Pastor Lacey, welcome to Reformation Zambia. Let us start with the most obvious question on many minds. Many people wonder how a pastor in the heart of the UK has found himself pastoring a church in the heart of Africa. How did the Lord lead you from Stowmarket to Lusaka?

Margaret and I felt our hearts being stirred towards missionary work in Kenya back in 1992,. We had been pastoring in Stowmarket since 1977 and had certainly enjoyed the favour and mercy of the Lord during all those years. However, we were aware that the Lord was broadening our horizons and making us aware of the need of Kenyan village pastors for theological training. I visited Kenya for about 3 weeks in 1993 and then we visited Kenya for two months in 1994. During that time I also spent two weeks in Zambia, to participate in the Reformed Conference. Then, in 1995, we received a formal invitation from Trinity Baptist Church in Nairobi to join them and conduct pastoral training. I submitted this to the Stowmarket Church and the whole fellowship agreed that this was indeed the Lord’s leading. Our church also agreed to provide the spiritual and material support that we would need. I travelled to Nairobi early in March 1996, and Margaret joined me in September of the same year.

In 1997, it was our pleasure and privilege to visit Lusaka Baptist Church to speak at their church conference. That was a very delightful time during which we enjoyed very rich fellowship.

Early in 1998, the elders of Lusaka Baptist Church approached us to see if we would contemplate an invitation to the pastorate of their church. I was certainly missing the pastoral ministry and had cultivated a special affection for LBC, but I was also anxious not to abandon our missionary service so soon. Many people knew that we had gone to Kenya and were supporting us very faithfully. They, and others who might be following our example, could be discouraged if we left the work at an early stage. We spent months praying and consulting our home church over the issue. I was heartened to discover that the whole fellowship at Stowmarket thought that it would be right for us to accept. I was also very relieved when I discovered that three other couples (including Mr and Mrs Sukesh Pabari) were planning to come from the UK and settle alongside us in Kenya. By October 1998, we felt that the Lord had dealt with all our misgivings and opened the door for us to take up the pastoral ministry in Lusaka. We were able to confirm this to the church at the end of October and join our brethren here in the following February. I am exceedingly grateful for the great patience of the members of LBC as together we waited for the Lord to clear our path.

When you and Pastor Ronald Kalifungwa preached at the 1999 Reformed Conference, someone commented that we had a white man in a black church and a black man in a white church for speakers that year. How have you found the experience of pastoring a predominantly African congregation?

It may have been because of our experience in Kenya, but right from the start we felt comfortable in an African Church. I believe that Zambians are not particularly race conscious and certainly the spirituality of the membership of LBC meant that we always viewed each other as brethren in the Lord. In fact, we felt so completely at home that we had to remind ourselves that there must be cultural differences that we must discover, otherwise we might fail to communicate properly with the congregation or cause needless misunderstandings and unease. We are extremely grateful for the wisdom and insight of our church elders and other mature ladies and gentlemen in the church who have consistently helped us to gain the insights we needed and to handle various situations.

I would wish to record, however, that to minister the word of God and to preach Christ’s gospel in a country and even continent different from one’s own is extremely enriching spiritually. You learn to think again about the message you are preaching and your style of ministry. You turn away from the dangerous clichés that numb your mind and find a new freshness in the Lord’s work.

News is doing its rounds that you are on the eve of your departure from Zambia heading back to your home country. What indicators made you feel that it is time for you to pitch your tent elsewhere at this time, and how has your church handled your pending departure?

We have been in Africa much longer than we expected when first we left for Kenya. This has been a great privilege for us but we are both finding serious limitations of the flesh because of our age. Lusaka Baptist Church is a prominent and growing church facing tremendous opportunities. In the mercy of the Lord it has settled well into its evangelical and Reformed position and the time is ripe for a younger pastor to establish, we would hope, a powerful and enduring ministry. We feel as though there is much that we are unable to do because of the sheer weariness of the body. Also, we have a very heavy burden for the cause of Christ in our homeland and we believe that the Lord is calling us back to where, given the totally different climate, we trust we shall be strengthened for more years of gospel labour.

I advised the elders of my thinking about 10 months ago and indicated to them that we expected to return to UK towards the end of 2004. Then in October 2003, I advised the Church that we would be retiring at the end of September 2004.

The members of LBC have lovingly expressed their sorrow at the thought of our going, and we certainly do not know how we shall handle it when the time comes. They have, however, already committed themselves very responsibly to pray and work, to discern the Lord’s will concerning our successor.

AIDS is a very real crisis in this nation, and on the African continent as a whole. Do you think that there is something we should be doing as Christians in the light of this catastrophe that we are presently not doing?

I disagree with those who say that ‘the church’ ought to be doing more in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Lord has given us our commission and it is very clear. However, we must continue to set before the rising generation, within our churches, the great need for sexual purity, not just to avoid the disease but to keep from sin. We must not allow the fear of HIV/AIDS to be the motive for holy living! There is much more to God’s law than that. We do, however, have a very solemn responsibility to our brethren and sisters who have contracted the disease. Just as we would not allow our fellow members to endure hunger, so we cannot allow them to suffer for want of proper medication and medical care. If any of our members who are HIV+ cannot access necessary ARV medication or afford proper tests, we must, in our churches, meet that cost. When they are terminally ill we must make sure that they are carefully and lovingly nursed. We do this for Christ’s sake!

Having been in Zambia now for almost six years, I am sure you have seen the strengths and weaknesses of our Evangelical churches generally and our Reformed Baptist churches in particular. What would you say some of these are?

Many of our Reformed Baptist churches in the UK have reached their present stage from a hypercalvinism which inhibited serious gospel preaching. Their sister churches in Zambia, by contrast, have come from a more evangelizing, conservative evangelical background. I have discovered, therefore, in this country, a more fervent proclamation of the gospel and a readiness to engage in personal evangelism. That is a great strength. I also believe that Christian in our churches are teachable and ready to grapple with doctrinal issues. They are very good listeners! This, I believe, is one reason why very few of our church members have defected to the New Pentecostalism that is rampant in this land.

One of the greatest weaknesses within our churches is a lack of commitment to the local church that is manifested when people are ready to abandon their service for the Lord, the fellowship of the saints and the ministry they have been receiving for the perceived material gains to be found in other countries. I would also mention the way in which couples are prepared to hazard the intimacy of their marriages and live apart, for the same reasons.

What have you found to be the challenges that pastors in our Zambian context face as they pastor God’s people, and what would you advise them to do to be faithful to their calling?

  1. Recognize the greatness of their calling to preach the glorious gospel of the blessed God and minister the word to His saints. Other church members may well comment on all kinds of social and political issues but we have been sent to preach Christ, and our tongues and our lips are sanctified for this purpose. If, at any time, I have a public platform, I must speak of Christ and Him crucified!
  2. Develop, more and more, a pastoral heart. We watch for souls. We should love the souls committed to our charge and yearn over them, seeking always their highest good. We can never carelessly abandon them for we are answerable to the One who laid down His life for His sheep.
  3. Strive, every day, for a closer walk with God. Our people desperately need their pastors to be godly men.

What final words would you like to say to our readers, who are mainly from Reformed Baptist churches in Zambia?

I suppose it is really much too early, but I will grasp the opportunity nevertheless. Both Margaret and I will always been intensely grateful for the way in which the Lord’s people, not only in LBC but also throughout our sister churches, have more than welcomed and received us. They have made us feel as though we truly belonged in Zambia. We can never adequately express our thanks to them, and to the Lord, for the joy and satisfaction that has been ours in serving the Lord in this country.

I would also urge all the members of the Reformed Baptist Churches in Zambia to value immensely the truly biblical doctrines that are our distinctives. It really matters very much what we believe. It is only the solid faith of the Reformers and all who have stood in their position that has been able to withstand the onslaughts of Romanism, modernism, liberalism, and more recently the charismatic movement. It has been the glorious old doctrines of God’s sovereignty in salvation that has been the greatest motivation for solid missionary work. The old paths of the Lord Jesus, His Apostles and the Reformers will always be the good way in which sinners shall find rest for their souls.