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Scripture Memory: Handling Conflicts.
Proverbs 15:1 
"A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger."

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness

3 November 2013
8 am & 1045am Worship Service:
Rev Charles Seet (Do You See the Harvest Around You? Mat 9:35-38)
6:00 pm Evening Service:
Dn Lee Hock Chin (Whom Does God Use? Mat 10:1-4)

10 November 2013
8 am & 1045am Worship Service:
Rev Colin Wong (When I Fear My Faith Will Fail, Mt 14:22-33)
6:00 pm Evening Service:
Rev Matthews Abraham (When Reality Does Not Meet Expectation, Mt 11:2-19)

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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS

(Extracted from Jerusalem to Irian Jaya – A Biographical History of Christian Missions, by Ruth A. Tucker)

It was only through the tireless efforts of its missionaries that Christianity became the world’s largest religion, a factor that has changed the face of the globe.

But if the remarkable expansion of Christianity has been ignored and undervalued, so have the men and women who have been responsible for its expansion. They were single-minded men and women, wholly equal to the task they accomplished, driven by a sense of urgency that is rarely seen even within the most patriotic and militant of causes. "The early missionaries were born warriors and very great men," wrote Pearl Buck (who could hardly be termed a missionary enthusiast). "No weak or timid soul could sail the seas to foreign lands and defy death and danger unless he did carry religion as his banner, under which even death itself would be a glorious end. To go forth, to cry out, to warn, to save others, these were frightful urgencies upon the soul already saved. There was a very madness about necessity — an agony of salvation.

Who were these missionaries who sacrificed so much to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth? Were they spiritual giants who gloriously overcame the obstacles they confronted? No. They were ordinary individuals, plagued by human frailties and failures. Supersaints they were not. Like the colorful cast of biblical characters beginning with the Book of Genesis and continuing on through the New Testament, they were often marked by personality flaws and eccentricities. Yet, they were willing to be used by God despite their human weaknesses, and it was in that sense that they were able to make such an indelible imprint on the world.

Evangelizing the Roman Empire

Christianity and missions. The two are inseparably linked. It is thought-provoking to speculate where Christianity might be today without the vibrant missionary outreach that sprang forth after Pentecost and continued for the next few centuries.

It was the post-Pentecost generation that turned the world upside-down – spreading Christianity beyond the borders of Palestine as far west as Rome and into virtually every major urban center in the entire eastern empire.

Fortunately for these early missionaries circumstances were almost ideal for spreading the faith. In comparison to later missionaries who would often face almost impossible odds, these early evangelists worked within a system that often paved the way for their ministry.

Christianity penetrated the world through five main avenues: the preaching and teaching of evangelists, the personal witness of believers, acts of kindness and charity, the faith shown in persecution and death, and the intellectual reasoning of the early apologists.

The starting point of Christian missions is, of course, the New Testament church. Matthew is said to have gone to Ethiopia, Andrew to Scythia, Bartholomew to Arabia and India and Thomas also to India. Thomas had the opportunity to share his faith with the king who then became a believer himself and was baptized. A group of "Thomas Christians" in southwest India still worships in an ancient church said to be founded by Thomas, and archaeological digs have now established that there actually was a King Gundobar who reigned in India during the 1st century.

Paul the Apostle

The apostle Paul unquestionably ranks as the greatest missionary of the early church. He, in the words of Kenneth Scott Latourette, "has been at once the prototype, the model and the inspiration of thousands of successors." He is viewed by many as the greatest missionary of all times – a man who conducted an extraordinary ministry of establishing Christianity on a grassroots level that insured its growth and stability in the centuries that followed. From a strictly human standpoint, however, Paul is a less awesome figure than some adulatory devotees would have him be. In many ways he was a very ordinary man facing ordinary problems that have confronted missionaries ever since.

The biblical record of Paul’s life and ministry are well known. Born into a Jewish family in Tarsus, he grew up a strict Pharisee, violently opposed to the latest threat menacing Judaism, namely, the new "cult" of Jesus. He witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen and was empowered by the high priest to arrest other such heretics. He was on his way to Damascus to carry out this very commission when he was suddenly and miraculously converted. From this point on he became first century Christianity’s most energetic evangelist. His missionary journeys took him to cities throughout the Mediterranean world, where he effectively established indigenous churches.

Paul’s extraordinary accomplishments in the field of missions have prompted a number of missiologists to argue that his methods should be closely, if not precisely, emulated today. Roland Allen in his bookMissionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? makes a strong case for this – if for no other reason than the fact that Paul’s methods worked.

In little more than ten years Paul established the Church in four provinces of the Empire, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. Before AD 47 there were no churches in these provinces; in AD 57 Paul could speak as if his work there was done. This is truly an astonishing fact. That Churches should be founded so rapidly, so securely, seems to us today, accustomed to the difficulties, the uncertainties, the failures, the disastrous relapses of our own missionary work, almost incredible. Many missionaries in later days have received a larger number of converts than Paul; many have preached over a wider area than he; but none have so established Churches.

Besides looking to Paul for methodology, modern day missionaries can derive inspiration from the trials he endured and can gain insight through his reaction to some perplexing missiological problems. Besides imprisonments and floggings, Paul endured almost every type of persecution and hardship that has ever been meted out (2 Corinthians 11:25-28).

Likewise, Paul confronted interpersonal conflicts, as in the dispute with Barnabas over the worthiness of John Mark as a missionary companion. Dealing with cultural and religious traditions also posed dilemmas for Paul.

Like so many of the courageous Christian evangelists who followed him, Paul met a violent end. According to tradition, he was martyred along with Peter and many other Christians during the odious persecution under Emperor Nero in AD 64. Even in the example he set in death, Paul inspired future generations to count not their lives dear unto themselves, for if they suffered they would also reign with Christ.

Ulfilas

Following the much-publicized conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312, the Roman Empire became nominally Christianized, and the vibrant testimony of the Christians seemed to decline. Missionaries were viewed in a political light in the hope that their evangelistic efforts could bring outlying areas within the scope of Roman control. Ulfilas was one such missionary. Though he himself was motivated by his desire to spread the gospel, his mission was, in the eyes of the Roman policy, well suited to territorial expansion.

Ulfilas was one of the greatest foreign missionaries of the early church. His ministry was to the Goths, a barbarian tribe outside the Roman Empire living in the area of present-day Romania. At the age of 30, after spending nearly ten years in Constantinople, Ulfilas was consecrated Bishop to the Goths – those living north of the Danube outside the borders of the empire. His ministry was to a people considered barbarians – "wild and undisciplined," a "rude and crude sort, with a relatively low standard of living, dwelling often in ‘wagons’ because they had no fixed abodes."

For 40 years Ulfilas conducted evangelistic work among the Goths, a work that was highly successful, but one that was hampered by persecution. At one point in 348, opposition from the Gothic chieftain Athanaric (who believed Ulfilas’ mission was an effort to bring the Goths under Roman domination) became so bloody and resulted in the death of so many Christians that Ulfilas, with the permission of the emperor Constantius moved his Gothic Christian community across the Danube into safer Roman territory. Later some of these Christians returned to their people to serve as missionaries themselves.

The most enduring labor of love that Ulfilas bestowed on the Goths was his translation of the Bible into their native tongue, an unwritten language for which he had to devise an alphabet. Ulfilas died at the age of 70 while on a mission to Constantinople for the Gothic king.

Patrick

Little is known of Patrick’s early childhood, but when he was in his mid-teens his town near the west coast of Britain was invaded by a band of Irish plunderers, and many of the young boys, including Patrick, were carried away to be sold as slaves. Patrick was sold to a farmer of Slemish, where for the next six years he herded swine.

Although he had been raised in a Christian home, Patrick himself did not have a personal faith in God. During his years of captivity he began reflecting on his spiritual condition, and his life changed: "The Lord opened the understanding of my unbelief, that, late as it was, I might remember my faults and turn to the Lord my God with all my heart; and He had regard to my low estate, and pitied my youth and ignorance, and kept guard over me even before I knew Him, and before I attained wisdom to distinguish good from evil; and He strengthened and comforted me as a father does his son." From that time on, writes F.F. Bruce, "Patrick’s life was marked by intense and persistent prayer, and from time to time he was conscious of an inner monition in which he recognized the divine response to his prayers. It was a monition of this kind at the end of his six years of servitude which incited him to escape from his master.

It was during this time back in Britain, Patrick relates in his Confession, that God called him "in the depth of the night." It was his Macedonian call" "I saw a man named Victoricus, coming as if from Ireland, with innumerable letters; and he gave me one of these, and while I was reading out the beginning of the letter, I thought that at that very moment, I heard the voice of those who were beside the wood of Focluth, near the western sea; and this is what they called out: ‘Please, holy boy, come and walk among us again.’ Their cry pierced to my very heart, and I could read no more; and so I awoke."

When Patrick arrived in Ireland in 432, there were isolated enclaves of Christians, but the vast majority of the people were still entrenched in paganism. They worshipped the sun, moon, wind, water, fire, and rocks, and believed in good and evil spirits of all kinds inhabiting the trees and hills. Magic and sacrifice (including human sacrifice) were part of the religious rites performed by the druids or priests.

It is not surprising that Patrick immediately encountered stiff opposition from the druids, but he accepted their social and political order, and eventually some of the powerful druid chieftains were converted to Christianity.

Patrick’s methods of evangelism in some ways were similar to those of so many missionaries before and after him. His first step in evangelizing a new area was to win the political leader in hopes that his subjects would fall in behind him, and he was not averse to lavishing gifts on these local rulers. However, Patrick and the Celtic missionaries who followed him placed great emphasis on spiritual growth. Converts were given intensive training in the Scriptures and encouraged to become involved in the ministry themselves.

Patrick’s tremendous success as a missionary evangelist was evident in the some 200 churches he planted and the estimated 100,000 converts he baptized. (To be continued)

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1) Youth Camp 2013 (16-20 Dec)Theme: Back on Track. Speaker: Rev Mathews Abraham. Registration opens today and closes on 1 Dec. Sign up at our booth outside main sanctuary after 8am & 10.45am service. For more information, contact Timothy Loe at 9678-1953.

2) Migrant Workers’ Outreach. Graduation service is held today at 7.30 pm. Venue: Pasir Panjang Christ Church.

3) Chinese Evening Bible Study Fellowship will begin on 10 November 2013, 7.00pm-8.00pm at MPH, Beulah House. All are welcome!

4) Scripture Memory Verse Review No. 5. A written review exercise of the verses is obtainable at the front counter. Review Nos. 1 to 4 are also available for those who missed it. Please submit by 10 Nov 13.

5) Infant Baptism on Christmas Sunday, 22 Dec 13. Parents who intend to have their infants baptised must register by 24 Nov 13. Please call the Church office (65949399) or email Yin Chan giving child’s name, date of birth and parents’ names and contact.

6) LTF Camp 2013 (9-13 Dec)Theme: What God wants of me. Speaker: Mr. Lim Chien Chong (Grace B-P Church). All teens aged 12-17 are invited! Registration ends on 10 Nov. Contact Elder Lim Ching Wah (9183-6783) for more information. Love gifts to defray the costs of the camp are greatly appreciated.

Preaching appointment: Rev Wong in Batam.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25