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  President's Address - 31st Session 2006

Rev.Dr Ong Hwai Teik         


Rev Ong Hwai Teik
President,
Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC),
Methodist Church in Malaysia.
 
 
 
“OPEN HEAVENS, GLOBAL MISSIONS     
"Transforming, Redeeming, Abiding, Community (TRAC) in Christ"  (John 15:5)         

Preamble

Micah 6:8 No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT)

“What is God’s purpose for His people?” was the question the Rev Dr John Stott posed as he concluded his public ministry this year in July, at the Keswick Convention in England (as reported by Daniel Blake, Christian Post Correspondent in John Stott Ends Public Ministry with Call for Christ-like Efforts). This 87 year-old great and devoted servant of the Lord who Billy Graham called “the most respected clergyman in the world today” shared his most significant insight – at the end of a faithful and distinguished life as a disciple and theologian that has had a global impact for the past many decades. Included in his curricular vitae would be the fact that he had served as chaplain to the Queen of England from 1959 to 1991. This man then goes on to say that “I want to share with you where my mind has come to rest as I approach the end of my pilgrimage on earth.” He then amplified his central point “if we claim to be a Christian, we must be Christ-like”. 

He goes on to identify one of the main causes behind the failure in many of the evangelistic efforts of the Church, which is, “we don’t look like the Christ we are proclaiming.” He stresses that Christians are their message; that the most effective and telling preaching comes from persons who embody the things they are saying. Our experience would readily make us concur with him that deep within people, what ultimately communicates effectively is not words or ideas, but personal authenticity. This is even more so in a world which is exploding with knowledge and exponential discoveries. Stott crystallized the would-be impact of Christ-likeness by quoting a Hindu professor in India who had told one of his Christian students: “If you Christians lived like Jesus Christ, India would be at your feet tomorrow.” Christ-likeness is promised and attainable through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God's power.”

We in TRAC must not forget this obvious truth that underpins all our efforts at “social holiness” and “spreading scriptural holiness over the land” in witnessing for Christ. This includes the coming 2007 Christmas evangelistic campaign of “Celebration of Hope, Malaysia”. Let us then never cease pursuing “conspicuous sanctification” through the Holy Spirit to accompany the core reason for the Church’s being – which is to share in God’s mission in both local and global outreach with the Gospel. When we as an Annual Conference intentionally grow and engage in these defining characteristics of our identity – to be Christ-like, missionary and evangelistic, we are never more truly being God’s people. When we are not pouring ourselves out for the world, like our Lord Jesus Christ, we are never more unlike our true self and calling as God’s people.

In Malaysia, there are no shortages of challenges for us to wrestle with as God’s people, in terms of being “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” (Matt 5: 13,14). We must overcome our own fears, inertia and excessive preoccupation with our own church agenda - to humbly touch and intentionally seek to make a telling difference in our society with the Gospel. This is to be under girded by Christ-likeness. Corruption is rampant, one could almost say systemic, which is recognized and some measures are being taken to address this by the authorities. We must watch and pray and respond appropriately to ensure that the right counter- measures gain momentum. There is the alarming proliferation of social ills – particularly the increasing cruelty to victims of crimes, whose ages are getting younger or who are vulnerably aged. Other issues of great concern includes HIV-AIDS, designer drugs and substance abuse, the flesh trade reaching international proportion, the rising divorce rate etc. We must also be vigilant on the Article 11 issue where a public discussion ban has been imposed by the government and also the issue of whether Malaysia is a secular state or not. The independence of the Judiciary, the central and essential pillar for justice, is a real cause of concern for all citizens. Proverbs 14:34 reminds us that “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.”

It has also been reported that there was an 8.7 % increase in the crime index in the first five months in 2007 compared to the same period of last year. In this same period 87,582 cases of rape, car theft and burglaries were reported – which is 7,006 more than the corresponding period of last year (The Star, 19 July 2007).

It is in this setting that we, as God’s royal priesthood together with all the other denominations and churches – are to bless this nation as God’s relevant and prophetic voice. In this context, it is appropriate that our theme for this 32nd Annual Conference is “The Church and Society”. 

The rest of this address will be as follows:

     I. A Brief Survey/ Reflection of the Five Essentials
  II. A Battery of Important Issues to Wrestle Through
  III. A Bigger Family Involvement
    Conclusion

 

I.       A Brief Survey/ Reflection of the Five Essentials

Mission statement: Open Heavens, Global Missions
Our vision is to be a Transforming, Redeeming, Abiding, Community (TRAC) in Christ.
The 5 Essentials we have distilled to be our needed current areas of pursuit in order to be faithful and fruitful for the Lord are:

•  Leadership Development
•  Building Community
•  Missions and Outreach
•  Discipleship and Spirituality
•  Family: Children, Youth and Seniors Ministries


What I will share now is by no means exhaustive, but just a snapshot of the current progress of these areas in a brief tour of our Annual Conference life. (Greater details can be found in the reports of the Vision Task Force, the District Superintendents and the respective Boards.)
 

1.       Leadership Development
 

It is heartening to know that the Local Preacher’s License (LPL) course has been providing input and depth to the leadership in our Annual Conference. It has helped prepare and produce a few of our approved supply pastors, which will be a growing trend, as more come into the pastoral and Christian vocational ministry as a second career. Through the fine work of the LPL Registrar’s office, we have systematized our course work, identified churches as centres, make available a series of courses annually, computerized our tracking system of candidates and have a directory/ list of LPL graduates and those who renew their licenses faithfully. It is our appeal that those who attend the courses will go on to do the necessary assignments so as to graduate and those who have graduated to ensure that they renew their license by doing the necessary assignments. Eastern District will use the directory in order to enlist the LPLs in our Annual Conference to help them, as some have been doing. At least one has been deployed as a Chaplain to one of our schools. 
 
Generally speaking, more churches are now organizing LCEC Retreats for planning as well as leadership community building and bonding purposes. Our TRAC Methodist Seniors Fellowship as well as the Methodist Women have been placing emphasis in this area as well.
 
Leadership development remains a necessary priority for us because of shortage of leaders for small/ cell group ministry, the full-time Christian vocational ministries and other key areas of service in the Kingdom of God.


2.       Building Community
 

TRAC has been steadily emphasizing what has been an accepted “norm” for us in our community life for care, personal growth, supporting the wider church life and outreach ie the establishment of small groups in all our churches. As of June 2007, we have 6548 care groups. The General Conference is now in the process of finalizing the printing of the Small Groups Guidelines booklet which when ready, will be released to all our Methodist churches in Malaysia.
 
More of our churches are also organizing annual church family camps, a few even combining due to their size, connection and proximity. On a larger basis, Southern District had gathered for Prayer and Planning Retreats. Eastern District is planning to have a District Family Camp possibly next year or so.
 
Although we have some way to go, our Annual Conference has been showing signs of a more connected response to common needs and events such as helping the property rectification project of Kuala Lipis Wesley, contributing to the Millennium Ministry Fund, participating in the adoption of the 4 missions countries, involvement in the MPC 07, the purchase of the TRAC Van especially in support of the youth ministry, working towards the setting up of the Institute for Christian Ministries (ICM), extending initial aid to smaller churches in their Building Projects – among others. However, this is an area which still needs strengthening, so that Annual Conference decisions can really filter down to grassroots level unhindered, and that more can be done when we are united and committed to one another as an Annual Conference (for example pooling our experiences, insights, monetary and human resources in outreach ministries to the youths in Klang Valley)
.

3.       Missions and Outreach
 

Our Annual Conference is making progress in widening our missions participation on a global basis. It is heartening to note that our churches are supporting at least 9 countries overseas apart from our involvement in the local Sengoi work and among 7 migrant groups in our nation (see VTF report). It has been the joy of a few churches to witness those they reached in the migrant work here going home to become church planters and pastors. We are most encouraged to see the hard work put in by those of our churches who are reaching out to the migrant communities in our midst through caring hospitality, language classes, organizing worship and other celebrations etc.
 
We are also in consultation with the Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM) to sponsor the growing number from the developing world that make up their international student body. STM will also be working with us to send staff to teach in Bible Schools in our adopted missions countries (such as Myanmar). Quite apart from the TRAC 4 adopted countries of Bangladesh, Myanmar, N Vietnam and Nepal, our neighboring countries of Thailand and Cambodia have also been targeted by some of our TRAC churches.
 
Many of our churches will join the 1,500 over other Malaysian churches to make a concerted effort in blessing our nation through the “Celebration of Hope, Malaysia” (14-16 Dec 2007) which is a Billy Graham Crusade sponsored initiative. This is carried out locally through the help of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF). We had a briefing cum training at the TRAC Joint Board (15 Sept 07). This “festive evangelism” during Christmas is very much in the grain of our Malaysian “open house” culture. Indeed the “ministry of hospitality” fosters people’s discovery of faith. It has been reliably observed that people respond more through the ministry of conversation, with patient multiple invitations rather than ultimatums (G Hunter III, Radical Outreach). We must work through programs such as Alpha, as faith spreads from person to person, along the lines of social network, and as Christ’s ambassadors penetrate the people’s community and common everyday life in the market place. 
 
As of June of this year, TRAC has 14, 527 members. Another emphasis we shall be returning to will be planting churches, especially in the urban areas. After 2 years of her inauguration as a preaching point of KL Wesley, Life Methodist Church, Puchong was constituted on the 22 April 2007 with great joy and thanksgiving to the Lord.
 
We remain steadfastly committed to the work of the Persidangan Missi Sengoi. TRAC is currently helping our PMS brethren in their financial review and planning to explore implementing constructive measures to maximize costing without affecting the ministry and growth of the PMS. TRAC can help the PMS identify and implement measures that will concretely improve the “quantity and quality” of school education in this community. This is an imperative and strategic area. Building chapels that double as kindergartens etc is the other. There is a need to re-emphasise the “building-up” of the Sengoi Endowment Fund and its optimal management which is one of the key ways of helping the PMS achieve Provisional Annual Conference status.
 
TRAC continues to pray and look for a suitable Missions and Prayer Coordinator.


4.       Discipleship and Spirituality
 

Our churches are organizing their own spiritual or prayer retreats, also making use of the Maranatha Prayer Retreats organized at Janda Baik. Through the leadership of Rev Peggy Seow and Kuantan Wesley, a spiritual retreat for those facing mid-life challenges/ crisis was organized on 3-5 Aug 07 in this venue.
 
The Methodist Prayer Convention 07 (31 Aug – 2 Sept) was well supported by TRAC, where 980 attended as part of the 3900 conferees who came together at the Sunway Convention Centre, Subang (please see Prayer Director’s report, Pelita Methodist Sept-Oct 2007 issue and report prepared by the GC/ Bishop’s Office – see Appendix 3). We are also honoured with making an appreciable contribution by supplying key organizing personnel to serve with others from the other Annual Conferences. Some of our churches from the Southern and Eastern Districts shifted the time of their worship services so that they could to be part of the 10,500 congregation at the Malawati Stadium, Shah Alam on Sunday 2 Sept 07. I want to thank all our churches who have prayed, given financial support, offered personnel, space and warmly participated in this historic coming together to pray as the Methodist Church in Malaysia. We had come together to seek the Lord for holiness and revival, reconciliation and unity so that we shall be a renewed, prophetic voice of the Lord in this nation and beyond. We need to personally and as a local church make every effort to build on this “prayer wave and momentum” and find ways of deepening our prayer life together. Churches are encouraged to grow in the calling and practice of praying together – in small groups, as a congregation, experiencing the presence of the Lord in creatively organized prayer settings and times – as did the early church in Acts.(See also Appendix 2 – A Letter from Dr Chan Geok Oon, the MPC 07 National Prayer Coordinator). The cycle of training through the School For Intercessors (SFI) will continue, as we work towards reproducing SFI trainers. We hope to organize an Extended Prayer Season Workshop as a follow up on the MPC 07 momentum (which will encourage through practice and teaching, 24 hours and longer prayer watches that local churches or small groups can organise).
 
TRAC Prayer Desk Calendar 2008 project: for the 2nd year running, this (already sponsored project) will be sold at RM 5 per copy only; all proceeds will go towards the TRAC Missions Fund that supports our 4 adopted countries. This will be distributed (for sale) at this 32nd TRAC Session; we seek the assistance of all pastors, Lay Leaders and delegates to ensure that this well-printed (it costs at least twice more in the market) prayer tool be sold. Please inform our TRAC Office Administrator, Ms Matilda, the number you will need.
 
This will help our members to pray for TRAC, as well as support TRAC’s missions ministry especially when the Board of Missions has not sought a budget allocation for 2008.
 
The Board of Christian Education continues to help our Annual Conference to practically pursue discipleship growth by the revised Christian Growth Strategy which is available in the book of reports (AC/03). Their outlined themes of “Centrality of the Word”, “How to spend time daily with God”, “How to study God’s Word for yourself” & “How to pray” – are familiar but necessary fundamentals that we must constantly return to in an intentional way.
 
The Board of Worship continues to produce basic resource materials such as the Lent Meditations and conducting training for greater theological depth and exploring forms that make our congregational worship more relevant. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research and Leadership Network, in a 2005 study based on 382 mega, growing churches, has identified worship services that are “joyful, inspirational, or thought provoking” as a major factor of growth (amongst others).


5.       Family: Children, Youth and Seniors Ministries
 

As of June 2007, we have 2794 children in our church/ Sunday Schools. This emphasis is locking in as our churches look to one another for training and resourcing, such as the KL Wesley team being called upon by churches and a District to help train teachers.
 
We have 656 in the MYF, 1137 in the BB and 831 in the GB. It was a useful and fruitful first TRAC Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade Officers Consultation/ Retreat that took place on the 17 -19 Aug 07 at the PD Methodist Centre. Our TRAC churches need to continue and deepen our support for this promising harvest field by “owning” our Companies even though they each belong to their respective national organization, the BBM or GBM. The local church commitment, personal support and involvement must be such that our boys, girls and officers will not feel like they are “step children” – not “really that close” and sometimes just tolerated. Having said this, I must also commend those churches that have embraced these Christian youth uniform bodies warmly and given them unstinting support. The Youth Act passed in the middle of this year is still to be fully implemented even as some consultations have been going on between the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Malaysian Youth Council. Of primary concern is the official classification of youth as between the ages of 15 to 40. These will both affect our younger intake/ members as well as affect those who serve as officers (as many are over 40 years old). Together with the General Conference Council of Youth, our Board of Youth Work will explore how we can make maximum use of potential existing funds that the Government has available for youth causes and programs.
 
Increasingly, the needs of the young adults will also have to be addressed in a more focused way, although a few of our TRAC churches do have Young Adults Fellowship.
The MSF continues to grow with their stress on the MEALS (Membership, Expansion, Alpha, Leadership Development & Social Concerns) emphasis. As they get together in their TRAC MSF Camps, they have been dealing with foundational issues of identity and relevant ministries as God’s people in the golden years age group. I am most encouraged that they are positioning themselves to reach out with the theme “God in Christ Reconciling” for their 2008 Camp. We look forward to their input and blessing as we together unite to reach out in the name of Christ to engage in missions for Him and in some tangible ways, make a local and global difference.
 


II. A  Battery of Important Issues to Wrestle Through
  

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but one that I think we need to address together at this time in our Annual Conference life. 
 

1.       Growing leadership unity in our Annual Conference: Synergy in unity locally
 
We need to continue to work as a team in all our local churches, so that whilst we need to respectfully observe boundaries of authority and roles, no party is seen to be a “control freak”, whether clergy or lay. Let me once again emphasize the fact that together, as laity and clergy, we are the crew of the Lord in HMS TRAC (see Presidential Address of 30th Session TRAC). 
 
We do well to remember the outcome of Mikhail Gorbachev’s valiant effort at reforming the Soviet economy and society with his twin policy pillars of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). The increasingly unrestrained critical, hostile and dissatisfied public allowed to air their views after decades of repression, corroded his position. In addition his restructuring exercise meant he was caught between bitter conservatives who wanted to preserve the past and the impatient progressives in the Communist Party, so that he became his own victim of perestroika. I know there is God-loving leadership in our local churches who want to see changes of growth for the Kingdom of God. We need to encourage this as led by the Holy Spirit, but at the same time let us be mindful of the pillar of our Christian ethics and practices – love for our brethren for whom Christ died. Let us responsibly ensure that the “bond of peace” in Christ is sacrificially and intentionally maintained and sustained, being careful that we do not become unrestrained critics, embittered conservatives or impatient progressives in the body of Christ. Let us be gracious Christ-like servant-reformists as we seek God’s revival for our church and land.

2.       Advancing Missions : Continuing to Grow in a Global Perspective 
 
It is a joy that while we act and work locally, we have made progress in thinking globally. The wide and generous support in response to the tsunami of catastrophic proportion in December 2005, the increasing involvement and “buying into” the 4 missions countries that we support (which can still be improved), support of building projects and participation in missions trips and sending/ supporting missionaries are a few encouraging signs of this.
 
We must not let up on pursuing this track of Global Missions especially through the Board of Missions. Our main objective remains as every TRAC congregation adopting at least one of the 4 countries (whether through the Board or otherwise). This does not exclude the current connection/ support churches already have beyond these 4 countries.
 
We want to see each TRAC church work towards:
 
a. Connecting tangibly beyond financial giving, even as they adopt one of the 4 countries
b. Support financially at least one personnel or mission organization in that country
c. Pray consistently for that adopted country
d. Visit that country – at some stage

We want to see churches move on voluntarily to giving a tithe (10 %) of their annual budget for missionary work overseas.
 
We want to see churches send out missionaries / personnel to the mission field.
 
Let each of us (and our church) purpose in our heart to be more than hearers and watchers, but be compassionate doers and dedicated conduits of God’s “signs and wonders”, in a compressed world which is consciously thought of as a connected whole “global village”. TRAC may not be the end of the world, but we want to be able to see the end of the world from TRAC.
 
Christopher JH Wright (in An Upside-Down World, Christianity Today), International Director of Langham Partnership, usefully reminds us that “Most of the learning and unlearning we must do in this new era is no more than relearning the original nature of biblical Christianity, which very quickly became polycentric. Antioch… became the center of westward-oriented missionary work. Paul saw Thessalonica as a radiating center for the message in Macedonia and Achaia. Ephesus clearly became a key metropolis for Christian witness in Asia Minor…Jerusalem was simply one center among many. Christianity has never had a territorial center. Our center is the person of Christ, and wherever he is known, there is another potential center of faith and witness. So, as mission historian Andrew Walls has said, the emergence of genuine world Christianity and the ending of Western assumptions of heartland hegemony (control, supremacy) simply marks a return to normal Christianity, which looks more like the New Testament than Christendom ever did.” 
 
It has become more obvious than ever that the real mission boundary is not between “Christian countries” and the “mission field”, but between faith and unbelief, and that is a boundary that runs through every land and every local street.
 
Malaysia is indeed one of the mission poly-centers – with 26 million people and many “nations in our nation” and only about a tenth of its population being Christian.


 

3.      Planting new churches: Obeying the Kingdom extension mandate
 
We thank God for the special joy of witnessing the constitution of the Life Methodist Church, Puchong, on 22 April 2007, after its launch as KL Wesley’s Preaching Point on 2 Jan 2005. We first dreamt of this in 2003 (see President’s Address, 28th Session TRAC). 
 
Missions, evangelism and outreach must be who we are as a church, not just what we do. The local church is God’s primary instrument to evangelize the world. Church Growth specialists are agreed that planting churches is the most effective way to reach lost people. Malaysia has moved from 37.7% living in urban centers in 1975, to 63.8% in 2003 and it is predicted that by 2015, this figure will reach 71%. Early Methodism grew, especially in America, because churches were planted where people went. We must also track where people are in Malaysia – and minister relevantly to them the gospel, especially in urban centers. Dr Geroge Hunter III reminded us (in the 27-28 May 2007 Church Planting Conference organized by the Board of Evangelism) of the imperative of praying, planning, identifying and strategizing with a team of appropriately gifted believers to do this. 
 
However, to plant churches we must have a growing core of church leaders, so that the mother church can sustainably send some away to spearhead the birth of another congregation. Whilst we do not confine ourselves to any one model, yet “shop-lot” size churches will be most sustainable in terms of cost, encouraging every-member involvement, leadership manageability and administration. 
 
As an Annual Conference, we must commit ourselves to pray for the intended church planting that Emmanuel Methodist Church, PJ, will embark on next year as they target Help University College. This will also see the heartfelt desire of our Annual Conference to reach out to the youths in our institutions of tertiary education in the urban centers. They would appreciate our churches sending them youth leaders as well as youths who are students. This may yet pave the way for our future outreach to other colleges and universities.


4.       Increasing the harvest work force: offering ourselves and releasing our children
 
We are glad that we have a few more joining in full-time vocational ministries, but we shall need more ordained ministers and Approved Supply Pastors. Each of us needs to make our self available should the Lord calls us to serve Him in this capacity. 
 
Along with this, we must release our children to the Lord – to serve Him as He pleases in the Christian vocations. Unless we do this, we are but being wishful in our quest for having more workers for the harvest, our sincerity in asking being questionable.
 
On a practical note, our salary considerations have to be more “realistic” in meeting the needs of those who will join the remunerated ranks of ministry as a second career. They come with their needs and commitments. It may also make it more possible for those doing well in their fields in the market place to join the ministry.


5.      “Space for Grace”: Building projects and more room for ministry
 
TRAC has some thing like 22 churches undergoing different stages (from preliminary consideration to finished product) in their building and property acquisition projects which need our prayer support and relevant help as a TRAC Family. However, we must never lose sight of the fact that buildings are but means to an end – “space for grace” that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be advanced and ministries multiplied so as to draw people into the Kingdom of God. It should not be made such a preoccupation that we neglect this main calling of the church – “to keep the main thing the main thing”. This expansion of “space for grace” can be deemed as a sign of blessing of growth of the Lord in TRAC as our congregations and ministries grow. I am encouraged to learn that in at least 2 churches, we have members who have taken the initiative to purchase adjoining properties next to the new church locations in anticipation of future growth.

6.      Work in Progress: Some important on-going issues
 
a. Task Force for Outreach to Universities and Colleges
 
The Sept 2007 Joint Board was unanimous in expressing the need for TRAC to now take concrete measures of reaching the tertiary education institutions. The Executive Board then set up a Task Force to study and recommend actions of making it a reality ministry of outreach on the campuses and the long term plan of action for our Annual Conference to systematically reach universities and colleges in Malaysia. 
 
b. Task Force for Studying the Possible Setting Up of a Retirement Village
 
One ministry that our Annual Conference would want to consider is to establish a “retirement village”, where our senior citizens can possibly buy or rent homes, apartments or small units. There is a growing need for this ministry. Job opportunities and globalization have made our children “international citizens” or at least live far away from parents who tend to remain localized because of the security of familiarity and ‘roots’. Today, we find fewer and fewer households with extended families. A retirement village will enable aged parents and other senior citizens to live in a caring community with good security and with the necessary support amenities and health care they will need. It will also be a place where the social and spiritual support are in place for them to fellowship with one another and with God, and a place where their loved ones know they are being cared for. A project such as this can be developed in stages as well as be made self-financing as there are those with means but have no one to care for them. As God’s people, we are called to care for one another, especially those who cannot look after themselves adequately. The TRAC MW had raised funds for a similar concern in the past for the setting up of a home for elderly women.
 
The Executive Board has set up this Task Force on April 21 2007 chaired by Datin Judy Chin, our Conference Associate Lay Leader. This Task Force will appreciate our feedback to their survey when carried out etc. There may be an opportunity for a brief preliminary sharing and update of this matter at this Annual Conference. As it is, this matter is still under study with no decision of commitment made yet.
 
c. Institute for Christian Ministry
 
The Interim Board is still looking for a suitable full-time Director. This position has just been re-advertised. We look forward to augmenting and systemizing priority areas of training needed in our Annual Conference.
 
d. TRAC Millennium Ministry Fund has successfully enabled the very first project of the TRAC HQ Renovation and Extension to be undertaken successfully recently. The next TMMF Projects are: making the “Sabbatical Leave” (MBOD Section XII, para 333) realizable / implementable for itinerant ministers and funding the establishment of the ICM in its first 2 years. It is my similar hope that we can give this our whole hearted support by meeting the contribution amount allocated to your local church..

7.      Social Holiness: Blessing and “Salting” Malaysia
 
“Establishing Ministry Centres”
for “the last, the least, the lost and the locked away”. The RM 220bil Ninth Malaysia Plan was launched last year by the Prime Minister. The 3rd of the 5 Key Thrusts of the 9MP is addressing persistent socio-economic inequalities constructively and productively, with one of the foci as “eradicating hardcore poverty and halving overall poverty.” We in the church would also want to help address the poor, differently-able, the elderly & seniors, mentally challenged, unwed mothers, those affected by the AIDS/ HIV issue etc. We agree with the “Micah Declaration on Integral Mission” (the Micah Network was formed in 2001 in Oxford bringing together evangelical Christians who believed in social involvement as a Christian imperative). It says: “Integral mission or holistic transformation is the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement should be done alongside each other. Rather, in integral mission our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life. And our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. If we ignore the world, we betray the word of God which sends us out to serve the world. If we ignore the word of God, we have nothing to bring to the world.” (Tim Chester, Justice, Mercy and Humility: Integral Mission and the Poor). We must continue to follow in the way of social holiness as taught by John Wesley. We must network with one another through the Board of Social Concerns and other NGOs in order to be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” in Malaysia.
 
In addition, we need to be wise, discerning and courageous in order to address social-religious-political issues such as the state of the Judiciary, the subtle and some times imperceptible erosion of civil liberties and religious rights of the citizenry. There is an increasing need for the Malaysian Church to engage the relevant quarters on these issues. As we in TRAC actively seek God’s richest blessings for our beloved country which is multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural, we must also, as “salt of the earth”, act as necessary in preserving what is good (flavour) and protect (preserve) our land from that which can tear our social fabric apart. Concerned citizens such as the senior constitutional lawyer Tommy Thomas (Malaysiakini website, 30 Oct 1007 and The STAR, 31 Oct 2007) has identified as “the four main threats to the nation’s social contract - the Islamisation process, the Islamic state declaration, the encroachment of syariah courts onto the civil courts' jurisdiction and the fanning of racial sentiments by politicians” at the recent 14th Malaysia Law Conference. In that same Conference, Sultan Azlan Shah, the Sultan of Perak and former Lord President was quoted as saying “I am driven nostalgically to look back to a time when our Judiciary was the pride of the region and our neighbours spoke admiringly of our legal system.” (The STAR, 30 Oct 2007).
 
We are not too far from the national elections. Let us encourage those eligible to register and exercise our voting rights as we keep this matter in prayer. Pray that only the upright, sincere and competent ones, who love the entire people of the land, regardless of race or religion will be nominated and elected. The fundamental truth remains: righteousness and justice will be a universal platform that unite and exalt a nation.

 




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