Brother Paul Washer has often observed that, when it comes to theological instruction and the serious study of Scripture, women are one of the most neglected groups in the global church. Too often they are seen preparing food and caring for children while the men are engaged in doctrinal discussion. Yet who has maximum time and influence in the lives of small children? Mom!
The New Testament presents a very positive picture of theological instruction for women. Just read ‘The Magnificat,’ the song of Mary the mother of Jesus, in Luke 1. That young lady knew her God as He had revealed Himself in the Scriptures! Another Mary was commended by Christ for her zeal for learning (LK. 10:42). The church in Philippi started with Paul teaching a group of devout women (ACTS 16:13). The list of biblical examples is long indeed.
Pastor Bheki Bembe and his co-elder, Sello, of Sovereign Grace Bible Church in Centurion, South Africa, are following this biblical precedent as they study systematic theology with the women and children of their church. In fact, if you wanted to list key elements of a healthy church, they would certainly include the topics of Bheki’s latest report: seeking God’s presence and power in fasting and prayer, seeking the lost in evangelism, and seeking to grow in their understanding of biblical truth.
“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 understanding her dependence upon God. A year ago, we would not have thought this possible, but we have done it twice in the last three months. To see our Sunday school children joining us in fasting and prayer, by skipping their school lunch, has shown us that the seed of the Gospel is growing within them and that they take the work of the Gospel that we are doing very seriously. We can’t wait for another week of fasting and prayer as we are determined to do it once every three months.
Seeking the Lost
For a small church, we are very blessed to have four preachers in our midst, who are ready to preach both within and outside the walls of the church. The Gospel is being preached with power (left) outside in a nearby shopping center 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 (below), and we hope to turn evangelism into a family-oriented endeavor. Although there have not been any conversions yet from this ministry, we are pleased that we have been faithful as a church and done all we can.
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 the 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). As pastors, it is incredibly exciting to see 7-year-olds trying to pronounce ‘Soteriology’ and ‘Pneumatology,’ and to see 14-year-olds listing and explaining all ten division of Systematic Theology.
The excitement from the ladies of the church is also amazing, as they finally have the opportunity 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, since most Systematic Theology books are written for academic purposes. This leaves us preparing much of the material as we don’t want to speak over people’s heads, and we need much grace and prayers.”
Before his current role at HeartCry, Robert served several years in pastoral ministry, and a few years in Zambia, Africa as a missionary. He is also a veteran of the Marine Corps. Robert and his wife have been blessed with 3 children and 4 grandchildren. They live near Christiansburg, VA in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, where he enjoys deer hunting and fly-fishing for trout.More By Robert Shepherd