At our Synod in 1999 the vision for the future was presented. What we committed to do, and in fact are doing, has been summarised under six words – all beginning with the letter “E”. These have become known among us as “The Six E’s”. All our churches are committed to them. They are as follows:
Exaltation – Evangelism – Edification – Equipping – Employing – Exporting
In addition, the CESA leadership seeks to be involved in national church debates and forums so that our evangelical commitment to the Bible may make a contribution to the problems facing South African society.
We owe a great debt of thanks to the many Christians in the diocese of Sydney who, over the years, have stood by us and encouraged us. We are also greatly indebted to our friends in London, especially the Rev Dick Lucas and those associated with the Proclamation Trust, for the friendship and encouragement extended to us. These friends have made it easier for us to do our work and to witness for the Gospel in South Africa more efficiently.
We sincerely seek the prayers of God’s people everywhere for Southern Africa and its enormous problems. Many of you who read this may not live in South Africa, but we are here – it is our home and our place of service for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pray that God will extend His Kingdom and that we may have a role to play in that great work.
Vision for the future
All members of CESA are traditionally committed to the authority of Scripture and its message of redemption through Christ. Nevertheless it is possible to lose our sense of eternal urgency and become discouraged, joyless, defensive and even cynical, not really expecting God to work. We all experience times when God seems far away and consequently we seem to lose our sense of direction. Spurgeon wrote “A far off hell is the dread of no man and a far off heaven is scarce by any one. God Himself, while thought of as far away is not feared or revered as he should be.” We must not lose our sense of urgency nor our vision of the eternal danger facing those who are not believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. God must not be “far off” to us or He will be so far too our hearers. It is our duty as evangelical Christians to bring the great eternal realities near to all within our influence. Because we are as a fellowship of churches already committed to this great task I suggest the following six points as a way of articulating our vision for the new millennium.
Our understanding of the gospel is that it will culminate and consummate in the worship, adoration and praise of God the father, Son and Holy Spirit by all the saints of all ages to come, as expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 v 28 that God may be all in all.
This exaltation and praise of God the Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ is further demonstrated in the beatific vision of John in Revelations 4 v 11: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Our understanding goes further however. We believe that this exaltation and adoration should find its echo amongst the children of God even while we are on earth. Our daily walk with God, both privately as individuals and corporately as a fellowship of believers, should reflect, however imperfectly, our belief in the greatness of our God and the great salvation He has provided through Jesus Christ His Son.
Thus privately we will strive to be Godly, living lives that commend the Gospel and corporately we will strive for reverence, joy and excellence in all we do.
We therefore pledge ourselves prayerfully to work for the glory of God, first in our own lives so that we may be sincere and godly, and then in our corporate worship. We will strive for excellence in all we do and in all arrangements for public worship. We will bear in mind constantly the glory, and otherness of God in His holy and exalted splendour and power. Our Pledge is to be biblical in all things and to promote the true worship of God. In this we reflect our 39 Articles and creeds. We bear in mind constantly that our Father to whom we pray is in Heaven. By that is meant the place of all authority and divine rule. We should therefore constantly reflect on the way we conduct our public worship. There should be order and dignity, yet warmth and spontaneity. Yet for all this we recognise the futility of all our efforts without the blessing of God. Therefore it behoves us to humble ourselves before Him and to pray that His glory may be seen in our midst. We are all convinced as biblical Christians, that without prayer there will be no blessing. If God is truly exalted and adored by His people then everything else mentioned in this document will flow out of this primary conviction.
This we call EXALTATION.
We pledge ourselves to ongoing, unceasing and biblical evangelism. We see it as our duty, mandate and calling to so live and speak that others may be persuaded, in the sovereign will of God, to put their trust in Christ. To this end we will pray, think, and plan. We will incorporate this vision in all departments of our Church’s life so that all – young and old – will constantly seek ways of sharing the Gospel with the lost. This will include the creative planning of various activities and encourage the involvement of our congregation. We should be constantly thinking about:
- a) Church planting
- b) Foreign missions
- c) Local evangelism
- d) Community involvement stemming from true Christians compassion so that we may display the love of God in the hope that the poor, oppressed and downtrodden will be drawn to Christ.
We will pray that it may be instinctive to our members to witness and to seek ways to influence lost people for the Saviour. We should lovingly ask each other hard questions such as: when last anyone was converted in our church? Are unconverted people coming to worship services? Are we finding ways of going to them? Are they being won for Christ and then discipled? We must always be on guard against slipping into a “maintenance mode” in our church and losing our sense of evangelistic aggression. We must not subtly lose confidence in the power of the Gospel to save sinners and then shift our focus to “teaching” activities, which good and necessary though they are, may keep us from focusing on the lost people of our neighbourhoods and seeking creative ways of reaching them.
In this regard I return to the matter of Church planting. Surely in this country with its enormous needs there is great scope for an ongoing concerted programme of planing new Churches. I am fully aware of the difficulties in this regard especially in view of financial restrictions. However, an authentic witnessing church must result in new attempts to establish groups of believers all over. There is two ways in which we can approach this. First, we should plan as a denomination, a nationwide strategy to plant Churches. Second, we can do it spontaneously, congregation by congregation. I think both are valid and should be encouraged. But we must also look beyond our borders. I would hope that we can arrive at a new strategy for places like Namibia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Is it possible? Do we have the will for it? Can we try? Is it too big to attempt ? I realise that we will not accomplish everything at once, but if we are truly gripped by the message of the cross and convinced of its power and reverence, should we not be thinking of these things? I must mention how encouraged I am by many of our ministers and Churches who are already engaged in evangelism and pioneering in some of these places.
The second point is called EVANGELISM.
We pledge ourselves to consistent and expository preaching and teaching. Our purpose is to make the will of God known. That can only happen as we preach His Word and learn to handle it correctly. This is the way we are edified and built up in the faith. We cannot expect our witness in evangelism to be effective if our members do not truly understand the Gospel. We must therefore be committed to disciplined study of the Word, both as preacher and hearer.
This pledge includes learning as well as teaching. We are all disciples and therefore all of us should constantly be learning. Furthermore, in the sense that all of us influence others, we are likewise teachers. Therefore all who teach must grow spiritually and identify with all who learn. The distinction between learner and teacher is a real one and yet it must not be over-emphasised so that the clergy is seen to be in a special class. We are committed to the “every member ministry”. We must constantly in all aspects of our Church’s life encourage teaching, learning, the gathering of Gospel knowledge – not merely to feed the mind but also the heart, the emotions and the will. For example we should be thinking through:
- a) The importance of the local Church in the thinking of our people. We are all aware of the current technology of people to avoid any form of long term commitment which is often reflected in their relationship to the local Church. In addition there appears to be a woefully deficient understanding of the biblical emphasis on the importance of the local body of believers and how the individual Christian fits in and what his/her responsibilities are. In total economy of God the local Church is of central importance. Our concern therefore will be to develop spiritually healthy congregation, vibrant, warm and welcoming to all. We must therefore seek ways of teaching and emphasising the duties and the joys of being committed to the local Church.
- b) We must develop new ways, tools and methods of teaching effectively. In this regard we need to begin to write and produce our own tools to sharpen our minds and lessen our dependence on foreign materials.
- c) Small, consistent and well monitored study groups. One of the tools being used with great success at present in some of our Churches is the Christianity Explain course. But this is for enquirers. What do we do with new converts or new members? Is there a plan to instruct them and disciple them? Two new courses have been developed in Sydney which are worth investigating. They are entitled “Simple Christianity” – based on Luke’s Gospel, and “Lifeworks” which comes with videos and workbooks. There are, no doubt, many other such tools available to all.
- d) Bible-teaching conventions for large and small groups within our congregation (something like the Australian model at Katoomba) to which some of our members have been exposed.
Furthermore we should be both modelling and teaching each other how to have meaningful private devotional lives. Moreover the biblical doctrine and objectives of Christian fellowship needs to be constantly taught and practised. We must recapture the emphasis of being a new community in Christ.
This we call EDIFICATION.
Our members need to be discipled and trained in various aspects of Christian ministry. Most importantly every one of our members should be able to share the Gospel with others and point them to a saving faith in Christ. This training can happen one on one, small groups, special seminars or whatever method we may think of, but the point is if we are serious about the ” every member ministry” then our congregation should be trained for the responsibilities we give them whether it is an evangelistic task or one of leadership responsibility. We cannot assume that all those elected to office know how to carry out their duties. In fact we need to ask again, are all our church members and leaders true Christians? Are they mature? Have they grown spiritually? Are they people who have an understanding of the Gospel that gives them insight and understanding into ministry? If they do not understand the Gospel how can they discern spiritual things, priorities and principles even when making practical decisions for the running and organisation of the church, let alone policy decisions that impact the local Church’s ministry?
We must all remember the following:
- a) We ourselves do not have all necessary expertise to train so we must learn to use others better equipped that we are to assist in the task of discipling and training.
- b) All training and discipling must be biblical and not merely adapted from secular sources although we do not despise good ideas that come from these sources.
- c) A correct understanding of the Gospel should determine every believer’s view of ministry and service. A true understanding of the Gospel appears to be the single greatest need in our churches today. We must not tolerate erroneous ideas or vague notions of what it means to be a Christian as well as superficial claims to be true Christians.
- d) The notion of worship, discipling, servanthood and ministry must filter its way through all our Church structures both national and local. The idea that a true disciple is a servant must be recaptured, nurtured and encouraged. No task should be beneath us, no personal sacrifice should be complained about, no inconveniences should hinder us from serving our Lord Jesus Christ by serving others.
There are some basic and fundamental things we need to do as part of this programme such s regular membership classes, regular confirmation classes, classes for beginners, newcomers’ meetings, as well as the more advanced discipling methods that we may use to equip members for Church, home and the market place. I am aware that many of you are already doing some of these things but it should become the norm in all our Churches.
Dear brothers and sisters, we simply must disciple others. I say it again, we MUST BE DISCIPLING others. In my opinion the Church of England in South Africa has been strong on evangelism and doctrine, but we have been weak in DISCIPLING AND TRAINING. It is not my purpose here to suggest HOW we should do it but rather that we MUST do it if we are to have a fruitful future. By discipling I am referring to the caring, nurturing and development of the individual Christian so that they may grow to their full potential in Christ. By training I refer to the instruction and skills that are needed to witness to Christ and assume responsibilities in the local fellowship. We must work with haste for the day is urgent, yet with care, for we must teach properly, with consistency, lest we lose our credibility and with hope and joy because our Master has promised to be with us.
We call this EQUIPPING.
We can no longer operate in ministry as a one-man band. We need the gifts of others as mentioned above. All our Churches – both large and small – should encourage team ministries.
We must understand that the equipping and training of lay people must be one of our most important priorities. They must know at least how to share the Gospel. Some of them may be gifted by God as preachers, teachers or leaders. These could ease the pastoral workload of the Church considerably. We all believe that God has given gifts to the Church. These gifts are lodged in the lived of our lay people. But once again the training of our congregations must be on our hearts. It must be a passion with us to see the whole body on the move for the Gospel. If it is not on our hearts in this way it is doubtful that we will ever do it.
- a. Some members of the team will be those people who do things in their spare time as volunteers.
- b. Some will be able to do it part-time, with part-time stipends.
- c. Some will need to be employed full-time.
- d. Each Church should adopt its own plan that will make it possible financially and structurally for a team to develop.
- e. All team members whether full time or not should be held accountable for their ministry. Accountability is often a missing link in our Churches because we often feel we cannot be too strict with people who are doing things in their spare time. But while we need to be wise and understanding this matter, we also need to remember that all of us are working for Christ – not merely for the local Church and therefore all of us should be concerned with integrity in Gospel work. We must at least work to reduce the idea that that the whole local Gospel enterprise is the responsibility of only one or two people.
This is called EMPLOYING.
This point deals with the need to send our Gospel witnesses into the world. This includes but is not limited to missionary work. It should include all of society. Our denominational vision should be bigger and wider than the borders of our own land or in fact the boundaries of our own denomination. As biblical Christians our hearts should be constantly moved by the plight of the masses of people who live in spiritual ignorance. This should be a matter of great concern for us. Our Lord’s commission in Matthew 28 should constantly be borne in mind. The central message of the Bible is God’s salvation being proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Therefore we should be world Christians with a global vision.
We should also be concerned for the poor, the downtrodden and the outcasts. The enormous social needs of our country provide a great challenge to all the Churches. We cannot separate ourselves from our history. The Gospel compels us to address the many social disadvantages of the past. Where there is need and deprivation not only should the spirit and compassion of Christ be displayed as a matter of course, but a platform for Gospel work is provided. In encouraging our people to be active for Christ we should set before them the task of working with the poor and needy as part of our Christian obligation.
We should encourage our members to be salt and light in society. He should be involved in the world of politics, media, education, sports, business and arts.
Thus we should be attempting to thrust out from our midst ministers, teachers, preachers and other missionaries to carry God’s Word to others. We should encourage our members to be involved in all domains of society in every possible way, as witnesses for the Gospel. Because all of them should be motivated by the Gospel they should have as an ultimate aim the promotion of the Kingdom of God. Whether we have in mind a foreign country, local ministry, so called secular employment, or volunteer service of whatever nature, we should be attempting to employ others in the service for the Lord.
This we call EXPORTING.
- 1. These six items are not new thoughts. They have been culled in conversations between ourselves and our friends overseas. They have been expressed one way or another in the various books currently being read by our people. They have been tabulated in the form mentioned above after much discussion between myself and several interested colleagues.
- 2. Yet it seems to me that these six items provide an acceptable summary of all it means to be a Christian church in the local community. They may be fleshed out in different ways and applied in different ways but they articulate our evangelical obligation from which we cannot escape.
- 3. These six points are easily remembered and should become so ingrained in us that the youngest member of our church should be able to say them if asked what his/her church stands for.
- 4. These items should begin to forge new agendas for local churches, departments within the church, regional committees and even for our Synod and clergy/ wives conferences. Everything we do should somehow relate to one or more of the six E’s.
- 5. This does not mean that we can do everything at once. Maybe one year we should focus on one or two of the E’s, next year on others. Each church should work it out for themselves. But these evangelical duties should cast their shadow over all our plans and procedures.
- 6. We should hold each other accountable for these six E’s. These should form the basis of our reports to Synod and to the Area Councils. In brotherly kindness we should encourage each other to keep focused by constantly bearing in mind the six E’s.
It is my hope and prayer that the basic principles of this statement will be accepted as a mandate by all of us and form the core of all future discussions in our local churches. It may in some instances be possible to appoint different people to take on one of the E’s as a portfolio in their own church. I believe that these six E’s carefully thought through will impact all our Churches’ activities causing us to dump some and create new ministries. They will keep us busy with the Gospel, give us direction and enable us to monitor what is happening in our Churches in a new way. The message of a crucified, risen and reigning Saviour with all its enormous ramifications must utterly control all we do. However we must always remember that the six E’s arise out of the framework and foundation built by systematic expository preaching of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. To this we must all be diligently committed. I pray that this mission statement will encourage us to remain focused on the Bible and its great message of redemption through Christ.
Once again I need to stress that all our activities should be covered with prayer. We need to articulate our dependence on the Holy Spirit. The work of the Gospel must be empowered work. The power that we have been promised is the Spirit of God. We must call upon God to send His Holy Spirit to us in new power. We must look to Him for a time of refreshing. We must not forget the special visitations we read about in the history of the Church when God performed great and mighty works through Revival. The leadership of the Church particularly should model the fact that the Christian life is one of prayer and dependence upon God. Matthew Henry makes the statement that “We must fetch our blessings from heaven by prayer”. May it be so for all of us.