This is no new thing, but rather the usual procedure. When a Chinaman becomes truly converted, about the first thing he does is to explain why he has become a Christian. Many are devoted preachers all their lives long, though not usually spoken of as such, as they continue to follow their ordinary pursuits.
In some parts of China, a movement on the part of the more earnest Christians has recently led to the formation of Chinese Missionary Societies (Suantau-hue) at various centres, with the result that there are now several churches entirely supported by the natives themselves, who select their own missionaries and pay all current expenses. They continue, however, to contribute to the Preachers’ Fund, which is supplemented by the Foreign Mission Churches in China, for the support of the preachers and teachers employed in the various Missions.
There is also another movement going on at the same time, namely the growth of a native ministry. The native pastors connected with the Presbyterian Church of England, working in South China, Formosa and the Straits, are not ordained until the church, or group of churches calling a pastor are prepared to pay the whole salary of the minister; then, with the sanction of the native Presbytery, in which the foreign missionaries act as assessors, the pastor is ordained and settled over a congregation to preach, baptise and administer the Lord’s Supper, and to lead and guide his people.
In the Straits Mission of the Presbyterian Church of England there is as yet no native ordained pastor, but there are several preachers whose salaries are partly paid by their congregations.
Some two and a half years ago, five of these congregations—two on the mainland, at Muar and Johore Bahru, and three in the island of Singapore, Bukit Timah, Seranggong and Tek Kha— combined to raise a Missionary Fund of their own to settle a missionary in some needy district. This movement took definite shape this year, through the gift of a site by Mr. Foo Teng Quee, a member of the mission, and a native of China, having been born in the island of Hainan. An adjoining piece of freehold land was bought out of general mission funds, to which several local friends contributed a proportion, to secure ground for extension in the future when needed.
The Chinese Missionary Society entered into the matter with warmth, and the first Missionary Church of the Chinese in Malaysia was built at Gaylang. A worthy old man, for some ten years an elder at Seranggong, and a zealous unpaid preacher, was chosen as the first missionary. Thus a great principle, in another of its many forms, that of self-support, self-government, and self-propagation, has been quietly set into operation; though it is still in the days of its infancy. Who shall say unto what the child shall grow in the coming years? All, who read history and the signs of the times aright, know that such a movement, once started, is bound to go on growing. And as John Wesley used to say “Best of all, God is with us.”
When once Christianity lays hold, as it shall, of the people as a whole, there will be no need for foreign money for buildings and preachers for the Chinese. Though for many years it will still be desirable, and the Chinese will wish it, that foreign missionaries shall come to act alongside of them, and to guide in the growth and development of the Chinese Church.
To some this may seem a far-off dream, but it is daily coming nearer actual realisation. Faith can see the city of God being built, when other eyes see nothing. Some people even say, and I suppose they really believe it, that there are no Chinese Christians. Well; “They say; let them say.” “Go thou and preach.” “Be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
The Malaysia Message
Vol. V No. 11