In September 2016, over 3,100 delegates attended African Pastors’ Conferences (APCs) and 22,323 books were distributed to pastors and Bible teachers. Why? Why should busy men and women give up two days or more and travel long distances to sit on often hard benches to listen long hours of sessions and spend the little money many have on reformed books? Many will have taken time off from their tent-making work. Why? The reason is that they take seriously their responsibility to teach the Bible to the congregations to which they minister.

Many of those congregations will be very different from those of the churches of the readers of this magazine! Their pastors (alias, for some, bishops, apostles, prophets!) need the solid biblical teaching they never received in formal seminary training or heard in sermons in their Christian youth. By the grace of God, the pastors realise their need, – and the countries in which they are ministering share the same need.
The big aim in APC is to transform countries, by transforming churches, by transforming preaching and by transforming Pastors. In some of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa the geographical scope of APCs, there is already visibility of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work, but other countries and regions are still trapped in the darkness of false churches led by false prophets where the Bible is effectively ignored. Partly by the inspiration of Erroll Hulse we realised that we could address this deep and broad spiritual need by holding two-day conferences with faithful, mainly African reformed pastors, together with the supply of heavily discounted books for those pastors who were willing to accept Scripture as their sole guide for ministry and personal life.
Hence 11 years ago, African Pastors Conferences was founded. There had been forerunners, like the annual FIEL Conference run by Karl Peterson in Mozambique and conferences held in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa by Dennis Hustedt. Within a year we had conferences in Port Elizabeth, KZN and Gauteng, all in South Africa. From the earliest days, we were dependent on the grace of God in the generosity of publishers in providing discounted books and in speakers. Many of the speakers were Zambian who would give a substantial amount of time to speak at conferences especially in the South African context. Our goal in this context was clear. We wanted to kill the perception that reformed teaching and ecclesiology was a western phenomenon.
But soon we realised that the most efficient modus operandi was to have four-conference runs with the same theme and speakers: there are normally eight one-hour lectures and two question and answer sessions, as well as time for “purchasing” books (in fact the Pastors are giving no more than a transport donation). Each Pastor (and church-appointed Bible teacher) receives up to 3 free books. The books are in accord with the doctrinal basis of APC which is the historic reformed confessions of faith.
Since the early days of APC, the number of conferences has consistently grown: within a few years the APC spread to Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria. In 2017, the APC will reach Ghana. Numbers of delegates per conference have varied from 359 in Gindiri, Nigeria to 6 in Ermelo, South Africa. Conferences with small numbers are dropped after one or two years. In general, the smallest conferences are all in South Africa, a matter for much prayer and indicative of the benighted spiritual state of the churches in the black communities there. However there has been fruit even from some of the smallest conferences – a South African bishop in his denomination said with much excitement after a conference “My men must hear of this new teaching” – the subject was “Preaching Christ Crucified”! On a few occasions pastors have understood the gospel for the first time and been saved – there can be no better way to transform a ministry, this has happened in the past in times of revival.
Recent themes have been “The Biblical Pastor”, “Christ Building His Church in Africa Today” and “Becoming Right with God and Becoming more like Christ”. The theme for 2017-2018 is “Preaching Salvation”. Our desire is that the Holy Spirit will raise up pastors who preach Christ from the whole of Scripture and have a biblical understanding of the continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament and between Israel and the Church. We know that some who attend our conferences should not be pastors and elders, but we believe that the word of God expounded by our faithful speakers will fulfil God’s purposes and that some of these men will indeed be transformed.
The APCs currently has s 4 directors, 2 from African and 2 from the United States of America. After the passing to glory of our brother Erroll Hulse there is a vacancy for a United Kingdom director which we hope will be filled soon. There are two stipend positions – Conference Manager and Assistant Conference. The Bookroom Manager works unpaid full-time (when full the bookroom contains over 25,000 books). We have also been helped enormously by no less than 57 speakers from 9 different countries. In addition, there have been many helpers on conference runs, doing registration, book sales, driving and computer programming, mainly from Birchleigh Baptist Church in South Africa, the local church under which APC works (it is not a para-church organisation). Most books are accessed in the UK from a few publishers of ….: the finances there are administered by the Reformation Today Trust, including the purchase and shipping of books.
Further, we are immensely grateful to God for the financial support received from individual sponsors and churches, mainly in the USA and UK. Most of the supporting churches are in the south east of the USA in the areas where our two directors minister. The annual budget is over R1 million, so we are in continual need of more sponsors. All our sponsorship so far has come from just 3 countries – the USA, UK, and Canada.
Please pray for the APC, that countries in Africa will be transformed by transformed preaching by transformed pastors in transformed churches.

Irving Steggles
Pastor, Birchleigh BC, RSA