Growth And Progress The Fruits Of Good Governance In The Church
The Moderator’s Address in the RPCSA General Assembly held in Tsomo Cunningham Congregation, Mthatha Central Presbytery on the 23 June 2018-26June 2018.
Growth and Progress the fruits of good governance in the church.
The General Secretary, Clerk of the General Assembly, General Treasurer, Presbytery Moderators and Clerks, Ministers and Commissioners. The National President of the WCA, Members of the national executive committee, Presidents and secretaries of Presbyteries, Presidents at congregations and delegates to this WCA AGM. Elders present, members of the WCA, GCA, Y/F, YMCG, Sunday school and visitors if there are any. Brothers and Sisters in Christ I greet you all in the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The theme of my address is Growth and Progress the fruits of good governance in the church based on a text taken from the 1Corinthians 12v28 which reads as follows: ‘And God has appointed in the Church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues.
I haven’t come across of any objection to the fact that St Paul is the author of the first letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 16v21 of this letter Paul himself claims the authorship of this epistle. It is said that Paul’s claim of the authorship of the first letter to the Corinthians is supported by the valuable information about him that confirms and increases our knowledge of his ministry from the book of Acts. It is said that he wrote the epistle while staying in Ephesus in Asia Minor a place known as Turkey in the modern days. It is said that when he wrote this letter he was in his third missionary journey in Ephesus.
We are told that the city of Corinth was the capital town of the Roman province of Southern Greece. It was a flourishing commercial center of the Mediterranean world. It is said that the city was an ideal trade link between Italy in the west and Asia in the east because of its location between two seaports. It attracted entrepreneurs and tourists who wanted to benefit from its economic prosperity and enjoy its pagan shrines. Corinth is known to have had a reputation for shameless immorality and a ruthless spirit of competition like many other cosmopolitan centers. According to the book of Acts chapter 18v1-18 Paul planted the Corinthian congregation himself about AD 53 and stayed only long enough to get things up and running. This was a mixed church with a strong presence of Jews and Gentiles. Socially the city of Corinth had wealthy people, poor and slaves.
We are told that Paul wrote this letter five years after the church was established. It is said that the Corinthian congregation became a victim of preachers within the church who were preaching and teaching with intentions to break the unity of the church and drag members away from the faith that Paul taught them. Paul wrote this letter just to hold things together until he finds time to go to Corinth in person and face the problems. His orders in the letter were tailored to address the information he had received about the situation in Corinth. The scriptures tell us that Paul received a report about the situation in Corinth from delegates of a woman named Chloe. Paul was very disturbed to hear about internal divisions, sexual immorality, multiplying lawsuits and outspoken denials of the Resurrection in the Corinthian church. According to the report Paul received, liturgically the Corinthian congregation became careless in its celebration of the Holy Communion. The report went further and said some members were exercising charismatic gifts in a manner more disruptive than edifying. Paul confronted these problems by condemning immorality in the church and called them back to the basics of Christian doctrine. Paul offered pastoral guidance of a spiritual father aiming to restore peace and unity by encouraging members in the church recommitting them to Jesus Christ. Paul, we are told was deeply concerned for this troubled church.
In his endeavor to address the problems in the Corinthian church which was on the verge of collapse Paul in chapter 12v28 reminds them about the ministerial gifts God gave the church. He mentioned the gifts as follows: the appointment of apostle, prophets, and teachers, workers of miracles then healers, helpers, administrators and speakers of tongues. If you read from verse 12-31 of this chapter you will find that Paul is reminding them that they are one body of Christ formed of different parts which in this case the ministerial gifts are those parts. So as a church or a congregation they are one body composed of the ministerial gifts. The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, volume: two of the New Testament says that the Apostles, Prophets and Teachers as placed first in the list must be considered of greatest importance and are a class of people ruling in the church. The commentary says that although these church offices may not be equally significant they are all of greater importance to the church.
I do not want to take too much of your time talking about these offices or ministerial gifts individually. For me today and now it is enough for us to know that according to Paul if one of these offices is absent in our church then as one body we are incomplete, that means we are a church with a disability. We have a limb that is missing or not working. I also want us to note that according to Paul the rest of the gifts that are not listed in the first three could be found in anyone of the first three offices, meaning that a person in one of the first three offices ie an Apostle, a Prophet and a Teacher according to Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary can do all the functions of these offices. He also says that the other gifts that are not in the first three can be given to or performed by any church member. This means that any church member can be a miracle performer, a helper, a healer, an administrator and can speak in tongues. In the first group of ministerial gifts classified as most significant in the church structure there are teachers whom we call ministers in our Presbyterian terminology. I hope all of us we know that in the structure of our church at congregations for example at the top is the minister as a teaching elder and below him are ruling elders. An elder in our church is a ruling elder because of his or her membership in the Kirk Session which is the governing organ of the congregation. So elders receive powers to rule from the Kirk Session and the Kirk Session can take those powers away from an elder. A minister and two elders form a quorum for a Kirk Session to convene, without a minister there is no Kirk Session irrespective the of the number of elders present. So in Presbyterianism we do not have Apostles and Prophets what we have are Teaching elders who are ministers. So we look up to ministers for the functions of Apostles, Prophets and all other ministerial gifts.
For me some of these gifts are Spiritual and some are not but I am not going to dwell on that debate today. I want to focus on the Administration gift, reason being that I do not see our church suffering that much as a result of the absence or weakness of the other gifts or offices. My source says that the other gifts like healing, helping, miracles, administration and speaking in tongues can be given to any church member.
Ability to govern and manage church affairs properly requires us to exercise good administration; it requires us to make sure that this body part of ours functions well, every time in every corner. Administration is a ministerial gift that church members can possess and exercise. It shocks me to see how the scriptures value the issue of good governance or administration and how we in the church devalue the importance of good administration. To prove that we undermine this aspect of our ministry you hardly hear a minister or any preacher from the pulpit preaching about good governance or administration and the consequences of failing to do so in the eyes of God. We pretend as if maladministration is acceptable to God. If maladministration is acceptable to God the Bible wouldn’t be talking about good governance. Paul raised these ministerial gifts to this church so that it goes back to Christian basics. Everything in Corinthian church was upside down. People were doing things as they wish. There was no respect for God and His Word. The Youth had no respect for elderly people. There was no respect for those who were in the leadership. People from amongst the church members saw themselves as the most knowledgeable who can teach and preach, misleading many people. People in the church were divided into camps. The Corinthian church was in a big mass. The teaching of Paul and Apostles which was the foundation of the church was questioned by people from nowhere. But Paul told them that good administration is one of the ministerial gifts they had to recover and exercise itin order to reclaim their Christian values.
I am appealing to you in this General Assembly to be the champions of good administration. I assume that all of us we want to see this church growing and progressing. But not unless in my view we instill order and peace in our congregations, presbyteries and nationally including church associations. It is only good administration that will enable us to instill order and peace in our church. Once there is order we will see respect for our leaders, for our church courts and decisions, we will see respect for all church committees constitutionally constituted to operate in congregations, presbyteries and in our national structures. We will be a church whose members will always use the manual of law practice and procedure and constitutions of associations properly to follow concerns and to resolve problems. The church manual, constitutions of associations, church courts like the Kirk Session, the Deacon’s court, Presbyteries, National conferences, the General Assembly and committees elected in these structures to do the work of the church are the tools we must use to ensure good administration of church affairs.
Even in the Old Testament good governance was a priority. The Kings designated governors to work under them to make sure that the affairs of the Nation in the regions in which the governors were working were properly administered. Genesis 42:6 tells us that Joseph was designated a governor with authority over a certain region under the King in Egypt. 1Kings 4:7 tells us that King Solomon established twelve governors to work under him responsible for supplying provisions to him one month out of the year. Nehemiah 5: 14-15 tells us that Nehemiah was a governor over his people who restored the wall of Jerusalem for the safety and restoration of the city. I can give a long list of references from both the Old and New Testament to support my argument that God requires us to exercise good administration in the church. If this is a Biblical requirement then it means failure to do it, is a sin before God. This reminds me of my first year in the Seminary. During orientation sometimes we were asked to list things that we thought were sinful before God. A lot of things like adultery, theft, drinking of liquor, lying, fighting etc came out from our answers. The following question would be “what about the sin of omission isono sokulibala” We never thought that to forget could be a sin until we were made to realize the damage that happens as a result of living out things because we or you forgot. If you can look around and see what is happening in the country and what happened to our church as a result of bad administration then you will agree with me that maladministration is a sin before God. Let the General Assembly do whatever it takes to make sure that everyone in this church adheres to principles that lead to quality administration of all church affairs.
Let me conclude by remembering the giants of our church who were pillars of good governance, these are the people who made sure that no one was above the manual and the church decisions the likes of the late Revd SB Ngcobo the former General Secretary, the late Rev DM Soga, the late Rev MV Maposa, the late Rev C Ronyana, the late Rev V Masinda, the late Rev CR Qaba, the late Rev Dr GM Khabela, Rev Dr BB Finca who is still alive, the list is long we had many giants in this church young and old. Amongst these ministers were elders who were very good. You would see the dedication of these elders when they present committee reports at the General Assembly. Elders like Advocate DS Koyana from Miller mission, Mr Vantyi from PE KwaZakhele, Mr Sanqele from Queenstown, Mr M Mbandazayo from Gcuwa congregation, advocate H Mdlalana from Cunningham, Mr K Mdleleni from Cunningham and others the list is long.
Prophet Haggai’s message was that of encouraging his generation to rebuild the Temple of God. He was prophesying after the return from exile. His concern was that God wanted His people to get busy reconstructing the Temple. According to Haggai people were moving very slow because of their own economic struggles. God Himself through Haggai told the people that they must first take care of their religious obligations, and then God will bless them with personal well-being. I am very much touched about the way the prophet put his message to the people “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do you see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?”
May the Almighty God give us hearts, wisdom and power to administer church affairs by ensuring administration of good quality that will grow the church and make it progress. Amen
Moderator of the RPCSA