In many ways, the last year has been the most difficult we can remember at Brackenhurst Baptist Church (BBC). Between the 2018 and 2019 AGMs, BBC lost 32 members—some through promotion to glory, some through membership transfer, some through discipline, and some through membership resignation. Sadly, many of the resignations were related to discontentedness over one particularly difficult disciplinary matter.
While this has been a dark and draining time for the church at large, and for the eldership in particular, it has at the same time been a valuable formative time for some of the elders, who have had to shoulder certain responsibilities as never before.
Through it all, the unity of the church has been tested, but we are encouraged that the vast majority of members remains committed to the task of making disciples. In recent months, overwhelming church support for adoption and financial support of Ekklesia Afrika, as well as a healthy faith promise commitment at our recent World Outreach Celebration, have been causes for tremendous encouragement.
New and Prospective Members
While the last year has seen a great reduction in membership numbers, there is cause for encouragement. Eleven members were added to the church over the same period. In addition to those, three more members have been added over the last two weeks—two of whom are teenaged daughters of existing church members, who were baptised into membership. We have held two membership information classes this year, at which some 21 people have shown interest in joining the membership of the church. We have a deliberately slow membership process, and it is rare that everyone who attends a membership information class actually joins. Pray that God will add to the church those whom he is saving.
About eighteen months ago, the church moved from a traditional Sunday evening service to a more prayer-focused service. This involves a shorter-than-normal sermon, with greater attention given to corporate prayer. While there was a degree initial hesitation from some in the congregation about this move, it has proven to be a wonderfully unifying change, as the church has grown in its understanding of prayer as a corporate admission of dependence upon God. There are some who are not taking advantage of the opportunity to pray with the church, but the majority has embraced this move with enthusiasm.
For the past several months, our sermon focus during these Sunday evening prayer services has been a consideration of the New Testament one anothers. This has been both convicting and encouraging. We have grown in our understanding of what it means to practically one another each other in the church. Pray with us that these studies will be more than academic exercises, but that, as a church, we will put to practice what we are hearing expounded.
Elders, Candidates, and Interns
Last July marked the completion of Doug’s 25th year as the pastor-teacher of BBC. As a church, we are thankful that God has sustained him for as long as he has, and for how he has blessed the church and the church’s ministry through Doug’s influence.
Over the past few years, for various reasons, the church’s eldership decreased from seven at one point to three, and the lack of elders was both sensed and seen. There has been cause for the elders to confess failure and ask the church’s forgiveness in several areas. We are encouraged, however, that we were able late last year to add a fourth elder, and there are currently five men in eldership candidacy, whom we trust will be added to the eldership time to come. These men are being given increasing shepherding and teaching responsibilities, and we are encouraged to see that God is grooming men with a shepherd’s heart to serve in this capacity. Pray with us that God will protect these men, and that he will grant wisdom to the existing elders to know when to formally propose the candidates to the church as elders.
We have also been privileged for nearly two years to have direct involvement with our first pastoral intern. At BBC, there is a distinction between elder candidates (who are actively training for eldership at BBC) and pastoral interns (who are men, typically from other churches, who are being given exposure to BBC’s eldership and training for pastoral ministry, but with no goal or promise of addition to BBC’s eldership). It has been a time of learning what the pastoral internship program should look like at BBC. Shane Williamson has served as our first pastoral intern. He is a godly and wise young man, whom we have no doubt as a significant role to play in kingdom work in South Africa. His two-year term ends in June, and we hope to replace him in January with a suitable candidate.
BBC has been involved for some time with a church revitalisation in Walkerville. Grace Baptist Church in Walkerville (GBCW) asked for assistance in this regard. BBC has several members in the Walkerville area who were excited about this prospect. After an initially positive start, some ministerial and philosophical hurdles were encountered, and GBCW has been asked to make a decision about BBC’s continued involvement there. BBC has for the meantime stepped back from this work while GBCW decides whether or not it wants BBC’s continued involvement. We are persuaded that this is an important work, and would love to continue our involvement there, but for now we await GBCW’s decision.
Tommie van der Walt, who has been heading Ekklesia Afrika (EA) after his return from the mission field, has been invited to join the pastoral internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in Washington, DC, for the latter half of this year. CHBC has ensured Tommie and the church that this will provide invaluable networking opportunities, and potential fundraising opportunities, for EA. It will also afford Tommie opportunity to spend time with 9Marks staff, from whom he will no doubt learn many valuable ministerial and administrative lessons to implement at EA. The church has affirmed Tommie’s desire to join the internship, and so Tommie and his family will be relocating to Washington for five months (August to December) later this year.
We have also been given the wonderful opportunity to partner with HeartCry Missionary Society as they seek to expand their African involvement into South Africa. Their progress in South Africa has been slow and deliberate, and BBC, with Reformed Faith Mission in Belville South, has been asked to assist HeartCry in evaluating support applications and overseeing supported HeartCry missionaries in South Africa. We are excited about another avenue for making disciples in our own country.
Pray with Us
- Pray for growing unity and harmony within the membership, particularly after a difficult year which has tested the unity of the church.
- Pray for God to add to the church those whom he is saving. Pray for members who have been added recently to actively involve themselves in making disciples in the church.
- Pray for our ongoing series in the New Testament one anothers—that the church will take these exhortations to heart and grow in healthy, biblical one anothering.
- Pray for our five elder candidates—that God will protect these men, and for wisdom for the current elders in knowing when to formally propose them to the church as elders.
- Pray about potential continued involvement with Grace Baptist Church in Walkerville.
- Pray for good networking and fundraising opportunities for EA as Tommie joins the CHBC pastoral internship in Washington from August to December.
- Pray for HeartCry’s growing involvement in South Africa, and for BBC’s involvement in this regard.