In 2007, according to census, about 35% of Malaysians who emigrated to Australia are Christians. This is significant when about 9% of Malaysians are Christians. Bishop Hwa Yung in his article Should Christians Emigrate? published in Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Berita NECF suggests that Malaysian Christians emigrate because of the attraction of the West, the lack of professional fulfillment, racial and religious factors, and erosion of confidence in the “ability and integrity” of the government. He further notes that the justification offered by those who are or are about to emigrate include “we can serve God anywhere,” the Bible allows emigration and the “prospects of persecution.”
The good Bishop concludes that emigration should be an exception rather than the rule because of the great spiritual and socio-political needs in Malaysia both in the country and in the Malaysian churches. The exception is a true calling of God for the individual or family to leave. Preempting the question, “what about my children future?” Hwa Yung gave a two-fold answer. Firstly, those who emigrate are usually well off enough to have sent their children overseas and thus their children already have a good head start and secondly, if they can trust God for their security, should they also not trust the Lord for their children’s security? There are many people who see the Bishop’s comments as being biased and legalistic.
The Agora, a blog managed by City Discipleship Presbyterian Church in Petaling Jaya discussed this topic of Should Christians Emigrate? and the comments the post received are worth reading. One comment is
“It will mean that in the face of genuine spiritual and socioeconomic needs, which are far greater than those in the West, we turn our backs and walk away like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. By leaving, we leave the country and the Malaysian church in a state of even greater need than before because often, it is precisely those who leave who have the training, resources and ability to alleviate the needs of the country and the Church. If this is so, then emigration cannot be a viable option for the Christian.”
Another comment is
“I used to think it was very selfish and self-centred as Christians to migrate and only think of themselves but I have since changed my mind for a number of reasons :-
1. Just like the prophets of yesteryear, there may come a time where we may all need to migrate somewhere else in order to see God more clearly (especially with the current Islamisation of M’sia )
2. I do not see anything wrong in migrating if you are called by God to do so for various reasons – Abraham to find the Promised Land, the Israelites to Egypt to avoid the famine and later to return to the Promised Land from slavery
3. History has shown us that not only [C]hristians has fled when there are persecutions, war, famine, natural disasters, etc
4. Leaving for another country whether it is for better job opportunities or our children’s education is a personal matter between the individual [C]hristian and God. Hey, remember the founder of CK Tang of Singapore. He came to Singapore from China with only a Bible in his luggage and God told him to buy up the land where CK Tang is today – at Orchard Road. At that time it was a graveyard!!!!”
Rev Tan Soo Inn, writing in his weekly GRACE@WORK MAIL 16/07
[April 20 2007 Edition] To Go or To Stay? has this to say,
“There was a time when I would be angry at Malaysian Christians who chose to emigrate or who refused to return to Malaysia after their education abroad. Islam was the official religion of Malaysia. It was increasingly difficult for non Malaysian missionaries to enter the country. Surely it was God’s will that Christians in Malaysia remain in the country to fulfill the Great Commission. Those who chose to leave were cop outs. I received many invitations to remain in Canada to minister after my theological studies there. The needs there were real. But I had been called to minister the Word in Malaysia. I came home.
I am glad to report that I am no longer that condemning angry young man. (I also need to disclose that I am residing in Singapore at the moment.) I have changed for two reasons. One is my growing conviction that the New Testament is totally against any form of legalism. I now use the preface “you must” very reluctantly apart from clear biblical commands. Secondly I have come to terms with the sheer diversity of God’s dealings with His children. His journeys for each of us are so different. I repent of any attempt to use my own journey as a bench mark for anyone else. What I need to do is to be true to my own calling.”
Soo Inn concludes,
“Maybe emigration is not the real issue. The real issue is the issue of faith. Do we really believe Jesus’ promises? What does it mean to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness? For ourselves? For our children? If we have some clarity as to the answers to these questions then we should be able to begin to answer the other questions of life including the question of whether we should emigrate or not.”
Both Hwa Yung and Soo Inn have highlighted the core issue concerning Malaysian Christians emigrating. It is an issue of faith. Does Malaysian Christians (myself included) have enough faith in God to remain where we are and be engaged with the country and help Malaysia prosper? It is our country and we are born here. It has fed us, clothed us, sheltered us and protected us. Hearing the voice of God is often subjective and Jeremiah has pointed out that the “heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (NIV Jer. 17: 9) It is possible to justify our emigrating with a hundred different reasons. Yet deep down, I believe that many know that it is not for these reasons but a lack of faith, and a desire for security and comfort rather than obedience and trust in God. There are numerous verses in the Bible to support emigration but there are equally enough verses to suggest staying and helping the country to prosper. Here I must add a caveat that I do know of a few Malaysian Christians who are really called by God to emigrate.
Malaysia is undergoing a difficult time now. There is a crying need for moral people with integrity and nation building skills. If Malaysian Christians are emigrating, and these are usually the brightest, most highly skilled and well educated (the receiving country already has vetted and selected only the cream), who will be left behind to be God’s people and help develop Malaysia (Jer.29:7)? Who will be the “salt” and “light?” Who will speak for God? Who will be God’s people in the expansion of His kingdom in the country? It will be ludicrous to think that God will send His brightest and best people away at the moment when the present need in Malaysia is great.
Malaysian Christians should be encouraged to remain in Malaysia, if not because it is their homeland, then it should because they are to consider Malaysia as their mission field. We have a cultural legacy of economic and social emigration. However it may be time to be counter cultural and decide and commit for our migration to end and stay in Malaysia. This is a commitment to living by faith for the present and the future.
A concerned Malaysian Christian wrote this prayer,
“Dear Heavenly Father,
From one man you created each nation. It is you who determines our boundaries and decides when we should rise & fall (Acts 17: 26). In this day & age, is there a country in this world where we can ’sit under our own vine and fig tree & drink water from our own wells. And we can invite our neighbours to sit with us peacefully?(Micah 4:4; Zech 3:10)
We confess the sins of immorality, injustice, corruption, murder & all manner of evil that has defiled Malaysia . The land is vomiting out its people (Lev 18:25-28). People are leaving Malaysia .
Lord, we the church in Malaysia want to stand in the gap. We will cry to you until you cleanse this land of all the wickedness & defilement. You have given us this land so that many may seek you and find you (Acts17: 27). We thank you that you have given us people willing to give their lives for this land. You have died for the people of Malaysia , Your blood can cleanse us from all forms of defilement, Your spirit can empower us to fight the giants in this land.
Deliver us from being refugees in another land trading the talents & gifts you have given us for a home. Let not our people be scattered. Let the people of Malaysia rise up to fight for our land and not allow the enemy from stealing our peace, harmony and richness in cultures and natural resources. We claim this land for your kingdom and for the generations you will bless because we trust in you.
Let our people not be scattered abroad and our children not know the intention You had when You formed this land. From a bunch of immigrants you made us into a nation. You gave us a name and call us a people when we were not a people.
Let our children know that there is a God in Heaven. We are not struggling alone. You are watching over us. Help us not give up the land to those who want to devour and destroy it. Send us reinforcement and aid us in the fight against wickedness and corruption in high places.
You only need Gideon & his 300 men to defeat their enemies.
Save Malaysia , O Lord. hear our prayer.
In Jesus Mighty name we ask, Amen”
Now more strongly than ever, the sound of a call to arms clang loudly in the spiritual battle for the heart and soul of Malaysia. May the soldiers of the cross be found entrenched in their armours rather than leaving the field before the battle.
Kansas Bob’s post on Passion, Purpose and Pleasure based on the movie Chariots of Fire reminds me of two great quotes from the movie. These two quotes are the inspiration for me as I struggle to find time to do ministry in the midst of a busy medical practice.
I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast.
And when I run I feel His pleasure.
You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you’re dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job.
So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.” If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.
Eric Liddel went on to be a missionary in China. When Japan invaded China in 1941, all missionaries were asked to leave. Eric chose to stay and was interned with other missionaries in a concentration camp in 1943. He died in 1945, five months before liberation.
In my article The Influence of Globalisation on Christian Spiritual Formation in Churches In Malaysia and Singapore I highlight the use of technology may be missional.
Globalisation is not necessary bad. Using the improved communication and extensive networking provided by new technologies, it is easier to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world than before. The Internet has made it possible to reach even the remotest part of any country as long as there is Internet access. It has also allowed even the remotest part of the world with Internet access to be readily accessible. A Christian website may be accessed by anyone, even those in areas not accessible to missionaries. Social networking allows people to connect over long distances which otherwise will not know of one other’s existence. Streaming videos and MP3 allow download of materials anywhere in the world. The global culture has a made inroads into many other cultures. It is a two-way street. Local cultures may influence global culture. There is much potential in the wise use of art, music, video and writings to spread the Gospel. Anyone can upload something onto the Internet and have it viewed by thousands within the hour! YouTube may be used as a media for evangelisation. Virtual Christian faith communities may be set up online. The degree of Christian spiritual formation that may be done through the Internet has not been fully explored.
Christianity Today runs a Global Conversation on technology and mission.
THE GLOBAL CONVERSATION
The Face-to-Face Gospel and the Death of Distance
Al Erisman says we need to think about ministry in the digital culture the way missionaries think about the culture of the people they serve.
Download a PDF of this article here
Many of these trends are very thought provoking.
- Investing in leaders
- Combining good deeds and good news
- Greater financial accountability
- Business as mission
read article here
Christianity Today and the Lausanne movement have been conducting Global Conversation on certain important global issues recently. In March 2010, the Conversation is on
How should Christians who have a passion for evangelization relate to Islam? For North Americans, the question took on new urgency in the wake of September 11. But Christians in Muslim-majority societies have dealt with the question far longer.
Chawkat Moucarry, World Vision International’s director of interfaith relations describes his commitment and mission in A Lifelong Journey with Islam.
I have never understood why some people look at dialogue and mission in either-or terms. In my experience, these words belong so much to each other that they should never be divorced. Evangelical Christians (whose theology I share) have shown an unwarranted suspicion of dialogue, simply because some have used it as a substitute for mission. Not only are the two words compatible, but they must shape each other.
David Shenks has this to contribute “My life motto as I engage in dialogue with Muslims is the same that Moucarry has highlighted (1 Pet. 3:15): Be clear in my confession of faith—Jesus is Lord. Give account of this reality to all who ask. Bear witness with gentleness and respect.” more here in Experiencing Dialogue.
While dialogue seems to be the way to go, there are concerns. Evelyne A. Reisacher who had served for over 20 years as the associate director of a church-based organization in France called l’AMI, dedicated to facilitate Christian-Muslim encounters and assist Muslim Background Believers. She is assistant professor of Islamic studies and Intercultural Relations at Fuller Theological Seminary has this to say in Dialogue Shaping Mission Shaping Dialogue.
In conclusion: Has my perception of dialogue changed? Yes and no. The questions I raised prior to my first experience of dialogue in 2003 are still relevant and must be revisited each time I engage in dialogue. My commitment to Jesus Christ and the gospel has not changed. But dialogue is a constant reminder of the human face of mission: It helps us encounter Muslims as equal interlocutors worthy of being listened to and with whom we should respectfully share our beliefs.
How then does this dialogue translate to realpolitik?
Dr Ng Kam Weng, director of Kairos Research Centre in Kuala Lumpur shares about the situation in Malaysia “to explain the ambivalence of Christian minority groups toward Christian-Muslim dialogue” as a response in Building a Common Society.
Dialogue beneath the Gothic arches of Western universities should be welcomed, but surely genuine dialogue would gain more credence if it took place at the ground level, especially in countries where Islamic authorities do not feel the need to modulate their power so as to present an acceptable face, as they would when dealing with their Western counterparts. If indeed dialogue takes place, the Islamic authorities typically set the terms of engagement, reducing it to social rituals to confirm the dominance of Islam rather than to promote mutual understanding and respect. Naturally, local Christians lose enthusiasm for “dialogue.”
It is not often so cut and dry about inter-faith dialogue in Muslim-majority countries as has been pointed out by Dr Ng. Read more here.
Nigeria is another country where is there had been violence between Muslims and Christians. Sunday Agang who is dean of the School of Theology and Ethics, JETS Theological Seminary in Jos, Nigeria comments on The Audacity of Dialogue.
Lesslie Newbigin’s writing plays a large role in helping me to understand the missional role of the church and about the emerging church movement.
The Missionary Who Wouldn’t Retire
, born 100 years ago today, launched a new career at age 66 by calling Western churches to act like they were in the mission field.
When I speak with students around the world, I find them confident in their ability to present the gospel. They tell me that God loves me, that I have sinned, that Christ died for me, and that I need to believe in Jesus to get to heaven. Their confidence is reassuring, but their content is worrying. Doctoral students and seminarians often seem to have no deeper grasp of the gospel than do Sunday school children. The gospel they present has been reduced to a personalized product that offers the ultimate bargain—exchanging spiritual poverty for eternal riches. The problem with much of our evangelism is not what we include but what we omit: the Holy Spirit, the church, persecution, obedience, mission, reconciliation, resurrection, and new creation.
The gospel according to Newbigin challenges this thinking in two distinct ways. First, he calls us back to a gospel that brings personal reconciliation with God, but also a gospel that connects us with God’s reconciling purposes in conscience, culture, church, creation, and cosmos. Second, he calls us back to a gospel that is more than a series of bullet points, a story that centers on the flesh-and-blood character of the divine Christ.
Video report of one of the short term mission team to Cambodia from my church
The Little Woman with the Big Legacy
A tough and determined missionary, Lottie Moon called an entire denomination to a greater participation in the Great Commission.
In her life as a missionary in China, Lottie Moon stood barely more than four feet tall. In death, she weighed about 50 pounds. Her impact on the history of missions, however, has been enormous.