The day began with a powerful prayer meeting from 7 to 8 – the key word of what to pray for being transformation (2Cor3-4): focusing on the preaching we were to receive this day, ourselves, and our ministries back home. After a devotional challenge read from Colossians 4 (‘the village of pastors’), we moved into groups of 5 and spent time agreeing with each others’ prayers to the Lord for His help.
Breakfast was a full buffet and we caught up over the meal with Andrew and Dorcas from Christ Baptist, and made new acquaintances with folk from Jhb and Pretoria. We discussed the state of the universities in SA, the role of the BU and other affiliations, children, property, ministry in Knysna and probably a dozen other topics.
The morning session was excellent. Anthony clearly demonstrated the need for every minister to with fear and trembling, preach the Christ-centred gospel always, and not be tempted to convince people through clever philosophy or other methods – so that the power of God may be seen and people’s faith will rest on Him alone. The notes can be found here: Power in Weakness
The bonus giveaway this morning was a counselling handbook, written by Joel James of Grace Fellowship in Pretoria: a topical handbook for dealing with various counselling scenarios.
The organisers also got us to wear our new jackets and herded us together for a group photo, and then with our spouses.
The afternoon session split the men from the women, who studied the qualifications of elders as a means to see how they could support their husbands to be the best elders they could be. E.g. How could they help him to be a hospitable elder? (By helping make the home welcoming to strangers) Or how can they help him to be a gentle elder? (By not adding fuel to the fire when he feels upset about something in the ministry). The men on the other hand were taught by Anthony from 1 Peter 5 – The duty of Shepherding. Again, another great message, the notes of which can be found here. Pastoring – Shepherding
Afterwards, over tea and coffee I met up with some pastors I had done village ministry for when we lived in Polokwane. Both of them have lived through very stressful and disappointing circumstances, on financial and family fronts.
The rest of the time before supper was spent with Dave Beakley, Johann Odendaal and 2 other graduates talking about the relation of white to black churches, and the problems and principles to guide us. This was a very informative time, and we came away agreeing that
- these partnerships can only be successful if they begin in genuine Christian friendship, apart from any hope or promise of benefit to one or the other.
- we cannot only invest in churches across the cultural line who worship like we do, or have the same philosophy of ministry. Otherwise we’d probably find no church to invest in.
- The negotiables and non-negotiables of the ministry we partner with should be grappled within the leadership – theological lines, philosophical lines, cultural lines. Essentially, it will only be through friendship that we really become convinced of the true Christian identity of the other church. Theological ‘positions’ are important, but a position is very different from a true conviction. If we engage over deep Christian convictions on the Person and Work of Christ and the Gospel we will more easily discern what is behind their desire to partner.
- It can be patronising to black churches to say, ‘we’ll only partner if you agree to get theological training’ or some other help. It indicates to them that they are inferior and need to be raised to our level, which of course is a very destructive notion, and void of humility. Rather through genuine interest in their ministry accompanied by regular personal or corporate connection will reveal the truth about what’s really behind the relationship.
Over a buffet supper, we had a sad discussion about a graduate who has left the Way and is following a self-proclaimed prophet. He hardly refers to Jesus, and as his close friend relayed to us, if he does, it’s a different Jesus and a different gospel. It appears the driving motivation behind this change is the frustration with struggling financially. This prosperity prophet has offered him his heart’s desire. And when challenged or corrected by his friends from Seminary, he only laughs it off. It is amazing how someone so seemingly genuine has become an exact illustration of 1 Tim 6, that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. And that those who seek to be rich, plunge themselves into many harmful desires and destruction. A sobering conversation.
The final session with Anthony was opened with worship in song, as usual, but the roof really lifted off when an African song was sung – the words of which were translated for us to read on the overhead. The song looks to Jesus for the answers and help in impossible situations, and rejoices that He has made the way, and that ultimately one day we will be taken up into Heaven where no more trouble is. A very true and appropriate song for many of these struggling African pastors.
Anthony preached from 2 Tim 3-4, “Stay in the Word”, the notes of which can be found here: Stay in the Word Again, an excellent message. These messages will be made available to us in audio format.