TRAC President's Address (35th Session, 2010)
ESV Psalm 77:19 Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.
In this declaration, the Psalmist affirms both the greatness of God’s power at work, as well as reminds us that we are often left unaware of Almighty God’s providential and sovereign actions until after the event, sometimes long after.
|| Rev Dr Ong Hwai Teik
President, Trinity Annual Conference
The Methodist Church in Malaysia
On the 12 August 2010, the Methodist Church in Malaysia celebrated its 125th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service at the Chinese Methodist Church, Jalan Davidson, KL. We celebrated how long ago, God cut a path through the ocean in bringing His missionaries to our soil, via Singapore, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, we acknowledge with great gratitude His then unseen footprints now most visible to us.
The Methodist Church in Malaysia is descended from the American Methodist Episcopal Church through the South India Annual Conference in terms of its origins and practices. In the late 19th century, on 20 November 1884, the Conference, meeting in Hyderabad, appointed William F. Oldham as pioneer missionary to Singapore. This was very much due to James Thoburn’s initiative, who had a missionary vision to extend the gospel to Rangoon, Penang and Singapore.
After being blessed with the initial success in Singapore, the work of the Gospel extended to the main towns in Peninsular Malaya viz Penang, Taiping, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca. In the more urban or town settings – churches were “twinned” with schools as evangelism and education worked hand in hand to advance the work of the Gospel.
It is in this same spirit of passionate obedience to the Biblical mandate which James Thoburn exhibited (whose first sermon in Singapore was based on Zechariah 4:6 - 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty’) – that the General Conference Road Map of the Methodist Church in Malaysia was launched at the 125th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service. The overall mission theme is Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation. The envisioned outcomes of this theme are localized in the four key areas/thrusts of Evangelism and Church Planting, Discipleship, Church and Society, and Cross-Cultural Missions.
We in TRAC had aligned our own Annual Conference quadrennial vision with the GC Road Map key thrusts, although tweaking and applying these thrusts in a more contextualized manner befitting our own domestic setting.
The rest of this address will focus on:
I. The Power and Unity of the Big Picture: Introducing the GC Road Map for the next 20 years
II. The Vision and Plans of TRAC for 2010-2013
III. Some Matters that Matter:“Progress Issues” in the Quest of Fulfilling our TRAC Vision
IV. Issues from Our Wider Connection
I. The Power and Unity of the Big Picture: Introducing the GC Road Map for the next 20 years
I shall not be dwelling on the details but highlight the four key areas/thrusts, the trends expected for the next twenty years, and their main objectives in the GC Road Map (which is now available in booklet form and is my source of data) of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. Please refer to the GC Road Map booklet for more details on Action Plans for GC/AC/LC levels.
The GC Road Map will be the common guide for the next twenty years to all the six Annual Conferences that have a total membership of over 172,000 adults and children, 386 churches (Local Conferences), 646 preaching points, and about 507 pastors and ministry staff (The Methodist Church in Malaysia brochure – Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation, Quadrennium Theme 2009-2013).
- Evangelism and Church Planting
The 2000 Census shows that there are 2.13 mil Christians in Malaysia (9.1% of the population). The majority of the Christians are found in East Malaysia (average of about 35% of the population), which also have stronger work in the rural areas. In West Malaysia the Christian presence is strong in the urban areas, but forming only about 2.75% of the peninsular population. The urban migration trend due to employment, education and the quest for better prospects in life, and the burgeoning youths and student population in urban tertiary institutions – are significant trends to be noted.
#1. To remove the apathy from the church and restore the passion for evangelism. Our love for neighbor and our obedience to Christ’s Great Commission require this of us.
#2. To put prayer at the heart of the ministry of the church in order to seek God for revival and empowering for the advance of the Gospel.
#3. To actively promote church planting in both rural and urban areas as a key means of evangelism and growth.
#4. To make special efforts to reach the children and youths, both in and outside the church.
With the fast paced life of a country that is relentlessly pursuing developed nation status, Malaysia places great emphasis on effective functionality, Key Performance Index (and Key Performance Areas), desired outcomes from best practices etc. “Similarly in the church we are caught up with ‘busyness’ and the pressures for ‘church growth’.” The danger is that this will then translate into a lop-sided emphasis and pursuit of numerical growth powered by an activity dominated and programme centric lifestyle in the church. Qualitative growth of discipleship that requires much time and not necessarily show immediate results, deep relationship and knowledge of God will suffer. The authentic life of “being” a disciple of Christ demonstrated in genuine community of grace, truth and social holiness – will lose its place as a Biblical priority and become marginalized. Then a shallow Church in Malaysia will fail to be “salt and light” in our land.
#1. To nurture every Methodist member into a faithful disciple of Christ and to equip the saints for ministries, in and through the church.
#2. To provide pastoral oversight through the use of small groups and to nurture members in holy living.
#3. To teach members the nature of true worship and to help them cultivate a vibrant prayer life.
#4. To nurture wholesome family life, and to raise up a new generation of God-fearing youths.
#5. To empower members to witness in the market place, and help them to be more effective in their work places and through their social contacts.
- Church and Society
Malaysia is into a new era of possible nation-(re)building since the 2008 12th General Election. Christians have been awakened to their important and urgent role and responsibilities in the pursuit of the transformation of this nation. We yearn for our nation to be founded on truth, justice, righteousness and compassion at all levels of society and in all our institutions (the Police, Judiciary, Civil Service, Family etc). In addition, there must be a greater parity in the distribution of wealth, the up-liftment of the lot of the poor and the Orang Asli peoples, and arresting the alarming decline in the education and health care sectors. The church must also be more sacrificial, less self-centred and willing in re-channelling her resources to concertedly respond to the issues confronting us as we proactively “seek the peace and welfare” of our beloved homeland.
#1. To challenge the church to recognize poverty as a major social issue in our country that needs to be addressed.
#2. To empower the indigenous people socio economically, especially those within our church.
#3. To work through our schools at raising the education standards in the country.
#4. To do all good possible within our means, to minister to those with special needs such as various kinds of disabilities, long-term medical conditions, family problems and addictions.
#5. To inform our members concerning the issues and needs confronting our nation, and to teach them how we should respond in obedience to the biblical mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves. This may involve making a public stand against moral evil, corruption and injustice, so as to contribute to social and national transformation
- Cross-cultural Missions
Issues that will be with us on the long haul includes the large migrant work force at our doorstep, the best use and practices of short-term missions, working towards not only giving money but sending missionaries. Other issues are the increasing tent-making ministry in a globalised world with less and less “walls and borders”, and the call and challenge to the Asian church to send missionaries. This is especially needful as the “centre of gravity” of Christianity is no longer in the western world.
#1. To encourage pastors and members to develop a concern for cross-cultural missions.
#2. To send out more missionaries and to provide them with adequate prayer, pastoral and financial support for their work.
#3. To work closely with existing agencies in sending out our missionaries.
#4. To work at building trust amongst the various Annual Conferences and congregations in doing missions together.
#5. To set up a Malaysian Methodist Missions (MMM) or equivalent.
We shall now proceed to see how this GC Road Map had been contextualized to become our TRAC quadrennial vision and plans for 2010-2013, since our own TRAC planning and envisioning process began more than 2 years ago.
II. The Vision and Plans of TRAC for 2010-2013
We have begun our Annual Conference “working quadrennium” this year with the various AC boards gathering at the annual Joint Board on 17-19 September 2010 meeting in STM, Seremban, for prayer, evaluation and further planning.
The TRAC Vision Statement adopted form the 34th Session TRAC, together with the GC Road Map were used as the “blueprint” for planning. It would be in order for us to be reminded of what the TRAC Vision Statement (2010-2013) is.
THEME: “Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation”.
The accompanying 4 Essentials are:
- Lifelong Discipleship – Following Christ, Becoming Like Christ
· Wholesome Families – Growing Strong Families in Christ
· A Voice to Our Nation – Seeking our Nation’s Welfare in Christ
· A Vision for the World – Embracing Local and Global Missions for Christ
- Lifelong Discipleship – Following Christ, Becoming Like Christ
· 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 and 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 Christians
· To equip and empower our members for authentic discipleship in the market place and public square
- Wholesome Families – Growing Strong Families in Christ
· 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) and parenting courses
- Establish a Think Tank for Family Ministry
- A Voice to Our Nation – Seeking our Nation’s Welfare in Christ
- 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 and Marriage, Christianity and Economic Order, Church and State, Human Rights and Responsibility, Peace and 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 and economic order
2013: Family and marriage
- A Vision for the World – Embracing Local and Global Missions for Christ
- Witnessing to the nations far and near, reducing the Unreached People Groups both global and 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
**This will need to be reviewed by the AC in the light of the decision by the TRAC Executive Board of shelving this project. However this need/ strategy will be taken over by the TRAC Board of Missions.
Some general comments and observations:
The various plans and programmes of our TRAC Boards and organizations can be found in their respective reports. I want to thank the various Boards for their earnestness in seeking to be united in the Lord as we pursue the TRAC vision for this quadrennium together. We do this by adhering closely to the theme and 4 Essentials.
TRAC has a membership of 15,048 as of 30 June 2010 (compared to 15104 in 2009). While this decrement is due to some of our churches acting to keep their membership roll up to date, yet we must also remind ourselves of who we are – God’s “salt and light” in our generation that witness and win others to Christ by the Holy Spirit, and to make a significant difference for the Gospel in the world our Lord has placed us.
The Conference Statistician reports that in 2009, 24 of our 38 churches reported net growth in their membership, 12 churches had a net decrease, and 2 churches reported no growth. While we do not live for numbers, we must at the same time remain desirous, intentional, prayerful and zealous in obeying the Great Commission of the Lord especially in and through the way we live and relate to one another in the church, and to those outside. In terms of average church attendance, we are grateful that up to 30 June 2010, the number is 11,474 (76% of total membership) compared to 10,771 in 2009 (71.3% of total membership then, which was also above the 69.2% of 2008). This is a good trend that indicates a stronger spiritual life. However, only 3 churches reported having average attendance exceeding their total membership.
This year we thank the Lord that at least 3 Chinese speaking, 1 Tamil speaking, 1 Vietnamese speaking, and 1 BM speaking congregations/ services were added in TRAC. From the reports received TRAC has (as at 30 June 2010) 26 non-English speaking congregations (viz. BM, Chinese, Cambodian, Nepali, Tamil, Vietnamese, and Myanmarese). This would constitute cross-cultural missions mainly in the urban areas. The number of preaching points remains at 5. In 2009 we had 73 services/ congregations, in 30 June 2010 we have 79 (8% growth).
There were 18 pastors plus facilitators who attended the 1st TRAC Pastors Intercession Retreat (6-8 July 2010) in Cameron Highlands. Church pastors and leaders need to be people of prayer. In the Institute for Christian Ministry SFL (Spiritual Formation and Leadership) programme, 18 have completed all 4 weekends in 2 years (this is accredited as one Local Preacher’s Licence elective). There will be 3 who will be awarded the LPL this year. One particular module that will be of significant contribution in terms of equipping and building cohesive and strong all round administration/ operational/ spiritual serving leadership at the local church level – is the TRAC Organisational Leadership Module (OLM) which will be in 2 parts, preferably conducted over 2 District Conferences. It is intended to clarify roles in the LCEC, provide theological grounding, and facilitate discussion on relationship issues in the service of administering the local church for Christ’s glory, and the growth of the local church. All leaders should make time to attend.
At this AC Session, we shall need to elect new chairpersons for the Board of Missions, and the TRAC Property Board. We must continue to seek the Lord for a Missions Director as we witness the increased involvement of TRAC churches in cross-cultural missions both locally and globally. The Board of Missions is undergoing a re-vamping and re-organising exercise in terms of approach and structure so that we become more effective, attaining greater synergy in unity. In the meantime the TRAC Executive Board, acting on the sentiments expressed at the 34th TRAC session, had set up a Task Force earlier this year to re-study how best to proceed with the possible implementation of the TRAC Mission Society. After careful deliberation, the TRAC Executive Board concurred with the finding of this Task Force in that TRAC is not ready for establishing such an agency at this time. Instead we shall get ourselves ready to actively support the 2017-2020 deadline of the setting up of the Malaysian Methodist Missions (MMM) in accordance with the General Conference Road Map. Let us never forget TRAC’s commitment to be a “global church in the global era”, being part of the whole Church, bringing the whole Gospel to the whole world.
In God’s blessing, Life Methodist Church, Puchong, had earlier this year, taken up the offer of a piece of land (about 0.5 acre, for charges totaling approximately a little more than RM 700) by the Selangor state government for church building. The FT District is tabling for adoption the Building Projects of Wesley Methodist Church, Kepong, and Christ Methodist Church, Ampang, at this AC session. Let us give them our generous support.
It is our joy to celebrate with Taman Ujong Methodist Church (7 March), Trinity Methodist Church, Sg Buloh (1 August), Pusat Berdikari Seremban Negeri Sembilan (26 September), and the Northern District (Parit Buntar Methodist Centre on 2 October) in dedicating their new buildings and/or extensions for worship and ministry. Please do make use of the new Parit Buntar Methodist Centre (PBMC) facilities for training, retreat etc; the brochures are now available. Our churches have also given their support to the new Ministry Home bought recently by Wesley Methodist Church, Kampar, for its growing ministry to the students in UTAR and KTAR.
Our Annual Conference had established 3 years ago the need for us to prioritise ministry to the young adults as well as the planting of congregations/ churches in colleges and universities. We thank the Lord for the steadily growing work at Whispering Hope Preaching Point (of Emmanuel Methodist Church, PJ) and in the UTAR and KTAR campuses by Wesley Methodist Church, Kampar. Let us also pray with Subang Methodist Church as they seek to increase their ministry to the colleges in the Subang area, including searching for a more suitable location for their church. We had the first Young Adults Convention in 2009, attended by 62 from 10 churches. This year, in Ipoh, we had 70 attending from 12 TRAC churches. Our pastors, leaders and congregations must continue to proactively support this networking and equipping event. The YAC (III) will be on the Malaysia Day weekend on 16-18 September 2011 in Penang.
Another key area of church life we are re-emphasising and which need continual monitoring locally is the small group. Small group life is vital for sustenance, equipping and growth in both personal and communal discipleship and witness in our churches. Up to 30 June 2010, TRAC has 575 small groups (only care and cell groups, excluding Bible Study groups) with a total of 7143 attendees, compared to 577 such small groups with 7007 attendees in 2009. In terms of Intercession/Prayer groups in the same period, TRAC has 115 with 806 attendees, compared to 126 such groups with 951 attendees in 2009. We need to keep on emphasising this most important aspect of our spiritual life and ministry.
III. Some Matters that Matter: “Progress Issues” in the Quest of Fulfilling the TRAC Vision
1. TRAC’s Mission Quest: The Persidangan Missi Sengoi (PMS) to become self-sufficient and self-sustainable so as to become a Provisional Annual Conference by 2020.It is heartening for us to see that since the first PMS-TRAC Wawasan Berdikari PMSM 2020 (WBP 2020) Consultation in 2009, there is now progress in ownership, refining goals and implementation of action plans in the 10 key result areas.
In the 5-6 October 2010 WBP 2020 Consultation (III), the following action plans will be implemented in the following key result areas:
- Prayer: a 1st day of each month PMS wide Fasting & Prayer for WB 2020 from 8 am – 6 pm will be observed wef 1 Nov 2010.
- Church Planting: re-connect with former villagers/ villages that once had Methodist presence and connections. To adopt at least 3 other of the 18 tribes in Peninsular Malaysia for outreach.
- Social Upliftment: a task force has been set up to proactively identify and implement workable business organization structures (eg Cooperatives).
- Church membership registration exercise so as to establish a more accurate headcount and total strength of the PMS.
- Financial giving: to raise RM 26,400 (which is 50% of RM2x12x2,200 members = RM52,800)) for 2011, & to reach 100% in 2013.
Incremental progress in vocational training has also been made with a team led by Ms Jenny Qua and Ms Alexis Oo for the Sengoi youths in sewing, baking, supermarket workers, nursing, computer skills etc. Vacation Study Camps led by Ms Tay Choon Neo and volunteers from TRAC churches have also been conducted for the PMS children to help them in their studies, go on educational field trips, and to capture the imperative of education.
The PMS continues to request TRAC churches to partner them in planting congregations in localities where there are concentration of their members and youths, to “absorb” trained members of their community in the workplace or business enterprises, and adopting unfolding specific development projects as they work towards WBP 2020.
On 15 March 2010, TRAC sponsored Pastor Jain Sauting of SIB Sabah, to be the PMS Director of Evangelism and Discipleship. We thank the churches that have given financial support for this appointment. Our churches are welcome to give additionally to the PMS Wawasan Berdikari PMSM Fund (WBPF) as well as the PMS General Fund. We put on record our sincere thanks to the AEC (P), the Methodist Church in Malaysia, for a RM 2.5 mil grant so that the PMS Endowment Fund now stands at RM 5 mil.
2. TRAC’s quest to be an authentic and deep community of truth and light: encouraging and making space for and being open to constructive alternative views.
Peter Drucker (in The Five Most Important Questions) emphasizes the view that “Nonprofit institutions need a healthy atmosphere for dissent if they wish to foster innovation and commitment. Nonprofit institutions must encourage honest and constructive disagreement precisely because everybody is committed to a good cause: your opinion versus mine can easily be taken as your good faith versus mine. Without proper encouragement, people have a tendency to avoid such difficult, but vital, discussions or turn them into underground feuds.”
In our churches, we need to be able to learn to speak openly the truth in love with one another, respecting and honouring one another in the way we speak on issues, and also on matters of relationships. Drucker further points to the saying that purportedly goes all the way back to Aristotle: In essentials, unity; in action, freedom, and in all things trust, and that trust requires that dissent come out in the open. (Apparently, this saying became an axiom of the church as captured by Rupertus Meldenius in the 17th century who said, “In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity”).
This time and space for “constructive dissent” will include one-on-one, small groups, committees as well as in the LCEC and Board levels. Building trust is needed to forge unity in the body of Christ in the local church, so that we pre-empt “disunity fall-out” that drains the life, energy and tarnish the good witness of our congregations. Openness of discussion will uncover objections which can be useful in terms of making clearer the issues involved, sharpening goals and boundaries, and incorporating suggestions and addressing objections. Decisions arrived at in this way are naturally owned by the participants with a commitment to action, requiring little “selling”.
The world also endorses this Biblical value. Calling it “social capitalization” the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, refers to it as one of three “capitals” (the other two resources being human capital and private capital) essential to Malaysia achieving Vision 2020 and the 1Malaysia goal. He said that social capital “is simply anything that draws disparate communities together, builds goodwill, trust and confidence among them and promotes cooperation and partnership” (NST, 9 Feb 2010). The Church has Jesus Christ as the foundation that draws us together into synergistic relational unity and social cohesion. When our “social capital” or body or community life in the church is strong, we have strong relationship as cement that holds the congregation together. This will then result in a vibrant, energetic and dynamic local church, and Annual Conference – that draws people to Christ.
3. TRAC’s quest to be an obedient, united and reconciling people of God living in unity, peace, synergy and powerful partnerships.
To become an open community, we must learn to obey the Scriptural teachings of the Lord in dealing with offences that break the unity and peace of the local church. Ajith Fernando in expounding Ephesians 1:15 make the point that “love toward all the saints” means that we do not get to choose who we love; we are to love the whole body of Christ. He goes on to say that where there are divisions, people cannot see Christ, especially the unbelievers. The Church loses her integrity because she is not true to what she preaches.
At the recent 16-25 October 2010 important and historic global gathering of Lausanne III in Cape Town, Vaughan Roberts points to the fact that “unity is at the heart of God’s plan” and that this unity is based on truth, and avoids personal pride that makes us intolerable of others’ differences with us, so that we will only readily accept those who are like us.
I was reminded again by the Lord in the above same event, when David Ruiz (Associate Director, World Evangelical Alliance Missions Commission) spoke on 1 Corinthians 4: 6 -13 on the cost that a believer pays for maintaining unity and hence partnership in unbroken fellowship. He had said that in that passage Paul says to preserve unity and partnership as a reality in God’s family, the Church, requires humility, readiness to be humiliated, willingness to be treated without respect, and perseverance in suffering for the sake of unity.
Let us not forget that reconciliation is at the centre of unity and partnership, and that the cross is the foundation of reconciliation. So Paul can confidently say in Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you”. The cross means death – death to self – to positions, to personal ambition, to being right all the time, to our own opinions, to being honoured etc…Chris Wright, eminent theologian and International Director of Langham Trust, emphasized the point that the evergreen three idols of pride and power, popularity and success, and wealth and greed continue to stop Christian leaders from finishing their race of faith, life and ministry well. Leaders need to watch out for being positional and status conscious, being image projection conscious, and being territorial conscious. The respective anti-dote to these three idols are humility, integrity, and simplicity.
TRAC leaders and congregations need to ask God for grace to overcome these idols, for often we do recognize that we are falling prey to their work. We need to not only ask for grace to overcome the fallen part of us (corrupt nature) which Paul describes as “by nature we are children of wrath” (Eph 2:3), but to also desire to see self mortified in the specific local church situation and relationships of broken fellowship we are trapped in. If not, we ie the so-called “people of God”, stand in danger of being guilty as Israel was of being the greatest obstacle (not idolatry etc) in God’s salvation mission, as Ezekiel (and the rest of the Old Testament prophets) pointed out.
We must not become so functional-driven that we lop-sidedly emphasise results, outcomes, efficiency and “work” for the Kingdom of God – but miss out on the relational and community imperative of peace and unity in the body life people of Christ. (Of course this does not mean we are not committed to being effective and efficient for the Lord). We have no time to be patient, no time to tend one another’s wounds, no time for hurts to be healed, no time for the slow ones ie having “no time” to “being” a community bound by love “that covers a multitude of sins”, and demonstrating deep and harmonious relationship in Christ that transcends differences and disagreements. In the words of Thomas Woodrow Wilson, “The object of love is to serve, not to win.” It is ultimately by this love that all men, women and children will know we are Christ’s disciples. We must not unconsciously take on the value of the world whereby people are primarily measured and accepted by what they can “do, give and deliver.”
4. TRAC’s quest to reach the urban areas in ministries of compassion, evangelism and church planting.
Due to the fact that we are an English speaking Annual Conference, our ministry is more urban centric. On the whole, the CAC and TAC do better than us in the rural and smaller townships as the demographics there indicate the majority being more vernacular speaking. Of course this does not stop some of our churches that may feel called of the Lord to exercise outreach ministries in the rural areas - alone or in partnership with others.
But globalization and more significantly for us, urbanization, are acknowledged to be “mega trends” of the present and the future (see Presidential Address, 30th Session TRAC). Each generation of God’s people that are “in” the world, but “not of the world”, must discern the trends, challenges and profound issues, which touch on mission and discipleship of their era. We live in the age of the revolution of information technology, so that it (and not capitalism) drives and accelerate the process of globalizing our world. Os Guinness and David Wells contend that “At the centre of the current wave of globalization are ‘the triple S-forces of speed (with the capacity for instant communication), scope (the capacity to communicate to the entire world), and simultaneity (the capacity to communicate to everywhere at the same time). Together these forces have shaped our ‘wired world’ and led to an unprecedented impact on human living: the acceleration, compression, and intensification of human life on earth in the global world” (Lausanne III CT10 paper – Global Gospel, Global Era: Christian discipleship and mission in the age of Globalisation). Human interconnectedness has been expanded and consolidated to a truly global plane.
It is now estimated that 3% (by the Lausanne Congress III CT10 Movement) of the world population live outside their homeland, with pronounced escalation of this trend in the last three decades. God is sending people into countries, as well as sending missionaries into nations cross-culturally. This global trend of diaspora of “people on the move” affects Malaysia as the estimated 2 mil migrant workers community here demonstrate, means that TRAC is given that call to reach out to them, doing cross-cultural missions in our urban and rural backyards. These people experienced vulnerability in the midst of change and uncertainty, making them spiritually open to the Gospel. It is therefore important for us to give greater recognition to this trend, and mobilize our TRAC churches in the era of diaspora to be Kingdom influencers and witnesses.
Tim Keller asserts that effective urban churches of today must possess the following points of awareness (Lausanne III CT10 paper – What is God’s Global Urban Mission?):
· Be far more educated and aware of the views and sensitivities of the different ethnic groups, classes, races, and religions ie to be more culturally sensitive.
· Give more help to believers in understanding how worship relates to work, so that they can maintain their faith and practice outside the walls of the church in the world of business and finance, government and public policy, scholarship and education, the arts and theatres, and in the workplace and public square. .
· Break out of the middle class mentality of “privacy, safety, homogeneity, sentimentality, space, order, and control”, opting for the edgy and unpredictable, diversity, ambiguity, disorder and change of city life.
· Seeking the welfare of the city in looking for ways to strengthen the health of the neighbourhood, making them safer and more humane places of residence; intensely evangelistic but also known for social justice and good works.
· Commitment to the arts: celebrating God’s gift of imagination, beauty and art as our natural expression of our worship of God. This includes music, drama, visual art, story and media. The arts can play a vital role in the task of declaring the glory of God, especially in the global and urban culture of image, sound and motion.
· Cooperate, partner and collaborate with other churches: link with others to reach the whole city. It takes a movement to reach a city.
IV. Issues from Our Wider Connection
1. TRAC is partnering Pristine World in translating into BM 2 of Pristine World’s own publication in the Children’s Bible Explorer Series – The Gospel Story Vols 1and 2, and their accompanying workbooks. This will cost about RM 70,000. TRAC churches are invited to give to this project that will begin soon. Any surplus collected will go towards Mission work.
2. The Methodist Prayer Convention 2011, Kingwood Hotel, Sibu, 29April – 1 May 2011. The speakers are Mr Graham Power (GDOP, S Africa) and Rev Dr James Shia (Taiwan). There will be a registration fee of RM 20; accommodation can be separately booked at 4 possible hotels with varying costs. Please refer to the Registration Forms thathad been emailed to all TRAC churches on 8 November. The GC target is for 4,000 to 5,000 participants culminating in a Sunday Grand Finale of 12,500 in Dataran Sibu. The delegation target set for TRAC is 200; all our TRAC pastors will be attending this event directly after the Pastors and Diaconal Ministers School. Let us as a Methodist Family gather to seek the face of the Lord for revival in Malaysia.
3. Special General Conference Session on 12-15 October 2011, KL. The GCEC (12-13 Aug meeting) recommends that the delegates be the same as those who attended the 2008 GC session, so that there can be continuity and familiarity of issues and procedures. The key agenda item is reviewing and adopting changes to the Book of Discipline. The issue of electing delegates will be taken up later in this Annual Conference.
4. This year the Area Executive Council (Peninsular), the Methodist Church in Malaysia has set up a Scholarship Fund for Pastors’ Children (SFPC) to help those in need in their tertiary education. Children of officially recognized pastors in the Methodist Church in Malaysia can apply for a one-time grant of RM 5000, subject to the applicant meeting the necessary requirements. E-forms can be obtained from the TRAC HQ through Ms Matilda. Contributions are welcome for PCSF. The Fund presentlystands at RM 1.5 mil.
5. All the proceeds from the sale of the book “The Story of the Sengoi Mission” authored by Paul B Means (former missionary to PMS with his wife Nathalie, both deceased) and edited by his eldest child, Gordon P Means (who died on 12 August 2010) at RM 20 per copy will go to the PMS. There are 5,000 copies available.
6. We are also blessed by a generous TRAC donor who has made available to us Michael Cassidy’s book, “A Witness Forever”, which documents the wonder and miraculous intervention of God that enabled the first ever multi-ethnic democratic elections to take place in April 1994 in South Africa. It is an account of how God used His church to overturn apartheid. Each delegate has been given a complimentary copy, but you can get this inspiring and readable book at RM 20 per copy for others, especially with Christmas round the corner. The proceeds will go to our TRAC mission work/ ministry.
7. The Seminari Theoloji Malaysia has need for financial support due to increased expenditure. Currently, we have 8 students from our TRAC local churches, with one graduating this year to join the ordain ministry in our Annual Conference. Let us consider giving STM a Christmas gift as a matter of helping this important ministry.
8. The Council of Churches of Malaysia has thanked TRAC for our latest giving of RM 100, 000 for the Building Project, which we can consider as our tithe of the RM 1 mil grant received from the AEC (P) last year. We believe in the unity and visibility of the churches in Malaysia by way of an adequate CCM HQ that can operate ministries and impact the life of our Malaysian society. The CCM building project has escalated to RM 12 mil and CCM will appreciate all our financial gifts. Each church in the CCM family is encouraged to annually take an offering for the CCM work or give an outright gift of RM 100 minimum. TRAC is known to be a forefront supporter, but we can still do more.
Let me place on record my sincere thanks to our intercessors and all co-workers who serve faithfully in the local church or at the Annual Conference level. I am most grateful to Mrs Lily Chng and the Board of presidency for their tangible care and concern when I fractured my right wrist on 1 April and had to “slow down” for 6 weeks. I thank all our churches and co-workers for your prayers too. Together we “do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). I thank the Lord for your commitment to Him and to His people. At the close of the year, I am reminded of the closure of 2 lives this year that the Lord used to speak deeply to me. The first is from a “secular” context, the second is from the mission field.
The Straits Times of Singapore an article on 1 November 2010 (titled “Key to harmony is ‘give and take’: PM. He cites Methodist Church’s inclusive efforts as example”) reported on the occasion of the unveiling of the plaque to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the Methodist Church in Singapore at the arts centre Old School in Mount Sophia. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong “dwelt at length on the Church’s contributions to education and social services in Singapore that have benefitted people of all religions.” He further added that his late mother Mrs Lee Kuan Yew nee Kwa Geok Choo studied at Methodist Girls School (which was then at the Mount Sophia site), and that 2 of his sons attended the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent). The Methodist Church family remains inspired and humbled to be an instrument used in the mercy of Almighty God to “Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation”.
We as a church are glad that we have been of use by God to contribute (via education) to the formative years of an outstanding woman who died this year at aged 89 on 2 October 2010, who is reckoned as the “Mother of Singapore”. Madam Kwa Geok Choo’s illustrious and world reknown husband who is the founding father of modern Singapore, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, declared in his eulogy for her that without his wife, his life and destiny would have been different. It is my own view that the late Mrs Lee experienced a good measure of “self actualization” in life by giving herself to her husband, staunchly supporting him in his political career. She gave herself to her children – nurturing them, ensuring they experienced family life, well brought up and not spoilt by their status. She was a brilliant first class honours student herself (a Queen’s Scholar & Cambridge trained lawyer) – but chose to play the important and powerful role of an “empowerer” that appears as a foolish “second fiddle” in the eyes of a self-absorbed and selfish world. We too can learn from a giving, responsible and self-sacrificing life of devotion such as this – that had a powerful impact on others near and far.
Mrs Libby Little, widow of Dr Tom Little, one of the 10 victims killed in Afghanistan purportedly by the Talibans on the 6 August 2010, gave an immensely moving testimony about the last days of his life at the Lausanne Congress III in Cape Town. He was an optometrist who had worked in Afghanistan as a missionary for 30 years. Their 3 daughters were born in that land. Together with 9 others they formed the medical team organized by the International Assistance Mission. They were murdered while returning from having given very much needed medical services and supplies to the poor shepherds and subsistence farmers in the Parun valley of Nuristan Province, about 160 miles north of Kabul. It takes a 10 hours plus hike across rugged terrain that includes mountains rising to 16,000 feet to reach the harsh and isolated Parun Valley of 9,500 feet. It is reported that this group of Christian charity workers, doctors, nurses and logistics personnel were ambushed and shot by the Talibans – their bodies which included 3 ladies, riddled with bullets.
Among the personal effects of her husband that Libby received from the authorities was a blood stained note that contained notes to do with worship for the group probably on 31 July. Among Dr Tom Little’s jottings were these verses:
NRS Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-- 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
NRS Ephesians 5:2- “and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
NLT 2 Corinthians 2:15 – “ Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?”
Libby Little reminded the Lausanne Congress that these verses meant that God’s grace is not something up for debate or discussion, but that God’s grace is meant to be “enfleshed” even at the cost of pain, suffering and sacrifice in fulfilling the Father’s will of reaching the lost. This is just as Jesus, the Son of God came in the flesh to save the “the last, the least and the lost”.
May we as God’s Trinity Annual Conference, live lives that follow the God-honouring heritage of 125 years of Spreading Scriptural Holiness, Transforming the Nation- unashamedly effecting transformation in the lives of others by our humble and sacrificial service, putting Christ’s interest first. May we be an Annual Conference that is a “Christ-like fragrance rising up to God” – and be God’s “overcoming” people.
NAS Revelation 12:11 "And they overcame him (the devil) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death. 12 "For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them…”
To God be all glory, honour and praise!
Rev Dr Ong Hwai Teik
Trinity Annual Conference
The Methodist Church in Malaysia