Nine kilometers away, Elim Baptist’s sister church Trinity Baptist Church in Mbhokota has finished building and begun worshipping in their new facilities. The church was built entirely by the church members and led by their pastor. For several years now they have given their time to clear the stand, dig the holes for the fence posts, mix the mortar, carry the endless stream of bricks, raise the roof, install the glass, and hang the doors. I only omitted a few thousands tasks in between, but that brief outline should stimulate you to feel the weight they’ve felt since 2012.
Last Sunday (21 September) the Baptist churches in Elim, Mashamba, Tshikota (Venda), and Louis Trichardt (English and Afrikaans) joined with Trinity to worship together and rejoice at a job well done. In 10 years, I don’t think I have ever been in a larger gathering of converted Tsongas. Our gathering included inspiring singing, impressive testimonies from two new believers, and a Spurgeonic sermon on the Treasure Hidden in the Field (Matt. 13:44). Our teammate, Paul summarized the service in the last line of his most recent prayer letter: “And as a hundred black and white and brown faces pack our little church, is it not hors d’oeuvres for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?”
We have enough experience and theological mooring to know that buildings will not produce an instant change in the size or strength of the church. Those who would prefer sleep, alcohol, or entertainment to serious wonder at God and His Word will still prefer those things even though they have a brick and mortar monument to the gospel in their village now. However, we also know that God works through means, and that many people see the new facilities since it sits right on a busy road.
Pray that their well-designed sign, excellent location, and arched windows would cause people to visit the only church in a community of probably 10,000 that humbles men and exalts Christ.
I was recently asked why we have not solicited funds from richer churches in order to speed our building programs. At least four reasons come to mind, but I’ll just hint at some of them here.
1. To form godly character Sunday a man named Given Chauba was honored for his unflagging work as the building was in construction. His integrity was strengthened and confirmed over the last few years. Punctuality, care for detail, and self-denial are just a few of the Christian virtues that have bloomed more brightly than before in the workers—nearly all of whom have no fathers at home. Taking away this benefit would be like depriving a graduate of his college education. Maybe you know some recent graduates who need an education like this?
2. To emphasize the spiritual nature of the church Don’t we all tend to be impressed by big buildings? While that is not necessarily wrong, it may distract from the NT gospel. The faith is found first in changed lives which we hope will produce buildings, but bricks and mortar by themselves can sometimes give the false impression to the believers as well as those watching that NT Christianity is more outward than inward.
The years of work and thousands of bricks have been a tool for sanctification at Trinity Baptist Church and even at our church too though we’re not as far along as they are. Therefore, please pray that God would supply Trinity with men of integrity who could lead the church freeing the churchplanters for their next task.