September 1, 2018

Shepherding God’s Flock

Article by Murungi Igweta

Confessions of Pastor Murungi Igweta

The work of pastoring the church of Christ is both a delight and a burden. The call to the ministry is an invitation NOT to “account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). What a privilege to be a witness of the gospel of the grace of God! What could be better than that? I would rather be a pastor at TBC than the CEO of Safaricom (the largest company in Kenya, worth billions). With Paul I can say without any fear of contradiction, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

Pastoring TBC has been like the air I have been breathing for the last nine years. I came to TBC in February 2009 for a pastoral internship. I had hoped to gain some pastoral training and experience from Keith Underhill and other Elders at TBC, with a view to church-planting. At the time I had been married for five years. As a family we were not aiming to live in Nairobi for the long haul. But the Lord made it clear with time, both to the church to and us that He had work for me to do. By the grace of God, I put my hand to the plough and ever since I have not looked back. I would summarize this work under three headings: The delight, the duty and the distress of shepherding TBC.

  1. The Delight of Shepherding TBC

It has been a great joy to pastor the saints at Trinity Baptist. TBC seeks to be a consistently Reformed Baptist. There is not only a desire to be biblical, but there is a genuine upholding of the Word of God. We are not only interested in being theologically upright, but also correct in our orthopraxy. That is, what we believe must correspond with how we live; correct conduct both in ethical and liturgical matters. What more would I want than to serve brothers and sisters who have put a high premium on the Word of God? What a joy to serve those who want not only to be acquainted with sacred writings but also desire to be shaped and moulded by it!

It gives me much joy to know that this is a church that loves the objective truth of the Bible and wants to be biblical. This is a congregation that is distinctive in the following ways:

(1) Love for the truth:

Consecutive expository preaching of the Bible makes TBC very different from most of the churches in Kenya. We preach through the Bible, precept upon precept, line upon line. We expound each word, each sentence, each phrase, each verse, each paragraph, each chapter, each book and the whole Bible. At TBC I have had the privilege of preaching through a good number of books both in the Old and New Testaments. My aim is to unravel the mystery of God’s whole counsel to His people by the help of the Holy Spirit. Then I would be able to say with Paul how I did not shrink from declaring anything that is profitable to God’s people, but I declared the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20,27). This has been the undying desire of those who pastor this church.

Besides we are a Reformed church. We follow closely in the footsteps of the Apostles of the Lord, the early Church Fathers, the Reformers and those who through the centuries believed that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone for God’s glory alone which is only to be learnt in the Scriptures alone.  We hold that all human beings are totally sinful and depraved without the grace of God. And that the only way out for sinners is the hope held in the gospel – that from the eternity past, God out of His mere good pleasure chose or elected some to eternal life, who through the redemption in Christ are brought to hear the gospel and cannot resist it. And that all those who have been so saved will persevere to the end.

(2) An independent local church:

Trinity Baptist Church is an independent Baptist Church. We are not under any hierarchical leadership or denomination. We are happy to function as we do. The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith forms the basic doctrinal statement of TBC. The church Constitution guides the life of the church and every one seeking membership is expected to read it. This provides the necessary knowledge during congregational meetings, where the church members are expected to make decisions on who becomes a member or a leader (elder or deacon), who is removed from either membership or leadership, and how the church finances are used. The church members meet at least four times a year in congregational meetings.

Congregational worship is done under the regulative principle of worship. That is, we primarily gather to meet God, worship God, hear from God, and speak to God in adoration, praise, thanksgiving and petition as a body. The Word of God forms the backbone of our worship, so that if it is not written and authorized, then it is not for us. The public reading of Scriptures, prayer, praise, and preaching are the most important elements of the worship experience at TBC. We sing scriptural hymns, psalms and spiritual songs only. There is no concert, no music band, or praise and worship team – it is congregational worship. These are voices of the saints, swelling the song of the angels to worship the infinitely transcendent and yet immanent God. Through Him (Christ) then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name (Hebrews 13:15).

We also give of our substance to show that our God, the Giver, is our focus, not His gifts. This is done thoughtfully,  secretly, cheerfully and generously. We do not pass the offering bag during the service, but have two boxes fixed on the either side of the main entrance where people put their offerings. There is no coercion, subtle or otherwise, of the congregation to give. We believe that the members are well instructed to know their duty to God and to the church. And yes, they are! We have not lacked – more often than not we have given over and above the annual budget.

Being confessional we believe in holding communion with other like-minded church. So we are part of the Reformed Baptist Association of Kenya.

(3) Elder-led church:

TBC is an elder-led church. This means that elders (also called pastors/overseers/bishops) exercise oversight by ruling the church through the Word of God. Being part of the Eldership at TBC means that the buck does not stop with one man, but with many. It means that the church does not suffer with the shortcomings of one man. It means that the church can enjoy spiritual gifts of many men. It means that there is accountability amongst the elders in the church. The pastors shepherd each other, watching over each other’s life and doctrine. Since its inception, eight men have served TBC as pastors.

The Elders are at par, which means that there is nothing like-senior pastor. Rather we believe in the principle of primus inter pares, that is, first among equals. While there is parity amongst the Elders, they defer to the most experienced of the full-time pastors. I have found this a blessing while under this principle and while being the one to be deferred to.

(4) Family Focused church:

We believe it is the design of God to have men marry women in the Lord and by His grace have children, and bring them under His discipline and instruction. We hold to the complementarian position. This means that while God created man and woman as equal image-bearers and equal co-heirs of the grace of God, yet there are gender-based roles that are divinely assigned. Men are to love their wives and lead their families and children.  Only some men have God-given responsibilities to offer godly leadership to churches. Therefore, all the leaders of TBC (two elders and eight deacons) are men. Women are to provide the necessary support to male-leadership and help in nurturing their children. Older women are to teach younger women. This being the case, women will exercise their gifts in all aspects of the life of the church (except leadership either by teaching/preaching to the whole church or being pastors or Elders).

(5) Mission minded church:

Over the forty years that TBC has existed, many churches have been planted across the country. Some of them have grown to be independently functioning local churches which have been registered by the Government separately. Apart from reaching some of the major towns, churches have been planted in villages in Bomet, Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Kajiado, Kilifi, Kisumu, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Marsabit, Meru, Migori, West Pokot, etc.

Shepherding TBC is a delight for it is serving the Lord and the Lord gives the necessary grace and gifts by His Spirit. He provides the necessary strength and His Word is full of promises to those who shepherd His church. He has promised the unfading crown of glory. What a joy it is to see unbelievers in their wicked lifestyle come to know Christ, love Him and live for Him! It is a delight to see new marriages, families formed and children born and raised in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. It is a joy to be there for those who are mourning – to be able to weep with them.

  1. The Duty of Shepherding TBC

Shepherding TBC is not easy. The Lord gave the responsibility to tend the flock to pastors, who are to feed them, strengthen the weak, bind up the injured, bring back the straying ones, seek the lost, and to rule them with love. This involves spending hours in study and prayer and faithfully preaching the Bible. It is close shepherding by visiting them, giving godly and biblical counsel and prayer. We believe that each member is to be visited at least twice a year.

Apart from that I do the work of an evangelist. We believe in preaching the gospel publically and privately. We therefore have different events aimed at getting the gospel across to every person and every land. This means that mission trips to various places where we have gospel witness and presence is done at least annually.

 

  1. The Distress of Shepherding TBC

Like any work in a fallen world, where there are effects of Genesis 3, thorns and thistles, pests and diseases are a constant nuisance. My duty is to root out sin and evil and plant the banner of Christ. But this is met with constant opposition and sometimes the frictions generate more heat than light!  Beginning with my own flesh, it disturbs me greatly when I fall into sin of one kind or another, whether private or public. My offences pain my eyes and makes my determination to pastor the church of Christ a heavy burden to bear. Like the high priest who had to offer sacrifices for the purging of his own sins first, I have to deal with my own sins by finding refuge at the cross of Calvary. I have to constantly impress upon my own soul to harbour no sin in my heart. I have to find comfort in Christ. Thankfully, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

It greatly distresses me to see believers fall into sin and linger in impenitence. It is painful to recommend church discipline for anyone. But then like a faithful surgeon who has to recommend amputation of a patient’s limb in anguish I have to do it wishing them eternal good. Unfortunately, I have seen a good number of discipline cases being executed at TBC in the last nine years.

I shed tears when believers do not faithfully attend to the means of grace. When they are absent from the church; when they are not part of a prayer meeting and yet live around the corner. It makes me sad to see neglect of the gathering together of the saints.

Bickering amongst members is a source of no small heartache for me. Gossip destroys relationships and kills love. Biting and devouring each other is not for Christians. Instead love for one another, patience, bearing with each other and seeking the welfare of others is the Christian way. When one has been offended to handle it in a biblical way.

When people fail to believe the Lord and receive His free grace I’m greatly grieved. It is very heart-rending to see someone reject the gospel. Yet comforting to know that the gospel is God’s power of salvation and that once the seed of the gospel is planted it may germinate even decades later. I am greatly encouraged to know the words of the Lord to Paul – keep on speaking for He has many who belong to Him in every place.

In conclusion it is a privilege to be a pastor at TBC. I trust that by the grace of God, the Lord may be pleased to use this church in the coming years to extend the saving grace of God to those appointed for eternal life. May it also please the Lord to use us to spread the honours of His name throughout all the lands so that the nations may be glad.

Murungi Igweta

Murungi Igweta is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church.