Darlington Ndlovu – A Lesson in Growth
One of the most encouraging observations which I made during my preaching trip to South Africa a few years ago was in the life of a young South African preacher by the name of Darlington Ndlovu. Darlington is a native South African from the famed Zulu nation. He has been a Christian for only seven years and has been preaching almost since the time of his conversion.
Darlington was converted to the Lord through the efforts of an organization out of West Monroe, Louisiana known as World Bible School, which is an evangelical effort sponsored jointly by institutional churches primarily in the USA for the purpose of spreading the gospel world wide. The purpose of such institutions as World Bible School is noble, but the manner in which their efforts are carried out is unscriptural. Generally such institutions are known as sponsoring church arrangements where many churches pool their financial resources and create a separate organization with its own board of directors for the purpose of doing what the Bible clearly teaches to be the work of individual Christians and the local church, i.e. preaching the gospel to the end of saving souls. Also, at least in the case of Darlington, there were other abuses and unscriptural practices on the part of individuals involved with the organization which led him to question the methods he was being required to use in spreading the gospel of Christ. Within the context of this situation I think we see the integrity of a young Christian rise to the surface.
Since the very beginning of his walk with the Lord, Darlington showed a willingness and desire to share the word of God with others. He was active in personal study, changing his own life to conform to the moral standards taught in the Bible and in the work of teaching others. He soon became active in doing the work of an evangelist and was supported financially by the World Bible School as he began spreading the gospel and starting new churches in South Africa, as well as Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. His work carried out under the oversight of World Bible School continued for nearly seven years. He was being supported with a small income, reimbursed for travel expenses and provided an automobile for both preaching and personal use. Such perks would have been the envy of many in Darlington’s situation, but as we shall observe, they were not enough to sway Darlington from personal integrity and dependence on Scriptural authority.
Eventually, Darlington began to observe behavior which led him to question the character of those with whom he was associated. For example, the number of baptisms were always of foremost importance to those who were sending him out to preach. He began to observe that the baptisms which he did report were in turn being credited to more than one organization within the liberal churches of Christ (World Bible School, One Nation Under God, etc) so that one baptism would eventually be reported as two or three baptisms when they were all tallied. This abuse was reported by Darlington, but never corrected. This led Darlington to realize the important part that money played in the organization. The more baptisms reported, the more the contributions would rise from Christians in America. All the various institutions were claiming credit for as many baptisms as they could so their income would continue to increase. Again, Darlington’s questions with regard to this abuse were never taken seriously. There were also issues of personal morality thrown into the mix. It seems that a certain man who was being paid by various organizations such as WBS and One Nation Under God, etc. had purchased a couple of semi-truck and trailer rigs equipped with teaching facilities and a baptistry. The trucks were parked in rural villages and used as meeting places to facilitate teaching, baptisms and starting new churches. The man who owned the vehicles had become quite wealthy in his business. For all practical purposes, he was being paid for producing baptisms. He personally owned three different homes in South Africa and had plans to increase the number of trucks being used in his ministry. However, he was hiring truck drivers and other workers who were not even Christians, who reportedly would go into a village and encourage people to listen to the gospel and would then go out and get drunk and carry on in various immoral activities. Again such abuses and inconsistencies were reported by Darlington, but he was simply told not to rock the boat and to stay with the program because the money was coming in and things were running smoothly.
In the mean time Darlington ran across an ad in a local newspaper which had been placed by a church in the town of White River. He was curious about the ad because in all the time he had lived and preached in the area he had heard nothing about the congregation there.. He then called the number listed in the ad and found himself speaking to Robert Buchanan, the local preacher (the man whose family Bob Buchanon and I stayed with during our preaching trip to South Africa). Darlington wanted to know if there were any differences between the church in White River and the ones he was familiar with. Brother Buchanan went on to teach Darlington about the church, it’s work and HOW that work is to be conducted. He received scriptural answers to his questions. He was given book, chapter and verse to prove those answers. Darlington then went back to his superiors in the WBS and asked them to give scriptural objections to what he had just learned. They could not. He threatened to quit and still they could only persuade him with threats of withdrawing their financial support. He would lose his income, lose his car, etc.
At this point Darlington had a decision to make. He had no immediate way to replace his income. Robert Buchanan promised no car, no income, no expense account. Darlington had no training that would lead to an income, only the training as a preacher he had received from WBS. However, Darlington knew he could not continue to work with a group guilty of so many infractions against the scriptures and who showed no willingness to change or provide scriptural authority for their practices. At this time, knowing now what he knew, he could only stay with WBS at the cost of his own integrity. He thus gave up his position with WBS and his income for the sake of the truth!
Darlington is now doing the work of an evangelist as he was before, but now he can give scriptural authority for HOW that work is being done. Since leaving WBS he began looking for ways to support himself financially (not easy in a country with 66 % unemployment). Through the recommendations of such men as Robert Buchanan and others, Darlington was eventually able to raise most of the support he needed. For the past several years he has been preaching and teaching faithfully and working with other preachers establishing churches in the countries of the southern African continent.
“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Would that all of us could become examples of spiritual growth like Darlington Ndlovu.