TRAC President's Address (34th Session, 2009)
Rev. Dr Ong Hwai Teik
Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC),
Methodist Church in Malaysia
We welcome one another to this important annual “family gathering” of the 34th Session of our Trinity Annual Conference. Our identity as God’s children is linked to our becoming like Him in His holiness, so that we faultlessly shine like brilliant stars with shafts of godly, pure and blameless light against the backdrop of darkness of crookedness and depravity.
We continue to vigilantly look to the Lord as well as be proactively involved in this season of rebuilding in the life of this nation. Reforms and advancement have been slow, and in many cases non-existent, in key institutions and fundamental agenda items in our beloved nation’s life. But we must nonetheless pray and actively contribute as much as we can, in looking forward with hope that the judicial system, corruption, racially-based politics, the review and if necessary, repeal of unjust laws, aid to the poor regardless of race and religion, fundamental religious rights and issues – will be meaningfully and transformationally addressed so that Malaysia will achieve a tangible breakthrough of progress and prosperity in a new phase and opportunity for nation building.
We in TRAC are glad that on the 3 April 2009, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak became our sixth Prime Minister. Our prayers are with him as he seeks to steer Malaysia towards greater unity, a deeper morality and shared prosperity. We await with anticipation the promised action of the review of the Internal Security Act, as well as what is reported as “Sweeping changes to boost growth” (New Straits Times, 1 July 09). In that same article it was reported that Malaysia has eased investment rules, including scrapping the requirement that companies seeking public listing must reserve thirty per cent of its stock for Bumiputeras. Our country needs to experience at least an annual 8 per cent economic growth over the next 10 years in order to achieve developed nation status by 2020 (The Star, 29 August 2009). The following words of our new Prime Minister provides optimism for Malaysians – “A high-income society must be socially inclusive. It must provide incentives to those who have a lot, yet be fair to those who have a little…Above all, a high-income society must be one where every Malaysian feels he or she has a place and a promising future under the Malaysian sun” (quoted from the New Straits Times, 1 July 09). We await the fulfillment of these words.
However, it troubles us greatly when deaths such as those of Teoh Beng Hock and A. Kugan this year – leave many questions unanswered. Malaysians want to know the truth and see justice done. Cases such as these had eroded public confidence in the enforcement agencies. It is also heartening to read that in a survey of 2518 people (aged 20 to 35) done last year, Malaysian youth today “are more likely to support a multi-racial party that represents the interests of all Malaysians, regardless of religion or race” (New Straits Times, 1 July 09). The findings indicated that the youth of today gives less attention to inter-racial issues, desiring politicians to address issues “like managing the economy, fighting corruption and listening more to the people.” Malaysia is estimated to have 8,681,372 million youths (The Star, 5 October 09). The Global Corruption Report 2009 indicated that US$40 billion is spent annually by developing countries to bribe corrupt politicians and government officials - which is just staggering (The Star, 16 September 09). So citizens of this nation are concerned with the investigation and outcome of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) case, and the headlines “Billions lost: Government losses can reach RM 28bil a year – or more due to overpayment” (The Star, 26 October 09).
In the political realm, Perak was very much in our prayers in the early part of the year as the action of three assemblymen caused the Pakatan Rakyat state government to fall, returning the Barisan National to power in that state. Up to the last count in October, Malaysia has had a record number of nine by-elections within eighteen months! In the midst of this crucial and historic season of political, socio and economic changes, we in TRAC must be watchful and appropriately responsive. We are pledged to praying and working towards unity, integrity, justice, truth, godliness, continuing sustainable modernization, technological advancement, robust economy and growth, and a developed nation status – for Malaysia. To this end we must together with other Malaysians seriously commit ourselves to the responsibility of citizenship. Of all people, we as Christians must responsibly accept the divine trust of stewardship for all aspects of life and environment of planet earth, and more specifically – this nation. This general lack of sense of responsibility by our society is a root cause of the many grave crises that confront us, and accounts for a lack of “common decency” that infects and breaks down so many areas of our daily life. We shall by God’s grace, and together with other citizens of this land, make this a greater nation only when we are deeply conscious of our responsibilities, and are prepared to act to give them meaning.
As concerned citizens who “have a place under the Malaysian sun”, we also identify with Tan Sri Bernard Dompok’s statement on behalf of the United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun and Murut (Upko) – “for the lifting of the ban on non-Muslims using the word “Allah”, expressed concern for minority Bumiputeras and urged the government to help mission schools” (The New Straits Times, 9 November 2009). In that same article, he is also reported as saying - “With the greatest of respect to those who may be uncomfortable with me mentioning this, the Christian community, not unlike the Christians in Indonesia and the Arab world, has been using this word for a long time.”
Of recent times, we have much to be concerned about in terms of the natural disasters that have hit our neighbouring nations such as Taiwan, Samoa, the Philippines and Indonesia. Our disaster relief efforts are mostly channeled through our Methodist connections, the CCM, and other missions partners such as CREST and STAMP. TRAC also gave RM 20, 000 to alleviate the plight of the victims of the war in Palestine earlier this year. We are grateful that there are signs of recovery in the global financial crisis and meltdown that the world is facing as of last year. .
Let me now go on to share on the following :
||“Wrapping Up”: The Old Theme of “Open Heavens, Global Missions”
|| “Launching into Deeper Waters”: The New Theme of “Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation”
|| “Staying Connected”: Matters of Wider Connection
I. “Wrapping Up”: The Old Theme of “Open Heavens, Global Missions”
2009 will be the last of the “quadrennial working year” for our theme on “Open Heavens, Global Missions” with its 5 Essentials of Leadership Development, Community Building, Missions and Outreach, Discipleship and Spirituality, and Family: Children, Youth and Seniors Ministries.
As at the end 31 Dec 2008, TRAC has a membership of 14, 935, with a total number of 74 church services, out of these 6 are in BM/ Indonesian, 6 are Chinese speaking, 3 are in Nepali, and 1 each in Vietnamese, Cambodian and Tamil. The rest of the 56 are English speaking. TRAC has another 5 preaching points. We need to concentrate on the “trekking where the people are” policy as our statistics point to key urban areas as the majority growth area. We would encourage our urban churches to consider identifying viable residential areas and new townships for prayer and exploration for planting new churches, which may begin with house groups. Malaysia has moved from 37.7 per cent living in urban centres in 1975, to 63.8 per cent in 2003, and it is projected that by 2015, this figure will reach 71 per cent. We must continue our “Near & Far”/ “nations in our nation” missions work emphasis started in 2004 whereby we continue to reach the migrant communities right at our doorstep, although it has been reported that the foreign workforce has shrunk by 200, 000 as at August 2009 (The New Strait Times, 29 August 2009). The total of foreign worker population is about 1.9 million locally. It was also confirmed by the Labour Ministry Director-General that an expected 70,000 Pakistanis will be imported by December 2009 to augment the 30,000 already in the country who are mainly employed in the construction, services and plantation sectors.
A brief survey of the 5 Essentials :
1. Leadership and Development. Our emphasis on equipping our members through the Local Preacher’s License has resulted in producing 3 Supply Pastors, 3 Approved Supply Pastors and 2 part-time Approved Supply Pastors who are in current service. We now have a growing list of LPLs who can be harnessed for local church ministries, “special assignments” or fields of service (eg school and youth outreach ministries, church planting etc) and helping in the preaching / pulpit ministry in our smaller churches, especially in our Eastern District.
This year we have 2 graduating from Seminari Theoloji Malaysia, who will be joining our TRAC ministry. Four are still in STM (1 graduating in 2010) and at least 1 will be enrolled in STM in 2010 as a fulltime M. Div student. There is also an increased number of ministry staff employed by our local churches this year.
This year we have been blessed by the “Spiritual Formation and Leadership (SFL) Weekend” ministry of our TRAC Institute for Christian Ministry (see ICM Director’s report for details). A total of 4 such Retreats were held in the north, Perak, central and southern regions, focusing on the development of the inner life and spiritual formation of those who play a leading role in our TRAC churches.
The TRAC Methodist Women had a successful 1st TRAC MW Convention (22-25 August, Ipoh) preceding their TRAC MW 34th Session. The 160 who attended felt that this met their needs, warmed their hearts and challenged them in their service, requesting that this be made an annual event.
A leadership module on “Organizational Leadership in TRAC” with the goals of addressing structural and “church management” issues vis-a-vis understanding the Methodist polity and organizational set-up - is being discussed. This module will also help address practical issues faced at local church leadership level to do with administration and vision. The TRAC Executive Board, together with the pertinent Boards will be looking into establishing its syllabus and implementation of training.
Our Annual Conference also expresses our thanks to our many faithful leaders who honour God by their persevering ministry, especially in our smaller churches in the rural areas. These are our “unsung heroes” of faith who need our prayerful remembrance and encouragement.
Our Annual Conference places on record our deep appreciation and thanks to Ms Veronica Ting, who has served 23 years in TRAC as a Diaconal Minister since graduating from STM on June 1986. During these years she has served in different roles, as the occasion may require, including as “stand in” pastor of Ipoh Wesley and Kampar Wesley. But her ministry roles have mostly been as Christian Education Director and Social Outreach Director in 3 of our churches. We also thank her for her contributions at Annual Conference Board level.
Although this “Leadership” Essential is no longer featured predominantly in the new Theme and Essentials of the next quadrennium, it should continue to receive our due attention at all levels as grounds “won but that needs more to be done”. We have seen productive results both qualitatively and quantitatively at local and national levels of church life in TRAC since adopting the Leadership Essential 3 quadrenniums ago.
2. Community Building. Small groups (of Bible study, care and cell types) remain our key community building tool. At the end of 2008, TRAC had 616 small groups (consisting of 6,688 people or 44.8 per cent of TRAC’s membership), which was 54 less than in 2007. It is our aim that every TRAC church should have small group ministry for vital discipleship – growth, mutual support, edification, service and reaching out.
As our churches grow in the number of services and congregations including those that are non-English speaking, we need to be watchful in building communities of unity. Differences of cultural values and preferences need to be anticipated and handled lovingly and sensitively so that we do not lose the sweetness of unbroken fellowship and power of authentic witness.
Let us remember to be a healing community – that overcomes past relational baggages through humility, repentance and forgiveness, and build strong relationships between pastors, lay leaders, and members.
We can also strengthen community by availing the use of our local church premises for youth camps, training events and hospitality to one another.
Through the leadership of the Bishop, Presidents and GCEC, we are also building stronger inter-Annual Conference community – in exemplifying the Gospel of reconciliation, especially in the areas of prayer, missions work and moving in synergy as we unite on a common road map of being the Lord’s prophetic church in Malaysia.
More recently, we are also strengthening the wider regional Methodist community connection through the relief funds that we send to our sister churches in Myanmar, Taiwan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. We channel our collected funds to them for immediate relief work as well as subsequent re-building and restoration projects in these nations. Together with the other Annual Conferences we have more significantly helped the Methodist Churches in Sri Lanka and Myanmar, including setting up livelihood sustaining programs, kindergartens, schools etc, and church planting. It must however be emphasized that we also include other commended aid agencies that we know in our giving as well..
3. Missions and Outreach. Due to the active, committed and diligent work of those leading the work, more TRAC churches are actively involved in Myanmar. It is most encouraging to see specific TRAC churches adopting specific outreach projects to support financially and by making missions trips there. Part of the resulting post-Nargis cyclone disaster relief includes TRAC churches supporting 9 towns/ villages/ projects for church planting.
Our TRAC churches have also responded expeditiously and generously to the various disasters that have struck our region of late. Reports of how the funds have been channeled will be reported from time to time from the Episcopal / General Conference Office & other agencies adopted when these are available.
The Perak District held a consultation (5 April 2009) on the work in Bangladesh, and worked out a policy of support that prioritizes personnel equipping and training, rather than being drawn into giving monetary support to causes and projects. This has been communicated to the United Church of Bangladesh (UCB) leadership. Earlier this year (17-25 February 2009), 2 of our ministers visited the work there engaging in ministries as well as assessing the situation for our on-going Gospel partnership with the UCB.
We continue our support for Nepal and Vietnam. Work on our local side has slowly grown as we welcome workers such as the Rev Charles Tran who has been officially commissioned by the General Board of Global Missions (UMC, USA) for such mission work. We continue to look to the Lord for such partners for the harvest fields.
We shall have the TRAC Mission Society(TMS) formation draft presented at this 34th Session of TRAC for discussion, fine-tuning as necessary and then final adoption, so that we can officially launch/ operate the TMS on 1 Jan 2010.
Our Annual Conference continues to be on a prayerful search for a TRAC Missions Director. It may also be necessary for TRAC to ask the Board of Missions to take specific steps toward coordinating under a specific arm, the work among non-English speaking congregations. I heard with great encouragement at our Perak District Conference recently that a “brainstorming session” is being planned to discuss the starting and growing of Chinese speaking work, especially in Teluk Intan and Sitiawan.
The TRAC Missions Conference (9-11 October 09) hosted by Ipoh Wesley had the theme of “Discipling the Nations”, with a local and global Unreached People Groups (UPGs) emphasis. Those who attended were encouraged and deeply challenged (over 50 attended) to not forget the UPGs in our own front porch and backyard.
We have also begun to identify theological students from our adopted countries who come not only to receive training but also minister to their own communities in our migrant congregations and outreach efforts (such as the Myanmarese & Vietnamese work). For this we collaborate with the STM who has a growing international students population especially from Asian countries.
Our support for the Persidangan Missi Sengoi will continue, especially in the light of their “Wawasan Berdikari 2020”. This Vision arose from a strategic Evaluation and Planning Retreat attended by the PMS Executive Committee, the Bishop, TRAC President and representatives engaged in the PMS ministry held on the 29-30 September 2009 at Tapah. They aim to be a Provisional Annual Conference that is self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting by 2020. The PMS key leaders are themselves owning the awareness of their being left behind from the mainstream of economic, social and political development for the last 52 years. There is increasing passion and urgency in their voice of the need to break out of this stagnation by taking the necessary albeit painful “biting the bullet” measures to intentionally progress towards financial independence/ self support. Listed below are some of the critical decisions that our PMS brethren have taken, which will warrant our prayer, support, trekking and tracking:
• Village church planting to be identified in each of the 6 Districts, including reaching out to other tribal people in Pahang.
• Urban church planting by way of tracking those who are now employed in the cities as factory workers etc with the help and partnership of TRAC churches eg in Shah Alam.
• Review the educational process and syllabus of the Sengoi Workers Training Centre, Kampar.
• Take specific steps to increase tithing by those holding steady employment, and systematic giving by those in the rural areas.
• Do away with the “subsidy mentality”.
• Focus on empowerment by education with establishing the PMS Scholarship Fund for tertiary education and the Hostels Project in the present PMS urban centres such as Kampar, Slim River and Raub.
• Look into land titles for Orang Asli villagers and the church • Re-connect with Malaysian CARE on Social Development strategies and projects.
• The establishment of the PMS-TRAC Finance Task Force and the Wawasan Berdikari 2020 Task Force to monitor, track and conduct continued planning to achieve targets/ goals.
• To reduce TRAC’s contributions/ commitments progressively from 2012 that will end at 2020.
• To raise and sustain prayer coverage for Wawasan Berdikari 2020 throughout the PMS and TRAC.
The above bold new Vision and plan of action was presented for discussion and adopted at the PMS 20th Session on 3-5 November. TRAC will also need to consider the setting up of an NGO or Foundation to be a facilitating and “bridging agency” acceptable to other funding resources outside the Church, to help develop livelihood and economic upliftment programmes for the total Orang Asli community.
4. Discipleship and Spirituality. We had the 1st 2009 ICM Public 5-part lecture series (4 March - 1 April) on the theme of “The Heart and Soul of Spiritual Formation”. This was most appreciated by those who attended, including those from other denominations. The ICM also introduced the SWOT analysis which had contributed to the evaluation and forward planning processes for the 15 churches that participated. The Soul-Talk-Series, the Journey (a 5-month experiential spiritual growth training programme) was also implemented. We are grateful to the Lord for our ICM Board and Director for their hard work in facilitating significant and strategic training in our Annual Conference.
The Lent Meditations booklets produced through the Board of Worship and Music had continued to bless a wider audience.
Our Prayer track/ movement continue to make some progress as we held the 4th TRAC Prayer Conference (20-22 March) in KL. Those who attended felt refreshed and ministered to, with violence -torn Sudan being adopted as a country for prayer and support in the work of developing prayer ministry in that land. This was followed on 15-17 May by the Watch Hour Retreat (#1) for intercessors in Fraser’s Hill. The TRAC Pastors Intercession Retreat (#1) has been postponed to 23-25 Feb 2010, Fraser’s Hill. Our Youth Prayer Conference was on 19-22 Mar in Ipoh Wesley, attended by 50 of our young people. This has been on-going annually. Through relating to God in authentic relationship in a deepening prayer life and earnest, persevering intercession, we pray for the gracious visitation of the Holy Spirit in pouring out revival on our churches and on this nation. We pray to witness a Church reformed unto holiness, experience evangelism explosion, and generating powerful social transformation. TRAC must not only be sound in doctrine, but also vital in piety. We must have spiritual integrity as God’s chosen people that are “saved by grace”, and “live by grace” – living godly lives, practicing the truth of our preaching as the Holy Spirit works in us.
At the end of 2008, the statistics show that there are 126 prayer groups, with 5 churches reporting having no prayer groups. It is our aim to have prayer groups in all our TRAC churches, although some may incorporate their intercession/ prayer into other church gatherings.
5. Family: Children, Youth and Seniors Ministry. Sunday School teachers training is a need that some have expressed. The team from KL Wesley has unselfishly gone to different Districts to conduct training when invited. Our Annual Conference will need to look into how more systematic training can be organized for this important ministry which will tie in with our emphasis of “Wholesome Families: Growing strong families in Christ” in the coming quadrennium.
We thank our Youth Board that continues to do a good job building on the momentum and breakthroughs gained over the last 2 quadrenniums through strategic and more creative planning. The Youth Board led our Annual Conference in celebrating The Year of the Youth in 2006. We are beginning to see our youths entering into full-time Christian vocations in missions organizations including a few who are Jeremiah School alumni. As church leaders, we must intentionally support our local and TRAC level youth programs, especially spotting and subsidizing local youths for the Jeremiah School.
The BB and GB movements remain registered with the Registrar of Societies. TRAC BB and GB officers and leaders continue to come together for input, consultation for coordinating and advancing ministries among youths in churches and schools. It must also be added that the potential for chapel ministry in our Methodist mission schools invitingly beckons local churches to touch young lives.
The 1st Young Adults Convention (29-31 August) in Sepang had 62 from 10 TRAC churches in actual attendance. The young adults who attended testified of receiving relevant and useful inputs, edifying fellowship and making new connections with other chapters. They have started a Facebook website as a community connecting point for TRAC young adults. Some have returned re-charged to take up ministries and engage in group Bible Study. The planning for the 2nd Young Adults Convention in 2010 has begun, spearheaded by the CGMC, Ipoh Wesley and Kampar Wesley young adults. It will be held in Ipoh, on the theme – “Change is constant…what isn’t?” It is our prayer that ministry to this significant age group will be firmly emplaced and stabilized to be a growing segment within our local churches.
Our MSF continues to place emphasis on building their faith in Christ and engaging in outreach by doing Alpha for seniors. They are planning to have a Directed Retreat with our ICM Director as facilitator for next year. In addition, they are also re-visiting the need for the setting up of Retirement Homes/ Community for our senior community.
II. “Launching into Deeper Waters”: The New Theme of “Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation”
Our new working quadrennium theme is:
“Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation”.
The accompanying 4 Essentials are:
Lifelong Discipleship, Wholesome Families A Voice to Our Nation, and A Vision for the World.
(This is in line with the GC’s Road Map Emphases for the next few quadrenniums of Evangelism and Church Planting, Discipleship, Church and Society, and Missions). All reports from 2010 - 2013 will follow this new “template”.
The Process: We began seeking the Lord for the theme and essentials for the new quadrennium by having 4 workshops during the 33rd Session TRAC last year based on the GC Road Map theme and emphases, mandating and remitting the discussion findings to the TRAC Executive Board for further action. The TRAC Executive Board which then met from 9-11 Jan 09 at its annual Retreat fine-tuned the feedback to form our new theme and accompanying essentials. The new Vision Task Force (Moderator: Rev T Jeyakumar, Conference Secretary, see Appendix B) was also set up by the Executive Board to guide and oversee the crafting and implementation of the new theme and 4 Essentials. The new theme and essentials were then shared with the various TRAC Boards at our annual Joint Board 11-13 Sept 09 meeting / weekend in STM, Seremban. There the Boards were grouped around the 4 Essentials for further input, deliberation, planning and fine-tuning. The VTF met on 28 October 09 to finalise “putting things together”. I would now along with my own introductory comments, present to this session of our Annual Conference the Goals and Strategies hitherto arrived at, on behalf of the VTF.
Expanding on these new 4 Essentials:
1. Lifelong Discipleship – Following Christ, Becoming Like Christ
Increasingly we realize in church life that “we must build to last”, to pursue and practice NRS Colossians 2:7 – “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
The goal of the Great Commission is not merely to win “converts” but to make disciples. Discipleship is a lifelong lifestyle of becoming more and more like Jesus, so that as we increasingly conform to the image of Christ, we become dynamic stars - “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” (Phil 2:15)
Discipleship is “… a process that takes place within accountable relationships over a period of time for the purpose of bringing believers to spiritual maturity in Christ” (Greg Ogden, Reforming Discipleship). Discipleship is the intentional following of Jesus over the long-haul, accompanied by the visible fruit of transformation of a life submitted to His lordship and authority. Greg Ogden goes on to say that “Unless disciples receive personal attention so that their particular growth needs are addressed in a way that calls them to die to self and live fully to Christ, a disciple will not be made.”
Only disciples can disciple another; only through disciples can we have “an every member ministry” in our local congregations. We must reach out intentionally to make followers of Jesus the “loose” who float in and out of our pews, the “lapsed” who have walked away from the church, and the “lost” who have not heard the Gospel and have not been to church.
An inescapable characteristic of a disciple/ follower of Christ is growth: growing up – into spiritual maturity, growing together – in fellowship with one another through the indwelling Holy Spirit, growing out – in service to the community and the world, growing more – in numbers by spreading out into all the world, the market place and public square, inviting others to join us in our submission and followership of Christ. This must be led and demonstrated by each church leader – pastors, lay leaders, LCEC members etc. Each believer in TRAC should be marked by “Sound Doctrine, Vital Piety”.
• To have every disciple continue to grow holistically through mentoring and spiritual formation at all levels towards Christlikeness
• Deepen the essential and required place of Small Groups for training, spiritual health tracking, accountability, renewal, community building, and effective implementation of Annual Conference direction/ directives
• Implement & further develop the Christian Growth Strategy syllabus/ courses [Note: this was adopted by TRAC 2 quadrenniums ago]
• To challenge our people to take up church-based vocations such as organizing the Life-Service Retreat for Christian
• To equip & empower our members for authentic discipleship in the market place & public square
2. Wholesome Families – Growing Strong Families in Christ
It is common knowledge that the key, core basic community in any society is the family unit. When this basic unit is ailing, then society will experience ill-health. The Sunday Star (26 July 2009) featured on its front page “Old and abandoned: Government hospitals are a popular dumping ground.” In this heart-wrenching article it is said that in several cases the children of the abandoned elderly deliberately falsified their addresses so as to remain untraceable by the authorities, and that this abandonment is growing in number. Then we read that the Terengganu state government is offering couples to go on a second honeymoon at the state’s expense as a way of rescuing troubled marriages. Their soaring divorce rate includes not only young couples but also those who have been married for “over 2 decades or more” (The Star, 13 October 2009). Children running away from home, increasing single parenthood, the rise in the number of extra-marital liaisons, tensions in relationships in the home at different levels, between different generations and relatives – are most real, even though unspoken, for many in our churches.
“As an Annual Conference, we want to see strong families experiencing deepening spiritual dynamics, healthy relationships, committed in faith and service as a household of faith. We need to work at family as a priority because it is essential for effective and credible witness, service and leadership in the Kingdom of God. We need then to (humbly) acknowledge and then address our struggles in the domestic realm, encompassing the needs and (intentionally) attempting to equip all stakeholders and levels within the family domain. A strong Christian family will make for a strong family of Christ in the local church.” (TRAC Presidential Address, 2006)
• To build strong marriages with mutual submission and clarity of roles
• To strengthen parenting relationships of parents and children
• To cultivate godly values and biblical standards for families
• Setting up Family Devotion in every home
• Introduce intergenerational Family Worship in church services regularly every year
• Develop, train and implement Marriage Courses (both pre and post marriage) & parenting courses
• Establish a Think Tank for Family Ministry
3. A Voice to Our Nation – Seeking our Nation’s Welfare in Christ
We must take our responsibility of citizenship in this land seriously. We should not allow an escapist mind-set of being only “heavenly minded” prevent us from our responsibility of being “salt and light” on earth, more specifically, in Malaysia. One can resonate with Chandra Muzaffar when he said, “Responsibility as the defining attribute of citizenship has to be given fresh impetus. Its significance in multi-ethnic Malaysia cannot be emphasized enough” (The NST, 26 August 09). This is never truer than at this opportune yet “dangerous” historic season of our nation’s history. The Church must rise up to take our place in the shaping of the future of this land for good.
God instructed Jeremiah to tell the despondent exiled Israelites residing in Babylon to take on the responsibility of “welfare-building” in that land found in NLT Jeremiah 29:7 – “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare." The people of God were true to their calling when they brought blessings to the Gentiles by taking responsibility as residents there. The Hebrew word is “shalom” for welfare, with a much richer connotation of more than just the absence of turmoil and conflict, but also the idea of positive blessing, especially in terms of a right and pleasing relationship with the holy, just , righteous and compassionate God.
When we as Christians in Malaysia are profoundly conscious of our citizenship responsibilities, and are prepared to step out of the “safety zone of the pool-side into the deep end of the pool” to take action to give these responsibilities meaning, then we shall indeed be a credible and transforming voice to our nation by our words and deeds. We can then be authentic “advocates” of a preferred future, “spreading scriptural holiness, transforming the nation”; not only speaking up, but also being heard.
• To be a voice that speaks up for social concerns, social justice and social action
• To be a voice that pricks the conscience of the nation
• Educate, inform, mobilise and getting our constituents and friends to be personally involved in specific projects/ causes based on the Methodist Social Principles (MBOD) viz Family & Marriage, Christianity & Economic Order, Church & State, Human Rights & Responsibility, Peace & World Order, and Political Life
• Adopt specific foci annually –
2010: Theological basis for social involvement, political life, human rights and responsibility
2011: Church and General welfare and ecology
2012: Christian & economic order
2013: Family and marriage
4. A Vision for the World – Embracing Local and Global Missions for Christ
Samuel Escobar (The New Global Mission) has insightfully observed that an important mark of modernity was its myths that gave hope and direction to the masses such as the Marxist dream of a classless utopia. These myths are lost in the post-modern world, making humankind clueless about the direction in which history is heading, and it does not seem to matter any more. He goes on to state that in post-modernity, glorification of the body (with thousands of products to beautify, perfume, modify, improve, perfect and resist the inroads of aging) and hedonism now mark contemporary life. The consumerism of Paul’s day in 1 Corinthian 15: 32 – “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” is with us today, driving the attitude that turns consumption into the chief pre-occupation of the average citizen of today.
He goes on to say, “The incredible abundance of consumer goods generated by the modern economy is met by the passion for buying and using – the ideology of consumerism. The great shopping centers, open seven days a week, have become the new temples of post-modern religion, and it is not difficult to detect the vacuum of its worshippers. Jacques Attali describes these people as modern nomads who, with Walkmans, laptops and cell phones, ‘roam the planet seeking ways to use their free time, shopping for information, sensations and goods that only they can afford, while yearning for human fellowship and the certitude(assurances) of human and community that no longer exist because their functions have become obsolete’.” This affluent postmodern societies of the “harassed and helpless”, living in air-conditioned concrete jungles, constitute a missionary frontier of “unreached peoples”, challenging our Christian compassion. We shall reach out locally with planting congregations in tertiary education institutions, in street ministry centers, among migrant communities, and market places where offices are.
In addition to the above, we of course will continue to be committed to cross-cultural and overseas missions. Andrew Walls and Cathy Ross (Mission in the 21st Century: Exploring the Five Marks of Global Mission) identified 5 essential marks of universal mission work for today: (1) proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom; (2) Teach, baptize and nurture new believers ;(3) Respond to human need by loving service; (4) Seek to transform unjust structures of society; (5) Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
• Witnessing to the nations far and near, reducing the Unreached People Groups both global & local
• Sending missionaries
• Reaching out to migrant workers
• Planting congregations/ churches
• Establish the TRAC Mission Society for common focus/ direction and systematic coordination of mobilizing support for growth in local missions work (migrant ministries) and adopted overseas countries
• Reach the unchurched in our neighbourhood: continue to train using XEE (Evangelism Explosion), Alpha, lifestyle evangelism
• To intentionally plant congregation/ churches especially in urban areas
• On-going mission awareness of missions : to train using Kairos (world Outreach) course,
• Expand outreach ministry to migrant workers, including partnering/ adopting missionaries sent here
• Continue organizing annual TRAC Missions Conference/ Consultation
• Equip members with knowledge of other faiths/ religions
III. “Staying Connected”: Matters of Wider Connection
1. Some General Conference matters:
a. Methodist Book of Discipline 2008 edition is now available. Due to the substantial amendments and addition of enactments, churches and church leaders should acquire this new edition. We need to uphold the Discipline Review Council in prayer as they continue examining and recommend changes that can keep our Methodist Church relevant and dynamic.
b. GC Combined Pastors School 2010: this is scheduled to be held in Sibu from the 27-30 April 2010. Over 400 participants are expected. Topics include the pastor’s character, duty and image, the GC Road Map for the Methodist Church in Malaysia and being updated on the current Malaysian scene.
c. GC Road Map for the long haul: the process for finalising this document has progressed to the point of a second draft being ready for the GCEC to examine and work towards final editing and general circulation hopefully by the earlier part of next year. All the Annual Conferences have used the theme – Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation” and the 4 emphases of Evangelism, Discipleship, Church and Society, and Missions – in their planning for the new quadrennium. This augurs well for our united witness, life and ministry as the Methodist Church in Malaysia.
d. Methodist Prayer Convention 2011: this crucial event that follows from our MPC 2007 hosted in Selangor, is scheduled to be in Sibu on the 29 April (starts in the evening) – 1 May 2011. This will be preceded by mission exposure trips into the interior of Sarawak upon requests from Annual Conferences. As we pray together it is our sincere hope that the Lord will open heaven and graciously grant us revival, as brothers and sisters “dwell together in unity”.
e. Mission support for SIAC: we continue to fulfill our 7 year support to the Sarawak Iban Annual Conference which started in 2007 with RM 20,000; this is with a subsequent one seventh decrement in each succeeding year.
2. Global Day of Prayer 2010: local and international observance/ celebration
a. Locally: this will be celebrated in a major way on the 23 May 2010 in the Malawati Stadium (used in the MPC 07) with all Christian denominations, congregations, churches and groups being asked/ invited to commit themselves to this important common national Christian event. Our Bishop and the TRAC President are members of the Board of Reference. We are pledged to giving our fullest support to this intercessory event. Let me call on all our TRAC churches to give our committed support to the GDOP 2010.
b. Internationally: on the same day in Cape Town, S Africa, there will be a global gathering in a stadium. The Bishop, Council of Presidents and Annual Conference Lay Leaders will be participating there as this will be part of a Mission Exposure Trip which was planned some 2 years ago at the COP/ GCEC level.
c. The GDOP movement is of course very much linked to the Malaysian National Prayer Network which will have its 3rd annual National Prayer Leaders Consultation on 7-9 December 09 in Kajang. The MNPN continues to coordinate, encourage and give impetus to the prayer movement in Malaysia.
3. Council of Churches of Malaysia: The CCM Building Fund stands at RM 1. 8 mil, with another RM 6.4 mil needed to be raised over the next 2 years. This is meant to be an ecumenical centre to enhance effectiveness of CCM’s ministry, symbolizing the place and presence of the Malaysian Church in this nation of which we are a minority. They have a “Nehemiah Circle” which aims at having 1000 people give/ pledge RM 1000 each in order to raise RM 1 mil (so far there are 80 participants). CCM is expected to shift into the new ecumenical centre some time in 2011
CCM continues to ask all local congregations to give at least RM 100 or take an offering for its administrative and ministries costs
The new date for the CCM Trienniel Assembly in Sibu is 21 – 24 June 2010.
It will be hosting the CCA Assembly on the 14-21 April 2010 at the Grand Seasons Hotel, KL.
The CCM President, Rev Dr Thomas Philips, was recently elected to be the President of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Taoism.
4. The Malaysian Christian School Council has produced a booklet with a DVD presenting a 10-minute video clip called “Teaching as a Mission and Vocation”. This can be obtained from Ms Tay Choon Neo, Deputy Executive Director of our Methodist Council of Education (tel. 03 7956 5310). We need to challenge more of our young people to serve the Lord in this noble and strategic life formation vocation which can give our nation depth of character and hope for the future. The MCSC has appealed that in each local church, one Sunday a year be used for promoting the importance and call into the teaching profession. If necessary, someone from the MCSC or Teachers’ Christian Fellowship could be invited to share a talk.
• TRAC is also being used by the Lord to spearhead the re-establishment of quality, life transforming education by the launching on 7 December 2008 of the Wesley Methodist Secondary School, Ipoh (WMSI). Its mission is “Academic Excellence, Transforming Lives”, and the school motto is “Above & Beyond”. The WMSI Primary is scheduled to be launched on 4 January 2010. We are experiencing a “Isaac re-digging Abraham’s well” experience, as we “re-open” the wells of transforming education to once again impact this needy nation now facing a new form of “illiteracy” – moral and spiritual illiteracy. The WMSI of course, remains a GC and COE institution/ project.
• The GC and COE are now in the process of progressing our education policies which will see the establishment of a stable of quality Methodist schools and colleges. We pursue this without forgetting our obligation of compassion to help the less fortunate in both receiving schooling, and grant to the deserving ones the opportunity to excel in their education.
• Under the auspices of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, the MCSC and the Mission School Authorities of Sabah and Sarawak organized the “Conference of Christian Mission Schools in Malaysia” on 26-27 June 2009 in KL. The 41 participants represented 425 mission schools in Malaysia. At the Opening Ceremony at St John’s Institution, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, acknowledged the role and contribution of mission schools in our nation all these years. He added that the ethos and traditions of the mission schools should be maintained, promising cooperation from the government wherever possible (see CCM News, July-Sept 2009 for further details/ information).
• This year we had also lost 2 educationists who had contributed immensely to the development of education in Malaysia for many decades: Bro Lawrence Spitiz of the La Salle Brothers, and Mr D R Daniel, the former Education Secretary of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. We thank God for their life and labour.
• We in TRAC should not lose sight of “re-using” these wells of education for evangelism, spreading Scriptural holiness and transforming the nation.
5. TRAC continues to give our support and partnership to Seminari Theoloji Malaysia and Malaysian CARE who celebrated their respective 30th Anniversary this year. They appreciate the major role of TRAC churches as their partners in the work of the Kingdom of God. We extend our heartiest congratulations to them as we pledge to continue to minister together in the harvest fields.
It is with deep thanksgiving that I take stock of all that had happened in TRAC this year. This includes the “bad and the ugly” which we have had to face as challenges towards being “broken”, so as to be transformed from one degree of glory to the next.
I am always encouraged when remembering the many in our local congregations who lovingly and persistently love and serve the Lord Who first loved us, His people and His creation.
I am grateful to the Lord for events of the Gospel and generosity (RM 40, 000 raised) when 4 Selangor TRAC churches and 1 in Perak helped the Sengoi community build a Chapel/ Rumah Kumpulan in Kampung Jelintuh, Gopeng, which was dedicated on 9th October, 2009. Another was the dedication of the Projek Jahitan Berdikari PMS in the Pusat Latihan Raub Methodist on 4th September, 2009. This is due to the hard work of a small team of TRAC members in finding funds, 12 sewing machines and the teaching personnel to establish training for the young Sengoi ladies. Two of the 12 under training came from an “unchurched” village. Projects of empowerment towards wholesome independence and self-sustenance will continue. Eric Fromm makes that great observation that “Giving is the highest expression of potency. In the very act of giving, I experience strength, my wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as overflowing, spending, alive, hence as joyous. Giving is more joyous than receiving not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of aliveness.”
I am thankful for those of our Pastors, Lay Leaders, Executive Board and members of all our Boards who have worked hard, sacrificed much, wrestled through difficult situations, experienced relational upheavals and are growing. I remain indebted to our Annual Conference for your support in making possible my May 2009 completion of the D. Min program with Asbury Theological Seminary, Kentucky, USA. I thank Asbury Theological Seminary for the generous provision of the Beeson International Leaders scholarship for this D Min program which had made possible this significant impact on my spiritual life and ministry.
I am deeply touched and fortified to learn of the many who continue to keep me and our Annual Conference work and workers in their intercessions. True prayers give God what He desires - full sovereignty to act. Authentic prayer is not resignation but an act of humility and faith triumphant - expressing full dependence on God. I must thank those who continually sustain me with their prayers, good words of encouragement and truthful feedback.
It is my prayer that as we now enter into another new season/ quadrennium of life and ministry in the Lord, let us prepare ourselves to follow Christ’s example as His lifelong disciples, when He said “the Son can do nothing on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise…I can do nothing on my own…because I seek to do not my own will but the will of Him Who sent Me.” (John 5: 19, 30).
He had also said, “Put out into the deep waters and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5: 4).:
To Christ be the glory for ever and ever.
Rev. Dr Ong Hwai Teik,
Trinity Annual Conference
The Methodist Church in Malaysia