Ministry Update: Reformed Faith Mission Community Church (Mario) (December 2019)—A Personal Reflection

Dear brethren,

We are so grateful that you take the time to read our ministry updates and that you show so much concern and joy for what the Lord is doing in and through his church here in Bellville South. As Reformed Faith Mission Community Church, we are humbled by your continued support, prayer, and encouragement that is growing each year.

I am convinced that the Lord uses your prayers, support, and encouragements to keep us safe, sane, and filled with zeal. You are partakers of the blessings, growth, and increase that we are experiencing. Jesus’ words hold true of you:  “Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour” (John 4:38).

Thank you for labouring with us!

Maneville Family

With a mixed family like ours, there will always be challenges. I thank God that we are not in this alone as we have a loving and supporting church that is always there to lovingly assist us. I have witnessed countless times how members of our church encourage our kids with the gospel and how they patiently make time for them.

The new year holds many new challenges for us all. Chané moved back to Kimberley, Tyran and Nathan are both moving to higher grades, and Devin has finished matric and is hoping to join law enforcement (City Police). Noah is growing quickly and is way too clever for his age. He’s a busy little man and is really keeping us young.

Charlene is excited about her “new” role as homemaker and getting more involved with women’s ministry. Financially, we are faced with a huge challenge, but we are convinced that we made the right decision and are looking forward to see how the Lord will provide for us and teach us how to more desperately depend on him. We trust that we will model this well so that even in this we can say, “Become imitators of us and the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

A Personal Note

I am very bad at remembering details, but there are a few things that stood out for me this year. The best way for me to do this is by listing them, so please bear with me. I trust that my transparency will be helpful to someone. I will give a brief explanation and example with each where possible.

My wife is more important to me than the ministry

Ministry is hard work! Pastoring a church is no easy task. What makes it hard is not the many things you have to do (i.e. sermon prep, preaching, prayer, counselling, evangelism, leading, etc.). These things are a joy and a means for much spiritual growth in my life. What makes it difficult is the weight of the burden that God has placed on my heart for my people (RFMCC) and our community. With that weight I also have a burden to see more churches planted in poor areas and for my fellow pastors who are labouring in poor areas to be supported.

With all the opportunities God has given me to be of service to his church and to pastors who serve in difficult areas, I started to neglect the one person whom God has given me as a “helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18), because he saw that it was not good that I should be alone.

Charlene at the time was working in a very stressful environment as a nurse at a very busy public clinic. She would get home after a stressful, tiring day, and I would still be busy with ministry needs. There was always something urgent that put her on the backseat while I first had to attend to what seemed “more important” at the time. The problem, of course, is that I failed to recognise that she is always more important. By putting her first, I am honouring the covenant I made before God, and by doing so God provides more grace for those things that seem like urgent needs at the time.

Two things had to happen for me to realise this.

First, couple who are mature believers were about to file for divorce. They agreed for us to counsel them. The Lord used our counselling to open my eyes to the ways in which I fail and dishonour my wife. This has caused me to take a serious look at my marriage. Ministry is hard work, but marriage is even harder work. If this is true, then it means that my burden to have my marriage be a display of Christ and the church should be what drives my burden for ministry.

Second, my wife was diagnosed with clinical depression. This is on top of her suffering from chronic migraines and hemiplegic migraine. Once again, this was stress-related and I’m sure the stress was not just work-related but also the fact that our lives were so busy. She would come from work and then still be in the prayer meeting and leading women’s ministry and counselling community women that would knock anytime on the door to see her, and dealing with the issues of ladies in the church, the kids, the house, family issues, kids complaints, etc. You know what I’m talking about—and a husband that quickly has to attend yet another meeting.

Praise God for his grace and for not allowing me to disqualify myself from ministry. We are not in a bad space and the Lord is restoring what the locust has eaten. Marriage is definitely God’s tool for sanctifying us! The couple that we counselled has repented of their ways and has become our accountability partners. We meet once a month with a list of accountability questions that we ask each other. It is challenging and humbling to open yourself up to such vulnerability, but it is definitely worth it—for the sake of Christ, my marriage, and his church!

My unbelieving kids are as dead to the gospel as the gangs in the street

Part of the challenge of planting a church in a violent, gang-infested, drug-abusive community is that you have to live there. You have to become part of that community. In 2001 I moved out of this community to get away from all the chaos, but the Lord sent me back in 2013 to help lead the church plant that was under our guardianship while I was in Kimberley. I’m back in my old neighbourhood and I’m raising my kids here. They are not drawn to gangsterism and do not want to become drug addicts, but just as the gangster in the street rejects Christ, so do they.

They have more opportunity to hear and see the gospel in action. They are confronted with the goodness of Jesus on a daily basis and are confronted with the gospel at least thrice a week. They read the best books and are moved to tears during our family devotions, but they refuse to repent and believe. I fear that, should they die without Christ, their punishment will be greater than those of the murdering gangsters in our community.

I cannot save my kids, no matter how persuasive and clear I am when we do our devotions. My kids will not be saved by the way we try to model gospel living to them in our home and how we deal with people. Only God can save them! Don’t get me wrong: Sharing the gospel and modelling the Christian life to them is a means God can use to bring them to repentance. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ! But before they will hear or be able to respond to the gospel their hearts need to be regenerated. Without a regenerate heart they are as dead to the gospel as the gangs are in the street! Such is the depravity of my kids. They are hostile to God and do not submit to his law, neither can they do so (Romans 8:7). We are totally dependent on God for the salvation of our kids. It is such dependency that drives us to our knees for them.

God does not need me—he can raise up rocks to replace me

Amazing grace that saved a wretched like me! It is by his grace that I am what I am. It is by his grace that I have been adopted into the Beloved. It is by his grace that I am able to be of service in his kingdom. It is by his grace that he has given me certain gifts by which I can serve his people.

But I have to echo the words of the Apostle Paul to his beloved Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). As a wretch saved by grace, I know who I am when I stand alone before God, confronted and convicted by his Spirit through his word—the two-edged sword that pierces to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of my heart. God knows about the sin that so easily ensnares me and the constant brokenness that makes my heart bleed.

I look around and know that there are much more godly men that can lead this work. God does not need me! People look at me and think of me as much godlier than I know I am. They are not close enough to see how I treat my wife and my kids. They don’t know about my struggles with anger and pride or how selfish I can be. Most people just hear me preach and they read about how we preach the gospel to notorious gangs and conclude that we have it all together. And because they forget that I am just a wretch like them, saved by amazing grace and kept by the Lord, they pray for the ministry and not for me. It’s as if God needs me to be here. I need God in order to stay faithful while being here!

I am a wretched sinner in moment-by-moment need of God’s saving grace. Oh how I need the Lord more and more! I need him, but he does not need me. Yet he chose to set his love upon me and to keep using me for his glory. Yes, even a wretch like me.

The local church is God’s only visible display of Christ’s gospel and God’s glory in the world

In the community that we serve, there are many so-called churches and many so-called Christians with all sorts of so-called ministries. As obnoxious or maybe ignorant as this may sound, in our community I have not yet come across a Christ-centred church, saturated with the gospel for the glory of God and the good of all people. Most so-called churches are focussed around a personality and have no gospel culture and a weak or diluted gospel message that is seen as elementary at best. What is known as church is nothing more than a social club that is based on the vision of a so-called “man of God.”

In our community, some people go to a “church service” to find inspiration or some guidance to cope with their problems. Others go to find an escape from the reality of life. Even more still believe that by going they will find a way to get their best life now. Then there are those who simply go for the hype, the music, the entertainment, the prophesying, the tongue babbling, the crazy. In our community few, if any, attend church services for the worship and admiration of God and to receive instruction from his word.

Many that break away from these kind of “churches” (because they did not agree with the vision of the “man of God”) become free agents. They usually run “revival” campaigns, blasting their faces and self-appointed titles on fancy posters that are distributed all over social media platforms. The world runs to these events to get their spiritual fix just to return with false hopes to their God-forsaken homes, living God-forsaken lives in a God-rejecting community. And then, in the midst of such chaos, you hear one drug addict tell another drug addict, “You should go to Pastor Mario and Pastor Quinton’s church—there the people really love each other. Not like these other churches.”

We have unbelievers asking us to bury their loved ones, because “we know your church will preach the truth and not make it about ourselves.” A community astounded that church members would reach in their pockets to build a Wendy house for an ex-gang member whom the Lord saved during one of our Bible studies. We are the only church allowed and respected by gangs to have Bible studies right where they do business and to confront them with the gospel, calling them out on the wicked things they do.

RFMCC is a visible display of Christ’s gospel and God’s glory in our community. The gospel we preach so boldly on the streets carries weight and makes sense when our community take a look at the community of believers that make up our small little church. This is what God does with a weak struggling little church.

I have been called by God as a preacher and shepherd of RFMCC

My ignorance will probably betray me right now, but I believe that every qualified elder that is appointed to lead a local church must have a sense that he has been called not just as a pastor in general, but to shepherd a specific flock. He should have a burden for God’s people, but in a special and specific way his heart should weigh heavy for a specific flock which he will shepherd. He must know that God has called him to shepherd a specific people in a specific community.

Of course, this will be affirmed by the church and other leaders around him, but I am convinced that this man needs to be convinced of God’s affirmation and confirmation of him as God’s man for this flock and this community. I am not talking about a lone ranger, superior-to-all kind of a man. I am talking about the conviction of those who will serve as under-shepherds to God’s people. You must know that you are the man of God (1 Timothy 6:11–16) for the people of God over which the Holy Spirit made you an overseer (1 Peter 5:2).

If I were not convinced that God called me as a preacher and shepherd to this flock, I would probably take less risks and not be as burdened for the church as I am. I am concerned over pleasing God in the way I deal with his people and the decisions we make as elders. I am careful during my sermon prep mindful that I am not preaching for all the saints everywhere. I am preaching for these saints before me, so as much as I need to faithfully exegete the text, I also need to faithfully exegete my people. God will speak through me to us as a local church and, by his gracious providence, to anyone else that happens to hear the word preached.

One of my greatest fears is being disqualified as a pastor and not finishing well. I depend on God’s grace and his lovingkindness, “for he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).

Not all self-sustaining suburban churches are inward focused, self-absorbed hypocrites that preach a bloody gospel, but are themselves afraid to bleed

I do not buy into the whole “woke movement” that undermines the power of the gospel and demands that so-called previously advantaged churches should repent and compensate for the sins of their fathers. However, I do believe in corporate confession and individual repentance, of which Daniel is a prime example (Daniel 9).

I am thankful to the Lord for surrounding me with men who are shepherds over self-sustaining suburban churches, who are more than willing to make unpopular decisions for the sake of the spread of the gospel in the hard areas. I have been blessed to see leaders from our Sola 5 churches get out of their comfort zone and leading their churches toward sacrificial giving—financially and by giving up their time and comfort for the sake of struggling churches. RFMCC has been at the receiving end of such sacrificial giving and I can testify that many other churches have been blessed by such churches. There are still some hypocrites among us. May the Lord grant you repentance sooner rather than later.

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6:17–19)

Thank you for indulging me by reading what is more a personal reflection. I trust that you will be encouraged and moved to worship our amazing Lord.

Yours in his service,

Mario F. Maneville
Pastor-teacher
Reformed Faith Mission Community Church
Belville South, Western Cape, South Africa

Comments

  1. Thank you Pastor for your transparency. May the Lord bless and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. It is well my Pastor.

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