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Letter from South Africa: A cloud, the size of a man’s hand

January 1999 | by Martin Holdt

Moral and ethical standards in South Africa could scarcely be worse. The Government tries to deny that conditions are as bad as the secular press makes them out to be. But corruption is so widespread that the only surprise is that the economy of the country is not worse than it is. Sodomy, which until recently was a criminal offence, has been declared legal by the Constitutional Court. Throughout the country, farmers are being murdered at such a rate that farmers in all the provinces have protested angrily, accusing the Government of not doing enough to protect them.

Accusations and counter-accusations of racism continue to be thrown around, while ‘affirmative action’ is applauded by some and greeted by others with dismay. The emigration continues of mainly white people to the various English-speaking parts of the world, a matter which is hotly debated in letters to the editor in our daily press. Those who leave the country are often accused of deserting the land of their birth, while emigrants remind their fellow South Africans that their forebears were themselves in that category, and that they have no option but to move to better pastures for the family’s sake.

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Heartening signs

Although there is much to discourage evangelical Christians, who have an appreciation of God-given standards for church and society, there are nevertheless heartening signs of God at work in various sectors of the community. The ‘pure in heart’ may indeed see God where others may not, and to a great number it almost seems as if a cloud the size of a man’s hand is appearing on the horizon of the future.

Twice during 1998 a number of men from Gauteng, Natal, the Cape and Namibia met for three days of fellowship and prayer. These retreats proved to be so meaningful and beneficial that it was decided to develop the idea, in order that more brothers in Christ might be edified in this way. The time has come for men who fear the living God to network together to stem the tide of unbelief, man-centredness worldliness, confusion, and anarchy, in what passes as the church of our day. This will not happen unless those who are called to preach the gospel and pastor the Lord’s flock know, trust and love one another.

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa SOURCE algria/pixabay
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Fraternal

Emerging from these retreats was a commitment to form ‘The Spurgeon Fraternal’, the purpose of which has been expressed as follows: ‘We feel a close kinship with C. H. Spurgeon, and what he stood for. Apart from his biblical theology, Christ-centredness, and evangelistic passion, he was a big-hearted man with no parochial or sectarian tendencies. Even in his own lifetime he was widely respected and appreciated, although he never hesitated to nail his colours to the mast. And today he enjoys wide acceptance throughout the evangelical church. That is what we stand for. We have strong and non-negotiable convictions, but they are in complete harmony with that which the true church has always taught. We can have no part in the ecumenical frenzy of our day, but we love all who love and serve our Lord in Spirit and in truth.’

Members of the Spurgeon Fraternal agree in their desire ‘to spur one another on in the work of ministry as [they] seek on-going reformation and true revival, and to bring about a network of God-fearing men across this sub-continent who are willing to take a stand together for the sake of the faith once entrusted to the saints, and the church bought with the blood of Christ’.

Growing strength

It has been discovered that there are significant numbers of men who would be willing to be part of such a Fraternal Agreement. The Fraternal will gather three times a year, for periods of up to three days, at a suitably located and equipped conference venue, for mutual edification. This will be achieved through transparent sharing, encouragement, fervent prayer and fasting, interspersed by ministry of the Word.

One young minister was so disillusioned after the recent 1998 Baptist Union Assembly, that he expressed doubt as to whether he would ever want denominational recognition of his ministerial status. Nevertheless, the number of men present at that occasion who are committed to the Reformed faith was significantly higher than before. The Evangelical Christian component of South Africa is sufficiently strong for its protests to have frightened off intended government legislation, aimed at curtailing the extent of Christian radio broadcasts. The rate at which Christian schooling has increased, and continues to be supported nationally, may yet be a harbinger of better days for the Christian witness in South Africa.

The evangelical witness is no longer supported as it used to be by the previous Government, which seemed to be using Evangelicalism for its own ends. It must now stand on its own two feet. With less suspicion as to its sponsorship, and a clearer picture as to its determination to proclaim the gospel in all the nine provinces, this witness has acquired new spiritual strength. It is to be hoped that the tiny cloud will soon become a torrential shower of grace, for the glory of God in South Africa.