Unpublished Articles

Pastoral Succession

Published in SATS ‘Pastor to Pastor’

During the 2012 Leadership Summit Bill Hybels spoke about how he and his elders had recently embarked on a leadership succession process. He mentioned that there are thousands of mega churches around the world who are currently led by pastors in their sixties. In his opinion, most of these churches are in for troubled times because few have considered passing the leadership baton and even fewer know how to do it. I have no way of gauging how accurate his information is, but one thing is obvious; leadership succession, like death, is inevitable. Therefore, all churches, big and small, need to give serious attention to how to transition from retiring to younger leadership.

I am 65 years of age and for the last two years or so I have been engaging my eldership on how we are going to transition the church when I retire. To exacerbate the situation, our other senior pastor is due to retire in two years’ time, just when I am planning to scale down my involvement. Because we are currently dealing with the realities of leadership transition I thought that it might be useful if I wrote an article for the benefit of other churches in a similar circumstance.

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It is better to wean than to hallow

Halloween is relatively new to South African society. It has no roots in our traditions or heritage yet some folk embrace it because it seems ‘fun’ and the children like it.

The purpose of this little tract is to provide parents with some background to this pagan celebration, the implications of engaging in its activities, and suggestions for alternative approaches to what is in reality a potentially ‘evil’ celebration.

Halloween has its genesis in an ancient Celtic festival to honour the ‘lord of the dead’ , Samhain. The Celtic year began on the 1st November and on the last day of their year, 31st October, the spirits of the dead were said to return to their homes. To ward off these spirits the Celts used to perform rituals, sacrifice animals and humans and light bonfires on nearby hill tops. It was also a time when practitioners of the magic arts attempted to contact the dead and to divine the future because this day was seen as a ‘conjunction’ of the dark spirit world with our material world.

The early Roman Catholic church tried to ‘Christianise’ this ancient pagan festival by proclaiming 1st November as a festival for honouring the church saints. They called it ‘All saints day’ and referred to the night preceding it as the ‘hallowed eve’; hence the name ‘hallow–een’ was applied to 31st October.

The colours associated with Halloween are orange and black. These symbolise the orange of the bonfires and the black of night. Today we call these festive fires bonfires but they were originally designated as bone-fires because the bodies of the sacrifices were burned in them. The Celts used to dance around and jump through the flames as the bodies burned. They believed that by doing this they would be purified and protected from the evil spirits abroad that night.

Another device they used for warding off evil was a candle within a hollowed out turnip or pumpkin. They called these ‘Jack-o-lanterns’ and carried them during the night of Samhain (Halloween).

Sometime in the 16th century witches and goblins were added to the mix. The witches were pictured as riding on broom sticks and the goblins were portrayed as black cats. These witches and their tiny companions were believed to move from house to house offering protection from the evil dead in return for favours. If no ‘treat’ was offered they would play a mean ‘trick’ on the house owners.

Halloween, the 31st October, is today one of the two great high days in the occult world. The first high day is April 30th and is called ‘Walpurgisnacht’, the ‘witches Sabbath’. The second high day is Halloween, the gateway between Hell and Earth! On these nights sacrifices are still made, blood is spilled and devotees walk through the glowing coals of the bone fires.

Now, tell me, do you want your children involved, in any way, with this sort of thing? Some argue that it is just a fun time for the kids and that if one doesn’t believe in it then it can’t do any harm. This, in my opinion, is a very naive view; in the spirit world colours, clothes, occasions and activities have significance and impact. Participation in any way is, by implication, association and carries with it real spiritual danger.

Of course the children put a lot of pressure on parents; “EVERYONE is going trick-or-treating so why can’t I?” You have three options – to shun, to Christianise or to sanitise. To shun is to have nothing to do with it at all; in other words, to forbid your children from participating – but don’t be surprised if they ask to sleep over with a friend on that night. To Christianise would be to try and put the events into a Christian context. For instance, have the Halloween party on the church premises and try to explain the pagan elements or put a Christian ‘spin’ on them. This is not really a good idea because in all probability you will be tacitly sanctioning Halloween and making it appear respectable. The final option is to sanitise it by removing the harmful elements. For instance, you could hold a party in your own home and control the activities. This could also be seen as embracing the spirit of Halloween.

My best advice is that you explain to your children why it is not a good idea for them to participate in Halloween and then to ensure that you have some good, non Halloween, activities planned for that night. A visit to the ice rink, dinner at a steak house, a movie, or something like that would do the trick – your children’s best friends included of course. In other words, explain it, shun it and replace it.

Deuteronomy 18:10-13 is helpful.

May God BLESS you and give you both discernment and wisdom.





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Seeking Unity

Church unity is so important yet so illusive. In this article I attempt to describe some of the parameters for unity, its continuum and its locus, before coming to the tentative conclusion that networking seems to provide us with the only viable working model available. Having come to this point in my search I then sketch some simple building blocks . In the final analysis, only the Holy Spirit can forge a functionally united global church. Our responsibility is to seek the Lord’s will and to be sensitive to His voice. We also need to place ourselves into interlinking relationship networks thereby making all of the church potentially available to all of its parts


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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.