity  in  the   life of the church based on the model of Acts 2:42.  

“From 1988-1991 (when I was a theological student), I was part of a remarkable church family. Gilcomston South Church of Scotland in Aberdeen wasn’t a huge church. Nor was it a particularly ‘happening’ church. We met twice on a Sunday, had a midweek central Bible study and a Saturday night prayer meeting—and that was it. There was an organ, and we sang five hymns or psalms (often to Germanic minor tunes). The pastor, William Still, preached steadily through the Bible (this was still relatively novel at the time, even though he had been doing it for 40 years). But what set that church family apart was its very simple commitment to ‘the ministry of the word nourished by prayer’ (as Mr. Still would repeatedly say). I have never been part of a church family that had a greater sense of expectancy when we gathered to hear the Bible explained. And I have never been part of a church family where prayer was so obviously the heartbeat of everything that went on. And I have never been part of a church family where God was so obviously present week by week as he spoke through his word. And, it seems to me, there might just be a connection.
Of course ‘Gilc’ was, and is, just like any church family—full of flawed, messed-up people like you and me. But those of us who had the privilege of ‘passing through’ went on from there with an indelible sense that preaching and praying go together. It was just part of the DNA of the church family. The precious group of 50 or 60 people who met week by week at the Saturday night prayer meeting spend most of the two hours praying for the proclamation of the gospel elsewhere—in other churches in our city, in Scotland, and on every continent around the world, one by one. Eventually, someone would pray, ‘And Lord, spare a though for us in our own place tomorrow . . .’ and the others, who had been praying faithfully on their own all through the week for the preaching at Gilc, would murmur a heartfelt ‘Amen.’

Friday, February 2, 2018


This past week  I visited  a beloved  older member  of our church. As we  chatted  about many things  and church life and  people, she asked me a question: 
"So what is this expository preaching that you are always talking about? Can you explain that to me  in a short, clear way?"  

I tried my best  to  help her  to understand  our  chosen method  and practise  of preaching once again. 

A little later in the week, and in preparation for  my Sunday evening sermon on Acts 20:1-16, I was reading Gary Millar and Phil Campbell's  helpful book,   Saving Eutychus

You know that  well loved  story of   Eutychus who, having fallen asleep,  fell out of the window  during Paul's long preaching session. This  helpful little book is about  "How to preach God's Word  AND keep  people  awake".  I wished that I had that handy summary   on pages 40 and 41   ready  for my seasoned saint  at that time. 

Well here it is,  a helpful little summary on the nature and purpose of expository  preaching, for  the benefit  of  me and her and you : 

Expository Preaching

1. does justice to the biblical material which makes it clear that God works through His Word to change people’s lives—as it ‘uncages the lion’ and allows God’s word to speak.

2. acknowledges that it is God alone, through the Holy Spirit, who works in people’s lives, and that it is not our job to change people through clever or inspiring communication.

3. minimizes the danger of manipulating people, because the text itself controls what we say and how we say it. The Bible leaves little room for us to return repeatedly to our current bugbears and hobbyhorses.

4. minimizes the danger of abusing power, because a sermon driven by the text creates an instant safeguard against using the Bible to bludgeon (or caress) people into doing or thinking what we want them to do or think.

5. removes the need to rely on our personality. While we all feel the weight, at times, of having little ‘inspiration’, energy or creativity, if our focus is on allowing the immense richness of Scripture to speak in all its colour and variety, the pressure is well and truly off.

6. encourages humility in those teaching. While it can be a temptation to think that we are somehow special because we are standing at the front doing most of the talking (and, on a good day, receiving the encouragement), getting it straight that the key to preaching to the heart is simply uncovering the power and freshness of God’s words helps to keep us in our place.

7. helps us to avoid simple pragmatism. If our focus is on working consistently to enable people to encounter the God who speaks through the text, we will not feel under pressure to address every single issue and topic as it comes up in the life of the church. Conversely, working through the Bible week by week will force us to cover subjects that we wouldn’t choose to address in a million years. In other words, expository preaching is the simplest, longest-lasting antidote we have to pragmatism.

8. drives us to preaching the gospel.  Expository preaching is also uniquely valuable in that it persistently drives us to the Lord Jesus Christ (wherever we are in the Bible) and so ‘forces’ us to preach the gospel—that is, to spell out what God has already done for us in the death and resurrection of his Son, and then to move from that grace to what God asks and enables us to do. When we preach the gospel we are not simply telling people how to be good or leaving them to wallow in the overwhelming sense that they are irredeemably bad.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Building and Maintaining a Biblical Eldership in Your Church

Reformation,  or the principle of  applying  the SOLA SCRIPTURA principle  to  our church life,  has led our church  among many other  matters to  embrace the principle of  having  a plurality of elders  in the church  in 2003. Since  that time we have been working  consistently on   a biblical  and practical 'philosophy'  of eldership. 

We are  a congregationally governed Reformed Baptist  Church (adhering to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith), and therefore the principle of eldership  is worked out in this context. 

A biblical eldership is crucial to the health  and growth  of a  true church. Biblical shepherds  are a blessing to the church. False shepherds by contrast  become a  burden  to the church.   I thought that I would share  our Eldership Goals with you, and encourage you  and your church  not to grow  weary in the holy duty of shepherding God's people in  a manner that pleases God.    


1. To develop a Team Pastoral Ministry in the church

· Because we see this as the biblical model

· Because we need to hold each other accountable

· Because we need corporate wisdom to shepherd God’s flock

Acts 13:1; 14:23; 15:35 20:17,28 ; 1 Cor. 16;15,16 ; 1 Thess. 5:12,13; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 5:17; Tit. 1:5; Hebr. 13:7,17,24; 1 Pet. 5:1

2. To be men who are faithful shepherds of the flock 
Acts 20:2 ; 1 Pet. 5:2,3

3. To help the church understand its mission through consistent teaching & living by
· Loving God [Worship] Mk.12:29,30 ; Deut. 6:4,5

· Loving one another [Fellowship] Mk. 12:30; Lev. 19:18

· Loving a lost world [Missions & Evangelism] Mk. 12:31 ; Matt. 28;20ff

4. To faithfully pray for the church in accordance with the biblical mandate

· We covenant to support our weekly prayer meeting as often as is possible. 
 1 Thess. 5:17 ; Eph. 6:18 

· We covenant to meet together on one other evening a week (Monday night) for prayer, consultation, visitation, or as otherwise agreed. Col 4:12; Acts 20:20

5. To uphold the doctrinal purity and godliness of the church through:

· Helping our people to examine themselves in the light of God’s Word.  2 Cor. 13:5

· Helping our people to have a relationship with the Triune God, by 
  •     Loving God and walking with God.  Gen. 4:21;6:9
  •     Obeying Christ  Jn. 14:23 
  •      Keeping in step with the Spirit. Gal. 5: 25
· Ourselves maintaining our fellowship with God as we would expect of our people. Acts 20:28 ; 1 Pet. 5:2,3

· Defending the church against doctrinal heresy and wolves. Acts 20:29-31

· Maintaining a high standard of preparation in all our leading and teaching 1 Tim. 4:15,16

6. To maintain an ethos of pastoral care in the congregation through

· Genuine warmth, compassion and care, displayed to our congregation. 1 Pet. 5: 2,3

· Visitation of our people in their homes and to have them in our homes (hospitality) as often as is desirable, realistic and possible. Acts 20:20 ; 1 Pet. 4:9 ; Rom. 12:13

· By fostering a culture of encouragement, and by encouraging our membership to do the same. 
    1 Thess. 5:11; 2 Tim. 4:2

· By decisively dealing with sin among us. Matt. 18:15 – 20; Gal. 6:1ff

· Always endeavoring to speak the truth in love. Eph. 4:15

7. The relationships within the eldership need to be guarded at all times:

· By maintaining the attitude of Christ . Phil. 2:1- 5

· By protecting each other’s integrity. In this process we will not allow any accusation against a       fellow elder until proven guilty. Sin among the elders demands public rebuke. 1 Tim. 5:19,20

· By genuine displays of friendship towards each other. 1 Pet. 1:22; 4:8

· By maintaining godly relationships with our wives and our children and through setting godly examples in our own homes. 1 Tim. 3:4 ; Tit. 1:6

· By agreeing that we would all be of the same mind before placing matters and decisions before the church Phil. 2:5; 1 Cor. 1:10

First adopted in 2003 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Erroll Hulse (1931-2017) A Beautifully Proportioned Life- Tom Nettles

Tom Nettles

Tom Nettles | August 7, 2017

This week I was brought to a new sense of the greatness even of the disembodied state of those who die in the Lord. Paul said to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Though he did not want to be unclothed but longed for an immediate transfer to a state of glory in the body like Jesus’ glorious body, out of this tent into the heavenly dwelling, nevertheless, he longed to depart and be with Christ, for that was very much better (2 Corinthians 4:14; 5:1-8; Philippians 1:23; 3:20, 21). Often we find the glory of Christ enshrouded in a vagueness that accentuates the desirability of whatever pleasures, stunted as they are, may be found in the present life. Whatever is truly pleasant in these attractions are given by God as faint reflections of happiness that exists in fulness in his presence. But, perhaps unconsciously we reflect, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

Erroll Hulse (1931- 2017)  

One aspect of the glory of leaving to be with the Lord is that we experience the fellowship of “the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” Clearly the entrance into the presence of “Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” presents an infinitely glorious prospect, unparalleled by any other blessing. The reality is, however, that an element of sensing the power of Christ’s redemptive glory includes an experience of the “assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven,” these fully rational, intelligent, emotionally expressive, fully self-conscious, exuberantly joyful spirits of the redeemed and justified elect of God. Through the centuries, from the time of the murder of Abel, among these spirits are the martyrs who ask how long the Lamb will wait until he brings judgment and avenges their blood. The exhilaration of entering into company with such sanctified and zealous spirits must surely make all other circles of fellowship and conversation pale, partial, uninformed, and at best only mildly anticipatory of that knowledge and purity of experience that characterizes this company. We all should say, I have a “desire to depart and be with Christ.”

So it came to be with Erroll Hulse (1931 -2017), a major force in the rejuvenation of life among Reformed Baptists in England. He entered into the presence of the Lord and joined the spirits of just men made perfect on August 3, 2017. Although his knowledge is extended in volume and the purity of his perceptions is unblurred with earthly sludge, the subject matter of his tongue has changed little if any. Among those spirits are many he had come to know, love, and emulate during his earthly days—the dead through books and the living through encouraging fellowship. He will find the company of William Carey an absolute thrill, for he patterned his hopes for the revival of Reformed Christianity around his doctrinally grounded fervor for practical ministry and marked optimism for the eventual world-wide success of the gospel. Those spirits will include also Andrew Fuller, John Sutcliff, John Ryland Jr., and the seraphic Samuel Pearce. Joining will be William Kiffin, Hanserd Knollys, Benjamin Keach, and John Bunyan. Will the wit and eloquence of Spurgeon engage with even greater clarity and will his view of the glory of Christ be even greater? Oh, what a condition, what a prospect for the spirit already trained to seek Christ for all good and find in him every blessing. Perhaps already Lyn, Erroll’s wife, and Stanley Hogwood, his faithful elder, William Payne, the Liverpudlian Canadian Baptist pastor of immense talent, good humor, and steady labor, and Ernest Reisinger, whom Erroll called Rex Reisinger because of his preeminence in the Reformed movement, have anticipated Erroll in this fellowship and even now are involving this newcomer into the well-established chain of conversation, worship, and mutual expansion of gratitude for the grace of God shed abroad in the lives of each other. I suppose it is not inappropriate to say, guided by revelatory glimpses, “I can only imagine.”

He was a keen promoter of hospitality. He taught his church that hospitality was a biblical doctrine and a Christian grace. They learned the lesson well and have had abundant opportunity through the years to display this encouraging Christian stewardship. Not only was he hospitable, he was a marvelous and encouraging guest. Along with Lyn, the Hulse couple could make a host and hostess feel like they were richly gifted in the art of hospitality. Every night’s sleep was the best one he had ever had, every meal was “an existential experience.” Evaporated milk in his coffee (one of the few special requests he would make of a hostess) delighted him no end and made every cup the quintessence of brewing expertise. And how ingenious Americans were to have grasped the custom of putting ice in a glass before one poured Coca-Cola into it—Amazing! They were impossible to displease.

Erroll was indefatigable in his labors for the gospel, passionate in his love of truth, persistent in his love of friends, and unceasing in his penchant for encouraging others in their labors and in the faith. I asked him one time after he had bolstered my spirits in a peculiarly fitting way, “Who encourages you?” He said, “The Puritans. They never change, they speak virtually with one voice. They are always ready with godly counsel.” Of course, I should have known he would answer that way and that he was only speaking what he had practiced for years. Early in his ministry in England, Erroll had served along with Iain Murray with the Banner of Truth Trust and aided Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones in reviving interest in the Puritans. His own substantial list of writings includes Who Are the Puritans?

Evangelism was at the core of his commitment to Christ and the gospel. When my family and I lived in England for a year in 1984-85, we stayed virtually the entire time in Erroll’s home in Haywards Heath. He had moved to Liverpool and we lived there until it sold in the summer of 1985. During the first week of that eventful year, Erroll introduced me to Market preaching. An open market on Sunday sponsored by Jewish and Seventh Day Adventist merchants allowed the Cuckfield chapel to set up a preaching point just at the entrance of the market. As people would stroll in they would hear a presentation of the gospel from a preacher lifted by a small podium. The message was short but pungent; the passing comments were frequent, colorful, often humorous, but always indicative that those who walked near heard.

In his first number of Reformation Today (Spring 1970), Erroll closed an article on “Baptist Heirs of the Reformation” with a section entitled “Theology and Evangelism” which ended with the sentence, “In other words we need a dynamic theology which results in dynamic evangelism.” He included also an interview with Bill Summers entitled “House to House Visiting.” He closed the interview with the heart conviction of Summers, “Yes, I would exhort my brethren in the ministry to set an example to their flocks by showing a true zeal to reach lost souls. . . . It is our business as Christians to spread the good news. After all, if we are too busy to tell our fellow men about eternal life what have we come to?”

In that first issue, Erroll included a full content outline of a sermon he had preached at Cuckfield on March 1, 1970 entitled “Joshua’s Call for Decisions.” He emphasized recurrent themes of his ministry: the clearly established doctrinal background of the necessity of salvation, the urgency of the need for salvation in “light of eternal hell or heaven,” the consequent urgency of the appeal to know and serve the Lord, the reality of human shallowness both in response and in reporting supposedly massive responses, the necessity of pressing the matter in a wise, fitting, and constant way. Erroll knew well the long historic struggle, the doctrinal entanglement of a full-orbed biblical grasp of this gut-wrenching issue. “While there is simplicity about the gospel,” he preached, “it is also called a mystery. Some truths defy our understanding. That a man should be born with a sinful nature and a will in bondage to sin and yet be held responsible is a deep mystery.” So he pointed to the text that showed that Joshua knew the “fickle, unreliable nature of the human heart” and knew that the “heart governs the will.” We are hesitant to take Joshua’s realistic approach to evangelism and say “Ye cannot serve the Lord,” but have instead “rejoiced in thousands of decisions and have been disappointed in thousands turning back.” Nevertheless, with full recognition of the impossibility of this transaction on the basis of human power, we say, “What about you? Like those Israelites of old you have only two alternatives before you: idols or the Lord! Look to the Lord Jesus Christ for He is able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by Him. Relying upon Him and trusting Him wholly, resolve this day that in dependence upon the Holy Spirit you will serve God with all your heart.” A book published by Carey Press in 1975 included a chapter by Erroll on “The Local Church and Evangelism.” Of course, again Erroll summarized his commitment to a theology of evangelism in a book entitled The Great Invitation, an appropriate sequel to his earlier brave book Billy Graham-The Pastor’s Dilemma.

By October of 1969, at the beginning of my second year in the M Div program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I had become convinced that the doctrines of grace were true. At that time, it was a deeply personal persuasion, almost solipsistic in my perception of how this new framework of thought related to both my contemporaries and to historical Baptist theology. As I grew in both understanding and persuasion of the practical and historic integrity of these truths for Baptist life, I wondered if any other Baptists believed these things. In God’s providence, I came across a magazine, Reformation Today, that was fully immersed (indeed it was truly Baptist) in the doctrines of grace, historically confessional, and committed to ministry with local Baptist churches as the focal point for carrying out the commissions of the gospel. I was overwhelmed and overjoyed. I wrote the editor, Erroll Hulse, and he wrote back. Eventually he sent me a bound volume of the 1970-72 fascicles of Reformation Today. It included articles on such a comprehensive scale—exegetical, historical, doctrinal, confessional, contemporary concerns, practical ministry, and a series on “Reformation In . . .”—that it became a major influence in my seeing the Reformed Faith, especially from a Baptist perspective, as fundamental to a broadly-conceived, biblically consistent world view. Around that time, Erroll also wrote a book entitled An Introduction to the Baptists.

Even now, as I go back through that initial volume of Reformation Today, I find myself fascinated with the expansive perspective that Erroll, as editor, was able to project. Items of concern went all the way from a serious engagement with concerns over sex-education in the state school system to a discussion of the life and ministry of William Kiffin. They were handled clearly, accurately and with an eye to edification. It even included an article by a young Geoff Thomas about “The Scriptures and the Southern Baptists.” It gave a narrative in very accurate scenes of the history of SBC Controversy over Scripture and the only-too-relevant punch-counter punch between Criswell’s Why I Preach the Bible Is Literally True and the multi-authored Is the Bible a Human Book? Erroll’s generosity in giving this volume and the insight given on such a large number of issues made a definite and positive impact on my convictions about Christian ministry.

Errol was prescient in his treatment of Calvin as a theologian and a magisterial Reformer in his relation to the Anabaptists. This causes a contest of absolutist proportions in Southern Baptist discussions on this issue. Long before those unnecessary conflicts arose, Erroll was giving a properly focused analysis of the phenomenon. In one introductory remark, Erroll noted, “Much can be learned from the past and from the life of Calvin. Jim van Zyl draws out lessons as to the role of a Pastor. A wide gulf existed between Calvin and the Anabaptists. Nevertheless we ought not to miss some of the lessons which can come from the attempts of the Anabaptists to create gathered churches.” In an article on “The Reformation and Baptists” Erroll stated with candor, “Those who study the Radical Reformation for the first time should be warned against disillusionment in regard to some of the Reformers. Their part in the persecution of the Anabaptists is not a pleasant subject.” In his discussion of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin in their relation to the Anabaptists, Erroll pointed to their differences on the sacral society of Christendom, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, and its cohering ligaments of infant baptism as the cause of the great persecution of Anabaptists. After giving a summary, unvarnished in its impact, of some of the grotesque treatment of the Anabaptists, Erroll wrote, “Let us remember that the state-church system rather than the Reformers was responsible for these gruesome events.” Then in seeking to maintain a robust grasp of Reformation doctrinal advances and Anabaptist ecclesiological principles, he wrote:

Let us guard against lowering our estimate of the Reformers or of the Reformation because of sacralism which harmed the Baptists then, and which has tended to make them suspicious of Reformed teaching as a whole ever since, thus depriving them of great theological riches. Basic human factors, as we have seen, influenced Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. They acted within the context of their times. As we are called to act within ours, we do well to seek a grasp of truth as profound as theirs, combining that with the main facet for which the Baptists contended, namely, that the Church of Christ upon earth is to consist only of those who meet the requirement of the New Covenant—a new heart and a new spirit.

Erroll’s missionary vison prompted him to give a portion of his time each year to reformation among the pastors and churches in Africa. He expended bundles of energy and experienced a great variety of living conditions in pursuing this vision. This led eventually to the founding of the African Pastors’ Conference. It is now put on solid ground with the promise of a great impact. It was in the service of this cause that Erroll suffered the stroke that, in the long term, was fatal. This time of incapacity was filled with patience, kindness, humor, witness, and even plans for future ministry. I must admit I was startled when Andrew Symonds, a dear Cuckfield friend and deacon, and I asked what he intended to do with his vast library. “Why, I shall put it in crates and send it to Africa; a minister can never be without his books and I will need them when I arrive.” He had been completely perspicuous and unfailingly coherent to that point in the conversation. Had he become detached from reality for just a moment? Or was this the response of a mind so given to ministry that he would never fail to strategize for at least one more thing for Christ and the gospel, even in the face of such invincible odds?
One of Erroll’s daughters, Michelle, as a young girl in answering a question concerning what her father did, responded, “He is a ballet dancer.” Perhaps she was right. He mastered the art of graceful, meaningful, disciplined movement between biblical text and hungry congregation. He mustered a force of eager disciples for the truth of the gospel through lovely enticement with the coherence between the music of the heart, the power of a message, the warmth of genuine experience, and the deftness of minds under the control of truth. He never lost concentration on the choreography of his life mixing with his faith, virtue, and with both knowledge, and with the three self-control, and to that quartet, steadfastness, and pressed throughout godliness, which brings along with it brotherly kindness, all bolstered by and arising from the most beautiful, full and unifying of all graces, love. Yes, a real, disciplined, Spirit-controlled, elegantly attired in humility, artistically developed Christian ballet dancer. Now he is among the spirits of just men made perfect, awaiting the time of being clothed with an immortal, incorruptible body, fit for perfect praise in the realm of the infinite spiritual glory of the triune God.

Friday, May 19, 2017


In my last two blog articles, I asked the question, “Where have all the Pastors gone?” I have asked this question from a Namibian context and perspective.  Moral failure, personal discouragement, financial problems and the like contribute to a number of pastors leaving the pastoral ministry in Namibia.

There is another matter to which I wish to direct our attention now, and this concerns the lack of understanding in our community concerning the nature of the work and calling of a biblical pastor.  
So, what is a Pastor, and what sort of work does a Pastor do? These two questions deal with the Pastor’s essential being and doing.

In our community the expectations of the person and work of the pastor have more in common with the job description of a CEO or  an Events Co-ordinator.  The church, correspondingly is then also thought of mainly as a business or a cultural club or worse still, a place of entertainment, where the activities are carefully rehearsed and choreographed for maximum impact and the “Wow factor” that would draw an audience.  

Namibian churches   have, for some time now been under the influence of such leadership models, imported mainly from the USA.  Regular leadership seminars  focussing essentially on church growth methods are run by local organisations that represent Bill Hybels from the Willow Creek Association, T.D. Jakes, the late Myles Munroe and John Maxwell. Yet the fact remains that the church in Namibia  is simply not  truly  getting under the skin of our people.  At present, too many pastors have no true sense of “calling” into ministry. It has become a mere job.  The emphasis consequently   has shifted to managerial technique, pragmatic strategies, technological expertise, and many other pragmatic methodologies for building churches.  The necessity of pastoring and loving people deeply and passionately even at great personal cost has been lost and resultantly many contemporary church members feel used rather than cared for.

Some time ago  I was  asked to help in a leadership crisis  of   another church in our city, and in asking some critical questions,  I learned  that the church  council saw  the church as  a “club”, and acted accordingly  in seeking to  resolve her  leadership struggles. A biblical leader has a considerably different framework of reference to a leader of a club!

A number of years ago a pastor in our city committed suicide. As the shockwaves swept through the community, it was time to take stock of what had happened. The chief focus of the church that he served was the organising of an annual fund raising event of note, which then would sustain the church financially for the year. Much time and energy was required of the pastor to manage this event.  In thinking about this I was wondering how much time this dear man would have had to feed his own soul and also the souls of the congregation. How frustrating to know that you are called to be a pastor, only to have your job description changed into something that you were never called to be and do.  

So what  is a Pastor called to be and to do?

The word ‘pastor’ means shepherd.  A shepherd looks after sheep, and so a Pastor-shepherd looks after people. One of my favourite little books on this subject is entitled, “The Work of the Pastor”, written by William Still who pastored a church in Gilcomston, Scotland for 52 years.  He provides us with a succinct description of what a pastor is and what he does. In the opening chapter he writes,

"Before we look at the work of the pastor we must look at the pastor himself. The pastor by definition is a shepherd, the under-shepherd of the flock of God. His primary task is to feed the flock by leading them to green pastures. He also has to care for them when they are sick or hurt, and seek them when they go astray. The importance of the pastor depends on the value of the sheep. Pursue the pastoral metaphor a little further: Israel’s sheep were reared, fed, tended, retrieved, healed and restored – for sacrifice on the altar of God. This end of all pastoral work must never be forgotten – that its ultimate aim is to lead God’s people to offer themselves up to Him in total devotion of worship and service. Many who are called pastors, having lost the end in view, or never having seen it, become pedlars of various sorts of wares, gulling the people and leading them into their own power. And when they fail to gather a clientele for their own brand of merchandise they uptail and away, for they are not really interested in the flock of God; they were using them only as a means of their own aggrandisement, to boost their ego and indulge their desire for power.[1]

The fundamental responsibility of the pastor is to make sure that the church is well fed on the Word of God. The goal of this feeding is that the members should respond to the Word of God by offering themselves up in heartfelt worship to God.

It is the Word of God, preached with the help of the Holy Spirit that produces real change in the souls of men and women. This presupposes that a pastor needs to be in touch with the God of the Word.  A Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) said, “It is not great talents that God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus.”  A vibrant pastor knows the Living God and he knows the Word of God.   He who knows how to feed on the Word of God by prayer can effectively feed others.   There are obviously a number of ways to nurture the souls of church members.  Apart from preaching in the context of an assembled worship gathering, the pastor also leads small groups, as well as  meeting privately with individuals to counsel and instruct them in God’s Word and to pray for them in accordance with the Word of God. He also trains and disciples others to do the same. 

The goal of all pastoral leadership is found in Ephesians 4:12-16:

“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Notice the key phrases  that  describe the work of the pastor:
·         To equip  the saints  for the work of ministry
·         For the building up  of the  body of Christ
·         (for the purpose of) attaining to the unity  of faith and of the knowledge  of  Christ
·         (for the purpose of) maturity
·         (for the purpose of) no longer being spiritual  children… to grow up spiritually.
·         (for the purpose of) no longer being gullible  to all forms of false  doctrine.
·       (for the purpose of) teaching  their congregation to speak the truth in love … building the church up in love.

This is the goal  and end for which the pastor exists and works.  Anything that will detract him from this calling will   make him useless and it will not help the church at all.  

The failure to do the work of a pastor produces several symptoms.

As Jesus walked through the cities and villages of Galilee we read,“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without  a shepherd." (Matt. 9:36). These words could well be used to describe the members in many of our churches today. The sheep are frustrated and discouraged because they are not receiving the feeding and the care that they need. Many of them are starving spiritually, and some have begun to stray. Failure to do the work of pastoring therefore, impacts church health.

This leads to another problem. Many church members do church hopping! Discouraged sheep wander from church to church, and, in our Namibian context we have found that many church members migrate from church to church, in search of the perfect church. There is, of course no perfect church and no perfect pastor, BUT dare I say, that the best church they may find is that imperfect  church and pastor  where the Bible is faithfully  and consistently proclaimed, and where God and  people  are truly  loved in a visible way. Such churches see little migration,for there the sheep know that they are fed and tended for the glory of God, and therefore they are satisfied.

[1] William Still: The Work of the Pastor : Rutherford House,  1996 , p. 1

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Where have all the Pastors gone (#2)? The Importance of Choosing well, Praying well and Providing well

In my last post I lamented the loss of pastoral integrity, as I observe it from the viewpoint of the Namibian Church. In this brief blog I   want to  focus on the other  side of the coin, namely  the  contribution of church members  to the  attrition or loss  of men  from the pastoral ministry.

Pastors in Namibia, as elsewhere are greatly tempted by various spiritual, emotional and physical temptation. That is not unusual in a sense, for the devil, the world and the flesh conspire against the shepherd leader. Pastors struggle with the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[1]  as much as do the members of their respective churches. They, like everyone else must learn to overcome various temptations by the grace and with the help of God. But, pastors have a greater burden to bear in this regard, for their moral and spiritual failures have greater and more far reaching consequences upon the flock.[2]   Churches frequently fail to understand this and they do not help to protect their churches and their pastors from such moral and spiritual challenges.

There is a guilt that is borne by the church, contributing to the drop- out rate of pastors. There are at least three sins that churches regularly commit in relation to their pastor:
(i)                  An insufficient investigation into  the suitability of the man for their ministry
(ii)                A lack of prayer  for the man
(iii)               A lack of adequate provision  for  the man

1. An Insufficient Investigation into the Suitability of the Man for their Ministry
I have seen it with my own eyes in my 30 years of pastoral ministry. The drop- out rate of students, having graduated from theological seminary, and having entered the pastoral ministry, is high. Many drop out of the pastoral ministry after only a few years.  Some may have misunderstood and underestimated the terms of the divine call to the ministry. They may have underestimated the rigours and the self-denial that comes with such a calling. That is a real possibility. There are also those who have seen the ministry as a means of finding employment or for financial gain[3], in the words of John 10:12-13, mere hirelings that care nothing for the sheep who abandon the flock when the pressure is on. It is the work of the church to discern this by prayer. In our congregation prospective elders are tested over a period of two years before they are recommended for ordination. Calling a full-time pastor-elder from elsewhere should   receive even more urgency in prayer.
Many churches simply do not apply or take seriously the biblical criteria associated with the calling of a pastor. The Bible sets clear standards for the calling of such a man in 1Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. The scope of this essay limits a discussion or exposition on the relevant texts, and I would encourage my readers to study these texts at face value and apply them to the calling of a full-time pastor. Many churches are guilty of calling men into their midst that are not qualified to meet these minimum standards, and this on account of failing to prayerfully search the Scriptures  in  these matters. These churches must not be surprised if such pastors leave them after a short time. 

2. A Lack of Prayer for the Man

“The Holy Spirit said, ’Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” [Acts 13 2,3 ESV]

“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for the saints, and also for me, that words may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” [Eph. 6:18,19 ESV]

Having  already mentioned the importance of prayer we now turn our attention to the lack of prayer on behalf of the church for the choice and maintenance  of their pastor- shepherds.  To begin with many church members  entrust themselves into the hands of a pastoral search committee whose task it is to find a pastor, and when he is found, the church would accept him uncritically and without prayer being made on behalf of the entire congregation. In a sense then, a church will always get such a pastor as they have asked (or not asked) for, from God. It is unthinkable that a church at large should not be involved in   faithful prayer and petition to God to  give them a  pastor after God’s own heart, a man who is himself called by the Great Shepherd of the sheep, a man who shall love them  for his Master’s sake  and  feed them on the Word of God.[4]  Let the prayerless church not be surprised if she gets a person who is not truly committed to their spiritual welfare, and who would soon leave them because of some spiritual weakness, or ineptitude or moral failure!
Another aspect pertains to the continued prayer for the pastor or pastoral team. Battle fatigue in pastoral ministry is a real thing. Pastors are in the forefront of leading the church against the battle against Satan and sin and unbelief. They need our sustained prayer and encouragement. This is the congregation’s duty under God, and nothing like a sustained congregational prayer habit will keep a man, humanly speaking, in the pastoral ministry. Read Paul’s letters and observe how much he depended on the prayer of others.[5] Prayer is God’s means   for our spiritual survival in this fallen world.  Do not neglect to pray for your pastor, lest he becomes discouraged and you ask, why did our Pastor leave us?

3. A Lack of Adequate Provision for the Man

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” and, “The labourer deserves his wages.’”  [1 Timothy 5:17, 18 ESV]

“Obey you leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over yours souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” [Hebr. 13:17 ESV]

A third reason for pastors leaving their congregations pertains to the matter of a fair remuneration.  I know of very few pastors in my circles that get a fair wage for their labour.   This fact, I believe, contributes greatly to the discouragement, despair and discontinuance of many a man’s ministry. A number of men have to look for additional sources of income in order to meet the monthly bills. Biblical teaching is urgently required at this level, and I know of at least one church that consulted with our congregation on this matter. They have responded well to our biblical counsel and exhortations on this subject.  They took immediate steps  to  alleviate  the  very real financial needs of their pastor  and are continuing  to work on the backlog  that they have created over many years  of neglect in this area.

It is a dishonour to God when members have homes and comforts and the pastor whom they have called in the Name of God has none of these. Although any pastor worth his salt will tell you that his trust and hope are in the Lord for his daily needs, the God ordained channel of provision is the local church which he serves, and if that church does nothing to care for the material needs of its pastor, then the church sins against God, the pastor and his family.  So, do not let your pastor leave on account of the poor material reward that you offer him. Do something about it. 

I have submitted these three reasons as a challenge to our churches to examine themselves and to see whether these things be true.  Pastoral leadership in the church is a God given thing. It is vital and when churches are leaderless they generally do not do well.  Churches must choose well, pray well and provide well in this matter. This, on a biblical-practical  level  will lead to their pastors staying and persevering considerably longer. 

[1] 1 Jn. 2:16  (ESV)
[2] See the warning in James 3:1
[3] 1  Tim. 3:3b; Tit. 1:7b ;  1 Pet. 5:2
[4] John 21: 17; Ezekiel 34:23
[5] Rom. 15:30-31 ;2Cor. 1:11 ; Eph. 6:18-20; Col 4:2-4; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess.3:1,2; Philem.v.22

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