Empty offices and the providence of God

by Gavin  

Empty offices and the providence of God

I realise that year-end mania dominates much of what is being said on social media and blogs, and in a sense these musings just surf the same wave… While nothing mysterious happens between 23:59:59 on the 31st December and 00:00:00 on the 1st January, the end of a year, in our western lives, does seem to bring a conclusion to a defined period of life, and usher us into a new phase.  I suppose there are some legitimate grounds for retrospection, as well as a rightful gaze ahead.


These then are just some pastoral musings on church life at Randburg Baptist Church, looking back and ahead at the same time.  I trust that in some small way this will be helpful to you, even from my own sin-affected, warped but hopefully biblical perspectives.


2015 really has become the year of the empty offices.  If I had to pick a single image that sums up the past 12 months, it would be that picture – empty offices.  Why?  Well, as I shared with our elders a few weeks ago in an e-mail, 2015 has been a year of great loss, particularly in terms of the ministry team at RBC.  The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, and I am compelled to still say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” right?  Track through it with me…


We heard in early December 2014 that Johann Strauss would not be continuing as an intern here in 2015, having accepted a call to the Underberg Baptist Church.  It was a joy to be involved in Johann’s induction in KZN on the 1st Sunday of 2015, and to hear the reports of the ministry over the year that has followed.  While I need to joyfully think “kingdom” and rejoice in the progress and opportunities, the loss of friendship, fellowship and interaction at our own church has been a loss.


Then came the tumultuous midyear period, where in a single fateful night in late June, the Lord saw fit to call home our pastoral couple, Maruti Moses Seane and Mmamoruti Sedibane Seane, along with two other family members through that horrific vehicle accident.  It was a period of personal reeling with the issues, but in a sense just needing to be driven to plan and organise and be involved in the multifidi of arrangements. I am not sure I ever really got around to grieve through the frenzy of stuff and planning and arrangements. The confusion was compounded by the fact that, after a very long battle with immigration etc, Priscilla had moved to SA from Botswana to join Moses in April, 10 years after they were married.   Their deaths left gaping holes at Randburg Baptist Church – both here at the church, as well as the blossoming work at Diepsloot.  Sure there has been great ministry loss, not just to us as a church family, but to the broader BNA and BUSA as well. But, yet again, at a personal level there was again a loss of friendship, fellowship and interaction in the office on a daily basis.


But the year had not ended yet… it has been an incredible joy seeing Glen Culling’s involvement in our high ministry, and the wonderful, God-sustained path of rebuilding that he has accomplished with the teens.  It has been so encouraging to me and the elders to see a group reforming, relationships happening again, the Bible being taught faithfully each week, newcomers being attracted… God has been at work.  But through that, I have been personally stretched and challenged and grown through daily interaction with Glen as we have walked a road of ministry, academics and life issues.  To hear his decision about a move to Australia, and the acceptance of a ministry call to Sydney was not necessarily a surprise, but certainly not what I wanted to hear.  Yet again, a loss to Randburg Baptist Church ministry, but yet again the prospect of loss of friendship, fellowship and daily “Calvin-laced” interaction in the office… sometimes even involving TimTams.


So then, a year ago all three men were still here – present, involved and serving.  As the end of 2015 looms in a few hours, the spectre of empty offices here is a stark reminder of God’s providential movement of people, for their good, His glory and the broader sake of the gospel.  But we have all lost – Johann to KZN, Moses to heaven and Glen to Aus.  That is apart from the other membership movement as well, if we widen the circle slightly… Mike and Bev Clancy retiring to KZN late in 2014, and now the sad prospect of Prasanth and Ramya Pendy returning back to Bangalore, India at the end of January.  God also shuffled others around in a way that best served His wise and good purposes for church life at RBC, plus brought some new families to us.


But at a staff level, 2015 really has been the year of the empty offices. 


How do we handle that?  What perspective can I bring both to myself as one who feels it acutely, as well as to a local church who also feels the vacuum, confusion and loss?  I suppose on one hand we reaffirm what we sing often: “Behold our God, seated on His throne, come let us adore Him.”  He is sovereign and just and good, and His rule and reign is not threatened.  I suppose we cling to the great truths I tried to unpack last Sunday morning – that in all things God is never surprised, that He knows all things that everything that happens, both good and bad, occurs in full accordance with His will.  Our God’s hand is firmly on the steering wheel of church life, and our own lives.  Those were precious truths to be reminded of even yesterday as I connected with a precious couple from Randburg Baptist Church who had been tied and assaulted for 5 ½ hours in an armed robbery on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning…. God knows, God cares, and God’s good and perfect will unfolded even through the grossest acts of human sinfulness.


Those are the biblical pillars we have to cling to even as we look back at what has unfolded – a year of empty offices.  Those are truths we cling to as we seek to move forward in the murkiness of 2016… despite what happens and despite what the future holds, my God, our God, is still King.  He still reigns.  His justice will still prevail.  He has never ever failed me, you or us as a church, and He will continue to work all things for the good of those that love Him, those called according to His purpose, even as we hit 2016 together.







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