Greetings sisters and brothers,
I once heard it said, “There are people who bring joy wherever they go, and there are people who bring joy when they go.” This was said by a visiting American minister at a fraternal here in Bloemfontein. We were dealing with the pain of difficult members who leave the church undesirably. What he was basically saying was that there are people whom he was pleased with when they left the church. Although our hearts my tend to feel that way, mine certainly always feels the pain of people who leave the church, even when it is not done in the most encouraging way.
The gospel certainly teaches us to bear with people who are difficult to work with. It was in pain and agony that Jesus laid down his life for us, so his church and his people have to be loved and shepherded even if they bring us pain. So for us at Hope Bible Church, there is no one who brings us joy when they go.
We have over the past two months seen a decline in church attendance. We have also lost some waning members and adherents, which has been tough on the church. With this, we have had to deal with some difficult cases, which resulted in undesirably accepting resignations of two members—a wife and a husband—by giving them a strong biblical warning. They are convinced that they will be able to deal with their personal issues alone with the Lord, without the church, so we had to warn them of the deceitfulness of sin and the consequences of not taking the “stirring up to love and good works,” and the result of the day of the coming judgement.
Together with this family, we have had to write a formal church discipline letter to another family—a wife and a husband—whom we have for the longest time (±5 years) counselled and encouraged to recommit themselves to the church. We are convinced at this stage that we have done everything we biblically can do, and the church feels that enough of my pastoral time has been spent (even though this can’t be quantified) on these members. Should they continue to be absent and fail to comply with the obligations of membership for the next three months without good reason or improvement on the above, the church is going to take the decision to remove their names from the membership roll.
There is one more family wishing to resign from the church, and the main reason they have given is that they feel it is time to move on. They have been attending a not-so-healthy church, so we asked them to write a formal resignation to be considered at the next quarterly general meeting. We do so not because we want to, but in the interest, the ordering, the administration, and the proper functioning of the church.
As you all know, Richard, Liza, and Amanda Raven relocated to Australia last year. Subsequent to them taking membership at North Beach Baptist Church, we have accepted their resignations from Hope Bible Church. Theirs was an encouraging giving up of membership, and a good example to the church as to how to leave the church you love. We bless the Lord for this family.
To sum the impact of the resignations on Hope, we will be left with 21 members if all eventually resign. Right now, on paper, we have 25 members.
Family Life: the Kukunis
Despite the decline in membership and weak attendance, I do not feel the struggle that many feel. I am not discouraged by the small number as it allows me to be able to reach everyone than if the group were bigger. So, I am doing well in the Lord and thank the Lord for his faithfulness to us.
My family is doing well. We enjoy this little busy home of ours. It is school holidays, so Keitu is resting from all the ordinary school work she has to do. I am also done with my exams and did not preach these past three weeks. I am back in Genesis for my devotionals and have been taking it slowly, digesting the details in as much depths as I possibly can. The men at church are an encouragement to me, and they make me a content pastor.
- Pray for the growth of the men, especially in the area of expository preaching. For three Sundays, including tomorrow, two men would have preached. Their preaching is more than just preaching; it is also a way for me to equip them for excellence. Pray that they will be able to get to a level where they will prepare expositional sermons without having to run them past me or having to discuss the mechanics of an expositional sermon with me first.
- Pray for conversion and spiritual maturing of the members. We have people who are currently interested in membership, and two visitors who have been coming regularly to the church.
- Pray that the Lord would make people at Hope to continue to support the work of the Lord financially as faithfully and sacrificially as they have been doing.
- Pray for my growth as a pastor, to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to love the people, and to be an encouraging shepherd.
- There is a heart-breaking counselling case Keitu and I are handling, which requires us to work with a lawyer and to attend a court trial. We will share more about this individual once we are sure of their conversion and once the trial is finalised and they have given us permission to share how we can pray for them. Pray for wisdom as we share the gospel. It is encouraging so far.
Grace and peace to you,