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.


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.


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.


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.


Sunday’s Point to Ponder

This week at Midrand Chapel we tackled Malachi 2:10 – 17 and dived into two more of God’s indictments against His people, Israel: They were unfaithful to the Mosaic Law (10 – 12) and they were unfaithful to the Marriage Covenant (13 – 17). It was one of the best sermons I’ve listened to in months. Very convicting!

It’s most difficult to pick one element that struck me more than any other but if I were pushed I would say the use of the word covenant in verse 10 and verse 14 really stood out for me. Verse 10 is talking of the Mosaic Covenant, the Law, that tutor which lays our sin bare before us.

The Covenants between God and man are accompanied by terms agreed upon (Genesis 26:29; 31:50,52), oaths observed by God (Genesis 26:31; 31:48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53), curses in the event of non conformity (Deuteronomy, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26) and ratification by some solemn external act (Genesis 15:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18).

Verse 14 is talking of marriage, in a Covenant sense, one which Israel had scant regard for and as a culture we’re equally in contempt of. Considering that God sees this union between a man and a woman as a high institution I’m convicted how often I don’t defend it as I should. As it’s an act between two people and God His Word is the only standard which ought to govern the terms and conditions, the oaths to be observed, the repercussions for non conformity and ratification by an external acts. Easy to say, not so easy to remain faithful to given it’s low regard in our culture, country and sometimes even extended faith community. The world undermines God and His institutions at ever chance it gets and marriage practically is under attack in our present day and age. Our response to the siege that has befallen will uncover the spiritual condition of our hearts. Will we “deal treacherously” in these matters (Malachi 2:10, 11, 14, 15, 16) or will we stand firm on that foundation which is eternal?

10 “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? 11 “Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the LORD which He loves and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 “As for the man who does this, may the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob everyone who awakes and answers, or who presents an offering to the LORD of hosts. 13 “This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 “Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 “But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. 16 “For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”

Want to hear the verse in context? Malachi 1 – 4
What is this about?

Sunday’s Point to Ponder

This week at Midrand Chapel we turned our attention to the book of Malachi; God’s final Words to Israel before 400 years of silence.

Chris covered Chapters 1:1 – 5, God’s Accusation, The Peoples Objection and God’s Evidence. God’s faithfulness despite Israel’s scorn. The key verse 2b – 3a, “…I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau…” stands as a testimony to God’s bountiful grace lavished on a people who had done nothing to deserve it but were still recipients of it because of His sovereign election.

The quotable quote for me was, “God’s love for us is unconditional been rooted in His sovereign choice of us; it therefore does not depend on our worthiness and should not be doubted because of our circumstances.”

Chris Woolley Midrand Chapel

Chris Woolley has been an elder employed at Midrand Chapel since 2005. He is married with six children, three of whom have been adopted. Chris studied mechanical Engineering at WITS University during which time he became a Christian and developed a desire be involved in missions and church planting. After initially working as a Maintenance Engineer he resigned to further his theological studies. He is a graduate of the Baptist Theological College in Randburg (DipTh) and the Masters Seminary in California (MDiv).

Mzanzi Gees

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It was inevitable, at some stage I had to post about the SWC2010. Yesterday the Mexican or North Korean team drove past me on the highway. It’s here!

Related post: Soccer City: Proudly South African and Come and watch the games with me.

Why blog: Interaction (Part 2)

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>

The blogosphere is just another communication channel for bloggers. That sounds obvious doesn’t it but let me explain why I think it’s a relevant observation. Introverts tend to propagate introverted blogs; they battle to form alliances, attract readership and build a community. Extroverts tend proliferate extroverted blogs; they just connect easily, their readership flourishes and they end up belonging. *

Normative Christianity is characterised by social and communal behaviour. We call it Christian fellowship, brotherly love and practising the one another’s. ** Right from the start Christians were identifiably as connected to one another. Consider Acts 2:41 – 47,

41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Want to hear the verse in context? Acts 2
What is this about?

I guess my point is that many Christian bloggers see the blogosphere as a wider platform for interaction. This is good. They do this for a number of differing reasons: Some seek fellowship (Blogroll Guy), some seek diversity (Comment-all-over-the-place Guy), some seek uniformity (Denomination-Upfront Guy) and some just seek a platform (although Bullhorn Guy might not be a form of interaction as it’s not two way communication).

The platform can be a useful tool to facilitate interaction and I believe this is a natural progression from the blogger who writes out of a motivation of Introspection (see

* Does anyone know if there’s any research to support this?

** Do I need to point out that fellowship stands with worship, teaching and evangelism as pillars of the New Testament Church?

South Christian African Bloggers who I believe really get this right:

Angus Kelly

Angus Kelly and I spend a lot more time disagreeing on things than agreeing (oh Lord bring more Calvinistic, Pre-trib, Pre-Rapture, Dispensationalist, Fundementalists across my path ;) ) but I appreciate his openess to debate. John van de Laar from Sacredise is top of this category too.

For some great examples of interaction check out and

Angus Kelly

Sharkbait was the fish I wrote to when I decided I wanted to blog. He steered me through setting up. He’s Anglican and worships with my family down in the Eastern Cape. He has a surprisingly large following of woman (I follow his comments RSS and am frequently struck by how popular he is).

Others I believe are in this category are: Dion’s random ramblings, Khanya, Ryan Peter Blogs and stuff and .

<— Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 3 —>

The Sovereignty of God

The heavens are telling of the Glory of God declare Psalm 119 1

The work of the creator, owner, architect, sustainer and king is truely awesome to behold. This is my first try of image manipulation with GIMP. What do you think? Click image to link to source.

This week, at Midrand Chapel, we looked at the Sovereignty of God, and boy, was it a sermon or what! Chris preached that as we stood back and viewed God for who He really is part of us might want to shake our fists at Him but an appropriate reaction, a right response, would be to bow down and worship Him, and indeed by God’s grace (or at His judgment) we all will.

There were 5 pity statements Chris made in the introduction of his sermon that I thought I’d write down and share,

God is the creator. Everything that exists outside of Him is His creation!

God is the owner. Everything that exists outside of Him is owned by Him!

God is the architect. Everything that exists outside of Him is designed by Him!

God is the sustainer. Everything that exists outside of Him draws life from Him!

God is the king. Everything that exists outside of Him is ruled by Him!

For more context consider these wise words from The Book,

10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing,
And the breath of all mankind?

13 …”With Him are wisdom and might;
To Him belong counsel and understanding.

14 “Behold, He tears down, and it cannot be rebuilt;
He imprisons a man, and there can be no release.

15 “Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up;
And He sends them out, and they inundate the earth.

16 “With Him are strength and sound wisdom,
The misled and the misleader belong to Him.

17He makes counselors walk barefoot
And makes fools of judges.

18He loosens the bond of kings
And binds their loins with a girdle.

19He makes priests walk barefoot
And overthrows the secure ones.

20He deprives the trusted ones of speech
And takes away the discernment of the elders.

21He pours contempt on nobles
And loosens the belt of the strong.

22He reveals mysteries from the darkness
And brings the deep darkness into light.

23He makes the nations great, then destroys them;
He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.

24He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people
And makes them wander in a pathless waste.

25 “They grope in darkness with no light,
And He makes them stagger like a drunken man.

Want to hear the verse in context? Job 8 – 14
What is this about?

Chris Woolley Midrand Chapel

Chris Woolley has been an elder employed at Midrand Chapel since 2005. He is married with six children, three of whom have been adopted. Chris studied mechanical Engineering at WITS University during which time he became a Christian and developed a desire be involved in missions and church planting. After initially working as a Maintenance Engineer he resigned to further his theological studies. He is a graduate of the Baptist Theological College in Randburg (DipTh) and the Masters Seminary in California (MDiv).