Have you ever asked yourself the question: “Is our church successful?”
I was recently ask to be the speaker at a retreat of a young church that started about two years ago. I was very encouraged by the church-plant of around forty members. I had three sessions. The first two related to evangelism and the last session was about the marks of a healthy church-plant.
This last session made me think about our local church. Currently we are without a plurality of elders. I am the only elder at the moment, which makes our church not as healthy as we should be. I am convinced that one of the marks of a healthy church is a plurality of elders. Pray with me for this to happen soon!
Does this mean our church is no longer a successful church? What does that even mean?
A successful church is a healthy church. A church that is successful is one that accurately and devotedly mirrors God’s character, as He has revealed in His word. A successful church is a church that displays the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:10).
The success of the church is not dependent on programs or how many people are in attendance or how trendy the music or hip the pastor.
A successful church is one which preaches the Scripture faithfully, giving the meaning and intent of the Biblical text and making the passage clear and understandable. It’s a church that treasures God’s word as its highest authority for faith and practice. Therefore, they listen to God’s word and follow it and are committed to keeping the church holy through biblical church discipline.
When you examine a church that holds Scripture in the highest regard—a church that pays attention to God’s word and follows it—you will see a church that welcomes new believers as members through baptism, and who honours the Lord’s table. This is a church that fears the Lord. You will see a church that displays the character and glory of God. This is a church that loves God and people sacrificially. This is a church that grows on the inside while also impacting those outside of the church with the glory of Christ’s gospel. This is the church to whom God will add converts through the testimony of Christ that is displayed through them. With God’s help, this is the kind of church we are striving to be.
The Maneville Family
A definite highlight for me and my wife was camping in the mountains with dear friends of ours. We definitely needed this! Just to be in awe of God’s amazing creation and breathing in the fresh aroma of friendship in Christ and the joy of laughing over our joys and sorrows. I’m grateful.
On a different note: Noah has recently turned five. We had a very deep theological discussion about how the devil couldn’t kill Jesus, but Jesus defeated death and now we can be forgiven and live forever and not go with the devil to hell.
Back in the saddle
I’m back from a three month sabbatical which proved to be God’s grace poured out on a weary pastor. I feel energized and ready for another exciting journey with my God and the local church He has charged me to lead.
I now feel much more acquainted with my weaknesses and limitations and more aware of my need to be deliberately dependent upon God. I need to be mindful of the fact that I need Him more than I think and more than I deserve. Oh how I need the Lord!
My first day at work started on a very high note:
A woman came to see me about her son who is on drugs. I asked Theo to sit in the meeting with me, as we do not counsel women alone as men.
The discussion quickly went from her son to her relationship with the Lord.
She is a devoted member of a false church. After she was finished telling her story, I told her that her biggest problem was not her drug-addicted son, but the condition of her soul before a holy and just God.
What a joy it was to see Theo opening the Bible and showing her Scripture after Scripture about who God is and who she really is before Him. But before we could finish explaining Jesus’ sacrifice for her sins, she exclaimed, “But if I repent and turn to Christ I will bring disgrace to my belated mother’s name. She raised me in this faith. I don’t want to bring shame to the memory of my mother.”
I started explaining that our hope is found only in Jesus and that she needed to count the cost. As I continued sharing about the wonder of God the Son and His glorious gospel, she said: “I want this Jesus. I want to give my life to this Jesus. I’ve had too much stories… too many excuses. I need Him now!”
We took some time to explain to her the consequences of such a decision and after she again said that she wants to be saved, I asked Theo to read Romans 10 to her and directed her to my office and asked her to go on her knees and confess her sins before God, to put her trust in Christ, and to cry out to God to save her, while we would be praying in the room next to my office.
While we prayed to our Lord to save her and to grant her repentance, we could hear sobs coming from my office as she wept before the Lord. I praise God that we have the privilege to witness such intimate moments before the throne of our gracious God.
Continue to pray her. Her husband does not want to allow her to come to church on Sundays, but she is meeting with some of our ladies on a weekly basis.
Visitors, partners, brothers
Last year I was in America for almost a month. The purpose of my visit was to engage like-minded churches with an opportunity to partner with our church for our vision to impact our community with the Gospel.
This was made possible when I shared my plans with Gabriel, the mission pastor from Mosaic Church in Orlando, Florida. I met him when he was visiting a ministry they support called Hope Africa Collective. I joined his session on church planting and was part of the panel for the Q&A. After that we felt as kindred spirits, and the rest is history.
Today Mosaic Church partners with us for our Kids Outreach Program which is growing daily. In March we only had 22 boys. Today we have 41 boys and 22 girls.
Last month Gabriel with a few of his team came to visit the program and to be one of the speakers at our Healthy Church Conference. As is our custom when pastors visit us for a few days, we had him preach on our streets. He did well! All we ask is for a clear gospel presentation and he did it well.
I also had the privilege to have my own brother Tommie preach at the conference. These conferences are part of our commitment as Imprint and HeartCry to “leave a healthy mark on the church in Africa.”
Memorial for a Murder Victim
In April, two years ago, just a month after we moved into our new church building, a man was brutally murdered on our church premises.
He was a well known man who was loved by the seniors in our community because he used to fix their faulty appliances and stuff around their homes.
He went to get his nephew who was involved in a gang fight that was happening on our church grounds. As he was looking for his nephew, three guys assaulted him and stabbed him multiple times until he died. It was a bloody scene, but far too usual for our community.
I remember a few kids coming to look at the body and one saying to the other, “Agh, just another dead guy.” These kids didn’t even look older than ten years old. This is the reality of life here in Bellville South.
Our church had the privilege of conducting the funeral and to preach the gospel to more than five-hundred attendees. Since then, his mother started faithfully attending our Sunday services. She’s not a believer. Please pray for her.
She’s also part of our Elderly Care Program and asked us to conduct a memorial service for her late son. At the service she expressed the deep pain and sorrow she feels at the gruesome murder of her son, but also how sad she feels over the three kids that killed him. The oldest of the boys who stabbed him so brutally is fourteen years old. She said that the parents of the kids came to ask her for forgiveness. She said that she forgives them, but the pain they caused her can never be forgotten.
I had the privilege of sharing the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ at the memorial service and to point everyone in attendance to the only hope in our suffering, Jesus our Saviour.
Grace Fellowship Church Retreat
As mentioned earlier, I had the privilege of being the speaker at a church retreat in Piketberg. This came about after a new church plant watched the HeartCry documentary Great Mercy about our church. Since then this church has been praying for us and decided one Sunday to visit us.
This started a friendship between me and the pastor and we found that we have a lot in common theologically. I was invited to be their speaker at their church retreat for three sessions and a Q&A with me and my wife, Charlene.
I covered the following topics: “Living like a person sent from God.” “Our duty in personal evangelism” and “Marks of a healthy church-plant.” The Q&A was mainly about our experience in church planting and the impact it has on the family. Charlene spoke on how to be a suitable helpmate as a pastor/church planter’s wife.
We were showered with love and were happy to make new friends and deepen our ties with this promising work of the Lord.
A HeartCry equipping station
Recently, Adam Burrell, our Africa Coordinator for HeartCry initiated a bi-monthly training hour for all the South African HeartCry missionaries.
This allows us to see each other at least once every other month, and encourages us to pray for each other’s ministries. It also gives us the privilege to get to know Adam’s heart and his passion for God’s work in Africa.
Our first session was on Finances. This was very helpful, especially all the resources we received to help us with personal and church finances. This month we covered “church discipline”, which gave us some helpful insights from different brothers.
Prayer and praise
- We thank God for the continued influx of visitors from our community and beyond to our Sunday morning services.
- Pray for those who heard the Gospel at the memorial service and for many in our community who suffer the loss of loved ones, that they may find their hope in Christ.
- A baby’s body was found in a black bag next to the primary school a few meters from our church. Please pray that the perpetrator will be brought to justice.
- Please keep our brother Ricky in prayer who just lost his mom. We had several opportunities to share the gospel with his family who are all part of a heretical cult.
- Praise God for providing for our boys’ and girls’ kids programs. We are trusting God to provide funds to employ two more people for this program.
- Pray for our upcoming members meeting as we receive new members into our church family and as I recommend elders for the church to vote on.
“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God!”William Carrey