1. Acts-like togetherness
The General Conference Pastors’ School themed “A Pastor After God’s Own Heart” was held at the Methodist Centre, Port Dickson on 2-4 April 2019 with the participation of 530 Pastors from all the Conferences.
It was an enriching time of togetherness – learning God’s Word, fellowshipping, breaking of bread, prayer and worshipping God (cf Acts 2:42).
We were privileged to have Archbishop Glenn Naunton Davies (Diocese of Sydney, Anglican Church of Australia) as our key speaker for the three beneficial sessions, while Rev Dr Sivin Kit gave us food for thought on the role of the Church in new Malaysia.
Below are some key highlights:
2. Bishop Dr Ong Hwai Teik’s exhortations
In the opening message, our Bishop Dr Ong Hwai Teik reminded us of our previous theme four years ago, i.e. “Shepherding in Turbulent Times”. His perceptive words – “We refused to be discouraged. God answered us beyond what we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20; cf Acts 2:43) – extolled God’s great work in our nation, even as His people persevered in prayers. Bishop then led us to praise our Sovereign and Almighty God with festal shouts – Hallelujah!
He highlighted three applications for us based on his message, “A Balanced Worker After God’s Own Heart” (Acts 18:24–19:1) viz.:
- Scriptures (Heb 4:12; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16) are irreplaceable in life and ministry
- The need to have God’s perspective and sense of God’s destiny for us (like Apollos on a journey; Acts 18:24-19:1)
- A balanced scriptural and spiritual life and ministry, amid the tough challenges (Rom 12:11)
Thereafter, he listed three action steps for us to take:
- Batik 2.0 (2019) – to be committed to “A New Creation: A Revived Church, A Renewed Nation”
- Methodist Church in Malaysia – new beginning in a nation that is facing transitional problems
- Membership Manual (2019) – discipleship formation is vital in our churches
3. Key takeaways from one of Archbishop Glenn Naunton Davies’ messages
Archbishop Glenn Davies exhorted us saying: “Pray for spiritual growth of your church. What is your prayer list? Is it merely focused on physical things? Listen to a summary of Paul’s prayer – ‘We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’” (1 Thess 1:2-3)
The difference between the churches in Thessalonica and Ephesus is as follows:
- The Thessalonian church is known for her faith, love and hope (1 Thess 1:3), which generated their activities. These virtues should also be the engine room for activities in our church.
- The Ephesian church is known for her deeds, hard work, perseverance and sound doctrine (Rev 2:1-3). However, Jesus had this against them – they had forsaken their first love (Rev 2:4). They went through the motions in the church. In our church, are we going through the motion with mere activities? If you abandon the first love, Jesus will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Rev 2:5). What is one word that characterises your church? How many of you would write “love”?
4. Rev Dr Sivin Kit’s food for thought
During the session on the “Role of the church in new Malaysia”, Rev Dr Sivin Kit posed three questions for pastors, but they are just as applicable for all Christians:
a. What should a Pastor do in the new socio-political context?
- Recall John Wesley’s words: “Faith working by love is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection” and “works of piety and works of mercy.”
b. How can we participate in nation-building without being a politicised church?
- Be wise and harmless in a hostile world (Mt 10:16).
- "I am no politician; politics lie quite out of my province … Our main and constant business (is) to ‘preach Jesus Christ, and him crucified.’" (John Wesley)
- However, there is a case for preaching on issues such as justice.
c. How can we rediscover God's heart for a Christ-centred, Spirit-empowered response?
- Members hear more messages from smart phones rather than from pulpit; so help them to be more discerning. Go back to basics – encourage face-to-face encounters.
- Be confident of our faith while engaging others with different faith. We share common pains, e.g. Pr Raymond Koh’s wife (Susanna Koh) and Amri Che Mat's wife (Norhayati Mohd Ariffin).
- Know that “Your Kingdom come” (Mt 6:10) is not of the political kind.
- God of hope empowers us! (Rom 15:13)
Bishop Ong’s apt rejoinder to Rev Dr Sivin’s sharing are as follows:
- Be present, not absent, in the new Malaysia.
- Be concerned, but not consumed.
- Be broken, but not hopeless.
Bishop Ong’s closing words: “We are never without hope. Our heavenly citizenship is unchanging, while we are citizens on earth. We need to balance the prophetic with Micah’s exhortation: ‘... act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’” (Mic 6:8)
5. Glory to God!
As we look back, we thank God for the successful conclusion of the 2019 GC Pastors’ School and the rekindling of the ties that bind us across Conferences. All glory to God!
Finally, “brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess 5:25). Pray that all our Pastors will pay careful attention to be Pastors after God’s own heart.
Summary by Pastor Robert Khaw,
Subang Methodist Church
My Experience on Pastors’ School
I am glad to be able to attend the GC Pastors School this year. This year is a special year as it is a year whereby all pastors from all conferences came together to learn, reconnect and make new friends. There was a time whereby we pastors were called to pray for one another. The pastor who was sitting in front of me was from the Sarawak Iban Annual Conference (SIAC). We decided that we should partner each other to pray for one another. It was heart warming to hear him pray for me in the Iban language. I have no understanding of what he was praying for me but I could see that he was praying for me with such conviction. After he finished, I prayed for him in English and likewise he could not really understand me. We ended our praying session by saying to each other in BM that God understands! It was heartwarming!
I am also glad to be able to learn from the teaching sessions that we had. Through the sessions and also Bishop Dr. Ong’s messages, I was reminded of some of things that cannot be neglected in my life as a disciple of Jesus and as well as my call as a pastor after God’s own heart.
On a more personal note, the ample free time in the afternoon gave me the opportunity to rest, reflect and read.
By Gaurri Maniam (TRAC)
A Reflection on the General Conference Pastors’ School
2-4 April 2019
The day of the 2nd April began early in the morning as I left Penang Island and travelled over the Penang Bridge. I had the use of the Penang Trinity Church van. This gradually filled up as we picked up colleagues from both the Northern and Perak Districts at various points along the way. Pretty soon there were nine (9) of us in the van and it seemed as if the Conference had already begun for us even before we had arrived at PDMC.
We arrived in good time at PDMC and the process of registration was smooth. It was indeed heart-warming to meet up with friends from the other conferences both from East and West Malaysia. It was particularly encouraging for me to reconnect with old friends from all the Conferences and especially with the Orang Asli and Orang Asal friends from the interior whose friendships were forged through mission work and shared OA Ministry. At the Holy Communion Service, Bishop Ong Hwai Teik shared the Word. As Bishop Ong traced the events and milestones that marked the passage of time since our Conferences last met, I was reminded of our shared history and diverse ministry in Malaysia. We are all leaving our imprints in the shared lives of those we minister to and the history of our nation. The Batik 1.0 (2015) and Batik 2.0 (2019) evolution from pledging to “Serve and Minister in Malaysia” to being “A New Creation: A Revived Church, A Renewed Nation” were to me, a visual and subtle reminder of our uniqueness as a Malaysian Church forged in this time and season and the weaving of our imprints and lives into the fabric of our multicultural and multiracial Malaysian society.
Archbishop Glenn Davies’ sessions gave us much to reflect on our theology and praxis of being “A Pastor After God’s Own Heart”. In addition to that, the brief session with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who shared his thoughts on the “Role of the Church in Malaysia Baru” and answered some of our queries, added to the context of our socio-political history.
Both inadvertently lent truth to the words of Psalm 78:72 of the need for shepherding with “integrity of heart” and “skillful hands”.
So with hearts renewed and hands at the ready to serve our Lord Jesus and His bride the Church, we made our return home northwards at the end of our conferencing. Shepherds after God’s own heart pledged to be “A New Creation: A Revived Church, A Renewed Nation” to the glory of God.
By Rev. Ronald Yap