I grew up in a good home , with good parents , but we did not love and serve Christ. My parents had me ‘baptized' when I was a baby and dutifully I was taken off to the confirmation classes of our Evangelical Lutheran church when the time had come around the age of 13. After I had been confirmed I never darkened the door of the church again.
I enrolled for a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Cape Town at the beginning of 1978.
I was converted on a Thursday evening the 22nd June 1978 when Frank Retief, Pastor of St James Church, Kenilworth, Cape Town preached the Word of God to students of the University of Cape Town at the Leo Marquard Hall men’s residence. The Banner that hung outside the residence announced the subject: “Christ, the Controversialist!”
I had not planned to go to this event, but I had been invited by some Christian Students. I went out of a sense of obligation. That night the word of God changed my life. The sermon from Revelation 3:15 spoke to my heart that day: “ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So, because you are lukewarm – neither cold nor hot – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
What struck me was this particular distinction: “you are neither cold nor hot…you are lukewarm!” In an instant I comprehended that I was that lukewarm man, whom the Lord was about to spit you out of His mouth”.
My life changed drastically. I loved Christ and I loved the church. From the very moment I was converted, I was an enthusiastic worshipper. I attended worship at church every Sunday morning and evening and became involved in the Student YMCA – so much, that I forgot about my studies! After my second year I gave up my University studies and did my mandatory two year military service.
After this I joined EDGARS, a clothing retailer, and became a Trainee Manager. After a few years I was appointed Store manager. I was never very persuaded that this was to be my lifelong profession. My busy life as a store manager did not interrupt my commitment to my local church.
Call to the Ministry
|The home of Eastside Baptist Church - Windhoek|
In June 1985 I received my call to the pastoral ministry. The text which spoke strongly to me was Titus Chapter 2. It was also in June 1985 that I was privileged to become a founder member of Eastside Baptist Church, then under the leadership of Pastor Charles Whitson a Southern Baptist Missionary pastor. EBC was constituted on the 16th June 1985 with 21 charter members.
At the beginning of 1986 I applied to the Baptist Theological seminary in Cape Town and spent the next 4 years completing my Licentiate in Theology and graduated Cum Laude.
The highlight of that period was when I met my wife Marcelle in 1986. We were married the next year on the 10th January 1987 at Mowbray Baptist Church in Cape Town.
In 1988/89 I was called to be the Youth pastor of the Bellville Baptist church, a church which we loved and where we were loved – a happy two years!
In August 1989 I was called by the Eastside Baptist Church to become their pastor. This call came at the same time as a possible call to serve in the YMCA student chaplaincy at UCT. I chose the local church.
I started in January 1990 and was ordained by our church on the 28th January of the same month. Peter Holness, then the principal of the Baptist Theological Seminary, Cape Town led the ordination service.
REVIEW OF 21 YEARS OF MINISTRY
I will review the years of ministry at Eastside Baptist Church in 4 sections:
1. 1990 – 1995 - Turbulent beginnings
Old pastor versus new pastor: Our older, very experienced pastor almost withdrew immediately, much to my regret. I wished I could have hidden behind him a little longer. At that time we had no elders – no biblical leadership to help me. Some people struggled to adapt to their new pastor and sadly left.
Time of political change in Namibia: Namibian independence from South African control was granted on the 21st March 1990. At this stage many more members left, being repatriated to South Africa.
Satanic attacks : During the first three years of our ministry we found sacrificed cats on our door steps and a number of encounters with demonically possessed people. I participated in one demonic deliverance on the 3rd of January 1993. A cult, the Moonies, had also at that stage secretly crept into the church, undermining the faith of some of our members.
|Dr Eric Tordiffe (elder) and Prof Roderick Zimba (deacon)|
Most Protestant churches for this reason have a confessional basis (including some Baptists), but there was a group of Baptists in our church who were deliberately ‘anti-creedal’. The absence of a clear position was causing severe confusion. The charismatic movement in particular had emerged as a strong force in those days and many charismatically minded people in our church were wondering which way this young pastor was going. We needed a confession of faith!
Added to this was a deeper issue. Those of you who know your Baptist church history know that there was a great theological shift that had taken place in Baptist circles in the USA. The shift happened at the end of the 19th century / beginning 20th century in which the Southern Baptist Church (the largest American Baptist denomination) had moved from a largely Reformed (or Calvinistic) theological position to an essentially Arminian position. We were a church planted on Arminian principles.
I had become a convinced Reformed Baptist whilst studying at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Cape Town. Reformed Doctrine is wedded to the Sola Scriptura principle (Scripture alone) and this principle does not like pragmatic solutions for directing church life. Scripture alone is our final authority. This led me to re-think many issues with respect to church practice and doctrine such as ...
1. How to preach and teach the doctrine of salvation.
2.The doctrine of the church and in particular the matter of elder led congregationalism.
3.The matter of worship (God centered versus man centered worship).
4. The primacy of expository preaching over topical preaching.
5. A more God centered view of evangelism and missions.
We struggled through these issues, and I to the point of exhaustion! Our church finally adopted the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in June 2001. This had led to a time of great peace, since we were now ‘on the same page’ and people now knew what to expect when they wanted to join the church.
2. 1996 – 2000 : Difficult years :
|Good fellowship in our courtyard after every service|
After our return from the UK our church was becoming increasingly inwardly divided. This was another attack of Satan who flourishes best where there is no strong spiritual leadership and where there is a lack of doctrinal steadfastness. This time proved to be worse than those aggressive satanic attacks of '90 – '93.
Things went wrong on may fronts. Not only were we doctrinally a very mixed bunch, but we had wrong ideas of church government and of the qualifications for public ministry. A group of ladies (most of them unhappily married and theologically confused) began to form a support group which began to undermine our weak leadership in the church. To many of them I actually had been very close. It was one of the saddest times in my ministerial experience. Our youth pastor at that time had to leave and I myself barely survived.
In 1996 I suffered an emotional collapse. I was severely fatigued by all the conflict and told the deacons that I could not preach in this condition. I remember that Sunday morning in April very well. We had organized another preacher and I dragged myself to church, and when at the end Pieter Slabber (now an elder) asked me to conclude in prayer, I wept like a little child. I could not even lead the church in prayer. I went away for a month of recovery, and after my return I went through the toughest period in my life. Some have called such an experience “the dark night of the soul”. This horrible experience lasted for three years and probably longer still. That period is still dark and hazy in my mind, but God sustained me, my family and our church through this time.
I struggled to preach, but I clung to God. There was very little understanding or sympathy in the congregation in terms of what was happening to me.
In 1997 Pastor Martin Holdt and I had begun to speak about the need to have a pastor’s fraternal to help pastors like myself to cope in their difficult circumstances. In 1997 Martin Holdt, always a man of action and influence organized the first Spurgeon fraternal in South Africa. The Spurgeon fraternal was my spiritual life line and since then many pastors have been helped through this wonderful support group!
In this difficult period Pastor Laban Mwashekele and I severed our ties with the Southern Baptist Mission. We were simply tired of doctrinal conflict and constant disagreement. Much of the church planting efforts of the Southern Baptists had come to nothing in Namibia. All we wanted to do was to focus positively on gospel ministry.
3. 2001 - 2006: New Beginnings - Growth and Consolidation
Eastside Baptist Church was finally reconstituted as a Reformed Baptist Church in June 2001.
In 2001 we started the Namibia Grace Ministers Conference, to encourage pastors in the work of reformation. Dr Wayne Mack was our first speaker.
|SOLA 5 Conference in Windhoek 2006|
|SOLA 5 Conference 2013 again in Windhoek|
In 2004 we helped to get the Faith Reformed Baptist Church going – and contributed initially to the upkeep of the pastor.
We had also helped Havana Baptist fellowship in an informal settlement area.
In 2006 we helped to get Grace Reformed Baptist Church going. At the date of writing we are still in the process of overseeing that process. (Postscript: This church was constituted in 2012)
|Namibia Grace Pastors Conference|
SOLA 5 is an Association of God centered Evangelicals in Southern Africa). We hosted the second SOLA 5 conference in 2006.
Eastside Baptist Church has also been instrumental in the formation of a Namibian Minister’s fraternal, a forum for our Reformed Baptist Churches in Namibia. As a matter of interest, almost all of our Baptist churches in Namibia are now of a Reformed Baptist persuasion.
This is all very good, but we do have a problem. We are too thinly stretched! As a result we have lost some evangelistic momentum.
4. 2006 – 2011 - Renewed Challenges
Eastside Baptist Church became 25 years old in June 2010. This occasion was celebrated with a dinner and many activities. We were able to reflect upon the amazing grace of God. I have been privileged to have been part of this, and 21 of these years as pastor.
Eastside Baptist Church has been a marvelous tool in God’s hands, despite the fact that we have had to contend with so much coming and going and with a fair bit of internal disagreement and satanic resistance.
The greatest gain made in this period is was doctrinal firmness and unity in doctrine. We now have a foundation to build on. We have successfully addressed a number of key theological issues and have seen corresponding growth of our members.
We have seen more true conversions in this period than in any period before!
We have been expanding our pastoral ministry through adding an additional elder to our pastoral team. We are praying now for a suitable student pastor to assist us.
1. Eastside Baptist Church is still very vulnerable. We have a relatively small membership from which to draw our resources, and to continue our ambitious kingdom vision.
2. EBC is a multi-cultural church. It is a privilege to belong to such a unique configuration of people although it does have its challenging moments. We are often forced to think “Christianly “ about issues of culture and language. Culture easily threatens to overshadow our Christian convictions.
3. We need to focus more now on becoming a community church. We have done a lot of work “out there” – but not nearly enough “in here”. We pray that God will give us wisdom how to penetrate the barriers of our community.
4.We need a biblical diaconate to help our elders. We are currently rethinking the way in which our diaconate operates.
5.We need every member to help us to function better as a church. A strategic meeting in October 2007 had brought about some wonderful initiatives , but still lack a lot of implementation.
6.We need to continue the missions vision under the leadership of stable doctrinally firm and sound , committed people and leaders.
SOLI DEO GLORIA !
SOLI DEO GLORIA !