Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

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

WHAT IS A PASTOR ?


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  to moderate 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

Monday, April 10, 2017

WHERE HAVE ALL THE PASTORS GONE?

The late Pastor  Martin Holdt, an example of a faithful  pastor
“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” [Matt. 9:36]
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” [1 Peter 5: 1-3 ESV]
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them…” [Jeremiah 23:1-2]
The good office of the pastor, and the credibility of pastors have fallen on hard times in the church of Jesus in Namibia. The once respected office of the pastor has reached a low point.
What gives me the right to say this?  
I bumped into an acquaintance at a local supermarket the other day, and in a brief conversation he half–jokingly blurted out the thought that  pastors cannot be trusted. I confess that I was somewhat surprised by his rather blunt assertion, until I came to understand later that the leading pastor of his congregation, a married man, has had an ongoing adulterous relationship with another woman.  Apparently, he only confessed his misdemeanour to the leadership of the church after he had been caught out.  A week later I have heard of yet another pastor in our city who has been involved in an adulterous relationship. Pastors of virtually every denomination in our city have fallen into adulterous relationships over a span of years.  
Imagine what that does to the thought life and the emotions of the ordinary member of the congregation. Imagine what this all does to the image of the pastoral ministry in our city. Pastors are after all expected to be role models. The criteria for  becoming a pastor  are clearly stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-8 and in Titus 1:6-9. These criteria are all rooted in noble and virtuous character.  The one person in the church who ought to display  true Christian character  and  discipline is the pastor.
And so horrible stories of pastoral misdemeanour have emerged, leaving people confused, hurting and wounded.Some of those that have come to our church are being helped with great difficulty and with exceeding patience. After all, how do you trust or speak to any pastor when you have been hurt by another pastor?
The truth is that pastors are no longer the most trusted people in our community. When the heart is hurting and when perspective is lacking, people do not run to the church. They run to the psychologist and the psychiatrist. They run to medication, and all this does not solve the ultimate issues of the soul. According to one respected doctor in our city, the people of Windhoek are over medicated!   
On yet another  level, a senior and a godly woman from  another church visited our congregation on a given Sunday, and  over a cup of tea  after the service  she told us  that  the pastors of her  fairly sizeable  congregation  did not practise biblical shepherding  of their flock.  There was no visible pastoral care being given. There was no pastoral visitation and no pastoral counselling happening  in her congregation.  She said that her pastors loved the stage and the limelight, but when it came to the hard work of caring for the flock, they were nowhere to be seen.   
Recently, I conducted a funeral of a man who had begun to visit our congregation, whilst his family remained behind in their congregation. Before the onset of his last, serious illness, we had met for coffee and a chat from time to time. When   his illness became terminal nobody came to visit him from his previous congregation. There was no visit from the pastor of the family, no word of comfort and no perspective at this crucial time.
He had left his church for reasons that he could not adequately explain. All he said was that he felt very happy and comfortable in our congregation. He also said that he loved hearing the Word of God preached. He said that it comforted his soul. We believe that the pastoral preaching of the Bible is essential to the restoration of the soul. It is essential for the healing of the mumps and the measles of the soul, to quote from a sermon by Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones on Romans 6:13.  It is an important part of pastoral ministry. It is  that which Jesus means when He says, “Feed my sheep!”  The lack of biblical, expository, pastoral preaching in Namibian  pulpits is yet another aspect that has been lost, by and large  in the church.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I am the perfect pastor, and that our church is the perfect church. We know that we are not.  Much to my regret I, and we,  have not been able to minister effectively to every needy person that had come our  way. People have slipped through the net. But what I am saying is that we need to do the right thing, and that  is to  work  harder to bring pastoral care back from the brink of extinction. I am writing this reflection  as a reminder to myself! The Great, Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus demands this from us. It’s His plan for us. The quote above from 1 Peter 5:1-3 says it all.
In a series of further blogs I want to discuss the following related themes:  

What is a Pastor?  What is the work of a Pastor? How do we build  a pastoral team that really cares? 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Arguments for Legalizing Abortions in Namibia - Sowing to the Wind and Reaping the Whirlwind.

On Tuesday the 27th March 2017 just about every major newspaper in Namibia carried the statement of the minister of Health and Social Services, Mr Bernard Haufiku. The largest daily newspaper  “The Namibian“ reported  as follows in its opening paragraph:

“HEALTH minister Bernard Haufiku has called for the revision of the law criminalising abortion in the country after an unprecedented 7 335 illegal cases were recorded at state facilities last year alone. The rest of the article is contained in the footnote.[1]  

As I was reading the ministers’ statement,  it dawned on me yet again what we are up against and what we are lacking in Namibia.  In the first place, we need to understand that our government is completely bewildered by the facts as they present themselves in the statistics. 
We also need to understand that anyone can say anything with statistics. Every discerning citizen knows that. Behind every statistic is in fact a different person and a different circumstance. 
What we need more than anything is the wisdom to deal with the information as it presents itself, information not only at face value, but at a deeper level.  The minister with his  ‘face value’ information can only come to one conclusion on the basis of the superficial evidence. He says ‘decriminalize abortion’.

So too, we must make reference to  Dudley’s cartoon in “The Namibian” newspaper of the  31st March 2017. The message  says,  ‘Legalize Abortion’. The ‘body language’ of the cartoon says it all. An angry feminist fist upon an inverted cross, accompanied by quotes from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps the most liberal justice in the United States Supreme court! 
The adjacent editorial[2] on the same day and page says, “We can only imagine the minister is treading carefully for fear of a backlash from zealots, who view the issue as nothing but a callous crime committed by pregnant women.” 

We can only imagine who is meant by the zealots, who view the issue as nothing but a callous crime committed by pregnant women.  

Incidentally, the editor who is nameless, knowingly or unknowingly uses a  subversive weapon,   Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals, encouraging the use of ridicule against one’s opponents. Rule five says, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.”[3]

If the editors mean zealots to be representatives from the church community, then we wish them to know that their pointing hand has three fingers pointing back at them! Many newspaper editors, in their zeal for their own causes, see themselves above and beyond contradiction. 
Bad news!

We want  them  to know that many of us, whom  they  call ‘zealots’ have a real  concern for the people and unborn  children  that  get  hurt  in the abortion debacle, and many in our circles  are working  as well as we know how,  to address the real issues  that  lead to abortion, and not simply with the tip of a poison pen.  

So what  we see is that both the minister and the press are seeking to address this problem via the law…. Decriminalize… legalize!  

We want to argue that the problem of abortion can ultimately not be solved via the law and that if we seek  to solve such problems via the law  then we must expect  that the law can deal with the problem only in a superficial way.  The law will leave  many people hurt, squashed and devastated, and worst of all, not really helped!  So, the minister has a point, but this point needs to be thought through much more carefully. In the hands of a  biased  press  such a call can easily  end up in messy hands. 

To get back to the matter at hand :  Making abortion a criminal offence by which the concerned person will simply receive a sentence or a fine may not prove to be the best approach or solution to the matter. The person, having undergone an abortion has far profounder matters to contend with, such as a sense of real guilt and loss. Let’s face it. In abortion a life is taken. There is just no other way to say this. And the conscience will  give  no rest, and if the conscience is suppressed, which is what many people in such situations tend  to do,  then it rears its ugly head in  other ways. Anger, Bitterness  and Cynicism become  typical response patterns of people that  have  suppressed their consciences. Further  down the line the road  may   lead to  soul deadening  alcohol or  drug addictions  and the like.  
We have yet to meet a woman who has had an abortion and  who has been OK with that.  There is no amount of reason or logic that can  erase  the pain  experienced  when making such a choice.  Those who are Pro-choice really do not  think very carefully about  the implications of their choices. Theirs is a short term solution,  and  the misguided counsel given that it is "a woman's right to decide " is really not helping any woman in the long term. 

At the heart of the dilemma is a theological problem which manifests as a social and emotional problem, and the law finds that it  cannot deal with that.
So, what are we saying?   
We are saying that life needs a shepherd more than a prison warden.  Life needs a shepherd, in fact, life needs the Good Shepherd! 
May God restore the church and society  to see this! 
Sadly,  this   superficial reflection by  our governing authorities, together  with  an aversion by a  liberal press to  the life affirming  morality,   inspired by the teachings of the Judeo –Christian  faith is not really  helping us at this time  of crisis.   

The government, which is the protector and servant of the people of Namibia, is at a crossroads.  

  • Will it continue to allow poorly performed backyard abortions to kill or disable women, 
  • Or will it allow the killing of children yet unborn?
  • The solution, it seems, is to be found between a rock and a hard place! 
So, the alarming headlines and the statistics may lead to conclusions and actions in which our nation may be responding to the wind, but in reality we may be reaping   the whirlwind.
God’s answer to this complex question (and sin makes everything complex, doesn’t it?)  has been given to the church which is in possession of the Bible -  the Word of God.  In it we shall find that sinful people like ourselves have  to come to terms  that their sin  is in the first place not against the law  per se, but against Him who is the End of the law and who is the  Give of Life.  When David had an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, a union out of which a child would be born, he knew that he had  principally  sinned  against God.[4]

The church, under the direction of her God, invites women not to abort babies. 
There are alternatives, and if government can do anything here, then it  is to support baby shelters for abandoned babies, and to support responsible, tested  Christian agencies  that would  receive  and place abandoned  babies into loving homes. 

Such agencies would also love, care, nurture and counsel women that have aborted  back to emotional and spiritual health.   




[1] Haufiku said the figures could reach 10 000 since many such cases involving women aged below 25 years go unreported.  Under Namibia's Abortion and Sterilisation Act 1975, abortions are illegal for women and girls, except in extreme cases such as rape, incest, or endangerment of the mother's or child's life.  Health ministry figures show that the Katutura Intermediate Hospital with 1 503 had the highest number of cases, followed by the Windhoek Central Hospital with 878 cases. Oshakati State Hospital recorded 766 cases; Onandjokwe Lutheran Hospital, 621; Rundu State Hospital, 419; Outapi State Hospital, 405; Swakopmund State Hospital, 329; Walvis Bay State Hospital, 302; Otjiwarongo State Hospital, 246; Katima Mulilo State Hospital, 201; Gobabis State Hospital, 174; Engela State Hospital, 126; Rehoboth State Hospital, 121; and Okahao State Hospital 105 cases.Haufiku told a press conference yesterday that of the 7 335 cases, 138 were medical abortions (authorised cases), which constitutes 2% of the total.  He said in most cases, an illegal abortion is only presented to health facilities when it is incomplete, or if the woman develops complications such as haemorrhaging and infections.  According to Haufiku, it is of major concern, as unsafe abortions pose a major risk to women's physical and mental health. “We need thorough national reflection on the reasons why so many women risk their lives by resorting to unsafe abortions in a country where contraceptives are widely available. Most importantly, we need to ask ourselves whether it is not time to relook the legislation and decriminalise abortion,” he stated.   He added that it now requires everybody, not only the health ministry, but the communities, religious bodies and opposition to seriously think about what needs to be done to bring down these figures.   Although the health ministry will try its best to contain the situation, a national debate and consultations across all sectors are needed to pass new regulations which many people will agree with “In the end, we will have to take a decision. We cannot allow it to go on as is the case at the moment”, he stressed. Haufiku said as much as his ministry is aware that abortions are illegal, they do not report the women who seek medical assistance to the police because they do not want to scare away others, or be viewed as a “police agency”.  “It becomes a difficult situation if we report them to the police. We will actually lose a lot of them. If we reported 7 000 this year, next year the number might come down to 700,” he said, adding that he does not want to create animosity between the affected women and the medical fraternity. “I don't believe that reporting them to the police is the best solution,” he noted”. Apart from the high abortion cases, the minister also said the country was not doing well as far as maternal health was concerned because from April 2012 to March 2015, there were 3 434 neonatal deaths and 93 maternal deaths out of the 191 517 live births.  One hundred and three maternal deaths were also reported over 20 months between 1 April 2015 and 30 November 2016.“The major causes of maternal mortality are the hypertensive disease, obstetric haemorrhages, pregnancy-related sepsis, abortions and anaesthetic complications,” he revealed, adding that another indirect cause of maternal mortality is related to the high HIV-AIDS prevalence...“Abortion, being a moral matter, has been a concern for many years, regardless from which perspective it is looked at. It has to be dealt with at another level,” he added. Legal Assistance Centre lawyer Corinna van Wyk said it is important that abortions are legalised in order to create more opportunities for women to have safe abortions.  “The figures show that we need to revisit our laws on abortion,” she said.

[2] In the same newspaper on Friday, 30th March,  a cartoon by ‘Dudley’  together  with an editorial, entitled  “Abortion is Not the Only Killer”  raised the issue again. This is what the editorial had to say:   “500 WOMEN die from abortion every year.' Perhaps such should be the news headlines to make Namibians understand we have a crisis, and all because of a lack of empathy. Health minister Bernard Haufiku tried this week to highlight the magnitude of the problem when he announced that more than 7 300 women were treated at state health centres last year due to “illegal abortions” gone wrong. Haufiku said the figure could be as high as 10 000 –– at least 27 cases a day.  The minister called for “decriminalisation” of abortion, which is outlawed by legislation dating back to 1975. We can only imagine the minister is treading carefully for fear of a backlash from zealots, who view the issue as nothing but a callous crime committed by pregnant women. People who label pregnant women as murderers over abortions refuse to see the far more dangerous threats to lives.  Earlier this month, a young woman died at Ondangwa after undergoing a backyard abortion. Her helper was arrested for murder. Many women are hunted down like hard-core criminals, also accused of “baby-dumping”.  Last week at Walvis Bay, a woman was arrested and charged with murder after “abandoning” her five-month-old baby while she went to work as a security guard for 13 hours. Security guards often work half-day shifts for bosses who have no mercy. A lot is wrong with Namibians if we crush a mother who just lost her five-month-old infant. Whether abortion, baby-dumping, or abandonment, empathy is what is needed. No woman goes through pregnancy and birth only to get rid of it without incredible emotional and physical pain.  Minister Haufiku warned that the criminalisation of abortion only makes the crisis worse. He knows the poor people suffer most, because the rich can pay professionals to avoid complications, or go to South Africa where abortion is legal.  We support Haufiku that arrests in abortion cases (including baby-dumping and “neglect”) must stop immediately, as those responsible are not a danger to society.  In fact, Haufiku and his cabinet colleagues must immediately start the process to legalise abortion and offer counselling. Abortion is not the killer, lack of empathy and care is.
[4]  See Psalm 51 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Advent 2016 - Preparing for Christmas

When our children were young,  they loved  to watch  the movie,  “How the Grinch stole Christmas“, based upon the children’s   story written by  Dr Seuss. 

There is no doubt that  Christmas  has been stolen by the market place,  and for this reason many  thoughtful Christians have begun to view the  Christmas  season with great suspicion. They  would  point  to the pagan origin of  the Christmas tree, and the fact that  the 24th/ 25th December is probably not  the birthday of the Lord Jesus.

I know of  some  Christian households who,for this reason,will not celebrate nor acknowledge Christmas,  Easter, or any other  Christian festival.
The Jehovah’s witnesses,  a cult which denies the divinity of Jesus Christ,    as a rule  do not  remember   Christmas  or Easter,  nor  birthdays  for that matter. 
Whilst sharing the concerns  that thoughtful Christians have concerning Christmas,   I am not sure  that their thoughts  or reactions  are always biblical. The pendulum   in Christendom  frequently  swings too far.  Too often  one’s zeal  for  Christian reform swings into legalism and  a  judgmental spirit.   

Paul addresses this mind-set  in his letter to the Colossians  (Col. 2:16-23). The Scriptures leaves us  a lot of liberty  in matters of  food, drink and the festivals we choose to  celebrate. The  same Scriptures however also point out that  these  liberties are not the substance.  Christ is the substance (Col. 2:17)! 

We have to make  a distinction  between  people  who  only live for food, drink and festivities,  whose god is their belly  (Phil. 3:19), and those who eat, drink and celebrate with  great gladness  to the  honour and glory of God. Israel was  encouraged by God to eat,  drink and celebrate  (Ex. 23:14-16).  

We have been created to give thanks  to God  in everything (1 Tim. 4:3-5), and especially  for the gift of His Son (2 Cor.9:15)   

So then, is it wrong to  celebrate a Christ centered Christmas accompanied by  all the  singing, decorations, festivities and foods? Absolutely not, and especially  so when our Lord Jesus  Christ  occupies our hearts  and minds on such occasions.    

There is every reason for us to celebrate His birthday, for unto us the great gift of salvation  has appeared.
The fact that we choose to remember  Him on the 24th or 25th  of December is incidental.
The substance is that He was born for  us! And surely  that fact is worthy of  our celebration!