I am thankful for the freedom to worship in Singapore. Without having to worry too much about anything, even with today’s sensitive and tolerance issues, we can gather safely in churches, in offices, in homes as Christians to sing, to praise, to preach, to study the Bible, and even to share the good news of Jesus. In case we forget – and we tend to – this is an awesome privilege never to be taken for granted.
Whilst we enjoy this status in Singapore, the same cannot be said of Christians in other countries. Allow me to share a little about what a dear brother-in-Christ is presently going through:
Pastor John [not his real name] had planted a church in the city of Bekasi (about an hour from Jakarta) some years ago. The church grew and things were going well until they had to change their location of worship in July 2012. Just 1.5 months in the new place, they were confronted by a group of Muslims demanding for them to stop holding services in that shop house. When they continued to worship there, the group interrupted the service in November while Pastor John was preaching, shouting for them to close the church. A discussion followed but the group would not accept anything.
The next day, the Police contacted Pastor John and warned him of the group’s intention to use force to expel the church from the shop house. Considering the safety of his flock and family, Pastor John had no choice but to move out. Since that decision, they have been meeting in various places, but primarily in a member’s home. Over time, some have left the church out of fear and numbers have dwindled.
In their search for a more permanent place of worship, Pastor Paul has identified a meeting room that is presently rented to another church in the afternoon. The morning slot is still available but the church does not have the funds to commit to the rent of Rp1,000,000 (approx S$128) per week for a term of one year. But until they raise enough funds, they will have to meet in the home, constantly under the threat of being confronted and challenged by the opposition.
When I learned of this, it really challenged my perspectives and preoccupations in the ministry. In Singapore, we fret about the lack of worship venues and churches in industrial and commercial properties are concerned if they might evicted. Still, these number in the hundreds and worship services continue. In looking for viable locations, we complain about the lack of parking spaces and the distance from bus-stops, MRT stations and food courts(?!). We gripe about anything and everything that does not sit well with our preferences and demands. Perhaps, things would change if a group barged into our services shouting and wielding machetes, you think?
No, this is definitely not what I am praying for. Instead, I am praying that in our affluence and comfort, we do not become complacent and take things for granted. I am praying that we learn to recognise and seize the tremendous opportunity we have to freely preach and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. For all we know, this might just be the God-given window we have before circumstances change.
For starters, I am praying for Pastor John and his church in Bekasi. And I am going to sow into his church fund.
NOTE: For reasons of sensitivity and security, I have deliberately not named the pastor and the church. If you feel led to contribute, it will have to be on the basis of trust via my account. Please note that I am doing this in my personal capacity because of my relationship with Pastor John. If you need more information or clarification, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE [20 June 2013]: I am pleased to update that the moment this post was published, a dear sister contacted me about contributing funds amounting to six months rental! A while later, another sister messaged me to contribute — twice. Just yesterday, a couple gave enough to cover rental for another six months. I have already informed Pastor John of the good news, that he can commit to a full year’s rental. I am so thankful to these who gave as prompted and led by the Lord. Surely, they shall reap as they have sown. Indeed, our God is faithful and His arm is never too short! All glory to Him!