One Life Conference 2017

“A great blessing!”  “So good to go over the basics again!”  “Great hanging out with a group of pastors like this!”  These were some of the comments about the recent “One Life” Conference.  Besides an outstanding venue with an out-of-town feel and great food (thank you Smith family), we had a great time of fellowship and outstanding teaching!

The Seven Sessions of this Year’s Conference

This year’s focus was training of elders, interns and church leaders on how to get to the main thought of a biblical passage.  Lance Laughton, laid the ground by asking the question, “Why Plan to Preach?” and answered this with four answers; because people (and preachers) like you and I are natural “idiots” (ignorant) (1 Cor 1:27), because in many churches, the pulpit is not primary because of poor preaching (contrast this with Paul’s method in Col 1:25-26), because, with some passages more than others, getting to the single main thought of a passage is like trying to catch a butterfly in your hands (2 Tim 2:15-19) and lastly, because convincing people with ethos (integrity), logos (logic) and pathos (emotion) by the Spirit is humanly impossible (1 Cor 2:12-13).

Prof Piff Perreira focussed on preparing for “Text Centred Preaching” arranging his four sessions around the questions; “What do I actually see in the text?” “What did the text mean (then) to the original reader?” and “What does the text mean (now) to us?”

We personally experienced how we usually do not see what is actually in front of us but too readily interpret what we think is there.  This formed an introduction to handling the subjects of our worldview and “the then-worldview,” and awareness of our presuppositions calling for readers to ask the interrogatives again (who, what, where, when, why and how) all the while, remembering the three genres (narrative, poetry and didactic).

Under the interpretation of Scripture, Piff called for humility, and reverence in handling all of Scripture as that which God has spoken and is thus authoritative rather than subjective.  He draw our attention to two limitations with respect to interpretation; reading “centre outwards” in terms of concentric circles of context, and reading “from the beginning to the end” in terms of progressive revelation.

Dr Charles De Kiewit then took the last two sessions dealing with how to apply the text and likened application to tailoring a suit to fit a customer, fitting it not too big, nor too small, but just right, so making the sermon suit the needs and worldview of our hearers.

Practically, he asks, “How is pointed application made?” and answered this with; “Be specific – it is very easy to say things in generalities, be discriminating – we need to be physician’s of the soul giving to each one the medicine needed for their particular ailment, and be persuasive – our hearers need to know not only that the clothes need to be worn, but that they can be worn, and the benefits of wearing them.

Lastly, you will enjoy and be blessed by a portion of Charles’ message on the subject of Contextual Preaching by clicking here.

Or you can view more photos by clicking here.

Thank you for all our partners, preachers and teachers for your encouragement of saints in the gospel!

How is a Baptist Church to be Governed?

Biblical History

Perhaps the greatest demonstration of governance in the Old Testament is seen in Moses’ step-father, Jethro’s advice to Moses as the leader of God’s people; “Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will   bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” (Exodus 18:17-23).

This is perhaps the first time we see delegated authority with respect to the governance of God’s people.  Joshua replaces Moses and the judges replace Joshua and Israel becomes more idolatrous and corrupt under sinful human leaders.

We see a new form of government emerge when Israel looked at all the nations around about them and demanded from Samuel for a king.  Samuel, disappointed, takes this to God, who says to him, “they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Sam 8:7).  In spite of the rejection of God as their King, God gives them a human king in the person of Saul, then David, then Solomon who was the wisest king so far under whom Israel’s covenant is renewed, the temple is built, the borders are extended and Israel flourishes.  But he, too, is a sinner and is led by his many wives to idol worship.  At the death of Solomon, Israel splits into the southern kingdom (2 tribes) and the northern kingdom (10 tribes) which is eventually led away into captivity into Assyria (722 B.C.) and the people lose their identity and worship and become the Samaritans of Jesus day.  The southern kingdom first becomes subject to Egypt and then is taken captive to Babylon but later restored back to the land in 538 B.C. The old kingdom of Israel governed by God through prophets, priest and kings is all but gone until the birth of a new Supreme King in Bethlehem.

Graham Goldsworthy, in his book “Gospel and Kingdom,” helpfully identifies various stages of governance (or rulership, or Kingdom Kingship) in the Old and New Testaments (adapted  below);

 

It will also be noticed from Scripture and history that governance in the hands of human beings is always prone to failure because of sin.  Therefore God has set His own Son as Head of the Church (Eph 1:22; Col 1:18).  But Jesus is not physically here, so what are we to do?  Today, right now, Jesus governs His people directly by His Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16, 26; Jn 16:13) who is also called the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9) according to His Holy Word (Jn 17:17).

Congregational Governance

And what specifically has Jesus said as to how His church is to governed today?  A helpful brief description is given as one of our Baptist Principles; We as Baptists believe in…

“The DIRECT LORDSHIP OF CHRIST over every believer and over the local church. By this we understand that Christ exercises His authority over the believer and the local Church directly, without delegating it to another.”

This is huge — God still desires to and actually does govern His people directly both individually and corporately!  Put another way, there is no need for anyone to stand between you and God, either in atoning for your sin, or in seeking to govern your life or in telling you what He wants to say to you.  If you are a believer, then God has atoned for your sin already in the person of His Son (1 Pet 3:18), He governs your life already by His own wisdom and sovereignty over all things (Rom 8:28) and He leads you by the Bible spoken by His Spirit (2 Pet 1:19-21; Heb 2:1; 1 Jn 2:27).

 

So why do we need governance in the church?  And isn’t it dangerous to have human leaders in the church?  Another Baptist Principle is very helpful; We as Baptists believe in…

“The CONGREGATIONAL PRINCIPLE, namely that each member [that is a regenerated baptised believer] has the privilege and responsibility to use his/her gifts and abilities to participate fully in the life of the Church. We recognise that God gifts His Church with Overseers (who are called Pastors or Elders) whose primary function is to lead in a spirit of servanthood, to equip and provide spiritual oversight, and Deacons whose primary function is to facilitate the smooth functioning of the Church. This principle further recognises that each member should participate in the appointment of the Church’s leaders, and that the constituted church meeting, subject to both the direct Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture, is the highest court of authority for the local Church.”

The appointment of the church’s leaders by the church and the first signs of the distinctive roles of elders and deacons are found in the Acts 6 and further clarified in the sections on elders and deacons found in 1 Tim 3 and Tit 1.  We find further indications of the role and responsibility of the whole congregation in discipline (1 Cor 5:4-5), in judging the biblical correctness of the preaching and teaching that a congregation hears (Gal 1:6-9) because every member is responsible to make sure that God is honoured among us by having the word rightly preached.

Theocracy

Does this mean that every local congregation is a democracy?  No.  Every church should be a ‘Theocracy’ with God (Theos) governing (kratos) and filling the life of the believer by His Holy Spirit who as a member seeks to discern (not decide) together what God would have them do as a body for Jesus has said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27).  Thus, prayer is a crucial part of hearing and discerning and agreeing together (Acts 2:42-47).

Another crucial part is giving to the work and governance of Christ in the body — that God who governs our lives, governs our purses also.  And not just our money but our time and talents all gifts of service, which involve baking, repairing, painting, transporting etc. In this way, the Lordship and governance of Christ is enhanced by lavish demonstrations of love for Christ by the members of the body.

We believe, therefore that God governs not by a human king, but by a Divine King, that He atones not by a human priest, but by a Heavenly Priest, that He speaks not by a human prophet, but by the Greatest Prophet – Jesus Himself.  Thus, we do not have bishops outside of the local church directing the affairs of the church and making appointments, we have elders.  We do not have servants employed to take care of functions in the church, we have deacons and members who serve with love and joy.

Neither do we have a state governed church, but a Christ-by-Word-and-Spirit governed church.  This the members of the church must safeguard to ensure that the Evil One is not given a crown, a pulpit or a finger in the local church.

This is why is it crucial that people first come to faith before they are become members of a local church and ‘have a say’ and a vote in the church meeting.  If the unsaved become members, then certainly Satan will govern God’s church.  It is for this reason that people who claim to have come to faith, should be interviewed to assess the authenticity of their conversion story (as best they can listening for the signs of the work of the Spirit in repentance and faith), should be tested for signs of the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and for signs of obedience to the Word of God (Jn14:21).  Thus, most Baptist churches require that new believers first be obedient to God’s command and be baptised (Acts 2:38; Jn 3:5; Mt 3:13-15 ) prior to joining the church in membership.  This is both biblical and wise, in my estimation, providing time to assess a believer’s profession of faith by their good deeds because ultimately the church does not baptise believers but professing believers and therefore every measure of caution and certainty should be exercised.

Bibliography

Berkhof, L 1941 Systematic Theology. London: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Dever, M 2004. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Goldsworthy, G 2000. Gospel and Kingdom in The Goldsworthy Trilogy. Cumbria: Paternoster Press.

Rye, J & N 1992. The Survivor’s Guide to Church Life. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

Strauch, A 1995. Biblical Eldership – An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership. Littleton: Lewis & Roth Publishers.

Times are hard in SA…

Times are hard in South Africa.  The shrinking economy has had a far reaching effect on people and organisations.  The cost of living in South Africa has risen.  This week the unemployment figure reached a ten year high at 27,7 percent with a youth unemployment rate at 55,9 percent. We’ve started to hate hearing stats because there’re all negative.  Business and organisational financial tightening, job cuts, contraction has fuelled pessimism which in turn has fed emotions of frustration, blaming, suspicion and anger.

The church has both been impacted and been involved in assisting people and families in crisis.  The church, empowered by the Spirit of Christ, has got involved but has not been impervious to the negative emotions and questioning.

And congregations look to pastors.  And pastors look to…?  There are no easy answers.  There are only other godly pastors who are asking similar questions and have similar concerns.  This has lead to an attitude of prayerfulness and a crying out to God and a renewed confidence in God who alone can rescue.

But on the ground, survival is uppermost on the minds and hearts of South Africans.  Political survival, institutional survival, ecclesiastical survival, family survival, physical survival, spiritual survival.

A choice is often faced by the pastor, perhaps even without a realisation of the choice – to withdraw and pursue a more monastic life, or to relate and find support.  The one is an attempt to find answers from God in the quiet place, the other is an attempt to find answers from God in the ‘relational place’ (often among likeminded brothers).

The answer, I believe, is both; pray privately and pray with others.  However, I have found withdrawal and privacy leads to introspection, often with an unreasonable weight placed on my wife (who has her own weights) followed by a desperate but cautious grasping for answers, while connection and togetherness leads to honesty and a shared burden which when prayed for, leads to lightness and encouragement and mutual awareness and appreciation and relationship and respect.

Those who withdraw often justify their reason for withdrawal and often this is sinful in itself (blaming, suspicion, self-justifying hurt) or leads to sin (personal justification, theological arrogance, pride, isolationism and a reduction of recognition of the reality of ‘church’ beyond this local church).

So, pray and connect and pray.

“One Giant Leap”

Today, I feel hope for the future of our Baptist Union!  We have taken a number of steps forward and “one giant leap” ahead when I think about all that unfolded last week at the Baptist Union Executive meeting.  Last week’s meeting could well be described as a roller coaster ride of climbs, turns, u-turns and loops.  When the week ended, we arrived safe back home, but not the same as we were when we started.

Here’s a list of some of the more significant decisions reached regarding the restructuring.  Each of these decisions, will, necessarily, be presented to this year’s Assembly to be voted on.

  1. It was agreed that every Association will become a regional Network over the next three years.
  2. There will be formally recognized regional networks and informal networks.
  3. Every formal network would need to meet certain requirements in order to be approved as a formal network by the newly formed National Leadership Council which will replace the Baptist Union Executive.
  4. Previously, the matter of the restructuring of the Baptist Union left the Associations very much wondering what as to what their future may be.  This was answered finally as the Baptist Union Executive put the matter to a ballot vote and voted on the question, “Is it necessary for a member church to belong to a formal Network?”  It was agreed that this would be the case (18 Yes, 2 No, 1 Abstention).  The rationale for this was the thinking that our structure should be built around our core beliefs.  And one of the core beliefs that the BNA holds to is the Unity of the Body of Christ.  Thus, we do not believe that a member church of the Baptist Union which acts independently and in isolation, is what God intends churches to be and that a spirit of independent isolation is detrimental to the pastor, the members of that church, threatens the unity of the wider Baptist body, very often leads to that church acting against their Statement of Faith and Baptist Principles, and sets a poor example for others to follow.
  5.  The National Leadership Council will consist of 5 positions; the National Care Developer, the National Administrator, the National Network Developer and the Ministry Board Chair augmented by 7 representatives from the formal networks.

While this is hugely promising and leaves me with a sense of optimism, the greater sense of hope and joy came from the Baptist Union Executive’s virtually complete satisfaction and acceptance of the Draft Statement of Belief which will be circulated to every member church and tabled at this year’s Assembly in Port Elizabeth.  There are a number of significant improvements on the 1924 Statement of Belief;

  1. For the first time in South African Baptist history, in addition to stating that we believe that Scripture in fully authoritative, proof is given of this by every statement of our Statement of Belief now being supported with Scriptural texts, so emphasizing the point and serving as a teaching tool in churches for people to know what God has said directly that we must believe.
  2. A statement on the role of translations with respect to the originals and the process of inscripturation (point 1).
  3. Clarity on the love of God for sinners such that from before creation, God determined to save by the sacrifice of His Son (point 2).
  4. A new statement on creation which includes the equality of men and women and the distinction of roles of husband and wife (point 3).
  5. A new statement on the person and work of the Holy Spirit (point 7).
  6. Clarity as to the roles of women in leadership in a church (point 9).
  7. How a church is ruled, governed, led and served by Christ, members, shepherds and deacons respectively (point 9).
  8. A new statement on the mission of the church (point 10).

Consultation on the Baptist Union Restructuring

So it seems some are not sure what the BNA Consultation is all about (starting Monday 20 February starting at 2:00p.m. at Constantia Park Baptist Church at 645 Rudolf Street, Pretoria). It is simply an ‘information ingathering session.’  Questions like, “What are the benefits of belonging to the Baptist Union?” and “What keeps us together as Baptists?” will be asked and answered.

It is an important meeting to attend as it will give the working group more voices to listen to in its task of seeking God’s direction for the re-organisation of the Baptist Union.

Please come.