2008 ZAMBIAN REFORMED CONFERENCE

The annual gospel feast of the Reformed Baptists in Zambia has come and gone, and our hearts are full of praise to God for the gospel of our glorious God. The 2008 conference was held this year at Lusaka Baptist Church’s “Tent of Meeting” from Monday 25 to Friday 29 August, 2008. Dr Jim Grier and Dr Voddie Baucham, ministered to us on the subject of apologetics at a level that both young and old in the faith were able to relate to. Dr Grier proved to be a Bible encyclopedia on two feet as biblical history oozed out of him in his preaching and lecturing. Dr Baucham, who preached and lectured for us at this conference last year, showed that, like wine, he is getting better with each succeeding year.

The keynote speaker was Kennedy Sunkutu of Kafue Reformed Baptist Church. In a very brief message on the first evening he simply reminded us of the importance of apologetics in the life of ordinary Christians if they were to be effective in their evangelistic work. We also had three seminars repeated on two afternoons during the family conference. Ronald Kalifungwa (pastor at Lusaka Baptist Church) taught on the basic laws of logic, Alfred Nyirenda (elder at Mount Makulu Baptist Church) taught on intimacy in marriage, and Raphael Banda (pastor at Central Baptist Church, Mazabuka) taught on modesty and decency in dressing. While this was going on at the family conference, there was a Q&A session at the school of theology. Dr Voddie Baucham and myself were the panelists.

“Apologetics is knowing what you believe, why you believe it, and how to effectively communicate it to others.” That was Dr Baucham’s favourite line. In this way he reduced this big word into bite-size so that everyone could see that apologetics was relevant to them. The importance of a worldview to apologetics cannot be overemphasized. So, the messages of Dr Grier were calculated to help us develop a biblical worldview. Dr Grier took us from the foundational first chapters of Genesis all the way to the promises portrayed in the book of Revelation, showing us how consistent the Christian view of life was. He wanted us to learn to look at any one issue from the Bible in the light of the whole. While we were feasting on this, Dr Baucham was showing us from examples in the Bible how to give a reason for the hope that is in us. His final application of apologetics to the Christian family was the grand finale to the conference!

This year’s attendance was less than last year. One possible explanation was that last year’s conference also had the Sola 5 attendees in our midst. Also, this year it was not just the Lusaka attendees but also all who were from the major towns on the line of rail who were asked to pay in order to attend the conference. No doubt, this new measure knocked out a few people simply because for many years all those outside Lusaka attended the conference freely. The headcount on the last evening session showed slightly more than 600 people. The registration details showed that this represented sixty three churches and twelve nations. We were particularly encouraged by the fourteen brothers and sisters from America who came to attend our conference, most of whom came from Grace Family Baptist Church, Houston, Texas, where Dr Baucham is the pastor.

During the conference reports on a number of inter-church projects were given. We heard from the Zambia Reformed Baptist Building Trust Fund, the Reformed Baptist Radio and Television Ministry, the Reformation Zambia magazine, and the Reformed Baptist Preachers College. Through these joint ventures much was accomplished in the course of the year to spread the Reformed Faith. One highlight at this year’s conference was the launching of the Reformed Baptist Churches Association of Zambia (REBCAZ). This is meant to be a means of enabling all the Reformed Baptist churches in Zambia to work together in joint projects, without the association taking on a life of its own. Also on one of the evenings, three graduates of the Reformed Baptist Preachers College were awarded with diplomas in theology at a brief graduation ceremony.

Next year is the twentieth anniversary of the Zambian Reformed conferences. A lot has changed in the twenty years. Pastor Achille Blaize, pastor at Grace Baptist Church in East London, England, has accepted our invitation to come and preach at this historic conference. He preached at the very first Reformed conference in 1990, and so it will be interesting for him to come and see what has become of the seed he planted twenty years ago. Although the stream has not yet become an ocean, by the grace of God we are slowly but surely moving in that direction. To God alone be the glory. Amen!

Conrad Mbewe, Lusaka

CHRISTIAN BUSINESS SEMINAR

How does a Christian live out his faith on a daily basis? How does he glorify God through his life and thus point others to Christ? This requires a Christian worldview that governs the Christian’s attitude towards his finances and his work.

Presenting his book, Be successful; be spiritual, at a Christian business seminar organised by the Evergreen Christian Bookstore last July, Dr John Temple spoke on the origin and importance of work. Citing from Genesis 1, he pointed out that God has been working from creation and he passed this aspect on to men and women as his image-bearers. Work is, therefore, not only a command but it also gives us significance and integrity. Idleness is not natural to humanity. Dr Temple emphasised that work must be productive. You must not consider yourself as working if you are unproductive. Part of having a biblical worldview, he said, was to have a biblical view of work. Why do we work? It is not only to earn a living. That is the last reason. We work in order to imitate God (Genesis 2:15), to help others (Ephesians 4:28), to evangelise (Titus 2:9-10), and to earn a living (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12).

Dr Temple, therefore, urged all of us not to look at work as a necessary evil to be endured purely for economic survival. Rather, we are to engage in it with all the talents God has give us so that God may be glorified through us. Dr Temple warned us that the best way to help people is not to give them free things but to give them work. This is because work gives a person a sense of dignity. It is true that in society people are defined by the work they do (e.g. “He is a doctor”, “She is a lawyer”), and that is only right. He who works also cherishes the wealth he gains out of his work because it is a fruit of his sweat. A person who encourages hand-outs may help the needy today but he, in effect, kills industry. That is no good!

One form of work that Dr Temple told us to highly prize is that of farming (and mining). Ultimately, everything that we have comes from the soil. Sadly, these are the jobs that are the least prize today. We all want white collar jobs. As Christians we need to encourage people to take up the primary source of all our goods and to give respect to those who do so.

Dr Temple also spent some time giving us the characteristics of a good worker. A good worker has diligence, excellence, faithfulness, submission, love, honesty, no negligence, no corruption, no stealing, no selfish ambition, etc. On integrity, he said that honesty must be comprehensive. If a man cheats on his wife at home you can be sure that he will cheat on his boss at work also!

Dr Temple also gave us an excellent, yet simple, plan on preparing for retirement. He analysed all the various retirement packages available on the market and reduced them to two or three methods. And of these, he said that the best way to prepare for retirement was to invest in stock markets.

He also brought out the thorny issue of desiring to be rich. He said money is not the problem but the love of it is. In this case, he said it is a person’s attitude towards riches that matters. Be Successful; be spiritual is a must-read book for all who want to glorify and honour God.

Dr John Temple grew up in South Africa where he obtained a degree in electrical engineering. He obtained a PhD from King’s College, London, in physics and control theory. He has a rich engineering and scientific background, and has worked in management, progressing to various positions such as Director, Managing Director, and Chairman over a period of thirty years. His last full-time job was as Chief Executive of Plessey Corporation, a listed company with offices or subsidiaries in eight countries, including South Africa, the UK, Australia and South East Asia. After retiring from full-time work, he founded a computer company with offices in South Africa, the UK and the USA.

The seminar was very helpful to all of us who attended, even those who are not involved in business as businessmen and women. The greatest challenge was on how to live a God-glorifying life in the workplace. That is a challenge that most of us need to hear!

Kakonde Simbeye,

 Kabwata Baptist Church.

SOUTHERN PROVINCE REFORMED CONFERENCE 

October 24th, 2008 was a national holiday in Zambia. The country is generally over cast with the mirth of Independence celebrations in memory of the country’s political freedom. The media, both public and private, is filled with news of the same events.

While these celebrations were taking place, the Reformed Baptist churches in Southern Province held convocation in Choma. Their gathering may not have attracted media coverage, but in the eyes of God this was a great event in the history of the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia. It was a great day of spiritual feasting for the Reformed Baptist churches; namely, Central Baptist Church of Mazabuka, Trinity Baptist Church of Livingstone, and Choma Central Baptist. Brethren of a kindred mind, slightly under ninety representing the three sister churches, were in attendance. In attendance too were brethren from non-Reformed Baptist churches within Choma District; namely, Grace Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church. Both churches had their pastors attending the meeting.

We agree with the conclusion made by R.L. Dabney, Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Virginia in 1854, that “no man but the believer is capable of understanding the philosophy of history” (Dabney, Discussions, p3).

The inaugural regional conference was hosted by Choma Central Baptist Church under the theme, “An Overview of the Doctrines of Grace”. The preacher was Conrad Mbewe, pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka. Pastor Mbewe judiciously dealt with the subject in five sessions by using the first two chapters of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In session one, he dealt with the issue of man’s inability to make himself acceptable before God. He ably proved this from Ephesians 2:1-5. Men are by nature children of wrath (v3, and Romans 3:10).

He answered the question, “How does God save us?” It is by grace. There is no single iota of human merit in salvation (v4-5). The preacher showed that the problem began in Genesis 3 when our first parents Adam and Eve disobeyed God and that act of disobedience resulted in a state of sin and misery on the entire human race.

Our understanding of the doctrines of grace unite us and are a foundational pillar in all our dealings with God and with fellow man. These doctrines fill us with a sense of our indebtedness to God and increase our missionary zeal.

In the second session, Pastor Mbewe dealt with God’s electing love from Ephesians 1:3-6. He highlighted the fact that the story of salvation began way back before the world came into being. Conference attendees were showed that God entered into an agreement with his Son to save his elect people in eternity.

In the third session, Pastor Mbewe unlocked Ephesians 1:7-10 dealing with the doctrine of particular redemption (also known as limited atonement). The Lord Jesus Christ paid the ransom price for those the Father had chosen in him before the world began. In very plain language he laid bare this intricate matter. He proved that what was happening on the cross was the buying back of the people of God.

In the fourth session, the speaker moved on to deal with Ephesians 1:11-14, a portion of Scripture in which God’s irresistible call was delineated. In this call, the Holy Spirit is seen to be at work applying the finished work of Christ on individuals who believe in Jesus Christ.

In the fifth session Pastor Mbewe wrapped up the one-day conference by drawing our minds Ephesians 1:15-23. He dealt with depth of the riches of the almighty power of God with which believers have been made alive in Christ Jesus. Yes, this is power which God the Father exerted when he raised Jesus from the dead. Such power and commitment on the part of God leaves no room to ever imagine that the believer will be left “in trouble to sink” by God. The final perseverance of the Christian is made sure by God himself in keeping with his nature.

It was such a great day in the history of the church in Zambia. For the Reformed Baptists in particular, we have come a long way and what began like an act of youthful zeal in the precincts of Lusaka Baptist Church has now become a strong wave in the providential unfolding of the deep secrets of him who “works all things after the counsel of his own will.”

We strongly believe that the outworking of history is intimately related with the person of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is to have the pre-eminence in all things. Paul could say all things in heaven and earth were for him, and by him, and consist in him. Jesus stands over history as its Lord, behind history as its meaning, and before history as its purpose. Oh for grace to understand “God’s method of grace” in this framework.

The speaker ended by urging the three sister churches in the province to champion the spread of the doctrines of grace far and near, even if it means having a Tonga interpreter. What was important was to make known the wonders of grace. We look forward to yet another time of feasting this year in Livingstone.

 Soli Deo Gloria!

 Johnson Malipenga,

 Central Baptist Church, Choma