Critical Review of  Beyond AD 2000 by Bishop Rev

 

 

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Critical Review of  Beyond AD 2000 by Bishop Rev. Hwa Yung

Dr Alex Tang

 Introduction

            Rev. Hwa Yung, in his book, Beyond 2000: A Call to Evangelical Faithfulness outlined six agendas which he felt Malaysian Christians should address so that the Malaysian church should be “more and more the church that it is called to be”.[1]    This paper shall interact with  ‘agenda five’ which is “Personal Holiness and Christian Character”.[2]

 

Agenda Five: Personal Holiness and Christian Character

            According to the author, this agenda is the most neglected because Christians have forgotten the Fear of the Lord. Yet the whole chapter seems to be addressed to Christian leaders and pastors than Malaysian Christians in general. The main points highlighted for the lack of  personal holiness and Christian characters are:

i.                    Failure of leaders and pastors to teach the basic of Christian living to its members.

ii.                 Failure of Christian leaders to understand or remember that Christian leadership is a “servant” leadership.

iii.               Christian leaders are involved in “varying degrees idolatry of money, gross abuse of the power of position and office, and even serious sexual sin”.[3]

iv.               Lack of unity amongst the churches because of spiritual pride of Christian leaders.

 

I agree with the author about the four weaknesses in Christian leaders of the Malaysian church. Yet it is not confined to Malaysia but is widespread amongst Christian leadership worldwide. Mike Fehlauer writes that ambition, sex, money and power have caused many Christian leaders to fall from grace.[4]      Therefore these weaknesses must be addressed urgently or the growth of the Malaysian churches will be seriously impaired.

 

Christian Discipleship

Christian discipleship used to be a key word in any church strategic planning.[5] Now the key words are core values, mission and vision.[6]    No doubt that discipleship is included into the core values and there are specific programs to develop disciples. The danger is that discipleship is regarded as a specific number of courses or series of lectures a Christian has to attend[7].     Or disciplemaking is lost among the many programs of the church which will include community outreach, building expansion plans, short term mission trips, Christian conferences and church social programs. There is a great need for the church to go back to the primacy focus of the Great Commission - that of making disciples. Disciples who are continually developing a spiritual life. Evelyn Underwood summarises the spiritual life as communion with God and co-operation with God.[8]      Hence, it is vital that Christian leaders and pastors teach their congregation the basics of Christian discipleship. The Christian leaders and pastors must first themselves be growing in their discipleship and maturing in their spiritual life.[9]

 

The Servant Leader

The concept of a servant leader is easy to grasp but difficult to practice. It goes against our secular thinking and against our culture to be a servant especially when we are in a position of responsibility. In an Asian culture, being a leader is highly respected. Hence the idea of being a servant when one is at the top of the hierarchy is difficult to practice. The servant leader have to learn to serve in an upside down Kingdom where “the values of service and compassion replace dominance and command”.[10]

 

In the Malaysian churches, a lot of spiritual authority is given to the church leaders. The laity often regard themselves as second class when compared to the ‘full time’ workers. This is especially so in churches with gifted leaders with charisma. Hence it can be easy to lose sight of being a servant leader.

 

Temptations of Christian Leadership

The CEO pastor has replaced the contemplative pastor. The work of a pastor has to produce measurable tangible results. There is keen competition to produce measurable tangible results – bigger church membership, bigger church building, bigger office, bigger pastoral team, bigger conference with big name speakers. And temptations of money, sex and power are ever present.

 

The problem with many church leaders is the lack of accountability. Many of the senior pastors and leaders do not have to report to anyone. There are no spiritual directors to monitor their spiritual growth and warn of possible pitfalls. There is also no supportive fellowship of their peers for checks and balance. It is therefore not surprising that many Christian leaders fall from grace.

 

Spiritual Pride

In spite of a few encouraging signs of pastors and Christian leaders coming together to fellowship and organize conferences in a few cities, there is still no widespread unity of the Malaysian church at an in depth level.[11]

           

This lack of unity is attributed to lack of self-giving spirit and humility.[12]      Humility and self-giving spirit can only be obtained by the grace of God as we are transformed into His likeness. Oswald Sanders wrote, “we need to see in this transformation our responsibility and the Holy Spirit’s ministry”. Hence we need to work in co-operation with the Holy Spirit for our spiritual growth or transformation. One of the problems facing Christian leaders are that they are so busy doing their ministry that they stop growing spiritually. They do not have time to listen to God, to pray, to study the Word (aside from sermon preparation) and to contemplate their spiritual state. As a result, spiritual pride comes in. With spiritual pride comes competitiveness and disunity.

 

Personal Holiness

There was a time when to be called a God-fearing Christian is a compliment. Now when we mention ‘the fear of the Lord’ in church, we often draw bland looks. God is often thought of as a friend. Fear Him? 

Jerry Bridges described the ‘fear of God as a profound sense of awe toward God’.[13]      John Murray expanded the definition by writing,  “The fear of God is the soul of Godliness”:

 

The fear of God in which godliness consists is fear which constrains [compels or powerfully produces] adoration and love. It is fear, which consists in awe, reverence, honor, and worship, and all of these on the highest level of exercise. It is the reflex in our consciousness of the transcendent majesty and holiness of God.[14]

 

The fear of the Lord is where personal holiness or godliness begins. Personal holiness is the process of becoming Christ-like.  What helps us in this process is Christian discipleship. Personal holiness builds character.

 

Christian Character

In the final analysis, a holy or godly character is needful in Christian leaders of the Malaysian church today.  Os Guinness is convinced that character counts.

He wrote:

Far from a cliche or a matter of hollow piety, character in leaders is important for two key reasons: Externally, character provides the point of trust that links leaders with followers; internally, character is he part-gyroscope, part-brake that provides the leader’s strongest source of bearings and restraint. In many instances, the first prompting to do good and the last barrier against doing wrong are the same- character.[15]

 

Jack Hayford, pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California wrote, “possession of godly character, alone, assures true fruit, lasting influence and durable leadership. No amount of ‘fancy footwork’ or ‘bells and whistles’ ever produce a genuine godly leader’[16]

 

            Godly character is needful for all Christians. Formation of a godly character begins with God. It begins with a divine call, rebirth and conversion (John 3:3-8; Acts 2:38-39) and continues with sanctification. It requires our willing co-operation and divine grace. It involves our inner and outward lives. It involves the integration of our lives as the Holy Spirit into Christ-likeness is restoring us (Eph 4:13-16). A Godly character is a Christ-like character.

 

Conclusion

Hwa Yung is right when he identified as one of the agenda for the Malaysian church, personal holiness and Christian character. Without personal holiness and Christian character, the church will be like any social clubs. Without personal holiness and Christian character, Christian leaders are like a loaded gun – dangerous to themselves and to others.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Soli Deo Gloria

 

Bibliography

 

Barna, George (ed),  Leaders on Leadership. Ventura, CA: Regal, 1997

Bridges, Jerry The Joy of Fearing God Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 1997

Eims, Leroy, The Lost Art of Disciple Making. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978

Hwa, Yung Beyond AD 2000: A Call to Evangelical Faithfulness. Kuala Lumpur: Kairos

          Research Centre, 1999

Guinness, Os Character Counts. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999

Kraybill, Donald B. The Upside-Down Kingdom. Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 1978

Malphurs, Aubrey Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry

          Leaders. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999

Sanders, J. Oswald, Spiritual Leadership. Second revision. Chicago: Moody Press, 1967,

          1980, 1994.

Underhill, Evelyn, The Spiritual Life  Oxford: Oneworld, 1993,1999


 

[1] Yung, Hwa Beyond AD 2000: A Call to Evangelical Faithfulness (Kuala Lumpur: Kairos Research Cente,1999) p. 3

[2] Ibid, p. 42-48.

[3] Ibid, p. 45

[4] Fehlauer, Mike, “The Seduction of  Success” in Ministries Today, May/June 2000, p. 58-62

 

[5] Eims, Leroy, The Lost Art of Disciplemaking (Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 1978)

 

[6] Malphurs, Aubrey, Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books,  1999)

 

[7] Wong, Victor, “Equipping in the Cell Church” in Plenary Handbook, 9th International Conference on Cell Group Churches.  Faith Community Baptist Church in Singapore has a ‘Year of Equipping Log’ book for each member. Members have to attend all the sessions/lectures required and fill up their logbooks to qualify for membership.

 

[8] Underhill, Evelyn, The Spiritual Life (Oxford: Oneworld, 1993,1999) p. 9-54

 

[9] Getz, Gene “Becoming a Spiritually Mature Leader” in Barna, George (ed), Leaders on Leadership (Ventura,CA: Regal, 1997)  p. 81-108

 

[10] Kraybill, Donald B. The Upside –Down Kingdom (Waterloo, Ontario:Herald Press, 1978) p. 246

[11] Hwa Yung, op. cit., p. 47

 

[12] Ibid. p. 48

 

[13] Bridges, Jerry The Joy of Fearing God (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press,1997) p. 18

 

[14] Murray, John, Principles of Conduct (Grand Rapids:Eerdmans, 1957) quoted in Bridges, op. cit. p.25

 

[15] Guinness, Os Character Counts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999) p. 20

 

[16] Hayford, Jack W. “The Character of a Leader” in Barna, op. cit. p. 62

 

 

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