Something was different about Pastor Joseph, Sammy thought. Ever since he’d come back from school, his preaching had changed—and Sammy wasn’t sure he liked it.
He wasn’t the only one with doubts, either. Most of the congregation was skeptical. This kind of teaching wasn’t what they were accustomed to. And what was Pastor Joseph saying now? That speaking in tongues wasn’t a necessary proof of salvation? That women shouldn’t be pastors? What would he think of next? And how odd it was that Pastor Joseph seemed content just to explain the Bible in his “sermons.” He wasn’t even trying to emulate Kenneth Copeland or Benny Hinn anymore.
While many members of the congregation made it clear that they resented this change and hoped their new-and-improved preacher would take the hint, Pastor Joseph’s humility and his ability to explain his convictions from Scripture won over many of the elders. In time, the leadership asked him to stay. “When I asked him a question, he’d look down and read a Scripture. But when he asked me a question, I’d look up and try to come up with some far-fetched answer.”
Still, Sammy wasn’t shy about challenging Pastor Joseph. Today, he remembers how most of those arguments went: “When I asked him a question, he’d look down and read a Scripture. But when he asked me a question, I’d look up and try to come up with some far-fetched answer.” Soon, with the rest of the church, Sammy couldn’t deny the grace of God so clearly visible in his pastor’s life, and his resentment gave way to deep affection. “We ended up loving Joseph, embracing his teaching, and growing in our love for God and His word.”
After that, it didn’t take long for Sammy to develop an interest in the school Joseph had attended, Christ Seminary, a TMAI Training Center in Polokwane, South Africa. Perhaps he could learn to study Scripture as Pastor Joseph did. For Sammy—and the others at that church whom God eventually called into ministry—Christ Seminary became their number one choice to help them prepare. After all, they’d seen firsthand how Pastor Joseph’s education had transformed his preaching.
Sammy studied at Christ Seminary from 2005–2008. After graduating and serving for several years at a church pastored by a graduate of The Master’s Seminary, he and his wife, Itumeleng, were sent to strengthen a church plant just outside Johannesburg. Today, Sammy serves as the church’s pastor alongside two other elders. He comments: “The word of God is at the center of what we do, of why we do things, and how we do things. It is the foundation and starting point for every aspect of our Christian life.”
And this is no aspirational platitude; it’s a hard-won, tried and tested commitment. “…despite the challenges of pandemic prosperity-gospel theology in Africa, the work that’s taking place as biblically qualified pastors invest in the next generation of leaders is cause for tremendous thanksgiving.”
When Sammy first arrived at the church plant, the congregation greeted their young, new preacher with suspicion. Who was he to do things any differently from the way the church had done them for the last fifty years? But, mindful of Pastor Joseph’s faithful example, Sammy stayed with the congregation, laboring patiently to preach the word despite hostility from many of the members. As the opposition came to a head, the church decided to vote on whether to fire him. But by that point, the faithful preaching of the word had begun to do its work; the majority vote was in his favor to stay. By God’s grace, the church began to grow with members who wanted to hear the Bible taught. And today, three more men from that church are being trained at Christ Seminary, just as Sammy and Joseph were.
Sammy is happy to send these young men to his alma mater—especially now that Joseph is one of Christ Seminary’s distinguished professors, investing what he’s received into the next generation of South African pastors.
Make no mistake—these pastors face a daunting task. “Quite simply,” Sammy explains, “people in churches here pay lip service to the importance of the Bible and its truth, but they do not read it or know it. As a result, [they’re] tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
But despite the challenges of pandemic prosperity-gospel theology in Africa, the work that’s taking place as biblically qualified pastors invest in the next generation of leaders is cause for tremendous thanksgiving. When Christ Seminary trains even one local pastor, they are helping provide an entire church congregation with a steady diet of biblical truth. Not only that, but faithful men like Joseph and Sammy are investing, in turn, in the lives of future pastors.
So, by God’s grace, the work continues—from one generation to the next.