December 2014

Latest Sermons

On the Sunday before Christmas day I preached from Philippians 2:6-11. Although the title of the message is ‘Mary did you know?‘ the question I was actually asking was “Do we know who Jesus really is?”

On the Sunday after Christmas day I preached a message titled ‘Walking the God-directed path’ from Proverbs 3:5-12 as an encouragement to us all as we enter a new year.

Both messages (and sermon notes for ‘Mary did you know?’) are on the Sermons page of this site.

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Retirement – Insights from Scripture

Someone recently said to me; “Now that you are retiring, you can choose to do only what you like doing”. This may be reasonably true of a retiring businessman, but is it true for a past- pastor?

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When I first started giving serious thought to how I would use my time in 2015 and beyond I found it surprisingly difficult (and still do) to decide what it was that would give me ongoing pleasure and purpose. So I thought some more and consulted the scriptures. Three questions emerged that needed to be answered in the following priority order.

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First, “What do you want me to do Lord?” This is a question of ‘calling’. Christian ministers often speak of being called into their particular area of ministry. Whenever an aspirant pastor or preacher approaches me for advice I invariably probe their sense of calling. I don’t believe that anyone should even consider becoming a preacher or a pastor unless they have a deep and confirmed belief that God has called them into that particular ministry. I am sure that this also applies to other types of Christian ministry.

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Now, it is possible that a calling to a particular ministry area is only for a season and that retirement may well mark the end of that phase of Christian endeavour. But even if this is so, we surely need to check back with the one who called us, and earnestly seek His will for the future. Jesus said; “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) and that applies at all times and irrespective of age.

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The second question I needed to ask was; “What is in the best interests of the church?”, and by ‘church’ I mean both local and ‘larger’. Paul wrote that ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Ephesians 5:25), and later he urged the Ephesian elders to ‘be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28). The church is IMPORTANT and if I profess to love and serve Jesus, its head, then I must put the interests of the church high on my priority list.

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Now, once we respond to these two questions, the third, ‘what do I want to do?’ issue is a lot easier to deal with. Paul writes in Philippians 2:13 that ‘it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose’. So, I can trust the Holy Spirit to instil in me a will to do what He has called me to do. On the other side of this decision-coin is the wonderful affirmation of Psalm 21:2, which reads, ‘You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips’.

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My understanding of the process is that if I seek first to do what I truly believe God has called me to do, and in doing this attempt to serve the best interests of the church, then I will indeed be aided by the Holy Spirit and will find satisfaction and purpose in my endeavours.

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I hope this three-part series of posts on pastoral retirement has been interesting to most and helpful for some. I will now move on to other matters… watch this space.

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Truth Applied

I was asked by the Elders of Chartwell Village Church to preach into the subjects of Generational Curses and Spiritual Covering. You can find the sermon and notes on the ‘sermons’ page of truthistheword.com. Both of these doctrines are peripheral to core Christian belief but unfortunately are currently resurfacing within the New Apostolic Reformation segment of the wider church. Even if you have no particular interest in these aberrant doctrines, the sermon provides an interesting case study in the application of the three key interpretation principles of Context, Exhaustive Reference, and the Christocentric Principle – hence the title of ‘Truth Applied’

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Retirement – the heart of the matter

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For most, if not all men their jobs need them but they also need their jobs, not just for financial benefit but for a sense of worth. When two men meet for the first time what is one of the first questions they ask? “What do you do for a living?” We need to know this so we can place some sort of value on the person we are meeting – is he going to be a useful contact? Is he important? Is it going to be interesting to talk to him? A little sad this, but true nevertheless.

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We generally see our occupations, and more particularly our work titles, as ascribing value to us. Now, when two church pastors meet for the first time, say at a ministers fraternal, the question is a little different. Instead of “what do you do for a living?” the question most frequently asked is “How big is your church?” What a strange question, if you think about it a little: whose church is it anyway, and why does ‘big’ equate to greater value?

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For pastors, our occupation not only provides a sense of personal worth but also of identity. We get so immersed in the life of the local church that its life overlaps with our personal, and even family life. We, as individuals, get blended with and subsumed by the church we serve. So, when pastors retire they have to deal not only with a sense of diminished worth, but with loss of identity. “Who am I? If I am no longer a pastor, then who the hang am I?”

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I have found, to my surprise that the problems associated with retirement are more matters of the heart than of the head. I planned my retirement from the local church payroll two years ago and then attempted to prepare myself, my wife, and the congregations for this ‘event’. All went well until it registered on me that I only had a few months left in full time pastoral employment. At this point my heart decided to rebel against my head. My head said, “It is all right and good and you are being very sensible about everything”, but my heart retorted, “Yes but I feel sad and … unvalued… and I don’t think I know who I am anymore.” Now if you are under 50 years old you are probably shaking your head slightly from side to side; but if you are over 65 the likelihood is that you are shaking your head up and down – right?

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Little things become, well, not so little. You have to throw away your calling cards and rubber stamps, change your Facebook profile, email signature, details on the church bulletin and website, and so on. All of these little actions bring back the question of identity. Of course, for a Christian this is all very silly – we know that our identity is in Christ Jesus, and that our worth lies in His appreciation for us … but the dilly heart just doesn’t quite get this.

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Now, people are asking me a different question; “What are you going to do now that you are retiring?” I wonder what sort of answer they expect. “Well, I plan to sit on my couch in my vest and underpants watching TV for endless hours.” My wife dearly hopes that I will take up landscape painting, bridge, and gardening, but in reality a retiring church minister has no end of things he can do – my list includes some 16 writing projects, playing guitar in a worship group, itinerant preaching, and so on. The problem is not what to do but who will do it, and will he feel like doing it? “Who are you and what have you done with Christopher?”

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This post might seem a little ‘blue’ but next week I will write about some spiritual insights I have received concerning the retirement process. If you find these ruminations interesting then please comment so I know – otherwise I will leave this topic now and move on to something else.

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Retirement, shmirement

Longer ago than I care to contemplate, the late Bishop Bill Burnett and I shared the leadership of a yearly conference called ‘Fan the Flame’ held at Carmel by the Sea, Victoria Bay. He handled the teaching and I led the worship. The next item on the calendar of their conferences was something like ‘Preparing for retirement’. I was in my thirties at the time but Bishop Bill had in fact already retired and could well have stayed on and taught at that conference as well. Now I am within days of retiring and my mind keeps playing with the question; ‘What does retirement mean for a full-time Christian minister?’ Let me share some of my thoughts with you.

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I have often heard it expressed that a minister should never really retire, but should persevere until he dies in glory in the pulpit, as it were. Perhaps some especially blessed individuals could do this, but I doubt that this is usually in the best interest of the church. Even the most Spirit-filled church leaders tend to get ridged and even narrow in their old age. Others find it near impossible to let younger leaders get on with the sacred task of guiding the church and, despite their great love for the family of God, they sometimes end up bringing disunity and even death to their congregations. On the other hand, seasoned ministers have learned a lot, experienced a lot, and learned a lot (O dear have I said that already?) Did I mention that elderly ministers tend to forget what they have done and said, especially the not so flattering aspects.

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I have also heard the claim that the Bible makes no mention of retirement, so why do we entertain such an unscriptural concept? The New Testament contains no direct teachings regarding ministerial retirement. Not surprising: The Lord Jesus died at about 33 years of age, the Apostles were young men, and the Acts account spans just forty years. However, the Old Testament does contain an account that contains some interesting insights into the subject. Judges chapter eight, from verse 22, is the record of Gideon’s retirement, and it seems that he set up a religious idol in his hometown that resulted in the rapid decline of the nation. It appears to be a story of retirement with strings attached. Hmmmm.

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The real issue that immerged during my deliberations is that the decision when and how to retire needs to be an honest response to the question; ‘What is in the best interests of the local church?’ When a senior minister retires from full time service he lifts a substantial financial weight from the church. With the funds released, the new leaders are able to employ others, fund outreaches, and so on. Handled well, this benefit to the church need not mean a loss of expertise, experience and knowledge. The retiring minister can offer sage advice (when asked, of course), preach (when requested) and fill in ministry holes across a wide range of church tasks. I have made myself available to preach and teach but I am also brushing up on my musical skills so that I can be available to our worship leaders. If needed, I could handle some of the counselling load that often crushes younger ministers. I intend to write academic and ministry related articles, continue blogging, and working with the faculty of the South African Theological Seminary.

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It’s not quite as simple as all this though; unfortunately retirement is not just a matter of the mind, but also of the heart. This where it gets very tricky, but I will write about this in a subsequent post.

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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.