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Book Review on The Life and Ministry of John Sung
Dr Alex Tang
Lim Ka-Tong, 2012, The Life and Ministry of John Sung, Singapore: Armour Publishing
This is a timely and much needed book in English on the biography of evangelist John Sung who played such an important part in the revivals in China and South East Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Unfortunately, John Sung is not well known or even remembered among the contemporary churches in Asia except for a few. Among these are those who actually met Sung and whose lives were changed as a result of that meeting. Even now six decades later, these people can remember Sung clearly and with joy their remembrance of their encounter with God as a result of this meeting.
The last significant biography of John Sung was by Leslie Lyall which was written 50 years ago! Lim Ka-Tong’s biography is a distinctive improvement with more new information from Sung’s diaries and letters. Lim, presently a pastor in Texas, is a graduate of Singapore Bible College, Dallas Theological Seminary and Asbury Theological Seminary. In this book which covers Sung’s early formative years, the short 12 years of ministry and his dying years. Significantly it covers the five phases of his life; water (reimmersion, 1927-1930), door (opening, 1931-1933), dove (time to soar, 1934-1936), blood (wartime spiritual warfare, 1937-1939) and tomb (pastoral years, 1940-1944).
Lim’s book explores the impact of Sung’s ministry in the context of prewar and wartime China and South-East Asia, the Chinese worldviews and Sung’s own personal spiritual development. He does this by answering five questions:
(1) What shaped John Sung? How did John Sung become John Sung?
(2) In what ways did contextual elements contribute to the prominence of John Sung’s ministry and his lasting influence?
(3) How did John Sung’s ministry contribute to the growth and indigenization of Chinese Christianity?
(4) How did John Sung make such a great impact in so brief a time?
(5) Why has John Sung been slighted by historical scholarship, despite his pivotal influence on Chinese Christianity?
In this book, Lim has succeeded in helping us to understand this complex and driven servant of God. He shows us the constant struggles Sung had in his spiritual life and his ‘unconditional’ surrender of everything to God. It is a hard lived life of seeking God and seeking his will in making choices. These choices including a life of comfort in the United States or poverty in China, ministerial ‘success’ or itinerary wanderings, theological conservatism (fundamentalist) or liberalism, being a ‘Chinese’ Chinese or a Western educated Chinese, and living a kataphatic or apophatic Christian spirituality. It is a result of these struggles that Sung was able to have such an impact in his ministry.
This is a highly readable and interesting book and a must for all Christians especially for those who want to appreciate the Asian and Chinese Christian heritage.| posted 31 December 2011 |
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