September 2014

Bridus Interuptus

The venue was a natural heritage site just outside Johannesburg. The bride was a feisty German lady and the groom a rather docile English man. I was the officiating marriage officer. The chapel had been rigged out to look like something from the hippie sixties, complete with bales of hay instead of chairs and flowers strewn all over the floor. However, despite the informal décor and atmosphere, the bride wanted the wedding service to be by the book and very formal.

About half way into the service someone’s cell phone started ringing. The bride stopped me in my tracks with an imperiously raised hand and turning to the congregation she said; “Ve vill switch off our cellphones, jah!” Then she swept the room with such a penetrating glare that even the guests who didn’t have cellphones scrabbled in their handbags or pockets to instantly comply. Silence restored, she turned to me and declared imperiously; “you may proceed, jah!”

A few minutes later we got to the bit where the man turns to his bride and pronounces the covenant vow to love her in sickness and in health, and so on. Just as he started … a cellphone began to ring. The bride stepped away from him and rounded on the congregation, eyes flashing and finger raised accusingly. Slowly she fixed one guest after the other with a steely stare, but as she did so my eye was drawn to the groom. His face was crimson and his hand was creeping hesitantly towards his trouser pocket. Yes, it was his phone a-ringing! Poor man; ve vill not tell what she said to him after the ceremony.

So why am I telling you this story? What’s the moral here? I don’t know; just draw your own conclusion. I just found the whole incident hilarious and wanted to share my delight with you.

The night I appeared on TV … but didn’t


Over the years of ministry I have witnessed many wonderfully supernatural ‘things’, but the story I will now tell you has to be right up near the top of my list. It is about a dear lady who has been part of our church family for a long time now, but it’s not just about her, it’s about God’s incredible love. I use the word ‘incredible’ because what happens defies common sense and stretches our view of how the world works. I have used her real name, with her permission, because I want those of you who know her to be able to verify the accuracy of this story.

I was at home alone when the phone rang and a lady introduced herself as Anne Brown. Her voice was quiet and lifeless as she told me of how her husband had left her. A few minutes before he had walked out the door leaving her and their children broken and lost. So please would I come over at once and pray for her. I had no recollection of her being a regular visitor to our church services but my heart went out to her. However, there was a problem; my wife Pat was out at that time and I was not prepared to visit a woman, let alone a distraught woman, alone. I explained this to Anne but before I could tell her that we would come to her just as soon as Pat returned she said; “Well if it’s too much trouble then don’t worry”…. and she put the phone down! I was devastated. I had no idea how to contact her. What would I do? Just then Pat came home and I explained what had happened. Then I did something totally irrational. I picked up the phonebook and opened it to the start of the section listing all the Brown’s. Do you know how many Brown’s there are in the Johannesburg telephone directory?! I knew her first name was Anne but I assumed that the number would be listed under her husband’s initials. I prayed with simple faith; “Please Lord, show me which number to dial” and let my finger move down the long list of names. I don’t know why it stopped where it did, but I picked up the phone and dialled the number it indicated. Anne answered!

She gave me her address and Pat and I went to visit. She told a heart-breaking story of her upbringing, marriage, and abandonment. When she had finished, and before we prayed together, I asked; “How come you phoned me in particular Anne?” She immediately explained that she didn’t know any pastors in the area but had seen me on television when they broadcast our evening service just a few days ago. I was lost for words. At that stage we did not have an evening service, none of our services had been filmed, and I had never been on national television!

Isn’t God amazing!? I cannot even begin to imagine how He pulled it off! Anne soon joined our church family and is to this day a loved and involved member. A few years ago I asked her to think back and tell me honestly if she could have been mistaken. But no, it was all true – it happened just as she had said it did. What is impossible for us is well within God’s ability… after all, He is… God.


Everything is new under the ‘Son’

In the early days of our new life in Christ my wife and I attended a church where most of the preaching was done by a band of ‘local preachers’. These men and women served the several churches of that denomination in the area. One Sunday, a fairly elderly preacher arrived and announced that he would be preaching from Ecclesiastes 1:9. I confess that I don’t remember much of what he said, but I am pretty sure that it lived up to its title, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’. But I do remember the sermon he preached just three months later.

On that occasion he mounted the steps of the pulpit, opened the Bible, and in a ponderous tone announced that the title of his sermon was, ‘There is nothing new under the sun.’ He then proceeded to preach the exact message he had delivered a few months before. He certainly made his point very effectively, although I am sure that this was not his intention.

Preachers who preach at many different churches often polish up a small selection of messages, which they use repeatedly. This may result in a finely constructed sermon and a very professional presentation, but misses an essential element – immediate relevance. In my view preaching is ‘prophetic’ in that it is a way God speaks to His people. This implies that a sermon should be to a specific people in a particular place and at a specific time. In other words, preaching should be ‘new’.

I joined that team of local preachers a few months later and resolved, right at the outset, that I would seldom, if ever, repeat the exact same message, even in different venues. I also decided to keep a record of every sermon preached with a note of the date, place and text. I concede that the texts we preach and the truths they contain are ageless but the way we unpack and apply them should not fit the ‘nothing new under the sun’ rubric. When it comes to proclaiming Jesus Christ then surely we can say that ‘Everything is new under the Son!’

Comments on Robb Bell’s ‘Love Wins’

Robb Bell’s latest book has raised a number of issues for me. The first is his way of communicating his views. Instead of stating what he believes, he asks a plethora of questions, many of which are essentially, ‘would a loving God condemn people to eternity in Hell?’ It is good to ask this sort of question, and asking questions is a valid communication and teaching method. However, at some point or other a responsible and influential author and teacher needs to state what he actually believes to be true, and why he believes it to be true. Unfortunately Robb Bell doesn’t really do this and as a result his readers are left to draw their own conclusions as to what he is saying.

This leads me to a second issue, which is the way many people have responded to ‘Love Wins’. I am surprised that so many critics have had the confidence, or temerity, to state boldly that Robb Bell is a universalist, a heretic, and even a hell-inspired false prophet without even entering into dialog with him and attempting to clarify his contentions. I even read early critiques that started with the words, ‘although I have not read the book I …’ This sort of attitude to a Christian leader is more than regrettable, it is just wrong.

A third issue for me is the apparent way in which Robb Bell seems to attempt to establish truth. I say ‘apparent’ and ‘seems’ because I, like others, can only deduce his theology from his flood of leading questions. The approach appears to be, God is loving and just; an eternal Hell is neither loving or fair; therefore Hell cannot be of God. The problem is that the second clause of this construct is simply Robb Bell’s personal opinion. Truth, as I see it, has its basis in the Word of God. The written Word of God is the Bible and the living Word of God, the Bible’s author and object, is the Lord Jesus Christ. So, truth is established by interpreting the Bible from a Jesus-centred perspective. And here is the rub; Jesus had quite a bit to say concerning Hell. Any valid contention that Hell does not exist must be responsibly Word-based or it fails to classify as an Evangelical Christian position.

Perhaps a better question to ask would be, ‘Why would a loving God consign people to eternal Hell?’ We would then attempt to answer this from a Christ-centred interpretation of what the scriptures have to say concerning sin, salvation, heaven, and hell.


About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.