What does strong church look like?


Some churches are stronger than others. They have a feel about them. They feel strong, mature, developed. Now a lot of what makes a churches strong is intangible. I don’t think it’d be possible to measure the spiritual vitality of a community of believers. But I do think that there are a couple of things that can be externally observed which serve as a litmus for where a church is. Here’s my thinking:

In the Baptist Union there are four types of churches: A-type, B-type, C-type and D-type churches. The designations are make believe, but it kinda helps us categorise who’s who in the zoo.

A-type churches are Self-governing, Self-supporting and Self-propagating. They are generally large, vibrant communities which have a long history.

B-type churches are Self-governing and Self-supporting. They are generally medium in size.

C-type churches are Self-governing. There are often smaller communities.

D-type churches are unconstituted or failed communities.

By saying Self-governing I mean autonomous, properly constituted churches.

By saying Self-supporting I mean that the church in question has called a fulltime shepherd who they are able to adequately compensate.

By saying Self-propagating I mean that the community is actively engaged in creating a community of like-minded believers in another properly constituted church.

Comments?

Advertisements

How do churches, associations and unions relate?


Since the Baptist Union of Southern Africa’s 2013 Assembly I’ve been giving some thought to the inter-relation of churches, associations and unions; and how to transfer that thinking to my congregation. This is where I’m at so far and I’d love to hear where you’re at.

What is a Baptist Church?

A Baptist church is a gathered community of Protestant believers which accepts the supreme and final authority of Holy Scripture in all matters of faith and practice. Baptist churches observes two ordinances, that of Believers’ Baptism by Immersion and the Lord’s Supper. Baptist churches ascribe to the principles detailed above, although the implementation of them may differ from church to church.

Churches

What is a Baptist Association?

A Baptist association is made up of a number of autonomous local churches. All local churches in an association would prescribe to Christian tenants of belief and Baptist distinctives. Local churches would hold voluntarily membership with an association.

The Baptist Union of Southern Africa has 7 geographic associations affiliated to it. But not every Baptist association is a member of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa; for example Sola 5 and Isaiah 58 which are theological associations are unaffiliated to other bodies.

Associations

What is the Baptist Union?

The Baptist Union of Southern Africa was founded in 1877 by four English-speaking churches and one German-speaking church in the Eastern Cape. Today it comprises of many hundreds of churches spread throughout Southern Africa. It is a voluntary organisation comprised of a number of associations which prescribe to Christian tenants of belief and Baptist distinctives.

Unions

How do they inter-related?

So here I want to detail what the specified functions of associations and unions are and then briefly layout what each group ought to do.

The associations are to 1.) promote and provide opportunities for Christian fellowship and unity among the churches, the pastors and all the Baptists in the area; 2.) provide the opportunity and possibility for the churches, pastors and people to perform together ministries and services which they would not easily be able to do alone; 3.) to seek to provide resources to assist the churches, the pastors and the members to serve the Lord more effectively; 4.) to provide care, guidance, challenge and vision to the churches, pastors and members; 5.) to seek to establish, assist and nurture Baptist churches and fellowships in the area; 6.) to encourage evangelistic outreach and missionary activity among churches, fellowships and individual Baptists; 7.) to assume such functions and responsibilities on behalf of the union as may be mutually agreed upon; 8.) to disseminate Baptist Principles and to advocate religious liberty for all.

I’d sum the above up by saying that the associations are to provide facilitation between churches.

The union is to 1.) collect information respecting the history, organisation and work of Member Churches and Associations; 2.) co-ordinate and combine the efforts of Member Churches in all matters affecting the general welfare of the Union, and its Members; 3.) engage in medical, educational, relief and other benevolent work and to confer and co-operate as occasion may require with Member Churches and other christian communities and philanthropic societies; 4.) make provision for retiring and relief allowances for its staff, Ministers, Missionaries and their wives or widows; 5.) provide for theological education and for training for service in the churches; 6.) control admission to and deletion from the Union’s lists of accredited ministers; 7.) provide for the supply of church and mission requisites; 8.) give services of advice or arbitration in cases of difference or dispute, with the consent of the parties concerned; 9.) receive, purchase, hold, hypothecate, sell, donate, lease, exchange and partition movable and immovable property; 10.) act as Trustee for any Church or Association whether established or to be established; 11.) invest funds of the Union in such manner as may be prescribed by By-Law; 12.) To confer and co-operate as occasion may require with Member Churches and Ministers in connection with ministerial settlement and the like; 13.) tender advice to Member Churches and Ministers on all matters appertaining to ministerial settlements and the like; 14.) borrow money with or without security for the purposes of the Union, and Associations, in such manner at such times and on such conditions as the Executive may determine; 15.) appoint and dismiss staff; 16.) make or amend such By-Laws as it may deem necessary for the proper administration of its business.

I’d sum the above up by saying that the union is to provide administration services to churches.

Inter-relation

Systematised propositional statements vs a Gospel story of salvation


When I became a Christian I thought I might be a theologian. My standard Gospel presentation reflects this. It’s a series of systematized answers to leading questions. Who is God? Who is man? Who is Jesus? What must I do to be save? The short answers are God is holy, man is sinful, Christ is the way, repent for the forgiveness of sins.

This past week I spent some time with two very different men at the Baptist Union of Southern Africa Assembly. Bradley Trout from Mountain View Baptist Church and Craig Duval from Pinelands Baptist Church.

Bradley’s a friend. He’s a bookworm. But he’s more than your average bookworm. He remembers stuff, simplifies stuff, and repeats it back in relevant situations. He is an interesting addition to any conversation and I wish I could have more conversations with him in the room. Anyway Bradley has been on my case to get into Biblical Theology this year so that I can give some thought to progressive revelation and a narrative view of Scripture.

Craig’s different. One evening at the Assembly I sat down next to Craig and introduced myself as a Reformed, Dispensational, Cessationalist and asked him a couple of questions. He graciously spent the next 5 hours giving me answers. The Theological can of worms aside, what I got from Craig was a story. He started in the garden and wove through to eternity to come. He talks of the people of the Bible, the places of the Bible and the God of the Bible. Rather than a series of systematise propositional statements about Scripture he tells the story of Scripture. Simple, compelling, replicable. A transfer mechanism for theological concepts to an audience with an attention deficit.

So with Bradley and Craig in mind I’ve been thinking about my own Gospel narrative. The diagram below represents the major events I think need to be highlighted and I’ve given some indication as to why in the key below. But what have I missed? What needs expanding?

1. Creation: Theology proper. Who is God? The Creator. Our Creator. And His creation is very good. He is perfect, eternal, transcendent and immanent.
2. Corruption: Harmatology. Who is man? Corrupted, conceited, cursed. In every faculty of his being. Sinful. Yet, in the midst of the curse you have God pointing to the cross.
3. Abraham: The People of God, elected and loved, despite their stiff-neckedness. And in the covenant promise of God you have a clear point to the Seed, Christ, the cross, and blessing to come.
4. Moses/Law: The 10 Commandments. The impossible standard, blessing on/curse received. The Law which can’t save but can drive to the cross.
5. David/King: The promise of an eternal throne and a righteous King to come.
6. Christ Died: Christology. The person of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. The work of Christ, Saviour, God died for us.
7. Christ Rose: Victory. The sacrifice is accepted. Heaven’s gates flung open wide.
8. The Church: The Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the great commission, the bold proclamation. Repent for the forgiveness of sins!

Systematised propositional statements vs a Gospel story of salvation? That’s a ridiculous title. It’s not an either or answer. It’s a both and. Note how I crafted my Estcatology into the diagram. :). Maybe I will grow up to be the Theologian after all.

Who are the Baptists in South Africa?


I created a little content for an interested party a month back or so and I thought I’d test it out on open platform. Please, take a look, make a comment. Agree? Disagree? Make sense? Confusing? I’d like your feedback.

Who are South Africa’s Baptists?

Baptist Union, Rezolution Conference, paedo-Baptists, Sola 5, Liberal, Charismatic, Pneumatology, Isaiah 58, Soteriology, Reformed, Reformed Baptist, Baptist, Baptists, South Africa, BUSA, Baptist Union of Southern Africa, Baptist Convention, Afrikaanse Baptiste Kerke

The Baptist Union

The South African census of 2001 recorded that out of a population of 44,819,774 citizens 691,235 people identified themselves as Baptists in South Africa.

The Baptist Union of Southern Africa in 2010, held in association 524 churches with 43431 members.

I’m a member (ok, I’m the pastor) of a church which is in the Baptist Union of Southern Africa and I think it’s fair to say that even as I look to the interests of my own local church I also desire to see the Union of churches as a whole strengthened. I’m not a passive bystander.

Theological identifications within the Baptist Union

Baptist Union, Rezolution Conference, paedo-Baptists, Sola 5, Liberal, Charismatic, Pneumatology, Isaiah 58, Soteriology, Reformed, Reformed Baptist, Baptist, Baptists, South Africa, BUSA, Baptist Union of Southern Africa, Baptist Convention, Afrikaanse Baptiste Kerke

Theological identifications within the Baptist Union

Two main theological camps have begun to emerge in the last 10 years within the Baptist Union.

Sola 5 Is a grouping of Reformed Baptists who are unified by their Soteriology (Reformed). They are a very well mobilised, cohesive group.

Isaiah 58 Is a grouping of Baptists who are unified primarily by their adoption of church growth strategies and – in lesser part – by their Pneumatology (Charismatic). It’s been pointed out to me that some in Isaiah 58 would see themselves as Reformed Charismatics, others Liberal Charismatics, still others not Charismatic at all.

The majority of the Union is not aligned to either of these camps but in our postmodern world, where truth is a grey substance that no one wants to be caught holding when the music stops, it is very interesting to me that groups are beginning to form which stand for anything. The church which supports me as a missionary is a member of Sola 5 and I actively foster relationships with churches in this group. Over time it seems inevitable that our church would seek dual membership with the Baptist Union and Sola 5.

Who’s networking with who?

Baptist Union, Rezolution Conference, paedo-Baptists, Sola 5, Liberal, Charismatic, Pneumatology, Isaiah 58, Soteriology, Reformed, Reformed Baptist, Baptist, Baptists, South Africa, BUSA, Baptist Union of Southern Africa, Baptist Convention, Afrikaanse Baptiste Kerke

the networks are far more complex than this, but this should get a conversation rolling?

Sola 5 churches have, and are developing, good relationships with paedo-Baptists. You can see these developing relationships in efforts like the Rezolution Conference and fraternal gatherings, like the recent visit by David Carmichael.

I’m a little far removed from Isaiah 58, however, I understand that they are developing relationships and holding joint conferences with a wide range of Charismatics. I hope I haven’t misrepresented them (anyone reading that can fill in the blanks?).

The Baptist Union ties two important Baptist groups together namely the Baptist Convention (former black union of churches) and the Afrikaanse Baptiste Kerke (Afrikaans association of churches).

Who’s training who?

Baptist Union, Rezolution Conference, paedo-Baptists, Sola 5, Liberal, Charismatic, Pneumatology, Isaiah 58, Soteriology, Reformed, Reformed Baptist, Baptist, Baptists, South Africa, BUSA, Baptist Union of Southern Africa, Baptist Convention, Afrikaanse Baptiste Kerke

The picture roughly demonstrates who feeds Our colleges and who they service

There are four colleges producing pastors for the Baptist Union in South Africa.

Christ Seminary produces candidates for churches like mine, Conservative Evangelical (although one could go further and say they groom Dispensational graduates – anyone want to contend?). Cape Town Baptist Seminary and the Baptist Theological College provide graduates to a far wider Baptist pool of churches. The Bible Institute of South Africa services a Reformed base of churches and the Afrikaanse Baptiste Seminarium addresses the Afrikaans constituency.

SATS and UNISA as distance learning institutions are all things to all men and I guess pick up the rest, but play an important role in post-graduate studies.

The Reformed camp, which is notoriously untrusting of local institutions, sends a number of their most promising candidates overseas for university education (Master’s Seminary, London Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary… – is this a fair statement?).

It’s my opinion that the ratio of graduates to established churches in South Africa is mismatched.

That, in a nutshell, is how I see the lay of the land. Too simple? Too complex? Too pointless? Comment below.

Baptist Assembly: Day 1


So the 2012 Baptist Assembly starts today and I’m kinda excited. I’m really looking forward to seeing some friends (especially the guys that don’t stay in Johannesburg like Malcolm and Rocky). I’m also looking forward to some great discussion, there are sound thinkers in the Union and I love to spend time getting sharpened by them. I’m looking forward to the morning devotionals (which were a highlight for me last year) and the keynote addresses (last year there were some outstanding expository sermons, especially Trent and ilk). Oh, and Gideon Mpeni is going with me and I’m really looking forward to introducing him to all that is good about being connected.

I’m a bit miffed that the Assembly is over a weekend, a Sunday away from the flock. I’m sure that the conference could (and maybe should) run from Tuesday to Friday. But the joy is that while I’m away our congregation will, for the next two weeks, receive teaching from two preachers from amongst our own number for the very first time, Charles and Gideon. Also while I’m on the Westrand I get to preach away from home this week which is always exciting.

Basically I’m going into the Assembly on a high note; which is much better than last year when I went in on an apprehensive note. I’ll check in regularly and hopefully take some good pics this year :).

Parting thoughts on God, the Holy Spirit’s doings (Part 7)


<— Click here for Part 6
stained glass, God, Holy Spirit, Babbitt, Minnesota Evangel:ical Lutheran Church, Tammy, Kevin, Glimore, Romans 8:13, Sanctification, Wiesbe, Trinity, positional, progressive, perfect, doctrine, Acts 20:32, Romans 6:1 - 22, Galatians 5:16 - 25, Romans 8:13, Romans 5:5, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 5:22 - 23

I have a love affair with stained glass. Yes I know, very fuddy duddy, but that’s me. God, the Holy Spirit as a dove is the most common representation that I’ve come across but I found this image online. It is framed in Babbitt, Minnesota Evangelical Lutheran Church. They were installed in June, 2003. The artists are Tammy and Kevin Gilmore. Click image to enlarge.

Sanctifying

“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom 8:13)

“Sanctification is the gracious work of God in setting the believer apart for Himself and for service in the world.” (Wiesbe 2002) All three persons of the Trinity play an active role in our positional-past (Acts 20:32), progressive-present (Romans 6:1 – 22) and perfect-future (Galatians 5:16 – 25) sanctification. In this process it is the Holy Spirit who shapes our affections (Rom 8:13), sparks our desires (Rom 5:5), moulds our character (2 Cor 3:18) and produces the fruit which validates our Christlikeness (Gal 5:22 – 23).

Conclusion

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been catapulted into the forefront of Christian debate in the past few decades. A revival of spiritual and mystical interest in our cultural context means that the church must be on it’s guard, actively defending the Apostolic teachings, developing and promulgating sound doctrine for the good of the church.

Beyond theory, the Holy Spirit is critical to the spiritual health and wellbeing of believers and the body as a whole. It is He who guides us, He who teaches us and He who gifts us. Without complete reliance upon Him we become the dried up, worn out, spent organization that Satan would have us be. With Him we are the unshakable, unwavering, steadfast Church of God. Amen!

<— Click here for Part 6

The Doings of the Holy Spirit (Part 6)


<— Click here for Part 5 Click here for Part 7 —>

My testimony is closely tied to a sermon preached about the stoning of Stephen. Rembrandt’s Stoning of Saint Stephen cuts me to the bone. The face right above Stephen could very well be Rembrandt’s first self-portrait. Click image to enlarge.

The post includes a little detail regarding the current working of the Holy Spirit; what He does. This list is not exhaustive but indicative and continues from where the previous posts left off.

Guiding

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom 8:14)

A parent lovingly guides a child, it’s a characteristic of sonship, and as God’s children we are led by the Spirit. Jesus promised the disciples, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth….” (Jn 16:13)

Assuring

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God….” (Rom 8:16)

“How do I know that I know that I’m saved?” Objectively the answer includes: A growing love for God (Lk 10:27 – 28), genuine repentance from sin (1 Jn 1:8 – 10) and consistently living in obedience to God’s Word (1 Jn 2:3 – 5). It is however the blessed assurance of the Holy Spirit’s testimony within our lives which lends eternal authority to our external profession.

Praying

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom 8:26)

Our ability to appropriately pray to God is blocked by our “infirmities”. To this end the Holy Spirit “helps” us, meaning that He “puts His hand to the work in cooperation with us.” (Parry 1912:120)

<— Click here for Part 5 Click here for Part 7 —>