ROOSEVELT PARK BAPTIST CHURCH
My father said, “Thank God for young people with vision! But now that you’ve decided, you must go for it!” This is the story which I hope will encourage other young people of vision…I wrote this letter to our second pastorate. They’d invited us and asked John to preach at the 50th anniversary service.
Greetings, Pastor, members and friends of Roosevelt Park Baptist Church! A
special greeting to any old and dear friends who were with us “in the struggle”
– for struggle it was! But our Lord is faithful and it’s wonderful to greet you
on this 50th Anniversary of the founding of the church! We’re very sorry we
can’t be with you – we would have loved to be here today but ill health has
caught up with us.
1960 found us in Johannesburg having left our first pastorate at Welkom so
John could complete a further degree. There was a Sunday school run by a
group of young people in the Emmarentia School Hall. They asked Rosebank
Union Church for help and the church paid us a small sum to do this for 18 months.
During this time we started a morning service, first in the hall and later
in a classroom with an old pedal organ given to us and with a few people –
once only three!- attending services.
When, after a year and a half we were due to leave, we felt called to stay.
Trinity Chapel, as we named it, was constituted as a Baptist church by these
young people and a couple of supporting friends. We were renting a large and
rather rundown house in Greenside and it was here we had young people’s
meetings (with dinner), Bible studies and prayer meetings. This house was later
bought as the manse.
Naturally the church wanted its own building as the Sunday school and church
attendance was growing slowly but steadily and we had started a BWA. But
more importantly was the lack of a Baptist church over a large area of several
suburbs. So the hunt for a suitable stand began and the city gave us the one on
which you are sitting today. It was the start of much activity on the part of our
small group as we began building the first sanctuary. The church had no money
and no backing but a great sense of calling, youth and enthusiasm!
One of our members was an architect and so we got going! The men built the
church themselves working until late at night and on Saturdays. When the roof
was going on they risked their lives levering long sheets of IBR over the high
walls while balancing precariously on ladders! While painting the interior of
the church, which had only one large window, they became affected by paint
fumes and had to go outside and lie on the ground laughing until the effects
Meanwhile everyone gave sacrificially and the women worked very hard too –
baking batches of fudge which they sold at work, running Saturday morning
cake sales in the street and jumble sales at the manse, collecting newspapers
and old bottles to sell, etc, etc. We also had to raise money for the furnishings
including a small electronic organ.
The completed, rectangular church consisted of an entrance hall, outside of
which was a tall metal cross, and the sanctuary, with a kitchen behind it. The
floors were of pavement grey cement slabs, the high walls painted white and
the huge window placed so that only the sky was visible. It was furnished with
solid wooden, modern pews, and with a red carpet leading up to the slightly
raised front on which stood a marble lectern with the Greek letters Alpha and
Omega carved on it. Behind this was a broad, lightweight sheet of white
curtaining falling from the ceiling to the floor. The sanctuary’s simplicity
conveyed a real sense of peace and the presence of God
It was a wonderful day when we opened the church with a marquee on the
lawn and the Mayor of Johannesburg present saying how amazing our little
group was, but all of us feeling how amazing God had been! It seemed nothing
short of a miracle.
After nine years at Trinity Chapel we had seen the church full at services and
well established and able to carry on. John felt led to teach theology and so a
new life started for us and our children, Sharon, Jonathan and Deborah. We
were sad to leave our little flock which had been so faithful and worked with
us. But our Lord had other plans for us and our church and we rejoice today
with you as we see how far you have come! May our Lord continue to be with
you all and bless you as he has in the past.
John and Merle.
ENCOURAGEMENT : A BRIEF MESSAGE FROM JOHN
“May the Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thess 2:16,17).
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But what if we can’t summon up the courage? In many fields of endeavour the words “you can do it” can change the disheartened into the determined, and suffering into success. A well chosen word can rekindle hope and restore confidence. Serving Christ has its hard times. “Who is equal to such tasks?” exclaimed Paul. (2 Cor 2:16). His confidence and competence came from God (cf 2 Cor 3:4-6). Because of God’s mercy he did not lose heart (2 Cor 4:1).
The Bible has a veritable theology of encouragement based on God’s faithfulness and the assurance of faith, which generate “confidence and hope*. (Heb 10:19-34). “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us that so through endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope (Rom 15:4).
It is God who “gives endurance and encouragement” (Rom 15:5), and we have encouragement from being united with Christ (Phil 2:1), and it was from being encouraged by the Holy Spirit” that the churches throughout Judea, Galatia and Samaria increased in membership” (Acts 9:31). The Psalmist sang, “You, Lord, hear the afflicted and encourage them” (Ps 10:17). Paul experienced this, for Christian service can be lonely work. He tells that at his first trial “no one came to my support but everyone deserted me….but the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (2 Tim 4:16,17). Sometimes God encourages us by his rebuke, for “he chastens everyone he accepts as his child” (Heb 12:5,6).
Christians are meant to encourage one another. Paul who looked forward to visiting Christians at Rome “to make you strong” tactfully but truthfully added: “that you and I may be mutually encouraged”(Rom 1:12). The New Testament has a catalogue of examples. Christians ought to encourage one another regularly to save them from sin’s deceitfulness and from turning away from the living God through unbelief (Heb 3:12-14). Those with a special gift of encouragement should use it (Rom 12:8; 1 Cor 14:3). There is much we can do. In Hebrews 10:19-25 the phrase “let us” is used five times, for example, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds”; “let us not give up meeting together”; “let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. Elders and preachers are responsible for encouraging believers by sound doctrine. (2 Tim 4:2)
Tychius was sent to the churches at Colossae and Ephesus for their encouragement (Col 4:8; Eph 6:22), while Paul and Barnabas visited churches over a large area “strengthening them and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:21,22).
If we are in the depths of despair, let our low point be our starting point for effective service through God’s encouragement!