DIRECTalk: Tie King Tai: Keeping in step Gospel ministry among the indigenous and Chinese

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According to the report of the Board of Statistics during the 43rd session of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference (SCAC) there are 112,791 baptized believers in the Book of Life. However, the number of believers attending Sunday worship in July 2018 was 40,507. This was 1,557 less than the 42,064 recorded in 2017. The attendance was only 35.91% of the total number according to the Book of Life. So where are the rest of these believers?

Follow up on the “Seeking the Lost Sheep Exercise”
SCAC President Tie has followed a few evangelistic teams. He observed that many respondents were baptized Christians who did not go to church. He feels the need to follow up with the “Seeking the Lost Sheep Exercise”.

He said that in the year 2000, when SCAC launched the “Seeking the Lost Sheep Exercise”, there was an increase in the number of worshippers then. However, the number has declined over the last few years. He could not help but consider setting the goal for the next “Seeking the Lost Sheep Exercise”.

During the Annual Conference, President Tie mentioned about the importance of visitation. He recommended that evangelistic teams plan to visit one family after the church’s Thursday prayer meeting and include long-term and in-depth follow-ups. “Since we have come to the prayer meeting, why don’t we go out to seek the lost sheep together? Isn’t that more motivating?”

He also mentioned that while it was good that Sarawak Methodist churches pray for various activities during their respective Prayer Meetings shouldn’t we go out to evangelize thereafter? A prayer meeting without subsequent actions makes it “another activity.”

President Tie highly commended the brothers and sisters of Tien Sik MC of Sibu West District. In one of his sermons he had called upon the Henghua believers to evangelize to other Henghuas. After hearing the message, they formed teams to go to Bintawa in Kuching to share the gospel with the Henghuas there. They were rewarded with an abundant harvest. He hoped that the brothers and sisters of Tien Sik MC would continue to send evangelical teams to Kuching to connect with and evangelize to people of the same dialect group.

“I am pleased to see that brothers and sisters are working very hard in the indigenous people gospel ministry and much has been achieved in a short time. I also hope that brothers and sisters embrace the same enthusiasm for the Chinese gospel ministry.”

President Tie said that 13 missionaries were commissioned this year with two retired teachers, Jason Siew and Nguang Sii Khing, as local volunteer missionaries to the indigenous people, while Chai Kian Ching and his wife Chai Sheau Hong are to serve the Hakkas of the Kuching East and West District. The latter ones are the vanguards of the Chinese gospel ministry.

President is not omnipotent
Since taking over as president two years ago Rev Tie has repeatedly reiterated the importance of fast and prayer. He stressed his point and said: “In John Wesley’s five means of grace, fast and pray is the least valued but it is indispensable.”

For two consecutive Decembers he organized the three-day “Esther Fast & Pray” and many joined him. In addition to the more than 260 participants in the social group, under the leadership of the pastors more than 100 members from Logos MC joined the “Esther Fast & Pray”.

He said that as president he is not all-knowing but often “knocking his head against the wall”. He needs to be cautious when dealing with personnel matters. To tackle personnel problems the most important thing is to meet up with the persons concerned instead of talking behind their backs. After that both parties have to learn to forgive and to apologize if necessary. “Jesus Christ is willing to wash the feet of the disciples and to even bear our sins; so pastors and church leaders should learn from the example of Jesus and bear the burden of another party’s mistakes.”

For example, during the 43rd Annual Conference there were some disputes because of a WhatsApp message and that taught us that we should not blame others nor mention names but to solve problems by talking face to face with the concerned party. As he reiterated in his presidential address, we should behave and act in light, transparent, open-mindedness, in wisdom and speech.

Non-conventional action
Regarding the shortening or reducing the duration of the Annual Conference he said that shorter meeting time should not mean that fewer things would be done but that people should be more efficient. Streamlining of meetings should not mean that discussion of issues should be skipped. The ultimate goal of the meeting should be kept. Since President Tie took office the frequency and lengths of meetings for some Boards have been reduced from four times a year to 2-3 times a year. So far, the responses have been positive.

Another issue that has been most discussed by the members since his presidency is the completion of pastors’ appointments one month prior to the Annual Conference. This move has broken all tradition. “How can the appointment be settled in one night? If there is a problem we should take it seriously instead of evading or ignoring it. With the span of a month at least we can help to clear and justify some problems in the posting.”

The one-month period not only allows time to solve problems but also allows both pastors and church leaders to pray, consider and let the Holy Spirit guide us.

“Times are changing and so the appointment process should also be more flexible. In June the Board of Appointment issues an evaluation form to the pastors and the respective church’s Pastor-Parish Relationship Committee so that the pastor can self-assess and put forth his requested posting while the Pastor-Parish Relationship Committee can evaluate each pastor’s performance and make due suggestions. The assessment form is collected in mid-August after which the Board of Appointments begin their deliberations in September.”

By reading through these evaluation forms President Tie has come to understand some of the long-standing dissatisfactions of some church members towards their pastors as well as problems that the pastors are facing. The District Superintendents then step in to deal with the problems and the president intervenes only if necessary.

“We must solve these problems, not avoid them. In the past whenever there were problems we tried other ways to sort them out and didn’t really solve the problems. Why don’t we solve these long-standing problems when we can? The District Superintendents and I need to spend more time on these matters but it is our duty.”

Supervise, evaluate and advise pastors
President Tie said that some brothers and sisters mistakenly understand that the Pastor-Parish Relationship Committee was for the caring of the benefits of the pastors. The main function of this committee is to supervise, evaluate and advise upon the relationship between pastors and parish, not just the needs of pastors.

“Caring for pastors’ needs should be constructive in the holistic build-up. Of course, it is painful to discipline but achievement is when you see the positive results.”

Interviewer: Menglei
Interviewee: President Tie King Tai
Recorder: April Lu
Translator: KT Chew
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