Friday, January 13, 2012

IN MEMORY OF MARTIN HOLDT - who went into the Lord's presence on New Years Eve, 31st December 2011.

Martin at Eastside with Caroline Slabber 
The news of the death of Martin Holdt  came  unexpectedly. A week earlier  (on Christmas day  2011, to be precise) he had sent me an e-mail wishing me   for my birthday on the 27th December. The words were written  in German – his mother tongue. 

He was due to be our speaker  at our  annual prayer week of our church  at the end of January 2012. This was however not to be.  The Lord took him  in the midst of his labours.

I first met Martin Holdt  in my first  year as a student at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Cape Town (1986). He was  then known  in Baptist circles as   a “Reformed Baptist   pastor “.  His theological position was held by very few  South African Baptist ministers in those days. We can only marvel  to think how much this  has changed. At a recent Spurgeon fraternal,  Peter Sammons of the Germiston Baptist Church  indicated  that there were  now more than 80  pastors  on the list  who would   identify  with  the  "Reformed  Baptist position".

Martin counselling after a service at  at Eastside 
Martin's influence was mostly felt in  his  brand of preaching  and in the Reformed  books which he freely distributed.
He was keenly interested in  young men who were interested  in  Reformed Theology. I know ! I was one of them.

In  1990  I was called to be the pastor of my home church,   the Eastside Baptist Church in Windhoek,  Namibia, and Martin immediately took an interest in me, knowing that I had  developed a keen  interest in the theology of the Reformers. He asked me to write an article about my conversion and call to the ministry in a magazine  called “Reformation Africa South “  which was published under the auspices of the Reformed Baptist Association  in South Africa. This article was read by Erroll Hulse  of the UK who  is well known for  encouraging   Reformed Baptist work, world wide. Erroll  Hulse came to visit me in Namibia  to encourage  me in the ministry. 

Both, Martin and Erroll  had  simple advice for young pastors  like me who were eager to get their ministries ‘reformed’: "Preach the Word! Preach it expositorially ! Preach with passion ! Prepare  prayerfully ! "

Martin exhorted me in the words of  Baptist pastor  W.A Criswell  to keep your mornings for God.”  
Martin preaching in Biskirchen, Germany

He  continuously exhorted young men to  read.  He believed  that  the  ministry  depended on  spending  time in the   counsel  of the wise, particularly  the  ministry of  a bygone era. With this in mind,  he exhorted us to read  the writings of the Reformers and the Puritans.

Martin  started a number of ministries to encourage pastors. Two stand out in my own mind. The annual  Grace Minister’s conference  and  the Spurgeon fraternal. Both have been tremendous  means of blessing to many, and particularly  to me.
Martin Holdt with Andre Bay ( missionary) in Germany

Allow me to tell you how the Spurgeon fraternal  was  started.
1997   was a particularly  challenging year  for me in the ministry. I had experienced many  trials accompanied by  a  loneliness in the ministry for a sustained  period  and  I was longing to have something more than a conference. I needed a forum where I and  ministerial  colleagues could share our  burdens  and where   we could  encourage each other and pray for one another. I shared this burden  with Martin. There may have been others  who had the same  burden, but  it was Martin Holdt who got the  Spurgeon fraternal going. The fraternal is going strong  today and it  is ever increasing in  numbers  and influence. One could argue that SOLA 5  (An Association of  God centered Evangelicals  in Southern Africa)  was stated as a result of this fraternal. 

Martin visited us at Eastside Baptist Church on a number of occasions between 1990 and 2011.  I well remember the time  when he  spoke at an Easter Conference after  his first wife, Beryl,  had died. 

He spoke at various “Prayer weeks”  which we usually have at  the beginning of a new year. He was  actually due to come  to our prayer week in January 2012, and he was looking very much forward  to it. He loved Namibia  for he had some  happy childhood memories of this  place. His parents had  lived  here for sometime.  

But it was not to be ! The Lord  deemed  his work to be done!  I am happy for him  for I know that he is with Christ, enjoying  his well deserved eternal Sabbath rest.

I  do however   have  a sense of  great loss at  his  departure from us. My friend  and brother in the ministry,  Roland Eskinazi  commented that  Martin  Holdt  in a sense  brought to an end an era of  great  Baptist preachers  and spiritual leaders  in South Africa. 

I leave it to you to judge whether this is so.

1 comment:

Conrad Mbewe said...

Well, Joachim, it looks like your pulpit was to be the next that Martin was going to preach in outside South Africa after he preached at ours last November. Tired he was, yes, but it was still Martin at his best. We shall sorely miss him.

I wrote a blog post on Martin but did not highlight the Spurgeon's Fraternal and the Grace Ministers' Conference. I am glad that you have done that because both of them were very close to Martin's heart. The story of his life would be incomplete without highlighting those two annual meetings.

Martin's death may have "brought to an end an era of great Baptist pastors, preachers, and spiritual leaders in South Africa", but that plant that was buried a few weeks ago left behind much fruit--at least 80 in RSA, including Peter, Roland and yourself!


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. I...