Ministry Update: Hope Bible Church (Bloemfontein, South Africa) (July/August 2019)

Greetings in the name of Jesus,

It is always a joy to report to you on the work of the Lord at Hope Bible Church. We are a small church, but we thank the Lord that we can call ourselves part of his body here on earth.

Kukunis

We are still a busy family with two busy children, but we enjoy it very much. Our daughter’s preschooling is going well. She is moving to another level in her curriculum in about five weeks, so please pray for her progress.

I have been polishing my Hebrew again, which is going well so far. I am glad to report that my reading is satisfactory again, even though comprehension of the meaning of certain words and the grammar in general is still a battle. Please pray that I may hear God speak to me whether I read his word through translation or in the original languages. The Lord has been working with me in the area of charity and love. I was challenged when I read one of Mark Dever’s works on how encouragement can achieve a lot, so I have seen it an important thing to truly preach and teach the word of God in love. After all, Paul tells us to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction.

Church life

We still see a few people attend church during our main Sunday worship service. We currently have two new people who have started attending more regularly. One of them comes from a Seventh Day Adventist background but is finding Hope Bible Church a place she would like to call her spiritual home. Her parents are not pleased about this, so she is in the process of trying to make them understand that her decision does not mean she is disobeying their authority. Please pray for her. Her name is Concilia.

We have also been blessed with a young man named Jabu. Jabu grew up in a household where Christ was known, but he only became a Christian in 2015 through a lady called Surprise who explained the gospel to him. He says it was something he had not understood before. After this encounter he never looked back and his desire for truth keeps growing. He is grateful for Christ who bore his sins on the cross, such that he now knows that his identity is in Christ alone. He says his hope is built on nothing less, but Jesus Christ and his righteousness. Jabu’s journey with the Lord saw him going from Charismatic churches to one Reformed church here in Bloemfontein and then to us. He feels that with us he has found a spiritual home and is in the process of taking membership at Hope. He feels a sense of desire for the pastorate and wants Hope to be the church to guide him in this area so that, in the near future, he may go into the ministry with the blessing and support of Hope.

Please pray that the Lord would give us clarity and that Jabu’s gifts will be clear for us to see that the Lord has put a special gift and calling in him. While you pray for Jabu, also pray for an application for membership that we have received. It is still in the early stages, but we thank the Lord that, if these two become successful, he will have added to our number two more believers to labour together with us in the work of the Lord.

Due to Hope’s geographical position, we are regularly visited by young people who frequent other churches in the greater Bloemfontein area. We have seen over the years that most visitors have a very varied, and often problematic, understanding of Scripture in general and salvation in particular. These young people have been heavily influenced by the poor teaching at the many varieties of non-Reformed churches which dominate this space in our society. We at Hope have become so accustomed to this trend that it is the norm for almost all members to be adept at dealing with these issues. Most members are able to articulate lovingly and caringly what we hold to as the gospel truth. This is done with great patience and understanding. A number of current Hope members come from similar backgrounds and are aware of the sensitivity required when approaching issues of what we regard as false teachings. In a similar vein, visitors attending Sunday discipleship courses out of curiosity are also shown the biblical truths Hope holds to by questions posed and comments made by mature Christian members. It often feels that this ability is one of Hope’s most important roles played in our local community. Our location and membership diversity lends itself so profoundly to this form of ministry.

Men’s meeting

Hope’s men’s Monday evening meeting, where the previous Sunday’s services are evaluated and discussed, is continuing and proving to be as valuable and encouraging as ever. Seven men under the leadership and direction of Pastor Tsholo Kukuni attend this meeting, and all have equal opportunity to critique and put forward their thoughts and comments regarding all those who participated in the Sunday’s services. This includes critic of the early morning prayer meeting, the Bible reading, the worship leading, the call to worship, the children’s talk, the pastoral prayer, and the sermon. Song choices and their contribution to the general theme of the service are also considered.

Two very positive changes to the format of the meeting have been implemented and both are proving to be very helpful and a blessing. Firstly, the time allocated to reading Grudem’s Systematic Theology together as a group has been altered and now requires that a set amount of reading is done individually before the meeting. The time at the meeting is now utilised to discuss what was read and to offer thoughts and comments. This format has proven to be an especially good platform to clarify areas of concern or where there may be a lack of understanding or certainty. In addition to these encouraging benefits, the time is also now available to place the section read into a practical context.

Secondly, better time management at the meeting often allows for open discussion on a range of different topics. Currently we are focusing on biblical truths and accounts that some of the men may be struggling with in terms of how certain biblical events fit in with scientific evidence or logical practicality. This opportunity to encourage, inform, and share is a blessing not just to the men. A very important byproduct of these discussions is that the men are learning how to better engage, firstly, with the biblical text and, secondly, and more importantly, with others who may be faced with similar concerns and questions. We at Hope understand well that in contemporary South Africa today young people especially are constantly bombarded with information which challenges their belief in the Bible as the infallible word of God.

Ministry and development

We are truly blessed at Hope regarding the willingness and commitment of some of our faithful male members who have felt lead to teach. For a church as small as Hope—23 members and more or less the same number of adherents and visitors each Sunday—we have four men, besides the Pastor (and only elder), who have been preaching regularly. Their growth and development from sermon to sermon is noticeable and encouraging. We thank our Lord that in this form of spiritual leadership Hope is most healthy.

In addition to the above there are two men who have been leading the Sunday service from time to time. They are learning and developing their skills and are showing marked improvement in the confidence and delivery. It is our hope and desire that this level of involvement will encourage other men to consider becoming more involved in the church’s ministry.

Grace and peace to you,

Tsholo and Frank

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