Bible Based Ministries 1983 – 2018
by Shaun Willcock
“…they rehearsed all that God had done with them…” (Acts 14:27)
Bible Based Ministries had its beginning 35 years ago in September 1983, although it was not known by this name then and much was to change, especially doctrinally, between 1983 and 1986. Those first years were a time of growth, of casting off the false and laying hold on the true, and in many ways 1986 was the real beginning of basing this work upon a solid and true doctrinal foundation; but as much of what occurred then could not be understood without reference to the years that went before, and as this work did, officially at any rate, begin in 1983 even though there was so much error still to be forsaken, it is best to mark the starting point as September 1983.
To commemorate this 35-year milestone, and in accordance with Acts 14:27 – “they rehearsed all that God had done with them” – this special edition is a condensed history of the work, and also contains something of my own testimony, of necessity. To our God must go all the glory, for we are nothing in ourselves, and without Him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5); and at the end of the day, when we have done what has been commanded us, we can only say, “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Lk. 17:10). Yes, and done it very imperfectly.
Throughout these years we have experienced many trials, and endured many enemies. But the Lord has guided and blessed us each step of the way, year by year. It has been our great joy, and our undeserved privilege, to serve Him in this way.
May the Lord be glorified by this brief recounting of the His mercies and blessings.
I was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, in 1963. Today the country that was then Rhodesia is a very different place: after a brutal revolution which lasted many years, it fell to Communist terrorist forces and became Zimbabwe, a Marxist state. My family and I left Rhodesia in 1974, as the terrorist war was escalating, and came to South Africa. And it was here, as a young teenager, that the Lord graciously saved my soul in 1978.
I was converted to Christ while a member of the Methodist institution (in spite of, and not because of, Methodism itself!). Arminian Methodism has never been sound in the faith; but in the 1970s it was moving relentlessly into ever more error. Ecumenism was a growing evil; liberalism was spreading; worldliness was prevalent in the majority of the members; political radicalism was increasing, with support being given to southern African terrorist organisations; women were being “ordained” as ministers; and the influence of the Charismatic movement was beginning to be felt. Of course, many within the denomination understood little or nothing of these developments at that time, and certainly I, a youngster, was ignorant of most of it, although I was deeply disturbed by the worldliness of most of the members.
I received no sound teaching from the Methodist preachers I heard. But the Lord was teaching me through His Word, and in my final year of high school in 1980, I believed the Lord was calling me into the ministry. But how and where? There was much false doctrine which had to be forsaken, and true doctrine which had to be embraced; and this process was to take a number of years. At the time all I knew was Methodism, and the local Methodist leadership was eager to get me into a course of theological training for the Methodist ministry. I preached my first sermon just before my 17th birthday. Soon afterwards I started to preach regularly in the local Methodist church, and was also put in charge of their “youth church” meetings. I began studying for what was called the Methodist “lay preaching” exams. But by God’s grace, and in His providence, I never entered the Methodist ministry. For around the same time, through a series of events which were compounded by an utter lack of sound teaching, I was introduced to the Pentecostal movement. A case of out of the frying pan into the fire!
In my ignorance, Pentecostalism appeared (as it has to multitudes other youngsters) to be biblical. It seemed to follow the Bible, to be “alive”, to preach (as it boasted) “the full Gospel”. How wrong I was! It appeared to fill the void which I felt within Methodism. I was a regenerated, converted young man trying to fit into a false religious institution. It could not be done. I was a fish out of water. Going from Methodism to Pentecostalism, I went from one ecclesiastical error to another.
Encouraged by a Pentecostal man I looked up to at the time, I dropped the Methodist theological studies and enrolled in the theological college of the Assemblies of God, at the time considered to be one of the more “conservative” Pentecostal denominations (although “conservative” is a relative term when it comes to Pentecostalism). It was also around this time that I was baptized, in the biblical manner, by full immersion.
Always deeply interested in missionary work, I was excited to learn about an organisation called Operation Mobilisation, which owned two “missionary ships” and took in young people from all over the world to do what they called mission work for a year or two. I signed up – until, in undergoing the required course of study in preparation for the work, I learned that they were quite ecumenical, distributed Roman Catholic Bibles in Roman Catholic countries, and believed that many Roman Catholics were Christians. By this time I had come to understand something of the errors of Roman Catholicism and of ecumenism. I wrote to the South African branch and pulled out.
I graduated from the Assemblies of God college, and became associated with a church belonging to a small Pentecostal denomination, the South African Evangelistic Mission. In time I became the assistant to the pastor, and a teacher in the church. But through it all, I was studying the Word of God for myself – and keeping my eyes open. And, step by step, the Lord in His mercy began to lead me to see the errors of both Arminianism and Pentecostalism.
From the outset there were things which troubled me, and I was often uneasy, and even appalled and disgusted by much of what I saw. I saw people supposedly “speaking in tongues”, after being taught to do so by whoever was praying for them, stuttering out unintelligible sounds – people who, as time passed, revealed by their worldly conduct that they were not truly converted to Christ. I saw people falling down in frenzied excitement, supposedly “slain in the Spirit”, moaning and writhing, while the meetings degenerated into a cacophony of noise, shouting, crying, bodies lying on the floor.