I just returned from baptising an elderly lady, the mother of one of our members. From what I know, Mdm Goh Ah Lan was a very staunch Buddhist. At 82 years old, she was recently hospitalised for a weak heart and failing kidneys. Her condition was serious enough for her to be put into ICU twice! The Discipleship Group visited and prayed for her and I was told there was a presence of God in the room. Soon after, she gave her a life to Jesus. Don’t ask me what language she declared her faith in Jesus in; but she did. Don’t ask me how either. She just did! Two days ago, another pastor visited her and returned to share how sprightly and joyful she is. Chatting with her – she understands a little English – his conclusion was, “There is no doubt she is soundly saved!” Then came the request for baptism – that’s where I got involved.
Asked to perform the baptism in Changi General Hospital, I dutifully made my way there this afternoon. I really didn’t know what to expect, nor how I would communicate with her. I don’t speak Hainanese and she understands only a little English. That said, I had all my questions lined up in mind to ensure she understood what salvation and baptism meant. I was, as you would expect, in teacher mode 🙂
When I arrived, however, things didn’t go the way I expected. I found myself struggling with Hokkien and Mandarin, trying to communicate through her daughter, not a believer, as interpreter. All my well-crafted theological questions went out the door! I simplified everything to one question, “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?” And even that sounded too much of a mouthful! But the dear lady gamely nodded her head and said, “Yes!” That’s good enough for me, I thought to myself, and proceeded to baptise her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! I can’t explain it, but there was such joy and peace on her face. She was visibly excited and thrilled that she was getting baptised, that she was proclaiming her faith in Jesus for all to see.
Communion was next. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I took my time to explain to her family members (non-believers) what the communion meal was all about. I made it a special point to share the gospel as I presented the significance of the elements. I believe it was especially meaningful to watch their mother partake of communion for the very first time. In the conversation that followed, the daughters commented how their mother had become more cheerful and energetic after turning to Jesus.
Sometimes I wonder if being too theological and doctrinal can be detrimental and unproductive when it comes to reaching the lost for Jesus? Quite clearly, Mdm Goh doesn’t understand everything about the Christian faith, much less theological and doctrinal positions of sin and righteousness. Yet, her simple declaration of faith in Jesus was enough. This shows that when the Holy Spirit draws a person to Jesus, there is no need for any argument or discourse at all. He does all the work and we get to participate in the joy of reaping the harvest!
In no way am I saying that there is no longer a need to present salvation accurately. What I am advocating is that we do not fall into a rigidity of a one-method mode of evangelism. Whether reaching out to someone like Mdm Goh or a college professor, we must always remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, that through a heart of love and compassion, we may rightly direct them towards reconciliation through Jesus Christ.