Malaysia GA Holy Work Update
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, with Islam being the largest and state religion. Although religious freedom is constitutionally provisioned, the task of setting up Churches appears to have grown increasingly harder over the last 90 years.
II. History of Church Development
In the first 70 years of the church, evangelism has largely been within the Chinese community. Around 1997, the first two brethren of Indian ethnicity were converted. They subsequently preached to their family members and relatives. In 2003, we had the opportunity to reach out to the indigenous Semai people. Twelve people were baptized and the first Indigenous people Church was established in Batu 8 at the foot of the Cameron Highlands in 2006. Around 2011, the arrival of Myanmar brethren seeking employment in Malaysia presented us with the opportunity to reach out to Myanmar’s residing in this country. This then led to the establishment of a Myanmar Fellowship Centre in 2015.
III. Current Work and Challenges
Over the last few years, the membership growth rate has been around 2-3%. The membership in Peninsular Malaysia currently stands at 3390, comprising 64 Indian members, approximately 110 indigenous people, approximately 200 natives of Sabah and the rest mainly local Chinese and some other nationalities. Nationwide, there are 28 Churches, 4 Prayer Houses, 8 Evangelical Centers and 5 Indigenous People Pioneering areas.
Over the years, the Church has tried to instill a spirit and culture of outreach in her members, and stir up the individual churches to focus on evangelism. However, we still have some way to go. There is a clear lack of dedicated evangelists to focus on outreach. Therefore, although there are many opportunities in the pioneering areas of the Indigenous people, only a handful of full-time workers and volunteers are actively involved in the work.
Praise and thank the grace of God, the Internationally Assembly currently arranges for workers from Sabah, Indonesia, India, Myanmar and Taiwan to assist in our pastoral and evangelical work. In addition, the General Assembly of West Malaysia has recently been more willing to allow more full-time divine workers to dedicate themselves to this out-reach ministry locally and abroad. To complement this, GA has commenced training more local ministers to take greater ownership of pastoring the local flock. But we must not rest on our laurels. Even as the White Horse goes out conquering and to conquer, the devil infiltrates and instigates. Our churches today have to battle complacency, immorality, compromising of the truth and lost sheep.
Religious education (RE) and training have long been emphasized by the Church to ensure a smooth transition of workers from one generation to the next. Over the last few years, the Education Affairs (EA) unit has been training RE Teachers and RE Counselors to nurture students both inside and outside the classroom. The Unit envisioned 7 strategic domains to be developed, namely Education, Training, Counseling, Pastoral, Fellowship, Mentoring & Commissioning. The Youth Affairs unit has embarked on systematically training youths to be grounded in the Truth, in Hermeneutics & Apologetics, and be equipped with Church Management techniques. Many opportunities are given to tertiary students and youths to serve in the Church. Under a Mentoring scheme, graduates from the Short Term Theological Training Course are also sent to shadow fulltime divine workers over a period of time. However, the threats of immorality, disinterest in Church (and church matters) as well as the alluring pleasures of the world are significant threats to the Church’s efforts to develop its next generation of workers.
IV. Manpower Deployment Strategies
There are two particular challenges in the area of manpower. First, many of West Malaysia’s 10 fulltime divine workers (9 Preachers, 1 Elder) are deployed overseas in support of IA work. Second, the recruitment of preachers has not had encouraging results in recent years. To address these challenges, West Malaysia has adopted the following strategies:
(1) Deploying National Reserve VolunteersRetired or available ministers and brothers are assigned to various churches for a specific period of time, to assist in the pastoral and evangelical work of the church
(2) Transferring Pastoral ministry to local Ministers and Church Board membersDeploy local worker to pastoring roles so that members recognizes him as their shepherd. (E.g. worker to conduct Family Altar/Cell Service on a regular basis for each family in a designated area, etc.)
(3) Strengthening the respective regionsFacilitate greater collaboration between Churches and sharing of workers and resources.
Tap GA to coordinate inter-region resource facilitation should the need arise
Though the Church in Malaysia is still lacking in many areas, our gracious God has shown us that His grace is always sufficient for us. We see what we have and not to see what we don’t have. Our limited resource is never a reason to say no to our brethren abroad or pioneering countries, for this is what family is all about. So we are always happy to respond to Macedonian calls. To this end, we pray that more youths and workers can be stirred up to take up the Lord’s commission of evangelism and pastoral care, to fulfill the purpose that God has put us in this Peninsular.