Saturday, March 24, 2018

How to Record the Life of your Pastor

Chapter Five

[Editor's note: This extract from a book written by Mark Penrith covering How to Record the Life of your Church, How to Publish the Life of your Church and How to Record your Salvation Testimony was delivered at the Zambian Baptist Historical Society AGM.]

How to Record the Life of your Pastor

The most prolific recorder of South African Baptist Church history was Syd Hudson Reed who churned out a great deal of material in his life time. The short biographical sketches that he produced were by no means an exhaustive account of any man’s life however they are a satisfactory historical record of a pastor’s journey and therefore can benefit an audience interested in pastoral life.

Having read 100's of these short biographical sketches I’m convinced that there is a repeatable pattern in his writings and that these elements could be shared with a wider audience thereby facilitating faster and broader collection of historical records. Below I identify the common elements in his work and then build a model which can be propergated and promoted.

Core Structure


Name, Life and Death

Syd generally includes 2 key dates and 2 two key places in his introductions. Date of birth and place of birth, date of death and place of death.

Often in the introduction Syd includes a sentence detailing if the subject was born into a Christian home.

WH Doke was born in Chudleigh, Devon, on 19 February 1887, and entered into the presence of the Great King on Sunday 19 December 1971. Although not physically strong, he never allowed ill-health to keep him from giving his best – and a worthy best it was – to the Master.

On 3rd August 1954, the trumpets surely sounded in Heaven at the entry of Paul the Leper, Apostle to the Lambas.

Alexander Hay King was born in Grahamstown in 1877 and the Home call came suddenly at his holiday cottage at Hogsback, near Alice, in the late evening of 1st August. He was named after his grandfather on his mother’s side, the Rev Alexander Hay who was one of the first Ministers of the Mother Church of our Denomination.

Conversion Experience

When and how a person came to faith is of particular interest to Syd. He will often have a second paragraph (which rightly is part of the introduction) which describes the conversion event and more often than not includes the word personal in it.

At an early age Lex realized his need of a Savior and yielded to the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ. He joined the Taylor Street Church, of which his parents were honored and loved members, and took an active part in Christian work; he was largely instrumental in starting a successful Young People’s Guild.

She was converted as a young girl and after attending Bible School in preparation for the mission field; she was sent to South Africa by the International Holiness Mission and was stationed on the East Rand. She was invited to conduct services in the newly- formed Brakpan Baptist Church. At this time the Rev. Author B. Arnot was Pastor of this Church and also of the Benoni Baptist Church. A warm fellowship developed them and resulted, in due course, in their marriage.

Fritz Wilhelm Schwarz was born in East Prussia in December 1901, the eldest of four children who were orphaned during World War I. the young teenager, now responsible for the care of two younger brothers and a sister, was greatly influenced by a Sunday School teacher who was largely responsible for leading him to Christ.

The Call

Syd is recounting the life of a pastor and he is quick to stress that this is a calling rather than vocation. Many times he will recount life details which lead up to the specific calling of an individual but seldom does he not stress the importance of a calling itself. He does sometimes use a synonym of being led instead of being called.

He discovered believers’ baptism in his own study of the New Testament and followed the light as he saw it. Soon afterwards he was led to enter Rochester College where the money he had saved was used to study for the ministry.

After hearing Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis expound Romans 5:6 and Galations 2:20 to a small gathering in a Keswick diningroom he entered more deeply into an experience of God’s Grace. Soon after this Keswick experience, Victor Thomas received and responded to the Call of God to the Christian ministry and enrolled as a student at the Bible Training Institute, Glasgow, where, in his final year, he was the top student.


Syd recounts a subjects life in two ways: historical, personal.


By this Syd made careful enquiry and detailed the historical progression of a persons life, pastorates, boards, studies, ect…

At Kariega for 15 years, he ministered to a congregation of farmers in picturesque surroundings. The erection of the Church had been delayed 20 years after the foundation and lower walls had been built, owing to the scattering of the people by early Kaffir wars. There he became schoolmaster and postmaster as well as minister. In the graveyard alongside the Church lie the remains of one of their children. The place retained very sacred memories to them by their loss as well as by the many associations with the families around. For a dozen years after leaving Kariega Mr Evans carried on a school at Rocklands, north-west of Grahamstown, and he always manifested the keenest interest in education and scholarship, as well as in the preaching of the Word.

His last pastorate of nine years was at Wakkerstroom, in the Transvaal, where he had to contend with the gradual change of the population, which made it increasingly difficult for any English-speaking congregation to maintain itself. He retired fifty years after undertaking his first charge, and spent the next thirteen years of retirement in Johannesburg, where he and his beloved wife formed very happy associations with the three Churches, Central, Troyeville and Rosebank. He was always intensely interested in everything that concerned the Churches and ministers of his beloved denomination. He was especially concerned about our young ministers, and acted as Secretary for some time of the Ministerial Education Committee.

Norman Holgate made a very real contribution to the life of his local church and to that of the whole Denomination. He was one of the stalwarts of the newly established church at Pinelands, serving as a deacon and as Church Treasurer. He was blessed with a truly great capacity for attending to detail and was a first class organizer. This made him a key figure in the running of two evangelistic campaigns, and many will recollect his service as Hospitality Secretary for the 1971 Assembly. A man of vision and enthusiasm, he proved also to be a dynamic secretary of the Extension Committee of the Western Province Baptist Association. The Church at Milnerton owes much to his initial vision in getting a work going and later to his perseverance when others would have given up. He was also associated with the establishment of Baptist work at Manenberg and Nyanga.


This is where Syd is at his best. He had a way of summing up a persons character so as to entreat the reader to examine his own person. He did this in a very systemised way. Note the form and structure of the two examples below.

John Edgar Ennals was a remarkable man physically. Born in 1868, he came out to this country at the age of twenty-seven, broken in health and hopeful that an escape from the rigours of the English climate would prolong his life, then hanging in the balance, by at least a few years. In this new field of service, he found a renewed full life-span.

Edgar Ennals was also a remarkable man intellectually. His learning came the hard way, by the light of a candle burning late into the night, after the business of the day had been accomplished. Degrees in Arts and Divinity at St Andrew’s College, Scotland, were fittingly capped with an honorary doctorate at McMaster University in Canada.

Dr Ennals was a remarkable man spiritually. A foundation member of the Rosebank Union Church, where Dr Ennals ministered for nearly a quarter of a century, said of his ministry: “It was Christo-centric”. Too transparently honest to subscribe to tenets which he could not unreservedly believe, he sometimes perplexed his companions in the ministry. Nevertheless, in all his preaching, the Lord Jesus Christ was given the pre-eminence and, with the passing of the years, controversy gave place to compassion and concern for the welfare and progress of those who were following after him in Christian service.

As I remember him, four things stand out clearly:

Firstly, his warm and genuine love for the Lord Jesus and for His work. His love for the Saviour never waned; indeed, it grew stronger as he was forced to relinquish many activities. Because of his love for Christ he was able to rejoice in what others were permitted to do for the Master while he was denied active ministry he had so much enjoyed.

Secondly, his deep love for the Word of God. Morrow Cook sought always to be faithful to its teachings. He held academic degrees from Glasgow and Indiana Universities and his learning served only to increase his reverence for the Scriptures. His studies in depth made him increasingly sure of the integrity and infallibility of the sacred Book. This love for the Word, and his fidelity to it, made him a preacher whose happiest sermons were expository. Morrow had no time for learning that cast doubts on the authenticity or authority of Scripture. Even if sometimes he was thought “narrow” he did not falter before criticism when he felt that his view was in accordance with the written Word.

Thirdly, Morrow Cook did not mince words. If he felt a thing was right, or wrong, he said so. He was not one who sought a middle road that would condemn no one. Although rich in his love for his brethren and for all men, he sought always to have a conscience void of offence. This fidelity to his conscience did not always gain the approval of others, but he was very aware that their horizon, like his own, was limited and each could only speak as he was persuaded of the truth as he saw it. When once he was sure he had the Lord’s message, he presented it without fear or favour. Crookedness in any form was anathema to him.

A fourth thing must be mentioned. Morrow Cook had a sense of the dignity that belongs to the Christian ministry. He sought to magnify the grace of God in his home, in the pulpit and in the market place. He felt strongly that any man who was called to the Christian ministry should be a man who was an example to his fellows. He never could associate smallness of mind with the “cloth”. If a man wore the “cloth” he should be a man set apart, anointed and a testimony to Christ’s saving power. His own life constantly bore the hall-marks of his dedication to Christ.

One short coming to note

Syd didn't give much space to or place emphasis on a man's short comings or major challenges in ministry.

Can you imagine making sense of the cross if you didn't have the story of Adam. Or understand God's judgement over the split Kingdom of Israel if you didn't have the back story of David's sin or Peter's restoration on the bank of Tiberias if you had not been told about Peter's denial before the crucifixion of Christ.

No, man's pitfalls point to their need of the Saviour and the grace of God in their lives. How, despite our frailty, He continues to build His Church to His own praise and glory. A dash of reality helps a good biographical sketch to sing praises towards the King.


Syd’s conclusions are too broad for me define any set prototype out. What I can do is document a technique he sometimes used which I feel is appropriate. He is sometimes given to praising God for the person’s life and then quoting a verse or hymn or poem.

His testimony can be summarized in the words of a simple hymn which he loved from childhood days” There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one.”

He was loyal to those with whom he worked, even when loyalty with others was strained to breaking point. He stood firmly behind his fellow workers. He was intensely loyal to the Word of God and to him, “Thus saith the Lord” was final and absolute. On that Word he rested, for that Word he worked and through that Word he found grace to live.

Pastor Watson, like us all, had the limitations of his qualities, but he was a humble, Christlike soul. Behind his gentleness there was spiritual power. In thinking of him, two Scriptures come to mind, both spoken by our Lord. The first is His word about Nathaniel: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” He was a man of transparent sincerity and utter simplicity in the truest sense of that word. The second Scripture is our Lord’s word to the over anxious in Matt 6:25-33: “Take no anxious thought for what you shall eat, or drink or wear; for you Heavenly Father knows you have need of these things. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Perhaps few have lived more simply in the spirit of those words than Gabriel Watson.

Download the Worksheet How to Record the Life of your Pastor here.

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