There are approximately 40 million people living in South Africa. There are nine official languages, which makes communication somewhat difficult, but the use of English is on the ascendancy.
MY MINISTRY AT CONSTANTIA PARK BAPTIST CHURCH, PRETORIA
We have six elders and six deacons. There are three Sunday services, two of which are in the morning and one in the evening, and most of the services are crowded. There is a Family Bible School where pre-schoolers up to adults are exposed to rich teaching from the scriptures. We have recently extended our building to add much needed space for our various operations. There is a dynamic young people's group who meet several times a week, including a time of prayer after the Sunday evening service. The Sunday evening prayer meeting following the evening service sometimes continues for over 2 hours.
The church has a focus on missions, which enables the congregation to be updated on situations throughout the world. Every Lord's Day the congregation sees a large map of the world on which is the country which is being given attention in prayer insofar as missions is concerned. The church has also undertaken to assist bona fide missionaries who it sends out by giving them full support wherever possible. This is based on the teaching of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 and Philippians 4:14-19. Clearly the missionary, Paul, was supported by the poorest congregation, which was assured of the Lord's supply of its needs because it supplied the missionary's needs, Phil 4:19. The church also supports two of its members, Mark and Christine Harding, who have undertaken a ministry to infants infected with the AIDS virus whose parents have died because of AIDS.
THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
There is a tragic theological decline in the main Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, so serious that faculties which were once sound are now totally liberal. The situation in seminaries training Dutch Reformed Church ministers is so serious that the Dean of one of these faculties denied any belief in the God of the Old Testament!
There are however at least four seminaries where the training of future pastors, preachers and missionaries is of a high standard. In particular, one thinks of the Christ Baptist Seminary in Petersburg, the Eastern Cape Bible Institute in Port Elizabeth, the Bible Institute of Kalk Bay in Cape Town and Mukhanyo Theological College near Pretoria. Each of these seminaries has a good number of students, many of whom are promising preachers.
From Constantia Park Baptist Church, a few churches are being assisted and/or planted. This has been a thrilling development. One such church being assisted is in Lydenburg, where Hennie Vorster is doing a sterling work recovering lost ground because of a decline in the local church. God is using him mightily in that town.
THE AFRIKANER PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA
Since marrying an Afrikaner lady who has a strong Huguenot heritage, I have such a real burden for the Afrikaans-speaking section of the population of South Africa. These people are disillusioned and directionless. There are at least three million of them. I established formal ties with the Afrikaans Baptist Church and have been appointed to their leadership structure as well as taking over as editor of their magazine. There are great needs in these churches, but the opportunities are enormous. In the setting of a group of the population who are like sheep without a shepherd, if the Afrikaans Baptist Church comes to the fore with a strong witness, it could have an enormous effect on the people of the land.
South Africa needs prayer more than ever. While crime is exceptionally high, many other signs of God's providence are most encouraging. Christian schools are popping up everywhere and most of them have long waiting lists. The book ministry mentioned later is meeting a real need. God is at work, and we are encouraged. Much work needs to be done and we plead for prayer.
Providence has a way of bringing into being the unexpected. That has happened in Pretoria, South Africa, where the Augustine Bookroom, operating from the premises of Constantia Park Baptist Church, has been selling books at affordable prices for the last two years.
Shortly after Elsabe and I moved to Pretoria where I took up the pastorate of the church a caller pleaded for a bookshop where reformed books could be made available to the Christian public. At that time (2002) the South African currency weakened considerably against the currencies of countries such as Britain and the USA from which the main supplies of books would come. It seemed as if the Lord was giving strong encouragement from 2 Kings 7:1 where Elisha the prophet gave assurance that the famine stricken country would be flooded with food within a short space of time. Publishers from abroad spontaneously offered supplies at huge discounts and they continue to do so as they share the ministry and vision of Augustine Bookroom.
Journalist Ben Macintyre writing in 'The Times' of October 9, 2004 questioned whether the massive volume of books being published in the world are being read by those who buy them. Experience in the Bookroom has proved the contrary for those who plunder the shop for Puritan and reformed titles.
The ministry is changing for the better in many pulpits as a result. Black African pastors from as far a field as Zambia and Malawi may acquire books at a subsidised rate thanks to those who donate money to make that possible. The staff in the bookshop has increased from one to three, as competent ladies handle sales and orders. Floor space has had to be increased to make room for fresh stocks. Augustine bookroom is a work of God and it is thrilling to see the effects.
15 months ago we began a quarterly publication, 'Preaching and Preachers', a journal dedicated to expository preaching. Issues are being sent all over the world. One ended up in a maximum-security prison in Bloemfontein. A long-term prisoner who was recently converted read it and was captivated by the thought of this kind of preaching, and he is now doing the same to over 40 other inmates! We have sent him a supply of books from the Augustine Bookroom. Another publication, 'To Those In The Ministry', is a 12-page booklet intended mainly for young ministers, designed to impress upon them some basic requirements for a fruitful ministry. It ended up in Singapore, and also the USA, where a professor in seminary requested that it be translated into Arabic for between 100 and 200 pastors whom he tutors and felt needed to read the contents. Another request came from a Presbyterian minister in Australia to have the booklet copied and circulated in Australia.
The International Reformed Baptist Newsletter November/December 2004