Having spent any amount of time studying Scripture you’d be struck by just how much value God puts on history. And I’m not just talking about the historical narratives which weave the story of the Old Testament together or Luke’s masterful recording of the historical development of the early church. No, I’m talking about how God emphasises again and again His involvement in history to His people in order to motivate them, rebuke them, inspire them, comfort them. God wants His people to keep close to mind His "Mighty hand and outstretched arm".

History isn’t that dry, dusty yellow edged book that you were forced to read at school in order to pass an exam. History is a story – no it’s the story – the tale of the people that have contributed to who you are, why you’re here doing what you’re doing, thinking how you’re thinking, living like you’re living. The study of history allows us to understand our people and the societies that we’ve built, understand change and how to cope and adapt to it. It creates a sense of identity, both of self and of corporate.

Baptists have a long, proud history in South Africa, a history which must not be lost, must not be forgotten. It includes men and woman who have suffered for others, lived for others, contributed towards others, even died for others. It’s full of interesting tales; a leper who forged a community (Paul the Leper), a statesman who died a national hero (Mr Jan Hendrick Hofmeyr), a young lady who sacrificed much to glorify her King (Ms Olive Carey Doke). It’s as much the story of the individuals as it is of God; His intervention in steering, guiding and guarding the Church that He said He’d build.

The Baptist Union Historical Society has begun to publish these stories. Please go and check out the efforts, comment regarding what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s depressing, what’s exhilarating.

Remember your past with thanksgiving; live your present with zeal.

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.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

No Turning Back

No Turning Back is a most welcome addition to the existing histories of our South African Baptist missionary endeavour over the past one hundred and eighty years. It is an account of ordinary people who have been used by God to achieve extraordinary things for Him. What a privilege to be part of this army of faithful soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The authors have done a good job arranging the story into coherent sections. The chapter on the involvement of local churches in mission is particularly enlightening and challenging. Even before the founding of the SABMS in 1892 the Boksburg Baptist Church, under the leadership of E R Davies, began a church planting work among the indigenous people of the Transvaal. By 1914, when the work was handed over to the SABMS, forty-seven new churches had been planted. This kind of local church involvement is reminiscent of the work of Pietersburg Baptist Church and Samaria Mission today. Nor was Boksburg the only local church to become involved in hands-on missions work. Those were the days before most of the local cross-cultural outreaches were delegated to the SABMS.

It is most refreshing to have the authors reflecting honestly on the good and bad fruits of the missiological approaches used by the SABMS. With hindsight some of the methods used and the decisions taken, in particular those which led to the cultural polarisation of the work, may not have been the best. Yet, as the story unfolds, we see the wonderful way in which God’s people have worked through these difficulties towards reconciliation. The chapter on Convention/Union relations tells the moving story of the “parting of ways and the healing of hurts.” It is most significant that this new book will be released in the inaugural year of the South African Baptist Alliance, a body that will bring the previously splintered Baptist groupings together into strategic co-operation. Missions is one of the main areas identified for co-operation.

The events recorded in No Turning Back are a vivid fulfilment of our Lord’s promise “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” There really is no turning back for South African Baptists.

Eric Robbins
Baptists Union Mission Developer
February 2001






Chapter 1: Missionary Beginnings

Chapter 2: The Involvement of Individual Churches in Missionary Outreach

Chapter 3: Ties that Bind

Chapter 4: Training for African Pastors

Chapter 5: Further Growth and Development of the SABMS and the Black Churches

Chapter 6: The Regions Beyond

Chapter 7: Specialized Ministries

Chapter 8: Baptist Leaders who played a Formative Role in the South Africa Baptist Missionary Society - A Representative Selection

Chapter 9: The Convention and the Union: The Parting of Ways, the Healing Hurts

Chapter 10: New Directions for Baptist Missions


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Missionary correspondance from Lambaland (1916)

There are many treasurers lying in wait in the dusty archives of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa. This morning I happened across one that I thought I’d share.

There has always been a need for church planters and missionaries to correspond with prayers and supporters back home; those in more remote places all the more. In October of 1916 the mission station in Lambaland begun a newsletter to their support base in South Africa and England. As you read through it you can’t but notice the faithful service, passionate zeal and simple sacrifice of those who “Go, Tell It On The Mountain… …That Jesus Christ is born.”

A digitalization of the first page:

Published Quarterly October, 1916. No. 1.


A record of Missionary Work among the Lamba Speaking People of Northern Rhodesia and Belgian Congo State. – Central Station, Kafulafuta. Established 1905.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Photograph by Kapopo Village. Charles Phillips.

Council of Reference:

Rev. R. Wright Hay, Sir John Kirk, Mr. Wm. Olney, Rev. Thomas Spurgeon, Rev. H. Lenton Staines.

London Committee:

Mrs. Richard Grose, Mr. A. C. Harrison, Mr. G. M. Hewson, Dr. F. W. Passmore

Mr. F, J. Passmore, Miss M. Phillips, Mr. T. D. Simmons.

Honorary Treasurer: Honorary Secretary:

Mr. P. R. Phillips, Mr. C. Phillips,

39, Criffel Avenue, “Wolfdene,” 11, Grove Road,

Telford Park, Streatham Hill, Chapham Park,

London, S.W. London, S.w.



Rev. W. A. Philips, (Superintendent.)

Mr, & Mrs. H. L. Wildey, Mr. & Mrs. M. R. German, Mr. C. M.

Doke, B.A. Miss Olive Doke

Postal Address of Missionaries: Kafylafafuta, Ndola, Northern Rhodesia. (Postage – 1d, per oz.)

Bankers: STANDARD BANK OF SOUTH AFRICA, LTD., 10, Clements Lane, London, E.C.

Honorary Auditor: Mr. H. G. T. DAVIES, C.A., Bassishaw House, Basinghall Street, London, E.C.

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