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A Letter From Africa

October 26, 2010

“THEY ASKED ME A QUESTION IF I AM WITH THEM OR THE BIBLE”

Greetings everyone from the Plodinec family.  We are still in LA, but, Lord willing, we will be heading back to South Africa on Dec. 27th.  Daily I am burrowed into the Master’s Seminary library feverishly writing syllabi for my classes next year.

Here is some news from Africa that I received a few minutes ago.  But first, a little background.

Zebulon Debeila is one of our students.  He is a good man, around 30, is an associate pastor and is very people oriented and expressive and loud and emotive.  These are generally good qualities for a pastor, especially in Africa.  He is also in my mentoring group.  We meet together regularly and pray for each other and he comes over frequently for dinner.  I visited him at his church just before we came back to the US.

This morning I received an email from him and it reveals a difficult reality our students face.  Our students all show up dedicated to charismatic doctrine and methodology, even the lunatic fringe of that movement.  We don’t address that error head on, it is too much a part of their culture and who they are.  We simply teach them how to properly read and interpret the Bible and then point them to the appropriate passages and get out of the way.  As a faculty we all have many late night conversations with the students about these issues.  But, the Holy Spirit and the word of God do a much better job of leading God’s people to the truth than we ever could.  And when the students discover the truth for themselves they then own it, and teach it as only they could in their churches.

There is almost an inevitable result of their excitement for the truth of God, which Zeb is going through right now.  He can say it so much better than I and his emotional, relational personality come through in his own words, so I have inserted his email in its entirety below.  I can feel the pathos in Zeb’s words and honestly I would rather be there with him than here in the States.

I’M MISSING YOU Ps STEVE
IT HAS BEEN LONG SINCE I  WROTE TO YOU OUT THERE IN US, I’M SURE YOU ARE Ok. THE KIDS AND YOUR LOVING WIFE ARE Ok. TALKING TO YOU MY MENTOR IS A RELIEVE. I’M FINE BUT NOT ALRIGHT.
JUST READ THIS……..
TODAY I WRITE TO YOU TO TELL YOU ABOUT MY BAD NEWS, I AM SUSPENDED FROM PREACHING, TEACHING IN MY HOME CHURCH. THEY SAY I WILL CHANGE THE CONREGANTS FROM THEIR DOCTRINE. TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH I’VE NEVER ATTEMPTED TO DO SUCH THING,
I WAS ONLY SHARING WITH A GUY
YOU REMEMBER THE GUY WHO WAS YOUR INTERPRETER WHEN YOU WERE HERE AT MY HOME CHURCH? I WAS ONLY SHARING WITH HIM AT HIS HOUSE ABOUT SOME OTHER THINGS IN THE WORD, YOU KNOW CHARISMATIC PEOPLE, ARE STUBBORN  TO SWALLOW, HE WAS FORCING ME TO AGREE WITH HIM WHEN HE MISINTERPRETE  THE VERSE, SO HE SAW THAT AS THE DANGER TO THE CHURCH, HE WENT TO TELL THE POOR ELDERS ABOUT IT, BUT WHAT HE DID WAS THAT HE DID NOT TELL THEM WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DISCUSSING, HE TOLD THEM THAT I WANT TO REFORM THE CHURCH, THEN THEY BELIEVED HIM.
Ps John CALLED ME TO THE MEETING WITH ELDERS
THIS WAS A VERY POOR THING I EVER CAME ACROSS IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, POOR PROTOCOL, YOU KNOW EVEN POOR PROCEDURE WAS ALL THAT I SEEN DURING THE MEETING. I FELT I WAS TRAPPED IN A CAGE, Ps STEVE THEY TOLD ME THAT WE BETTER PART WAYS IF I’M NOT WILLING TO SUBMIT TO THEM. I ASKED THEM WHAT WAS MY WRONG DOING THAT DESERVED THE SUSPENSION, BUT THERE WAS NOTHING,
THEIR GOSSIP ABOUT ME IS THAT
I AM AT CHRIST SEMINARY AND IT IS A BAPTIST SCHOOL, THIS THE REASON I AM VICTIMISED. I TOLD THEM THAT AT SCHOOL THEY LEAVE BAPTIST OUT OF THAT, THEY HAD TO FACE THE REALITY WHICH I TOOK THEM TO THE WORD, THEY DID NOT MATCH WITH THE WAY I WAS REASONING FROM IT, TILL THEY ASKED ME A QUESTION IF I AM WITH THEM OR THE BIBLE, I SAID TO THEM I AM WITH THE WORD MORE, AND I AM PREPARED TO BE FAITHFUL TO IT. NO TURNING RIGHT OR TO THE LEFT, BIG GUY SAID NO WAYS, YOU ARE A THREAT TO OUR CHARISMATIC DOCTRINE,
I AM NOW IN A SUSPENSION MY MENTOR, IF YOU WERE HERE YOU WOULD HELP ME WITH YOUR HONEST ADVICES, BUT ANY WAY GOD IS HELPING ME A LOT BY STRENGTENING ME.
STAY BLESSED TALLMAN
ZEB

What more is there to say?  “THEY ASKED ME A QUESTION IF I AM WITH THEM OR THE BIBLE, I SAID TO THEM I AM WITH THE WORD MORE, AND I AM PREPARED TO BE FAITHFUL TO IT. NO TURNING RIGHT OR TO THE LEFT,

When I read that I thought of Martin Luther when he was condemned as a heretic for teaching the truth of God.  His reply was, “Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.

Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:3; “Forthe time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.

This is exactly what Zeb is going through in his church.  I can’t really explain how much of a huge deal this is in the African culture.  To go against the authority, the leadership, is just not done.

And, in a strange way, this shows the great effectiveness of our school.  Zeb is a changed man.  He will not go back to error.  He will continue on and God will get him through this hard time and he will preach and teach and be a part of leading and discipling the next generation of the African church.  And, in his church in the future, they will be free to proclaim the truth of God, even to the world.

This is happening right now so please pray for Zeb.  Please remember us as well and the school and the other students too.

Steve

Acts 20:32

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Denise Chang permalink
    October 27, 2010 8:08 am

    Steve, I love listening to you because I love the way your mind works. I have alot of respect for your opinion (even when I disagree) because I am confident that you have carefully thought through and researched what you have to say. I have been mentally “chewing” on this particular post all day and thought I’d offer a bit of a challenge for your response.

    First of all, my heart is breaking for Zeb. What a difficult situation to be in. I hope you post how this eventually works out.

    On to my opinion, but first a disclaimer. I could very well be understanding this situation incorrectly, and I am also speaking from a personal “issue”. Okay, on with it:
    You did not identify the “doctorinal error”, so I’m making some guesses. Since it hinges on the (mis-)interpretation of a single verse, I’m assuming its not a crucial one. Martin Luther, on the other hand, was arguing salvation by faith alone, which is a biggie.

    “Standing up for truth” is a phrase used most of the time (here in the US at least)as a point of division for the church. Someone is giving themselves a giant self-righteous ego boost for being the “right” one (and the other is wrong), on “God’s side” (and the other is against God), and envisions themselves as some kind of martyr for holiness (and the other is lazy/ignorant/blind/evil). It creates an exclusivity and infighting that most, of the time, is unnecessary. That person may very well be correct in their understanding about scripture, but usually, they are focusing on a single verse or passage without the verification of rest of scripture. This is my nature, and have seen myself here.

    Some things to notice about what is the most important as you are deciding what to do with doctrinal error:
    1: Docrinal error was rife in Jesus’ day, as were the schisms that go with them. Jesus rarely, if ever, addressed them, unless he was attacking the exclusion of certian kinds of people from the kingdom of God. Case in point: the woman at the well, the healing of the man born blind, hanging out with tax collectors and “sinners”, the woman caught in adultry. Jesus himself focused on repentance from sin and healing of people. These were his “biggies”.
    2: Jesus’ prayer for the (future) church as found in John 17 stated the biggies – unity, love, joy. Jesus’ “truth” as explained in John were – that Jesus was God, that he is able to set us free from our sin, that his death was the necessary plan, basic stuff.
    3: 1Cor 13 is an old standard: Three things remain – faith, hope, and love, of which the most important is love.

    I could go on, but my point is this. Love within the body trumps doctrinal error most of the time. You only need to get a couple of things right to be right with God, and these need to be our point of unity within the church. When we stand before God in judgment, he’s not going to ask us about the purity of our doctrine.

    I’m not advocating that we throw careful instruction out the window at all. I’m saying that we need to be very careful that the problems that are caused by “taking a stand” do not cause a bigger problem and violate things that matter more. I’m merely suggesting finding a softer approach, or even putting an issue aside in order to love a weaker brother.

    Love to you and your family, and prayers for Zeb as he works through this…
    Denise Chang

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