I wrote this post offline on day 60, but we have either not had the time or reliable wi-fi since then (even now I can’t upload pictures!)
We’re taking an afternoon rest in Taman Negara after a sweaty jungle trek and canopy walk which we finished with a refreshing swim in the river. Amanda and the joker stumbled upon a read headed snake. It was either the venomous blue-banded coral snake, an equally dangerous red headed krait or a harmless pink headed reed snake (I’ll upload a photo when the wi-fi permits). The first two are deadly but thankfully the only biting injury one of suffered was caused by a close encounter with a pesky leech.
One of the goals of my sabbatical has been to investigate how the church is reaching the next generation with the gospel of Christ in SE Asia. I have met with over a dozen church workers, visited projects in three countries, been to three Sunday church services and talked about the political and social context in which gospel work is being done.
There are four main observations and lessons which have come from discussions.
The seedbed of primary and secondary education is crucial for inter-generational continuity.
The UK church long ago handed education over to the state and then grumbled about the secularisation of education. There are lessons to learn from the SE Asian church, which is opening and building private schools in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, offering high quality education as well as biblical instruction and worship. The schools are designed in the context of each community, from squatter camps to middle class areas. Christian and non-Christians parents choose to send their children to these schools. SE Asian Christian youth have impressed me with their relatively high spiritual maturity, which seems to stem, in part, from church-led school education.
Good Theological Colleges are vital for the future of the church.
The church in the UK has been working hard for 20 years on reforming theological education in the face of liberal and secular attitude in society and the church. Liberal attitudes to social ethics, and so to scripture, are creeping into the church in SE Asia. Local media is culturally conservative, but the internet has opened the door to secular European and North American social and theological attitudes. The establishment of consistently high quality, biblical, local theological education is vital for SE Asia. And the UK church must not rest on the achievements of the last two decades but continue to work toward the reformation of college education.
Work with the poor and homeless
SE Asian Christians work hard to provide resources, such as schools, access to healthcare and legal assistance, out of love for the poor and by doing so win the favour of the people (Acts 2:47) including various authorities. Opportunities in the UK for genuine care for the poor or homeless are increasing and the local church should follow the example of the SE Asian church: love the poor and as a result, not a goal, provide a witness to the authorities.
The need for self sacrificing outreach across social and ethnic boundaries.
The Anglican church is growing in Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Myanmar as the Diocese of SE Asia gives sacrificially to the work in these places. The church seems to be slower to make sacrifices locally, where migrants have arrived in Singapore and Malaysia, but my sample of churches is small. The Lord has brought many migrant workers to the Diocese of SE Asia. The global mission field is shifting. In the UK, there are similar, even greater opportunities to make disciples of all nations, grow multi-ethnic churches and make personal links with churches all over the world. Churches in first and second world countries need to make a priority of self sacrificial local outreach to all nations as opportunities arise.
Keep it simple.
Quality education, care for the poor and cross cultural mission are bread and butter stuff for the church, but they are costly in terms of resources and energy. At the simplest level, one to one evangelism and discipleship grows the church. More than one person here has reminded me to keep it simple. The bigger stuff comes as resources and energy increase and Christians act as salt and light in the work-place and community.