Ministry Update: Sovereign Grace Bible Church (South Africa) (July 2019)

Dear brethren,

Greetings in the wonderful name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We are grateful to God for the small flock that he has put in our care, who have been a real blessing to us, and we couldn’t have chosen a better people to be undershepherds to. Their faithfulness to the gospel amazes us at times, and the love that they have for God is truly the evidence of the work of sanctification that only the Holy Spirit can do in people’s lives.

Fasting and Prayer

We have just completed our week of fasting and prayer for the second time this year. The fact that we are having a week of fasting and prayer is testimony to the maturity of the church in her understanding of her dependence on God. A year ago, this is something that we thought would not be possible to do, but we have done it twice in the last three months. To see our Sunday school children joining us in fasting and prayer, by either skipping their school lunch boxes or not taking lunch money to school, has shown us that the seed of the gospel is growing within them and that they take the work of the gospel we are doing very seriously. We can’t wait for another week of fasting and prayer as we determined to do it once every three months.

Open Air Evangelism

For a very small church, we are very blessed to have four preachers (Bheki, Sello, Shimi, and Zakhele) in our midst, who are ready to preach both within and outside the walls of the church. We have seen the gospel being preached with power outside a nearby shopping centre on Saturday afternoons. There is nothing that is more powerful than the public proclamation of the gospel, and we are expecting great results in due time. Shimi and Zakhele have taken to the task with great eagerness, and at times they preach with so much fervency that we expect God to move mightily sooner or later. Our Sunday school children have joined us at times by distributing gospel tracts, and we hope to turn evangelism into a family-oriented endeavour. Although there have not been any conversions yet from this ministry, we are pleased that we have been able to be faithful as a church. After all, that is all we can do within our powers.

Bible Study and Sunday School

We are a very ambitious church, so much so that we sometimes have to remind ourselves that we are a small church and we need to function within our limits. However, that has not stopped us from undertaking a very ambitious task of teaching systematic theology to all our adult members and Sunday school kids in the very same class. At first, we thought we should teach adults and Sunday school kids separately, but all that changed when we taught our first lesson, which was introduction to systematic theology. The excitement we saw in Sunday school children when we taught them to list the ten divisions of systematic theology, and how they were able to grasp them very quickly, encouraged us to combine both classes. So far, we have had four classes: introduction to systematic theology; ten divisions of systematic theology; theology proper: how do we know God exists?; theology proper: the names of God; and theology proper: the attributes of God (part 1). There is nothing more exciting than to see seven-year-olds trying to pronounce soteriology and pneumatology, and to see fourteen-year-olds listing and explaining all the ten division of systematic theology.

The excitement from the ladies of the church is also amazing, as they finally have to learn theology instead of the devotional studies that they are used to studying. To see them with notebooks and pens, making notes like they are back in school, has been heartwarming. The whole study has been very beneficial and refreshing to the church. For us as elders, we feel like we are finally accomplishing our vision of ensuring that we don’t call our church a Reformed Baptist church when the only Reformed people are the elders. Of course, the study is not easy, as most systematic theology books are written for academic purposes, which leaves us to rely more on our knowledge as we don’t want to speak on top of people’s heads. As such, we need much grace and prayer.

Pulpit Preaching

We have started a new sermon series in the book of 1 Kings, to add to sermon series in the books of 1 Peter, Romans, and Matthew. Sermon series, especially the ones as long as Matthew and Romans, send a message to the church that the elders are going nowhere and are prepared to be here for at least the next five years. This is comforting to the church and is able to ease the anxiety from the elders as well in reminding them that the work of church planting is a long-term work. We have so far preached the first three chapters of 1 Kings, and in the next few weeks will be continuing in Matthew 13. We will then proceed from Romans 1 where we last ended. Between these four sermon series and the Bible study in systematic theology, we have set aside at least five years of our lives from now on to see them through. One advantage of long sermon series is that they move our eyes away from the numbers game and make us focus solely on planting the seed.

Church Planting

What keeps us awake at night and depresses us is the fact that there are few Reformed Baptist churches in the townships of our country. Except for the few churches we can count with our two hands, our country is really in a desperation situation. Our hearts are racing far ahead of reality and we wish we could send some of our men now to go plant churches in the townships, and the impatience is killing us. With four preachers in one small church, it is not easy to be patient. But we still trust that God’s timing is always perfect.

Prayer Requests

Of course, we have so much to be happy and rejoice about, but our continual need for prayers remains:

  1. for God to help us to be a praying church;
  2. for God to help us to be holy in our daily living;
  3. for God to help us to be faithful in tithes and offerings;
  4. for the preaching to have power so people will be saved;
  5. for God to restore those who used to fellowship with us but have backslidden;
  6. for evangelism that we have every Saturday;
  7. for those who are looking for jobs: Tiphness, Lebohang (Makarabo’s daughter), Zakhele, Phililana (Simba’s wife); and
  8. for those who struggle with their health: Mamfundisi.

Yours in Christ,

Bheki Bembe and Sello Rasephei

Elders

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