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

Advertisements

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.

Why I’m using the Holman Christian Standard Bible


Baptist, Benoni, Crystal Park, Crystal Park Baptist Church, dynamic equivalence, English Standard Version, ESV, formal equivalence, gender neutral language, GNB, Good News Bible, HCSB, Holman Christian Standard Bible, King James Version, KJV, NASB, New American Standard Version, New International Version, New King James Version, NIV, NKJV, optimal equivalence, translation

Photo by Tom Cocklereece

Hey there church,

I hope I find you well this morning? It’s getting colder in Johannesburg and we’ll be starting to fire up the heaters in morning services very soon.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading the Bible. “Ah”, you might say, “I kinda expected that from my pastor” :). Yes you should, but what I’ve been reading has been a little different and I wanted to tell you about it.

I’ve been concerned about which Bible we use as a congregation. You may have noticed, we’re a diverse bunch of people. Lots of kids who generally read out of the Good News Bible. Lots of foreigners (I love that Crystal Park is the melting pot of Africa) and second language English speakers who generally read out of the New International Version. And the rest? They generally read out of the English Standard Version, King James Version and New American Standard Version.

Now I’m all for diversity, but something’s changed. The New International Version has changed their translation policy to include more gender neutral language. This might not seem a big deal, but think about the way we preach – verse by verse, line by line – we really care about what the original author meant to say to his original hearers. This changed policy is a step too far away from the original language. We need to consider our options.

I received a Holman Christian Standard Bible a few weeks ago. I’ve read the Pentateuch, the Old Testament books of history and long portions of the New Testament since then. I’m impressed. I’ve also done a detailed word study of Colossians 4:2 – 6 and 7 – 18, asked the translators questions and gotten back satisfactory answers.

Maybe you’d like to know a little more about this translation? Well English translations can be simplified into three basic categories: formal, dynamic and optimal equivalence. What does that mean?

The English Standard Version, King James Version and New American Standard Versions are formal equivalence translations. They’re word-for-word, literal translations, and seek to preserve the original language by representing each word of the translated text with an equivalent word so we can see what the original author wrote. I favour this for myself and recommend Bible students to study out of one of these translations.

Translations like the New Living Translation and the Message are called dynamic equivolence translations. They are thought-for-thought and try to capture the meaning of the text more than the form. At Crystal Park Baptist Church we don’t generally encourage people to use these (even though I know some of you do… and yes, I know they’re sooo easy to read).

The HCSB uses optimal equivalence. By that they mean that a literal translation is used when possible, but when clarity and readability demand they’ll opt for an idiomatic translation, the reader can then access the original text through footnotes.

If you’re a visual person I tried to capture the thinking above in the chart below:

Baptist, Benoni, Crystal Park, Crystal Park Baptist Church, dynamic equivalence, English Standard Version, ESV, formal equivalence, gender neutral language, GNB, Good News Bible, HCSB, Holman Christian Standard Bible, King James Version, KJV, NASB, New American Standard Version, New International Version, New King James Version, NIV, NKJV, optimal equivalence, translation

So what’s going to change? I’m so excited to begin preaching through the book of Acts from the 2nd of June. I’m planning to use the HCSB from then. Add to that, the weekly memory verses in the pewslip will be out of the HCSB from now on.

I visited CUM Books in Eastrand Mall last week and they sell HCSB’s at reasonable prices and I checked Christian Book Discounters and they’ve got them available on their website. When we can get hardcover copies at reasonable prices we’ll stock them at church too.

the Penrith's, Mark Penrith

Got questions? Come speak to Gideon or me. I’m sure we’ll release an Elder’s Questions and Answers in the next few days.

In Christ and for His glory alone,

Mark

A Dummies guide to the Differences between Denominations


I remember asking my dad, while heading home from a family holiday, what the difference between Anglicans (my father is an ordained priest) and Methodists were. His answer to his seven year old son was simple enough, “worship style”; and then, slightly tongue in cheek/slightly pained, he added that he’d still love me if one day I became a Methodist.

I’ve never really stopped asking that question often turning it over in my mind. It’s been thirty years and now my kids are at that age where they’re starting to ask the same questions. Below is my answer, well three answers, simple enough I hope, and yes, I’d still love them if one day they became Anglicans:

The Differences like two Petrol Stations

Take two petrol stations, an Engen and a Shell. Petrol is highly regulated in South Africa so there’s little difference in the petrol itself. Their logo may be different but they’re really both the same.

At their best denominations ought to be like petrol stations: Different logos outside, same Gospel inside.

The Differences like two Shops

Take two shops, a Makro and a Woolworths. They both sell food and clothing but in entirely different ways. Different products on their shelves, different shoppers at their tills.

Denominational differences like worship, liturgy and paint on the wall outside doesn’t separate us when it’s the same Gospel inside.

The Differences like two Books

Take two books, the Bible and 17 Steps to Healthy Living. The Bible contains the words of eternal life, 17 Steps for Healthy Living is here today and will blow away tomorrow.

Some churches preach God’s Word, a Word which can save a sinner to salvation; other’s preach man’s mind, a mind which will drive a sinner to damnation. This isn’t just a denominational consideration – it’s not like Baptists and Presbyterians are safe and Anglicans and Methodists are problematic – this is a church by church, preacher by preacher test.

“What I’m trying to say my child is don’t be a Baptist and go to hell, an Anglican condemned to the abyss; be a God fearing Bible believing Christian who goes to church bent on glorifying God by proclaiming His Word and bringing honour to His name by serving Him and His people.”

Organ donation (via Crystal Park Baptist Church)


Hey, I’m quiet. I’m quite busy. Anyway this is what we were up to this weekend.

Organ donation Hehehe, I love that header. On Saturday we dropped an organ (of the electronic variety) off at Etwatwa Emanuel Baptist Church. … Read More

via Crystal Park Baptist Church

How much should you know before you’re ready to be Baptised?


Believer's Baptism, Baptism, Baptist, Pharasitic fences, Anglican, John MacArthur, Fundamentals of the Faith, Matthias Media, Just For Starters, Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology, Andre Broodryk, Benoni Baptist Church, Doug Forsyth, Weltevreden Chapel, Peter Sammons, Germiston Baptist Church

This image is from one of my faverite posts. Click image to link to the post.

I’m principally swayed that Believer Baptism must tailgate salvation; closely. If the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27 – 40) could hear the Gospel, internalise it and respond to it in what appears to be a very short span of time then I wouldn’t want to put Pharasitic fences in the way of any man.

I’m principally swayed that Believer Baptism must tailgate salvation; as closely as possible. Let’s face it: the Ethiopian eunuch was clearly well versed in Scripture (Acts 8:28) and a devote man (Acts 8:27) which is not all that common nowadays. There’s a need for rudimentary teaching before dunking.

So I put together a training course for Crystal Park Baptist Church; the bare boned basics. Who is God? Who is Man? Who is Christ? and Where to from Here?

“There’s a need for rudimentary teaching before dunking.”

Writing course content is a learning curve. On the first pass I’ve realised that I must shorten the sections if I want to cover everything in 1 hour. I need to reduce the number of Scriptures so as to provide an adequate platform to probe the key passages. I must include additional verses at the end of each page so that Psalm 1:2 students can go away immerse [sic] themselves. Oh, lesson 1 needs to focus more on the holiness of God so the stage is set for the next three lessons which really amount to the Gospel.

Anyway here are the drafts that I’ve created so far:

Lesson 1: Who is God?

Lesson 2: Who is Man?

Lesson 3: Who is Jesus Christ?

Lesson 4: Where to from Here?

I used John MacArthur’s Fundamentals of the Faith: 13 Lessons to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ, Matthias Media’s Just For Starters and Charles Ryrie’s Basic Theology for the input and consulted with Andre Broodryk from Benoni Baptist Church, Doug Forsyth from Weltevreden Chapel and Peter Sammons from Germiston Baptist Church.

I’d value input, especially around how to succinctly articulate these core Christian truths.

Christmas Carol Service at Crystal Park Baptist Church (A Notice to all Christians in the Benoni Area)


Christmas, Carol Service, Invite, Crystal Park Baptist Church, Benoni, Baptist

Crystal Park Baptist Church is a Baptist Union church located in Crystal Park, Benoni. Click the image to enlarge.

Hey there,

Crystal Park Baptist Church is having a Christmas Carol Service on Sunday the 12th of December from 18:30 to 20:30. The venue is Crystal Park Baptist Church, 1 Clydesdale Road, Crystal Park (see map below).

If you know someone in the area why not pass this information along?

In Christ,

Mark