As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV)
Churches, as we well know, are not brick-buildings . They are made up of people , but never a static group. The church is forever changing as members die and others move away ; members are added through conversion or transfers from other churches. The church is a dynamic entity – always on the move . Eastside has never been a static church in all her existence. There are very few of us that remember the very beginnings of our church.
I have been associated with the Namibian Baptist movement since 1979. Eastside Baptist Church did not exist at that time. The Baptist movement in Namibia had just gone through hard days in the late 70’s and early 80’s , when the emerging charismatic movement began to challenge many of the older established churches , who at that time had very little to offer in response, except some bitter criticism and very little mature theological reflection. Today 40 and more years later we have seen that the charismatic movement did not serve to unite the church of Jesus Christ in Namibia. On the contrary, the charismatic church has been a significant contributing factor to the division of the church into hundreds of little splinter groups, led by men and women with an appalling lack of knowledge of Scripture, and therefore displaying a lack of knowledge of the mind of Christ. In Windhoek alone, three Baptist churches ( including our ‘mother church’) had succumbed to the teachings of the charismatic movement in the 80’s, and by and by they decided to break away from their Baptist roots.
It was against such a background that Eastside Baptist Church was born . The times were indeed very challenging for the evangelical church in those days . Following that great schism in the early 1980’s, a number of people asked Pastor Charles Whitson , a missionary of the Southern Baptist Convention (USA) to start a new church. Being somewhat reluctant , and due to the recent history, he eventually agreed, and so a Baptist fellowship was begun in his home in Klein Windhoek. Very soon the church was constituted with 21 founder members in June 1985. A property was soon acquired and the first part of the building phase was completed in 1987.
That was only the beginning . The physical construction of a church building is one thing. The building of the true church, consisting of living stones, is quite another thing ! The one is done by the hands of men, but the Bible insists that the true church is built by the Holy Spirit and His inspired Word alone ! Conversion, by which we turn from the broad way and upon the narrow way is the work of the Holy Spirit ( John 3:1-8) . Conversion is followed by embarking on a spiritual journey of following and obeying Christ in biblical discipleship , as we also learn the spiritual art of biblical churchmanship.
And so it is that the church matures and grows . Growth takes time , and the devil and sin will make sure that we will be retarded in our progress . However, we know this : a Christ focussed church in the hand of God will make steady progress by His Spirit !
At Eastside there is always this sense of steady progress, even though there always are very real setbacks . Our homespun Proverb for this phenomenon explains it like this : “church progress is like climbing a Namibian sand dune – 2 steps forward , one step back !”
We have gained some new good people , and we have lost some good people , as people move away to retire elsewhere ( Windhoek’s property costs and costs of living are high) .Some have been transferred elsewhere . We do our best to look after the people that God has entrusted to us, but we do realise that God has His way with people , and His refining fire is ever seen in our midst .
Our elders continue their oversight of the church steadfastly and often under great personal cost and with frequent challenges . We dearly would like to see more men engaging upon eldership training .
Our ‘revamped’ diaconate is functioning well in its biblical role of serving the poor, sick, orphans , widows and the general physical needs in our church, and also in our greater community . A good diaconal ministry makes the gospel look good !
We are pleased that our midweek activities continue to meet real needs . Our young adult group is flourishing , and our School of the Bible is a blessing . Home fellowships provide important support to our members . Prayer is central to all we do . It would be wonderful if everybody in membership would commit themselves to the prayer meeting . We are thankful for those that do encourage us by their intercessory prayer .
Corporate worship , Sunday morning and evening , is a blessing . We are about to complete our exposition of the Revelation to John ( 51 sermons). This has been a personal highlight in my own preaching experience. A potpourri of expositions on the Gospel of Mark or of a “Psalm that Provides Perspective” set the tone for Sunday evenings .We are about to start a morning series on Genesis 1-11 , and an evening series that deals with the doctrine of the church . Our evening services include the giving of prepared testimonies ( and thankfully our people are not shy to do this!) as well as “ Prayer for the World” , by which a number of men in the congregation lead us in informing us and leading in prayer for our world .
Please pray for us , that we would continue to have an outward focus . The city of Windhoek , the country of Namibia and the world is our parish .
Looking forward to see you all at the SOLA 5 conference in Cape Town !
Joachim Rieck on behalf of the church