For three days, during the recent weekend of 29th – 31st of August, the Methodist Church of Malaysia had their National Methodist Prayer Convention (MPC) 2014, with a purpose of seeking after God’s direction for the Methodist Church, and for the Methodists’ role in the larger Body of Christ.
Close to 12,000 people turned up for the main celebration held in Putra Stadium on the 31st of August. The date was chosen for a symbolic meaning, and prayers were offered for God’s blessing, direction, and intercession on occasion of Malaysia’s National Day.
The Methodist Church is a prominent Christian denomination in Malaysia. From the pioneer work started in 1894 by a handful of missionaries among the Tamil population in Penang, it has grown to encompass close to 200,000 people in 1034 congregations across the nation, making it the largest Protestant denomination in the country.
The current bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, Bishop Ong Hwai Teik, shared about the three main directions for the Methodist Church of Malaysia, taken from Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:14, and 2 Chronicles 7:14.
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The coming together of Methodist Christians from throughout the country, including Sabah and Sarawak, manifest the reality of Galatians 3:28. Bishop Ong shared that this undivided unity across the board of the Body of Christ for God’s heart is especially pertinent for this season in Malaysia.
The coming together of Christians from all races, and from both West and East Malaysia, reflects the people’s heart in obeying the injunction in Ephesians 2:14, to overcome racial and other barriers.
Ephesians 2:14 New International Version (NIV)
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
On a deeper level than just coming together, Bishop Ong shared that there is a purpose for a gathering such as this, which can be found in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
‘The MPC 2014 is a collective response in humility towards the call and promise of our gracious God, to acknowledge that we are called by His name and that we belong to Him. We would then acknowledge His Lordship by admitting our need for Him by our intercession and seeking His presence and favor, accompanied by a sincere spirit of repentance and the forsaking of evil behaviors and actions,’ Bishop Ong outlined in a letter to the Methodist Church of Malaysia. ‘We are here together to seek God to bring restoration and revival to our church and this land’.
This call of obedience is reflected in the theme taken up by the convention: ‘A Church After God’s Own Heart’.
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
There were many solemn moments during the celebration, but also a powerful air of commitment to God, and an encouraging and joyful feeling of unity as One Body that spread all across the stadium. The praises to God were thundering, backed up by 4 complete columns of choir, and a full band from the Boys’ Brigade of Malaysia.
Rev Dr. Stephen Seamands shared a message about what it means for a church to be after God’s heart. He took his message from John 2:1-11, in which Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water into wine, after the wine had run out.
‘The first thing to take note of here is Mary and the servants’ response to Jesus’ command to fetch more water. They did not question the command; basing their actions on their own knowledge i.e. ‘what we need is more wine, not water’. Oswald Chambers said that “The Spirit of obedience brings more joy to God than anything else in the world.” The servant’s obedient response allowed them to be a part of what Jesus was doing,’ Rev Seamands shared.
He shared that Jesus’ word to us are specific to our background, circumstances, and personality. They are always personal. But while this is true, we can also learn much through the types of water pots in John 2:1-11 about God’s communication to us. They symbolized three things:
A. The water pots represent a religion of form and duty that’s not flowing from our hearts.
The water pots were used “for the Jewish rites of purification” (John 2:6). It is possible to have clean hands but an unclean heart. Jesus can turn the water of outward cleansing into the wine of inner transformation and renewal.
B. The water pots represents walls and barriers of resentment and disunity.
The Jews had a wall that divided them from the Gentiles, and they used the water from the water pots to stay uncontaminated from contact with Gentiles. Jesus can take the water of bitterness and alienation and turn it into the wine of fellowship and reconciliation.
C. The water pots represent places of ministry and service God is calling us to.
Just like Jesus used the water to cleanse His disciples’ feet, we are called to various forms of ministry and services.
Rev Seamands shared that the servants first obeyed, and then the miracle proceeded. This order is important.
The highlight of the celebration was the Holy Communion Sunday Prayer in which 12,000 people prayed and partook of the Eucharist as One Body in Christ. A moment of silence was taken in remembrance for the victims of MH17 and as a token of respect for God’s sovereignty even in the midst of tragedy.
In his benediction, Bishop Ong shared that the vision for the Methodists of Malaysia is to build strong and deep from the inside and stand as Christ-worthy nation-wide that the Methodist Church will not stand in isolation but in solidarity with the rest of the nation’s Christians.
‘It means that as September 16 midnight approaches, and as all the churches in Malaysia take up the call to pray for our nation 24 hours 7 days a week, from that date and for the next 2 years, the Methodist Church of Malaysia will be counted to join in. Because we all know that real breakthrough can only come through prayer,’ Bishop Ong enjoined.
6 September 2014 by Jason Law
(Reprinted with permission from www.christianitymalaysia.com)