Gideon Mpeni

Strange Fire on our doorstep – thoughts on the church in Africa

Pastor Gideon Mpeni from Crystal Park Baptist Church spent the last month in Zambia and Malawi. While in Malawi he preached in Lilongwe and attended church in Blantyre. On returning back to South Africa I caught up with him and asked him some questions regarding the state of the Church in Malawi.

Gideon, a few days ago you told us about your recent travel experience to Zambia to address a conference in that country. After that you travelled to Malawi and I’m really interested to hear a little bit about how your country is doing?

Politically the country is going to have it’s presidential elections this year. Economically the country seems to be struggling and has gone through recent corruption scandals involving civil servants and some government officials.

So tell me, how long where you there for and where all did you travel?

I was there for three weeks and I travelled to the central and Southern region of Malawi. In the central region I went to the capital city of Lilongwe where my family is from and later I went down to the South to a city called Blantyre to visit my wife’s family.

In Lilongwe I was giving the opportunity to preach at Area 23 Baptist Church and I visited Kiaros Christian Centre, where Felix Nyika is the senior pastor.

In Blantyre I visited St Michael’s and All Angels Presbyterian church and Mark [Gideon's smiling and shaking his head as he says this] you won’t believe it but I there was a woman teaching at the weekly Bible study there.

In South Africa, not so much in the suburban areas, but certainly in our townships, we have a church on every street corner, and very often these small groupings are led by woman. How do things work in Malawi?

There’s a similar trend in Malawi with the coming in of feminism as a world view, gender equality issues. So you’ll find the same influence in the church, woman who’ll feel like they’re being discriminated if they’re not given a leadership role, even when it comes to teaching.

That’s interesting, I’d kinda thought that the church in South Africa was liberal because of Western influence. What do you think is influencing the church in Malawi?

I think it’s the same, we also have a Western influence. With the coming in of media, we have access to Christian television and lots of people watch Joyce Meyer and other woman. So they’ll think this is how church must be run, neglecting how the Bible describes leadership or church eldership.

Maybe describe the Christian landscape in Malawi?

In Malawi we have three mainline churches which are Presbyterian, Anglican and Baptist.

But the one which has the majority is the Presbyterian church because it’s divided into three synods, Livingstonia synod in the North, Nkhoma synod in the Central and Blantyre synod in the South. The Livingstonia synod has a strong influence and origin through David Livingston and the Scottish missionaries. The same applies to the Blantyre synod. Whereas the Nkhoma synod is influenced by the Dutch Reformed Church from South Africa.

The Reformed movement in Malawi is in a minority with the rising up of independent churches who are passionate for the Doctrines of Grace. Two leading lights are the Kairos Christian Centre in Lilongwe and Antioch Baptist Church in Blantyre, where Malamulo Chindongo pastors.

The Charismatic movement is one of the movements which is growing and attracting a huge following from the mainline churches.

In light of the Strange Fire conference and some of the things that Conrad Mbewe highlighted from that platform can you share any observations concerning the influence of the charismatic movement and Word of Faith gospel in Malawi?

Most faithful mainline churches have drifted from God’s Word and have given in to some of the influence of these guys. I’d say because of their fear that they’d lose their members. So you’d find the aspects of Word of Faith and Charismania on display or being practised in those churches.

I guess I’m interested in who the good guys are. What makes the two pastors that you mentioned earlier stand out?

Felix is a graduate of Dallas Seminary and Trinity Bible College in the US and he is now pursuing his Ph.D. He is an excellent expositor of God’s Word and has been given opportunity on Transworld Radio, his sermons are on air every Sunday and his recorded sermons are aired by one of the local radio stations. Another thing that stands out about Felix is that he is a mobiliser – he organises conferences for local pastors on Reformed Theology and Expository Preaching.

Malamulo is the senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church and is also an excellent expositor of God’s Word in Blantyre. He is affiliated with Heart Cry Ministries [Paul Washer] and is one of their missionaries in Malawi.

These are the men who’ve committed themselves to preach the Gospel in and out of season.

Newton Chilingulo

Newton Chilingulo, from Living Hope Church, where he serves with Joshua Mack.

Maybe to wrap it up, I know you’ve got a friend named Newton who’s heading to Malawi. I heard him preaching recently at the wedding of Chris Mnguni from Grace Baptist Church, Daveyton. He was well prepared, articulate and preached with zeal. Can you tell me anything about him and what he’s planning to do?

Newton’s father is Malawian and he came to South Africa whilst he was young. After finishing his studies at Christ Seminary the Lord laid upon the heart of Newton and he felt he needed to go back and bring out the message of the Gospel to the people of Malawi.

So he is heading to Blantyre this year.

Thanks Gideon, any last words, or prayer requests for Malawi?

Pray that God will continue to raise faithful men who will preach the message of the cross without compromise. Pray for the nation of Malawi, that the Lord will give us a God-fearing visionary leader.

Gideon Mpeni

What’s wrong with the church in Africa

Pastor Gideon Mpeni from Crystal Park Baptist Church spent the last month in Zambia and Malawi. While in Zambia he addressed a conference of pastors and on returning back to South Africa I caught up with him and asked him some questions regarding the state of the Church in Zambia.

Gideon Mpeni

Interview with Gideon Mpeni regarding What’s wrong with the church in Africa.

Gideon, what was the conference you attended?

It is an annual conference for missionaries from various churches across denominations which draws people from Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Namibia. The majority of delegates are Zambians. The conference mainly draws a mixture of Pentecostals and Charismatics.

That’s interesting, you’re very much a Evangelical Baptist, and quiet conservative at that, why were you invited to the conference?

One of the coordinators was a school friend of mine. We both attended a missions training school called William Carey School of World Missions before I went on to Christ Baptist Seminary in Polokwane. So I considered it to be an opportunity to expose a group of men to Reformed theology. In the three days I had opportunity to address the conference I dealt with the 5 Solas focusing on Sola Scriptura.

Why Sola Scriptura?

There has been an undermining of the authority of Scripture – and sufficiency of Scripture – in many churches across Africa today.

Well that brings me to the next question, any observations regarding the church in Zambia that you can share with us?

The “man of God” is the one who is reckoned by people as having the final authority and not the word of God. That’s a problem because people end up not focusing on what God’s Word says but rather what the “man of God” says.

There is a movement of so called prophets north of the border. So this movement of the prophets believes that they’re receiving ongoing direct revelation from God. Which leads many ill-equipped men to sway to this movement, no longer regarding the Bible as the authoritative – or all sufficient Word – rather searching for another revelation to speak to the people.

You say North of the border. What border? What do you mean by that phrase?

When you consider countries like Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and maybe Tanzania, you find that they have few theological institutions. As a result few men are exposed to theological teachings, even if there are institutions, those institutions are very expensive, so many men cannot afford to go to those institutions. The result is what they see on TV is what they do in church.

What TV are guys exposing themselves too?

Free to air Christian channels that people that side of Africa have access to. Emmanuel TV, TBN and Kingsway International Christian Church.

That’s a little negative, anything positive that you observed while serving in Zambia?

The people are hungry for God’s Word. They show interest, they write notes, they ask questions. They show genuine response by freely admitting shortfalls that they’ve been conducting in their churches.

When you look at the church, God has preserved his church, there’s still a remnant. Men who are faithfully preaching God’s Word without compromise in such context, in such environments, men like Conrad Mbewe and others, even in the rural areas, of low profile.

Thanks Gideon, tomorrow it’d be great if we could chat a little about the Church in Malawi.

South African Flag

Three South African Ministries which I’ll be watching in the year to come

Tim Cantrell

Tim Cantrell orchestrates a blog called Biblical Worldview. Is hard not to be intimidated by Tim – he’s like a 6-foot-a-lot. And he oozes charisma, loads of it. And then on top of it he is strategic, brain endowed. At Biblical Wordview Tim draws together men of equal statue, on the front page this month is Clint Archer and Mark Christopher, both fine writers in South Africa. I’m hoping to read lots of cutting edge commentary from this ministry in the year to come.

Mandla Gqada

Township Reformation is a group of reformers, young and black. Young, Black, Reformers – that excites me… all three… very much. Young – fast becoming a trend; Black – because God is no respecter of color; Reformers – because that’s what the church needs… in ever greater number. I’ve read a few articles already and they resonate deeply with me and my people at Crystal Park Baptist Church.

Ainsley Haag

Plugged-In Africa‘s focus is news, reviews, culture and the Gospel. The editor is Ainsley Haag. I’ve spent some time chatting to her and she’s got a good head, with a journalistic background (graduate from Wits) and a love for Christ and His glory. The website is intended to be a platform to propagate news and reviews regarding Africa and Christianity with a close link to local churches, pastors, missionaries, conferences, movements and general societal issues and events. Noble aims and I really hope it kicks off. You can find their Facebook presence here.

Africa

Three African ministries which rocked my theological socks in 2013

Tyrell Haag

Tyrell Haag is a friend, and a co-worker for the Gospel. Along with Michael Rogers, he pastors Heritage Baptist Church. I know Tyrell as an apologist and try and dial into Radio Pulpit on Fridays, where he takes questions and answers them live on radio (phone 012 334 1322 or sms 37871 to take part). Tyrell is a great guy to sit down and have a coffee with but when coffee chats aren’t an option you can read what he’s currently thinking about on his blog Called. Convicted. Converted.

Clint Archer

I try and listen to South African preachers. One of the guys I exposed myself to last year was Clint Archer. He pastors Hillcrest Baptist Church. He has a fresh preaching style and enjoys the illustration hook. He is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary (holding a doctorate in expository preaching). He blogs in two places The Cripple Gate (which I follow) and Café Seminoid (which I’ll start following going forward).

Conrad Mbewe

Conrad Mbewe isn’t South African (so I changed my title). But he continues to be an interesting guy to follow. He pastors Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia. He spends a great deal of his time flying, and can certainly be described as a conference speaker, however that’s not what makes him interesting. What makes him interesting is that he boldly says what others dare to think. I like his straight arrow approach to dealing with issues affecting the African continent and am often impressed by how his experience in Zambia resembles my own in South Africa. Conrad blogs on A Letter from Kabwata.

Steple

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?

Spurgeon

What is the Spurgeon Fraternal?

So I came back from the Spurgeon Fraternal this afternoon; and it was good. I thought I’d write down a couple of thoughts regarding it.

What is the Spurgeon Fraternal?

3 days, 8 sessions, focused on ‘God is the Gospel’.

The Spurgeon Fraternal is aimed at pastors who hold to the Doctrines of Grace and by and large is attended by those of a Baptistic position [that said, this year there was at least one Paedo-Baptist in the group].

The fraternity’s aims are mutual edification by fellowship with each other and prayer for one another.

That works out in the following way: We have three [or four] sessions a day, of one and a half hours during which we go through some content for half an hour, talk about the content for half an hour and then listen to brothers prayer needs and pray for them for half an hour. The rest of the time is set aside for fellowship and casual conversation (which translates into lengthy debates of the pastoral and theological type).

Where and When is the Spurgeon Fraternal?

Last night bonfire.

Currently the Spurgeon Fraternal happens twice a year; towards the end of the year it’s run on UJ Island, Vaal Dam, and towards the beginning of the year it’s run down in the Western Cape (in Stellenbosch).

The UJ Island, Vaal Dam fraternal is the fraternal that I can make. The beginning of November is just before things start getting crazy and has become a great way for me to gird my loins for the coming battle and I have no doubt that many of the prayer requests offered up are brought before the Lord by brothers regularly in the coming months.

How do I get to go to the Spurgeon Fraternal?

A walk on the wild side.

No group has “rights” to the Spurgeon Fraternal. The mix of Baptist Churches is quite encouraging. This year a number of Baptist Union of Southern Africa churches were represented, some Sola 5 churches, some churches that are in Sola 5 and the Baptist Union of Southern Africa, some independant Baptist churches and a guy from REACH (Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church).

The right person to speak to would be Peter Sammons from Germistion Baptist Church who is the custodian of the mailing list which will inform folk of what’s happening when (psammons@iburst.co.za).

Why consider going to the Spurgeon Fraternal?

To get to the island you take a ferry across the dam. Great times.

Consider going to the Spurgeon Fraternal if you hold tightly to the Doctrines of Grace and desire fellowship with like minded brothers. The fellowship this year was exceptional, the venue as always was great (the sleeping quarters are crude but the food is excellent), the speakers were good (the DVD presentation wasn’t as good as the local content led by Joachim Rieck and Brian Watts), there was worship (we sang a hymn before each session and spent a great deal of time in prayer).

I loved being amongst a bunch of Reformed Pastors and the sideline chats were as edifying as the billboard speakers (I spent an evening been schooled on Amillennial Eschatology and a morning considering Chapter 25 of the 1689; big plus for me). This is a firm fixture on my annual calendar.

Township

Township church; the complexity of answering the question, “What can we do?”

Township Evangelism, church planting

Outreach to Grace Baptist Church, Daveyton. Published on the Crystal Park Baptist Church blog.

I read an excellent article this morning written on the blog Township Reformation. In summary the writer makes the point that we need to plant Bible centric churches in the township because there is an absence of Bible centric churches. Consider this closing statement:

“Our townships not only need more churches, they are desperate for more churches. Churches that are biblical, confessional, and faithful. Not tossed to and fro by any wind of doctrine blowing in this land. Let us pray earnestly to God to raise a new generation that would plant such churches. Also, let us support brothers who are in process of planting or have already, by Gods grace, planted such churches” (TR).

Yet there are so many genuine obstacles to planting township churches one wonders how it may be achieved short of a miracle*. Consider first the competition any Evangelical work faces:

“The open areas [in townships] where we would play as kids have now been occupied by church tents… …Every school is packed with 3 or more churches using classrooms as places of worship on Sundays. This is on top of many old mainline churches that have existed for years… …and not forgetting the hip mega-churches that attract thousands of people from that same township.” (TR)

Then there’s the issue of finances. Now I get there’s financial diversity in the township. Shanty towns are very different to RDP towns which are as different to areas of bonded houses but a key constraint which Evangelical works face is finances. Actually all church plants face this problem alike but the issue is magnified and exponentially harder to overcome in areas where poor teaching regarding the People of God and their finances abound.

In fact, short of a miracle, it’s impossible to plant an Evangelical church into a township. Yet God is a God of miracles so I’d like to posit 3 ways we can answer the question “What can we do?”

1. We can pray

Even if our church isn’t already planting a church into a township we can speak to churches that are. Find out the name of the Pastor. Find out the location of the church. Commit them to pray in your services, in your prayer meetings in your personal devotions. Consider praying for Chris Mnguni at Grace Baptist Church in Daveyton. Or maybe John Ndhlovu at Cosmo City Baptist Church. God hears prayers, and while we remain silent is it any wonder that His Hand is stayed?

2. We can go

Nothing creates more opportunities for a Suburban pastor or congregant than getting a little township dust on their shoes. Once you’ve walked down a dusty street, had to fetch water from a dripping tap 50m away from where you’re working or used a smelly longdrop you quickly get a vision for the need and opportunity in the township. There’s nothing more powerful in a Suburban congregation than 5 people with a heart for a mission. There is a great cookie cut opportunity with an organisation called 3D-Outreach that you as a church might want to investigate. Check out we did here.

3. We can sacrifice

I mean it. Church planting into a township is a long term commitment. The challenges are huge. But the need is desperate. The Church, our church, your church, you in fact need to be prepared to sacrifice. For a limited time only we get to take the Gospel message out to a world that is dying without it. It is a great privileged to be used as an instrument of the almighty God as He goes about His work of calling in the lost sheep. When the time comes remember Paul’s pray for the Philippians,

3 I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, 4 always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God” (1:3 – 11).

Baptist

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.

Praying for the Holy Spirit

BUSA, Baptist Union of Southern Africa, Assembly

The theme for the 132nd Assembly of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa was Missions. Click image to enlarge.

I’ve just arrived home from the Baptist Union of Southern Africa‘s 2013 Assembly (It was the 132nd gathering of South African Baptists). The keynote sermons are a mixed bag of fruit. A sermon that really stood out for me this year was preached by Charlie Rampfumedzi. He is the principal of Christ Seminary (can someone closer to the seminary confirm the actual name of the seminary for me? I was told by Rocky Stevenson this past week that it’s actually Christ Baptist Seminary) in Polokwane. Christ [Baptist] Seminary is a campus of The Master’s Academy International.

Now in my home, over Sunday lunch, we play punch the preacher. OK, that’s an overstatement, Liezl (and whoever else is visiting for lunch) gives a critique of the Sunday sermon. Anything’s up for grabs, mannerisms to content, there are no holy cows. I find it useful to my personal growth and it’s become a way for me to gauge whether the main point of my message translated into the mind of my hearers.

BUSA, Baptist Union of Southern Africa, Assembly, Trent, Trent Eayrs, Umbizo

A highlight of the conference for me was the rich worship. Click image to enlarge.

Anyhow, the following critique emerged after I preached a sermon from Acts 1 (from both a parishioner and my wife), “You said you must be filled with the Spirit but you never said how.” This past Tuesday, when I sat down with a group over lunch and discussed Charlie’s sermon with them, John Rowland’s critique stood out for me because I’d heard it before. Let me be clear – I’m not advocating John’s position (he makes a link to Dispensationalism whereas I’d make the link to Cessationalism – and for the record, I’m both) but I’d love there to be some debate and John was bold enough to put pen to paper. Below is his thinking. I’d be interested to hear what you say (for the record Charlie only had 20 minutes to preach a sermon on a chapter from Acts so it was impossible for him to develop every theological point, however because this was noted, and because it’s been pointed out in my own preaching, and because John MacArthur… oh, you get the point… read it and comment below):

PRAYING FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT

The thesis of this short paper is that it is an inherent aspect of dispensational theology that Christians should not pray that God would grant the Holy Spirit to them.

In Luke 11:13 Jesus says:-

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

CI Schofield comments:-

‘To go back to the promise of #Lu 11:13, is to forget Pentecost, and to ignore the truth that now every believer has the indwelling Spirit #Ro 8:9, 15 1Co 6:19 Gal 4:6 #1Jo 2:20, 27.’

In his book ‘Found: God’s will’ Dr John MacArthur, Jr writes:-

‘I have sat in church and heard sincere people pray, “O, God, send Your Spirit,” and have thought to myself, No, He is here. He is here! I have heard people pray, ‘God give me more of Your Spirit,” as if He came in doses.’

Is it not also significant that MacArthur says nothing in his study Bible on Luke 11:13 about the wonderful promise, in answer to prayer, of our Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit?

Both Schofield and MacArthur are being consistent with dispensational theology. This teaches that after the Jews had rejected Christ and the kingdom, God moved to his parenthetical plan B and introduced the church age. Hence since our Lord’s words in Luke 11:13 were given in his teaching to Jews they no longer pertain to the church age because the church received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

I have heard two brothers from dispensational backgrounds; give moving messages on the need of the power of the Holy Spirit in ministry. Especially, they spoke of our need of him in preaching. Both failed to tell us how to obtain that power.

There are two problems with dispensational theology at this point:-

1 It dismisses precious truth taught by our Saviour as irrelevant.

2 It does not account for prayers in the other parts of the New Testament:-

‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.’ (Eph 1:17)

Also

‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,’ (Eph 3:14-16)

On the same page quoted above, MacArthur also dismisses prayers for more grace. In many of the letters of the apostles we find such greetings as:-

‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Phil1:2)

Also closing words of their letters such as:-

‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ (2Cor 13:14)

Are these two latter references not prayers?

To my dispensational brothers, I encourage you to turn from such erroneous teaching and to seek the Lord’s face for what the church in South Africa desperately needs. We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival. Pray in terms of our Lord’s promise in Luke 11:9-13.

John Rowland