In his latest report, Pastor Kwenda of Choma, Zambia gives us one of those rare glimpses of deeply painful trials that pastors must endure as they faithfully shepherd the flock God has entrusted to their care. His story also highlights the great benefit of being sent by a biblical church with godly elders who provide valuable guidance and support.
“I used to read about the challenges of ministry from the Puritans and the Reformers. The life of John Bunyan especially caught my attention, as did the labors of Mr. William Tyndale. I never imagined the emotional pain that awaited me in my first pastorate. Joy can be found, however, in the lessons God is teaching us, and the character He is building in us, as these trials come our way.
I took over as pastor in a church whose leadership structure was not clear. It is a church with a history of pastors coming and going. The first pastor came in early 1990 and left 5 years later. The church then had no pastor for the next 5 years until another pastor came in 2000. He labored there until the year 2006 and also left. The church was left without a pastor until 2013 when I came in.
During the period of 2006-2012, the church was led by an interim leadership team of four men. It is claimed that there was a vote by the church during those years to bring these men into leadership. It is not clear who spearheaded the voting. So one of the men believed he was an elder, though admitting he was never ordained, while the other three men saw themselves as deacons.
None of these men were ordained as elders or deacons, and part of my coming to the church was to put these things in place. However, as time passed, my presence seemed unwelcome. I came in with an open heart and mind, but little did I know that there was pain awaiting me. In short, they did not recognize my leadership. My coming into the church as pastor was treated by them as just a formal thing. It was just to say that they now have a pastor, but they still wanted to be the ones providing the leadership.
It was as if I was to function more like a deacon while they function as elders. So there the battle began. To make matters worse, I was coming in with the mindset of a church-planter, while they saw themselves as an already established church. Meetings were held behind my back. Annual General Meetings became heated discussions. I remember one time when one of them stood up in church while I was making announcements and shouted, “This is not a business meeting my friend.” What hurt the most is that I prayed for these men and made my arms and heart wide open. I looked at them as my very own family.
I am so grateful that three elders of Kabwata Baptist Church have been to Choma and met with all the men. They made it clear to them how a missionary pastor functions, and how someone becomes an elder or deacon. I’ve seen some change of spirit from them, particularly the man who believed he was an elder. I’ve since asked the KBC elders to give it some time and see how it goes. If all goes well, the plan is to bring into the eldership those who qualify by middle of next year.
This matter has been heavy on my heart, and almost led to my resignation earlier in the year. But in all this, there have been valuable lessons to learn. This is the beauty of believing in the sovereignty of God. He had good reasons for letting all this happen. Many thanks for your prayers.”