D2. VARIOUS MINISTRIES AND OCCUPATIONS
BELIEVER’S BAPTISM AND A CHANGE OF CHURCH
David said: “My times are in your hands…” Have you ever seriously contemplated what life would have been like had we known our futures just one year ahead? We might have fretted terribly had we seen the mountains we were to scale and the twists and turns in the road we would have to negotiate. No, the best we can do is not to speculate about the future but to trust the Lord to guide our footsteps day by day. In so doing, He will work out his perfect will in and through us.
On parting with the Dorothea Mission, we unfortunately also parted with our dear co-workers. To make up for this loss, we sought the fellowship of our church members and in the process joined a weekly Bible study group. One evening the topic happened to be baptism by water. Our denomination practised infant baptism and both Martie and I had been baptised when we were babies. Once we became Christians, and especially when our sons were born, I came to the conclusion that I did not understand the teaching on infant baptism all that well. In fact, to be quite frank, it did not really make sense to me but since the emphasis in our ministry was on the salvation of souls, I did not make a big thing of this issue. I decided that we would take our sons to be dedicated to God and if there was any deeper meaning to baptism, I would leave that to God and to the theologians. However, that evening, when dealing with this issue, everybody looked to Martie and me for answers since we were engaged in full-time spiritual ministry and were supposed to know more than the others, which, sad to say, as far as that topic was concerned, was not true.
This incident however stirred me to delve into the Word for answers and as I did so, I sensed that the Holy Spirit was actually leading us on. Martie and I then decided to get together every morning at 9 to search God’s Word for answers. We started our study right from the beginning of the Old Testament, giving special attention to the covenant and circumcision. Then we turned to the new Testament and researched the matter of baptism from Matthew to Revelation. We came to the conclusion that both sexes were to the baptised by immersion into water after being born-again and that this was indeed a testimony as to their spiritual death and resurrection in Christ. The next step was to read whatever literature we could lay our hands on, both that which advocated infant baptism and baptism of believers. Some of the theologians advocating infant baptism went as far as to say that a person who had been baptised by his parents as a baby and would later in life have himself baptised again, was annulling God’s covenant and would fall completely from grace without any hope of turning back to God. However, we were absolutely convinced that, having been born-again, we had to be obedient and have ourselves baptised by immersion in water.
This posed a serious problem for our church was strongly opposed to its members being thus baptised and we were already beginning to sense that our ministry could also be adversely affected. So what do you do in a situation like this? What comes first: one’s ministry or your obedience to God? In this regard the Holy Spirit reminded us of King Saul who chose to disobey God in order to retain his kingship over Israel but lost both his kingship and his relationship with God. The Lord strongly reprimanded him through the prophet Samuel saying: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam 15:22, 23) Strong words!
We decided to follow the pathway of obedience, made an appointment with our senior minister and went to see him one evening. We were much loved and respected both by him and by his wife and I must emphasise that both of them were very godly people which made it so much more difficult for us to take the plunge. After taking a deep breath, I just simply said that we had studied the Word of God for some time and had come to the conclusion that we were now to have ourselves baptised by immersion in water to give testimony of our new birth that had taken place long ago. I also gave him a written exposition of how we had come to that conclusion, saying that if he could detect any faulty arguments, we would be relieved and would withdraw our request.
I actually pitied them for having to face such an unpleasant situation. He got very upset and said to me: “Ben, I can’t believe that a man like you would want to do a thing like this and I will most definitely put you and your wife under church discipline.” We had anticipated that he would take this stand, but were amazed at his wife’s attitude for she said to him: “My dear husband, we do not share their viewpoint at present, but who says that we may not do so in future?” This of course added to his anger, so we decided not to infuriate him any further and I said to him that we had no intention of bringing discord to the congregation where we had been members for many years and would hand in our resignations within the next day or two. On that note, the interview ended.
The next day we went to see the junior minister with whom we also had a very good relationship (he had actually taught Martie to play the guitar). He advised us to rather leave the congregation for we would be upset every time we witnessed babies getting baptised in future. This was good advice which we accepted and so we handed in our resignations the next day. This was a traumatic experience, especially for me, for I had been a member of this denomination all my life and now had to part with it at the age of approximately forty-five.
Once again, there came an estrangement between us and our spiritual brothers and sisters who remained behind in the congregation; people with whom we had been such close friends. On noticing us walking along the streets or in the nearby supermarkets, they would look the other way, pretending not to have seen us, which really hurt badly. Human beings have a very real need of acceptance and often experience a deep pain within when rejected by others.
This caused us to search desperately for a church where we would fit in and feel at home and, having found a well-known denomination that practised the baptism of believers, we applied to become members. Immediately after being accepted as such, we were baptised by immersion in water with the entire congregation bearing witness. In this church we experienced more love than in any other we had ever attended. It was a smallish congregation and we quickly got to know everybody and had some good times with them. One such memory is of a weekend congregational camp we attended. The anointing of the Spirit upon us was also increasing and we sensed that we were becoming a blessing to the church.
They also accepted and supported our Mission and many of them, including the pastor and other leaders, attended a prayer meeting we held in support of our work once a month. I was even invited to attend and speak at the annual meeting of their Synod. In due course we also saw the need of a branch of the church in the Pretoria-North area and sensed the Lord prompting us to go ahead and establish a church. Martie and I shared this vision with the leadership. They agreed to it and so a number of us set out to bring the vision to fruition. I managed to rent a beautiful hall in a complex for senior citizens for our use on Sunday mornings, got all the paper work in place and called a meeting of those that were interested in becoming members of the new congregation.
In the meantime, however, the Charismatic movement was also beginning to have an effect on this denomination, not so much on our congregation but on the denomination at large and our pastor and other leaders were becoming increasingly apprehensive that it would adversely affect our church. Sermons were often preached, warning the congregation against false prophets and false teaching; the devil coming to us as an angel of the light and leading us astray.
In our hearts, Martie and I too had many questions in this regard and were wondering whether we were not, as in the case of baptism, missing out on something which God was doing in our country. We saw that the denomination was paying lip service to the gifts of the Holy Spirit but did not practise them in the course of their meetings. When confronting the pastor on this issue, he replied: “We believe in the gifts of the Spirit and if the Lord chooses to bestow any of them upon us, He may do so at any time.” I retorted: “Pastor, if a person takes that attitude to the teaching of salvation, he will never be saved. You yourself were saved when you actively appropriated God’s offer of salvation by faith and you never rested until you were quite sure that you had actually received eternal life and been born again. God wants us to actively seek the gifts which He wants to bestow upon us and not just passively believe that they exist. That is why you do not see anybody flowing in the gifts in your congregation.” To this he had no reply.
Further confirmation that the denomination did in fact not support the practising of the gifts as described in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, etc., was that, once a week, they studied a book that clearly stated that the gifts of the Holy Spirit applied only to the first Christian church and what was now seen and heard in the Charismatic denominations, was of the devil.
With this we could not a agree at all, for in the course of our studies on baptism, our eyes had been opened to perceive, in a deeper way, the importance of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the work of God and that He desired to minister to his people by means of the gifts He bestowed on them. Martie and I therefore came to the conclusion that we would no longer be able to flow with this denomination since we were not in agreement with their teaching. Therefore, at the meeting where the Pretoria-North congregation was founded, we opted not to become members of it and within the following week also resigned as members of the main congregation.
The pastor, a very loving servant of God, afterwards came to see us on two occasions in an endeavour to reconcile us to that Body of Christ but we declined, for the step we took certainly was not because of a personal grievance that could be resolved, it was a fundamental difference in the understanding and obeying of God’s Word which we felt could not be compromised. And so, after having spent some time with this congregation and having made many new friends in Christ, we once more had to uproot ourselves and move on in search of a church where the Holy Spirit was welcomed and allowed to take charge of the meetings.
(May I just add that the newly established congregation in Pretoria-North, called a pastor, grew, erected its own building and gradually became effective in its neighbourhood. In the course of our lives, it has been a blessing to me to note that trees we had been instrumental in planting, grew and bore fruit which confirmed that their planting was of the Lord. )
BLESS THE LORD OH MY SOUL!
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