All posts by Mark Penrith

Mark is a pastor at Crystal Park Baptist Church. Crystal Park Baptist Church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord; gathered together for teaching, worship, fellowship and evangelism. Mark is married to Liezl, has three children, Kaitlyn, Kathryn and Thomas and loves preaching, writting and thinking.
Township Reformation

After Darkness Light!

I love the Doctrines of Grace because I love God’s Word. And I’m really excited to be living through a worldwide renewal of emphasis upon these timeless truths.

And praise the Lord South Africa isn’t being left out. Bold men are standing up in pulpits all through our country testifying to the sovereign exercise of a merciful and loving God in saving wretches and bringing glory to Himself.

Now I’m white. Often when I say “All through the country” I’m speaking about people that look like me, sound like me, live like me in suburbs just like mine. Yet South Africa is a tale of two cities isn’t it? Grassed, treed suburbs and dusty, sprawling townships. Is there any kind of reformation renewal happening in the tinned shanty towns down the road that it is so easy to be blissfully ignorant of?

The answer is yes. On Saturday I was blessed to spend the day in Thembisa at the Welamlambo Baptist Mission with friends from a ministry called Township Reformation (find them on Facebook). It was a wonderful time of listening to opportunities and challenges that church plants I could support are facing in South African township settings.

Here’s a high level of what the speakers addressed:

Thapelo Mpai, Township Reformation

Thapelo Mpai, Township Reformation

Thapelo Mpai gave a very informative, interesting breakdown of the current state of South African townships. What I really enjoyed was his honest holistic, informed approach. Politics, crime, social degradation, size, other religions… he gave the listeners real insight into the magnitude of the mission field. You can download Session 1 here.

Irving Steggles, Township Reformation

Irving Steggles, Township Reformation

What was great is that after an informative session Irving Steggles drove home an expositional session. Considering portions from the Acts of the Apostles he gave us pause to consider a Biblical strategy for township church planting. I’ve downloaded Irving’s sermons from the Birchleigh Baptist Church website in the past but really enjoyed listening to him in person. You can download Session 2 here.

Bheki Beme, Township Reformation

Bheki Beme, Township Reformation

Then Bheki Bembe listed a number of challenges facing Biblical church planters. He is planting into Olievenhoutbosch (an area I’m familiar with). He contrasted the other speakers well in that he is informal and jovial. He picked out issues like the difficulties breaking in to the township, the false Christianisation of the people, the people first philosophy, a mismatched prioritization, inflated expectations, trust issues, money issues, languages… actually the challenges are endless. I’ve often said that unless God does a miracle (which salvation always is) a conservative evangelical church plant stands no chance of success. You can download Session 3 here.

Tim Centrell, Township Reformation

Tim Centrell, Township Reformation

Finally Tim Cantrell addressed the issue of hindrances prohibiting suburban churches planting and supporting Biblical churches in townships. This is an area which I think we, as suburban churches, are going to need to spend a great deal of more time considering and articulating for the benefit of our brethren that are struggling on the other side of the tracks. You can download Session 4 here.

So, what are my thoughts:

Firstly, White guys didn’t organise the day. This was a group of young black men with a heart for where they grew up trying to mobilise the Church. I’m so grateful I was there to be in the back seat and witness that. I don’t think that white churches have been terribly successful in townships and I’m sure this is a providential move of the Spirit and we’re on the cusp of witnessing the Lord doing great things.

Secondly, it was excellent. We started on time’ish, ended on time, were well fed, enjoyed excellent worship, had really good fellowship. My Saturdays are precious to me as I prep for Sunday. I was really concerned that this wouldn’t be the best use of my time and was ready to leave at half time. I didn’t, the time was well spent. I can say this, when the guys from Township Reformation put on another event I’ll make effort to be there.

Thirdly, I was a little disappointed of lack of attendance of suburban and township churches. There were a whole bunch of churches that are like-minded which would have benefited from being there. Maybe it’s early days for this group but I certainly hope that future initiatives will have greater buy in.

In the 1800′s Robert Moffert, a missionary, once said, “In the vast plain to the north I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been.” The picture of the country has dramatically changed since then yet the need and urgency has never been greater. There is a grave darkness cast over our land yet the first light of dawn has sprung.


Church camps, discipleship and resting in the Lord

Mud fight, church camp, Central Baptist Church Pretoria

The epic mud fight, second only in fun to the epic shaving cream battle.

This past weekend I had the privilege to join Central Baptist Church Pretoria on their church camp. We went out to a very accommodating campsite called Paradeisos, North of Pretoria, along the Moloto Road. It was a really uplifting time for myself, Liezl and the kids, and we came back refreshed. Three quick observations regarding Central Baptist Church Pretoria: One, God’s People have a joy bubbling up inside of them that spills over and blesses all around. There were plenty of smiles, friendly faces and Christian fellowship this past weekend. Two, Central is clearly going through something of a Spiritual awakening. Now I’m not going to quantify or qualify that statement, but young, old, black, white, English, Afrikaans and every other language in the South African melting pot seemed to be waiting on the Lord and many are availing themselves to Him. It’s exciting to hang out with folk like that. Three, there’s a ministry run out of the church, Campus Outreach, which is being used by the Lord to harvest souls. New Christians, with fire burning in their veins, are like fuel to my soul.

Sunset, church camp, Central Baptist Church Pretoria

The sunset at Paradeisos.

This weekend we considered the following verse from Colossians 1:28, 28 We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. We used that text as a springboard to look upon Christ as the “Him” whom we proclaim, salvation – “in Christ” – as the point whereupon the discipleship journey begins, that we’re to be Scripture-Saturated and Spirit-Controlled that we may “mature” into the image of our Lord and Saviour and that discipleship is a “everyone” journey. You can download the camp notes here, and the four sermon outlines here: Session 1, Session 2, Session 3, Session 4.

Campus Outreach, church camp, Central Baptist Church Pretoria

A bunch of the TUKS students.

On the one hand I came away from the camp refreshed spiritually, on the other hand I worked really hard this past weekend. It’s such a burden on my heart to bring God’s Word to God’s People. From time to time because of preparation – and sometimes because of circumstances – I’ve really struggled to sleep. I lie awake a night with thoughts running through my mind and at other times fretting over issues I just cannot resolve. Last night I slept like a baby. Consider these well known verses from Psalm 23, 2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. I laughed this morning as I listened to the following on the Desiring God website: Work Like an Arminian, Sleep Like a Calvinist?. I’m praying ever harder that I find my rest in Him who leads his sheep beside quiet waters.

Tyrel Haag

Remember your past with thanksgiving; live your present with zeal

I love my country. I love God’s Word and His people. I’m into history.

Having spent any amount of time studying Scripture you’d be struck by just how much value God puts on history. And I’m not just talking about the historical narratives which weave the story of the Old Testament together or Luke’s masterful recording of the historical development of the early church. No, I’m talking about how God emphasises again and again His involvement in history to His people in order to motivate them, rebuke them, inspire them, comfort them. God wants His people to keep close to mind His “Mighty hand and outstretched arm”.

History isn’t that dry, dusty yellow edged book that you were forced to read at school in order to pass an exam. History is a story – no it’s the story – the tale of the people that have contributed to who you are, why you’re here doing what you’re doing, thinking how you’re thinking, living like you’re living. The study of history allows us to understand our people and the societies that we’ve built, understand change and how to cope and adapt to it. It creates a sense of identity, both of self and of corporate.1

That’s history. Now to connect South Africa and the Church.

On his blog Called. Convicted. Converted. my friend Tyrell Haag, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church over a number of posts is giving some insight into the history of the church in South Africa. I’d encourage you to go and check the posts out. Let me give you a brief synopsis of the story so far:

The Gospel in South Africa #1: The Beginning

Tyrell begins by telling the story of a 28 year old George Schmidt, who came to Cape Town by ship from Netherlands during the early months of 1737. “This was a historic event! The first Protestant missionary to ever reach the shores of South Africa had arrived.” It is a story that jars one’s teeth; a tale of racism and rejection. A type of religion existed in the colony which was devoid of life. Yet it is a story of victories won for the cross.

The Gospel in South Africa #2: The Morning Star of the Xhosa Church

“The Two London Society Missionaries, Van der Kemp and his friend Edmond arrived to a very different Cape Town in 1799. A British flag now waved over the Dutch Port; British forces having arrived to secure Cape Town in the wake of the waning Dutch Empire during the Napoleonic wars.” Yet this story isn’t about two white missionaries but rather another man name Ntsikana. Dr Kevin Roy, a wonderful storyteller, says of him, “Ntsikana’s ministry remains an early example of how the gospel can be efficiently communicated within the language, idioms, thought forms, cultural traditions and social practices of a particular people.”

The Gospel in South Africa #3: William Shaw and the Methodist Mission

Tyrell next presents a squashed group of 4000 hopeful English settlers who arrived from Britain in South Africa in the year 1820. “A land of hope lay ahead of these families, who had been selected out of a group of some 90 000 – all of whom fleeing the rising unemployment facing Britain after the Napoleonic wars. On one of the ships was a young Methodist minister who longed not to escape England, but to preach the gospel. Little did he know how powerful an impact he would have in history.” Consider How God used this man, “Starting from scratch, after forty years’ labour, in 1860, there were 36 Methodist missionaries, 96 school teachers and catechists, about 5 000 church members, 80 Sunday schools and 48 day schools, 74 chapels and 183 preaching stations.”

The Gospel in South Africa #4: The First Indigenous Minister

So make no mistake, Christian history is interesting. Fascinating. Exciting. Such is the story of Tiyo Soga. This man, dubbed the Black Scotsman, was the first ordained black minister in Southern Africa. He led a colorful life and his legacy lasted long after his death.

Tyrell will continue to blog through the history of our country, telling the stories of God’s People, reaching out to an ever-changing world, with the unchanging truth of Scripture.

The Joy of Forgiveness

This week’s Sermon: The Joy of Forgiveness

You can download this weeks sermon here.

From the lips of a man who’d broken every law under the sun comes a lesson of forgiveness and joy.

The outline was:

Passage: Psalm 32:1 – 2 Download

Title: The Joy of Forgiveness

  1. Three Dirty Truths about Man “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude or nature” (Grudem). a.) Man is rebellious, b.) our sin is offensive and c.) our nature is perverse.
  2. Three Glorious Actions of our Lord Salvation belongs to the Lord! It is His work alone. a.) The Lord graciously pardons sinners, b.) He completely atones for their sin and c.) He legally and spiritually justifies us.
  3. Three Lessons about Forgiveness Even today forgiveness is a.) possible, b.) is characterised by a turning from sin and turning to God and c.) results is divine joy.

[Click here to read more]

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.


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.


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.



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 (

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.

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