Speakers for 11th
Session General Conference, Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo and Rev. Duleep Fernando brought to our attention pressing global, national and personal concerns. Teachings were taken from 2 Corinthians 5: 14-21, Acts 4:23-34 and Mark 10:23-45 with soul stirring statements such as “We are called to live so that others can simply live”; “Justice cannot have the last word in reconciliation”; “We need courage to keep going, knowing that God is in ultimate control”; “Prayerlessness is the worst sin of the Church” and the reminder to be “A servant church in a power seeking world” were nuggets of wisdom and revelation for present turbulent times. Delegates were impacted by powerful and informative sharing of historical, current and eventual global and national threats. Regardless, let us all stand firm on the Promises of God, remain steadfast in faith to brave the storms, pray unceasingly for the Sovereignty of God to reign, continue to be strong and courageous in sharing the Gospel and last but not least, be a servant church existing for others.
The Episcopal address delivered on the second day was greatly appreciated as a comprehensive and forthright account of events over the past quadrennium (2013-2016), present needs and challenges and the future direction and focus in the midst of global and national challenges were presented. Bishop Ong is astute in his discerning and truthful observations of the areas in the Methodist Church which need necessary attention and action.The theme for the next quadrennium (2017-2020) adopted by the delegates is “ A Church after God’s Own Heart in Turbulent Times” which reminds us of King David, “a man after God’s own heart” who “shepherded with integrity of heart and skillful hands”. King David had absolute faith when facing impending danger, depended on God’s law to gain wisdom and understanding. He was truly thankful on a daily basis and truly repentant of his sins. Let us as the Methodist Church in Malaysia, strive to have these qualities so as to be Methodists after God’s own heart in these challenging times.
In the Episcopal address, Bishop Ong Hwai Teik expressed his concerns for over 10% decline in MCM Sunday School attendance. Significant and rapid urbanisation require churches to reconsider outreach and pastoral care strategies to youths and adults in cities. The perennial question is how and where can the church be the salt and light of our Lord Jesus Christ? My personal responses on the above mentioned concerns are as follows:
Because of missing young adults in churches whose generation represents the parental age of Sunday School going children, there is consequentially the missing generation of children of these young adults. The church must look beyond the members of the church for Sunday School going children. Kindergartens and Primary Schools provide vast outreach opportunities for churches to “fish” potential Sunday School children. The 1 Church 1 School GC Vision, launched by Bishop Ong Hwai Teik in January 2015, repeatedly emphasized at different platforms provides one of the solutions. Sharing this Methodist vision with 600 delegates from different denominations at Alpha Workplace Conference 2016 in Penang on 9 September 2016 was well received. Let us as the Methodist Church who initiated this vision act on it, to look at the school as a mission field where the Gospel of Christ can be shared in many creative ways. Christian parents are commanded to disciple their own children, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise” Deuteronomy 6: 5, 7-8. TRAC Board of Laity together with Board of Youth Work are exploring the D6 (Deuteronomy 6) movement which is the intentional empowerment of parents to engage in discipleship at every life stage and to leave a generational legacy i.e. generational discipleship. Discipling children should not only be a church concern but primarily the responsibility of Christian parents as commanded.
Urbanisation is inevitable in the development of a nation. More importantly, how can the church be relevant? Besides planting churches in urban areas, how do we reach the people to come to the churches which are planted? On 1-3 September, at the Intentional Discipleship Making Conference 2016 in Singapore, Rev. Edmund Chan’s words rang the truth loudly - “Where do the majority of Christians spend the majority of their time with the majority of non Christians? Not in the Church! In the Marketplace! Urban evangelism is urgent evangelism!”. With regards the marketplace as a mission field, reaching out to working young adults and adults is crucial. Using Alpha Workplace as an evangelistic tool paves the way for discipleship to follow. I applaud Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference for embarking on marketplace ministries since 2014. May we all realise the need for a paradigm shift in doing ministries, not church based programmes but “Go” where the harvest fields are whether in schools or marketplace, considering them as mission fields. Missions at home contribute to nation building. We do not have to cross oceans to do missions. Akin to charity begins at home, let missions at home develop further in new and ongoing indigenous ministries in Semenanjung, Sabah and Sarawak which should be a priority for churches especially with rampant Islamisation amongst indigenous people.
We are called to be the salt and light for Christ in this nation, to “Go” out of our comfort zone and complacency within the four walls of the church to be witnesses for Christ wherever we are in the home, school, church, community, marketplace or amongst indigenous people. Quoting John Stott as Bishop did in the conclusion of the episcopal address, “We should not ask, What is wrong with the world? Rather we should ask, What has happened to the salt and light?” We thank God the MCM is united as one body who endeavoured to do “God’s good, pleasing and perfect will” over the past quadrennium and may we strive to be a “Church after God’s Own Heart in turbulent times” in the new quadrennium with perseverance, boldness and courage.