Joshua, the other themacks.wordpress.com blog guy, asked me to do a little report of what we’ve been doing here in South Africa the last couple of weeks. At first I hesitated because I wasn’t sure anyone would be interested. In fact, I’m still not sure, but then I remember reading Phil Johnson’s report of his time in England and decided that if Phil thought it was important enough to write about, perhaps there is some validity to this report thing. Only difference is that I’m not Phil Johnson who is one of the best and cleverest writers I know. So, with that as a background and explanation, here goes with my report.
About two weeks ago we began a series of meetings for pastors and others in various parts of South Africa that we call Shepherd’s conferences. Dr. Bill Barrick from The Master’s Seminary, Pastor Bruce Blakey from Grace Community Church, Pastor Joel James from Grace Fellowship Church in Pretoria, Pastor Mark Christopher from Living Hope Baptist Church in Capetown. Dr. Tim Cantrell from Honeyridge Baptist Church in the Joburg area and Pastor Brian Biederbach from Grace Christian Church in Primrose joined me in doing the teaching. We began with a mini Sheepfold conference on Saturday, May 20 at which three of us made presentations for people who couldn’t attend the other conferences. Sunday, May 21 found Bill, Bruce and me preaching in different churches in the Joburg, Pretoria area. Monday through Wednesday, May 22 to 24 we held our first full fledged conference at Honeyridge Baptist Church with over 240 registrants. On Thursday we began another three day conference in the Polokwane area of South Africa at Christ Baptist Church and Seminary. All of the approximately sixty students at the seminary were in attendance as well as other pastors and lay people from the area. On Saturday afternoon, May 27 the other men and their wives left Carol and me to finish up the conference and then I preached at Christ’s Baptist Church on Sunday morning in Polokwane while the rest of the speakers headed for Capetown where they preached in different churches on Sunday. Most of the registrants at the Polokwane conference were black people with a smattering of white folk in attendance. The Capetown conference began Monday morning, May 29 and ended on May 31. The number of registrants and attendees for this year’s conference was larger than any of the previous Capetown conferences with approximately 200 attending the evening meetings.
At these conferences we presented a variety of topics that were relevant to pastoral/church ministry. Some of the topics were Moses, A Model Shepherd; Preaching from the book of Leviticus; How Not to Split a Church, What’s wrong with the church today, The Leader and His family, A Purposeful Ministry, A Patient Ministry, A Humble Ministry Before A Humble Ministry Before Men, Overcoming the Number One Cause of Unhappiness and Divorce In Marriage, Marriage and Family Counseling, Theological Hills to Die On, Get Me Out of Here and The Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament.
Some comments I heard from attendees were, “This is the most helpful conference I have ever attended. Other conferences I’ve attended just preach to the pastors, but this one gives me help for improving my ministry.” “My whole ministry has been changed by the teaching I receive at this conference. Of all the conferences I’ve attended, this is the most practical one. I mark out the dates for this conference every year so that I won’t miss it.” “Thank you for calling us back to the main things in our ministries.” “Thank you for being God’s instrument in convicting me of my pride.” “I came to this conference because I heard there were going to be some messages on humility and I knew I needed to hear those messages.” “I would like to get copies of some of these messages and give them out to all the people in my church.” One person told me that she was a social worker whose training had all been from a secular perspective and that she really wanted to learn a biblical perspective on counseling. Some pastors asked if they could use the outlines to present the material to people in their churches.
The people who attended came from a variety of churches; Dutch Reformed, Reformed Baptist, Church of England, Baptist Union churches, Independent Baptist churches, Presbyterian and even a few from Charismatic churches. Along with the teaching the people were able to purchase good literature, DVD’s and CD’s provided by Word of the Cross, Grace ToYou, Grace School of Ministry and Augustine Book Services.
These conferences gave us a good opportunity to give people information about the Grace School of Ministry courses that will begin in the fall of 2006. Many came to me and Joel James to ask questions. There was so much interest that we actually ran out of application forms and had to have some extra ones made. If even half of the people enroll who have expressed an interest it looks like we will have a large class of students.
These were busy, tiring days for all of us who participated. Some of us got a good case (or perhaps it would be better to say, a bad case) of bronchitis during this time. I, for example, returned to Pretoria and immediately went to the emergency room for treatment. Initially, the doctor thought I might have pneumonia, but, after x-rays, decided it was just a severe case of bronchitis. So, now after spending a couple of hundred dollars on antibiotics and other medicines I’m hopefully on the mend and getting ready to leave for some ministry time in the USA next week.
As always, it is such a privilege to minister in His Name. We want to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58). We’re not, and I hope you’re not, weary in serving the Lord, but are confident that in due season we will reap if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:10)