At the end of October, when I met with the district superintendents to share and bless each other, each person shared a word for their year. My word was ‘cool’. To become president, cool! Cool, to live in the luxurious president’s house, drive the smooth-riding president’s car, have faithful administrators, workers, and secretaries in the president’s office, enjoy VIP treatment, hit the front page of the news, etc. Cool, because SCAC has 10 faithful and good district superintendents, around 200 faithful and good pastors, and over 10,000 church members united in heart and mind. Cool, because God’s grace is abundant; cool, because God’s blessings overflow.
Allow me to use five words to express God’s abundant grace and blessings as below:
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) (Ephesians 5)
This January when I first took office, I was in Bintulu chairing a local conference. The board chairman of Methodist Book Room (MBR) called and informed me about the fund embezzlement that had occurred. For many years, MBR had gone through some tough challenges. But for over twenty years under Mdm Ling’s leadership, not much had happened; on the contrary MBR had been steadily growing. But this year it faced its biggest challenge, and worse, this problem had been happening in the dark for one or two years until the revelation in the beginning of this year. But this was also God’s grace, that no more funds were stolen. This also warned our church to keep financial things in the light. For more details about MBR, please read President’s Desk 2 “Transgressions committed in MBR”, notices 1, 2, 3 from MBR, and also the SOP for handling financial affairs.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Eph 4)
The book room affair warned us to make sure our finances are in the light, and also transparent, speaking the truth in love. We were transparent in informing everyone of the embezzlement incident. This transparency allows our church to become a model for our society and country, because we are to be light and salt of the world. This transparency had also gained the approval of many people both locally and overseas, glory be to God. This transparency can also help the church to grow in love.
Besides light and transparency in this embezzlement incident, in accumulated funds in the church we also need light and transparency. This year, as I joined each board meeting, I discovered a disturbing trend threatening to overthrow our pooling system. This trend was: More and more district superintendents, elders, lay leaders, rich churches were eyeing SCAC’s accumulated funds, and asking for funds! When I saw this, I asked Secretary General Mr Ting to investigate how much money SCAC had left over (actually everyone can see it in the SCAC report, but not everyone may really understand). In this way we can transparently inform the entire conference. The preliminary investigation uncovered over 50 million in accumulated funds. Around 30 million was from various boards and organizations, which they need to decide individually how to use. Accumulated funds belonging to the headquarters amounted to around 20 to 30 million.
In order to be good caretakers of money and in order that Jesus at His second coming would not rebuke us for not using monetary offerings properly, we hope in these four years to have a clear target for usage of these leftover funds. This can include supporting kindergartens, helping organizations in need, human resources training, building a headquarters building, etc. (for more details please refer to the Board of Finance report).
We have suggested for about RM300,000 of the funds to be given to Masland Methodist Church. The church has been offering much to SCAC over many years, never expecting anything in return. Of course there are other churches with this similar giving mind-set. For this we give thanks to God. I apologize for not being able to list each church here. Allow me to use one as a positive example.
Masland needs more than 8 million to build the Mary Hoover kindergarten, but to date they had only received less than 2 million. The amount we would give them was just a drop in the bucket, but we wanted to show some encouragement to them. When I told the kindergarten building committee chairman Mr Ting about this donation from Annual Conference, I did not imagine that he would immediately reject it! He said, “We don’t need this money! Please give it to churches that need it more. We can raise enough money on our own.” When I heard his words, I was greatly moved, and told him, “Your rejection is too moving! But hasn’t SCAC’s little offering also moved you?” He replied, “Yes, I was moved. But we really do not need this money.” This brother is indeed a great example for the church pooling system in both the present and future: “Whole hearted offering expecting nothing in return”. It is the fulfilment of “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, and is also the spirit emphasized by John Wesley – “Earn all you can, save all you can (not to save in bank but to save by being thrifty), give all you can”. For more details about the wonderful tradition of the church pooling system, please refer to President’s Desk 8 “Are you stealing God’s money?”
Besides light and transparency in money matters, we also need light and transparency in relationships with people. Whether between pastors and pastors, or pastors and church members, or between church members, we need light and transparency in relationships. We need to speak the truth in love. When a pastor or church member does something not pleasing to God, other pastors and church members have the responsibility of systematically helping him or her turn back to God, instead of gossiping. Gossip is of the darkness, not something that God’s children of light should do. But bringing people back to God is walking in the light and of transparent teaching in the Bible (please refer to Matthew 18:12-20 for how to bring people back).
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8)
Light and transparency brings open-mindedness. This year we have tried something more open-minded, which is openly allowing pastors parish relationship committee members and pastors themselves to fill out forms for next year’s appointments. This is as reference, not the final decision, for the president and board of appointments. Since the book of discipline states that the final decision belongs to the president, if the president’s decision does not coincide with the committee members’ or pastor’s suggestions, they can of course feel angry (hopefully as the Bible teaches, not to let the sun go down on their anger), but there is no need to be discouraged and give up any rights in expressing themselves in the future. For more details on appointments, please refer to President’s Desk 10 “Please pray for next year’s appointments”.
Not just filling of forms, but also this year the board of appointments is meeting earlier. A month before the annual conference, the first draft of appointments is decided, in order that everyone may have more time to pray and think. During the annual conference, the board of appointments will hold a second meeting for final decisions. We look to the Holy Spirit to guide us in making appointments that follow God’s will.
It is God’s grace and blessing to be able to handle appointments in an open-minded way. Hopefully everyone will cherish it and use the one month advance notice of appointments to understand the things of the Spirit and follow the Spirit’s guidance, instead of acting out of the flesh.
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13)
After light, transparency, and open-mindedness, hopefully we will have wisdom in decisions and actions. Wise decisions and actions will then bring even more light, transparency, and open-mindedness.
The verses above are about the Antioch church. Fasting and prayer is a wise action for daily life in a church, because through this, they were able to hear the Holy Spirit, to advance the work of missions, send out missionaries, and change the church and the world. Forty days of fasting and prayer is a wise action that Jesus took, which marked the beginning of his three years of public ministry, changing the entire world. Three days of fasting and prayer was also a wise decision and action of Queen Esther, changing the fortunes of the Israelites. Last year, our church also held a three day fast and prayer from December 6 to 8 (thanks be to God, 127 joined in one spirit), to begin the next 4 years of ministry, in hopes of bringing renewal and revival to our church. This year in March, after the Pastor’s school, we started the Wesleyan fasting and prayer chat group. On the annual conference level, 120 pastors and lay leaders have joined the fast from Thursday after dinner until Friday 3 pm. We prayed online, experiencing the power of answered prayers. Hopefully each pastor and church member will join this wise action. Each church pastor, church leader or committee member can also start a Wesleyan fasting and prayer chat group, to pray together on a local level. In this way, we can unite as one, to fast together, focus on prayer, renew the church, and to transform the country!
This year from December 6 to 8, we will again hold a three day fast and prayer, until Friday at 3 pm. We call upon all the pastors and brothers and sisters who joined last year to continue, and upon those who had not yet participated to join in this fast, to experience the presence of God’s power.
Besides the weekly and annual fast and prayer as a wise decision and action, a habit of reading the Bible daily, promoting discipleship training, and efficient meetings are also wise actions. For these 4 areas, please refer to President’s Desk 1 “fast and prayer’, 2 “efficiency in meeting”, 4 “bible reading”, and 6 “discipleship, a lifetime thing”. One of the fulfilments of efficient meetings occurred in this year’s annual conference meeting which was shortened from 3 and a half days to 2 and a half days. The number of meetings for each board was also reduced from 4 times to 2 or 3 times. In fact, pastors and church members from various local parishes, districts and boards are all working hard, so we do not need to hold many long meetings, because when people already are working, meetings are to be short. Of course, written reports need to be as detailed as possible, but verbal reports should be as short as possible, because all the work has already been done.
As we fasted and prayed and looked to God, God moved the government in April to approve a 6-storey building (can be increased to 8 storeys), to be the SCAC Methodist HQ. We were also given a 999 land title. We are thankful for the government’s approval and thankful for God’s grace. Besides the HQ building, God also moved us to renovate Wei Kuok Hall to become a better location for concerts and meetings. Hopefully at this time next year, everyone will be able to sit in a more comfortable hall for meetings.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.(1 Peter 2)
Light, transparency, open-mindedness and wisdom all lead to declaration. To declare the light of God to the world is also the most important purpose for our lives and churches on this earth. We must give our all to evangelism, missions, and to care for our society and country, because once we leave this earth, we will not be able to show God’s love to the people of the earth, and will not be able to lead them to the true God.
Thanks be to God for his grace and blessings, our church is involved in various ministries of evangelism, missions, and social concern. This is also the path our church must continue walking.
In evangelism, we promoted Evangelism Explosion for the past 20 years or so but desperately need more pastors to lead (please refer to President’s Desk 11 “Pastors need to lead in evangelism”). For more than fifteen years the Bahasa Malaysia ministry has been unique in its growth. Now there are over 19 BM worship services. Indigenous people group ministries have also allowed each church to adopt and care for longhouses in a way that did not happen before. Now there are over a hundred longhouses adopted. The AC evangelism team, in its 80th anniversary, through God’s grace, seemed to resurrect, starting anew by going to different local parishes to evangelize. The drama team has also travelled all over, especially to groups less accessible to the church, proclaiming God’s name through creative sketches. The vision of the Hakka ministry is waiting to be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit is leading us forward, hopefully to bring up local missionaries for the Hakka ministry. As for planting churches, there are fruitful results among some of the English churches, for example Kuching Trinity Methodist Church, Miri Grace Methodist Church, and Sibu Wesley Methodist Church have all embarked on church planting projects.
Besides evangelism, we also continue to help the Iban annual conference in their salaries for pastors.
Starting this year, we have cooperated with the other annual conferences under the Malaysia Methodist General Conference, to donate to the Iban annual conference, so that in a number of years they are able to be financially independent. Today we help the indigenous people, tomorrow they will help us (This truth is based on 1 Corinthians 8:14 – At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality), because perhaps one of them will become Sarawak’s chief minister or deputy chief minister (in fact these things have already come to pass).
In missions, we are continuing towards 100 missionaries in the year 2020. Up to now we have sent out around 60 missionaries. Where are the other 40? I believe that it is not because God has not called enough people, but because the called have rejected God’s calling. This year we begin to focus on the “doves”, missionaries with occupations. In fact, we not only have “doves” to witness for God overseas only. All local pastors and church members should also be dove missionaries in their own workplaces. As for information technology, it has reached countless people. By faith, we trust that the Holy Spirit’s work is what we cannot see, what we cannot hear. For the emphasis on missions, please refer to President’s Desk 7 “Missions”, in the article I spoke about how the time for shedding of blood for missions has come in Malaysia.
As for social concerns, we currently have 3 orphanages, 3 centres for the disabled, 4 counselling centres, several Dorcas or caring service centres, one institute, 5 primary and secondary schools, 44 kindergartens, 2 childcare centres, 1 youth centre (Bintang district has opened a new activity centre for youth this year), 1 rehab centre (Victory Home) etc.
The building for Victory Home has begun this year in Oya Road. As for the building costs of 5 million, we believe God will provide through the church and community, so that we are even more able to help those bound by drugs to receive the power of the gospel and live freely and normally. Hopefully the old building will then become a rehab centre for females.
As for opening private schools, we plan to open a kindergarten in Samalaju, Bintulu. As for other places in Kuching or Miri, they are still under discussion and planning, as building schools is not something that happens overnight.
The 14th general election must be held before August next year. As the light of the earth, the church especially in Sarawak must prepare for the election. Please refer to President’s Desk 9 “The 14th general election”, where the Bishop expresses his greatest concerns.
After speaking of the grace and blessings from the 5 points above, allow me to speak on the 10 things for emphasis both in the present and the future.
(2) God’s Perfect 10
The 10 things are what God allowed me to see during last year’s fast and prayer, which are the greatest needs of the church in the present and in the future. These things must be built up in life, not in activities; in love, and not in performances. May the ever loving Father visit us, may the gracious Lord Jesus compel us, may the all-powerful Holy Spirit move us, to get back our first love, to love God, to love others as ourselves, so that we will not “die in activities, but live in Christ”.
In October of this year, under the arrangement of the evangelism board, I went with around 14 pastors and brothers and sisters from Kuching, Sri Aman, Sarikei, Sibu etc to Lubok Antu to explore and adopt the 18 longhouses that a Korean missionary had converted over 10 years ago. In those 3 days, I roomed with various brothers. On the first day around 4 am, one brother, who was over 50 years, wore a head lamp and read the Indonesian Bible in the kitchen. He was mining the treasures in the Bible. On the second day at 4 am, another brother, 20 something years old, knelt in the aisle of the longhouse praying and reading the Bible for over 2 hours. These two brothers of different ages were moved by the Holy Spirit and compelled by God’s love. As the Father’s beloved children, they made a covenant with God to wake up at 4 am to spend time with God. These two scenes opened my eyes to God’s amazing works, and allowed me to see the church’s bright future and the life lived in Christ.
A Christian’s life is a life of loving God and man, as below (we all have more or less of these habits listed, but love needs to grow more, life needs to grow more).
1. More urgency in prayer
All are encouraged to join Thursday night prayer meetings
All are encouraged to join this year’s Esther fast and prayer and the weekly Wesleyan fasting and prayer.
All are encouraged to wake up early to pray, to watch with God for an hour.
2. More diligence in Bible reading
All are encouraged to read the Bible daily.
All are encouraged to finish reading the Bible at least once in each year.
All are encouraged to memorize and copy Scripture.
3. More liveliness in worship
All churches are encouraged to use different kinds of service liturgies.
All churches are encouraged to practice new songs before service.
All are encouraged to worship God in family worship and individual devotions.
Loving People: internally
4. More focus in discipleship
All are encouraged to join TOP discipleship, using it to multiply.
All are encouraged to join disciple courses, to build up the habit of reading Bible
All are encouraged to do intentional discipleship.
5. More love in fellowship
All fellowships are encouraged to use small groups during Bible studies, to build up love with each
Pastors, advisors, committee members, and fellowship members are encouraged to hang out together.
Pastors and church members are encouraged to speak truth in love and build each other up.
6. More efficiency in meetings
Meetings are encouraged to not go over 2 hours.
Plan for the annual conference to be one day less.
District and local conferences are encouraged to be shortened.
Loving People: externally
7. More dedication in missions
100 missionaries in 2020.
Churches and missionaries both in the field and in the background are encouraged to lay down their.
lives like our Lord Jesus, to love our neighbours.
Conferences and movements for college students to offer their lives for missions are encouraged.
8. More diligence in planting churches
All churches are encouraged to plant new churches, especially in new residential areas.
140-150 churches/preaching centres in 2020.
9. More zeal in evangelism
All pastors are encouraged to lead and train church members in weekly evangelism.
All churches are encouraged to start evangelism teams, led by pastors.
All pastors are encouraged to preach Christ and Him crucified during every Sunday sermon, to convert and to nurture.
10. More involvement in social concerns
All are encouraged to donate to Victory Home’s building fund.
All districts are encouraged to build youth centres to show love and care towards the youth.
All churches are encouraged to build kindergartens and use the textbooks we publish.
The Methodist church can be said to be a church full of activities. We have services, fellowships, small groups, prayer meetings, morning prayers, disciple, TOP, meetings, EE, short term missions, camps… But maybe most see these activities as unrelated to life, so once the activities are over, the activities are not connected to life.
In fact, we need to see clearly that these are not just activities, but ways to build a better way of life. These are not just programs, but they help us to build habits. These are not just trainings, but they prepare us to grow in life. For example, student life in Methodist Theological School is the normal Christian life. If we do not view morning prayers, weekly fast and prayer, weekly evangelism, daily devotion as activities in MTS only, when students graduate to go on to pastoral ministry or missions, or when short term missions students graduate and go back to their home churches, they will go on with their normal Christian lives: morning prayer, fast and prayer, weekly evangelism, daily devotion etc. Also for example, disciple courses, TOP, Prayer and Bible camps, EE evangelism etc, are all activities training us for a normal Christian life: Daily reading of the Bible and prayer, weekly evangelism etc.
These same words remain: “Do not die in activities, but live in Christ”.
The Lord Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)