A pleasant surprise awaited me in the dimly-lit basement car park of Trinity Theological College. Rev Benedict Muthusamy, my classmate, a Presbyterian moderator and the pastor of a church in Kulai, had come for some business. We had some coffee in the canteen and our conversation turned interesting as he gave me his personal sketch of the west Malaysian churches.
There are many churches in Kuala Lumpur and the biggest ones in the country are there too. Penang is not far behind. English congregations thrive there as they have a ready pool of English educated people. Here are the resources, the networks, the seminars and conferences . There is no lack. The Bahasa congregations are also doing well what with job seekers, used to worship in Bahasa, coming from Sabah and Sarawak.
The Chinese speaking congregations are stronger in the smaller towns like Muar, Kluang, Sitiawan, Gua Musang, Kota Baru, Kuala Trengannu and others. They often have an offshoot English congregation but these are getting weaker with the brain drain to the capital city and the little red dot. The Indian churches: they suffer from feeling inferior and small, and are usually financially in the shadows. However, the bright spot for small town churches is that the fellowship among pastors in these places are strong and that is great.
Well this is just one pastor’s off the cuff opinion of the general church scene. If you can help fill out the skeleton, do make a comment.
Pastor Chua Seng Lee was invited to conduct a workshop titled “Experiential Learning in Cell Group” in the 14th Malaysia Cell Church Conference hosted by Damansara Utama Methodist Church. Evidently after Faith Community Baptist Church had transited into the G12 model, the mantle of doing the cell church conference had fallen on the shoulders of what is now the largest Methodist church in Malaysia. We had just held our own church camp in Petaling Jaya, and my wife and I were generously sponsored by Pastor Chua and Josephine, to accompany them to the workshop. The whole group stayed three nights at the Hilton Hotel, Petaling Jaya.
DUMC ‘s birth
The DUMC is 30 years old and has an attendance of 4,000. They started as a small church plant of Sungei Way-Subang Methodist Church, a rare Methodist church with a passion for church planting. Twenty two young professionals in their 20s and 30s, with an evangelical IVCF background, started services in 1980 in a first floor shop lot under the leadership of Daniel Ho and two other leaders.
Three waves of the Spirit
The cell church strategy was the main vehicle of growth, but it was fuelled by three waves of Holy Spirit revival, according to their 30th anniversary coffee table book. One was the charismatic touch that manifested healings, deliverances, visions and prophetic words. The second wave was triggered by the pastor’s return from the Toronto Airport Vineyard Christian Fellowship. It was a revelation of the Father’s love and holy laughter that refreshed the church. The third wave was a revival of “first love” and devotion to Christ.
The Dream Centre
By 2007 they have settled into their Dream Centre, a former warehouse on 5 acres of land, renovated into a church facility for about RM$40 million, inclusive of the land. They have moved three times and this was their fourth move. Dream Centre has a seating capacity of 3000, a total built up area of 200,000 square feet, a fellowship hall that doubles up as an indoor sports centre and parking space for 200 cars. The church kept growing and the vision of the church is now focused on equipping God’s people to be salt and light in the world. They seek the transformation of the city of and society and God knows and every Malaysian knows that Kuala Lumpur and Malaysian society needs transformation by the grace of God.
This course was one many would regret that they did not sign up for. The workshops were held in the afternoon after lunch when participants would find it hard to stay the course or pay attention. It was not to be so in this workshop. Pastor Chua was succinct, clear in explanations and instructions, employed several specially designed activities or “experiences” and demonstrated how these could be used for reflective learning. As he conducted the workshop, I gained a better understanding of experiential learning, and saw how it is underutilized in most churches’ teaching and discipleship methodology. The participants were trained to facilitate and actually had some hands-on experience in doing so. This is why workshops are called workshops: the participants were put to work, and they learned by doing. We had an enjoyable time and I have uploaded a video of a sample activity to give you a better idea of what took place.
Pastor Chua Seng Lee, in his early forties, joined the church pastoral team in February this year. He came to us after having served in a megachurch (FCBC) for nearly two decades. The perspectives, philosophy, competencies, insights and ideas he brought along has been like fresh air in a stale room and we have been greatly blessed as a church by his input.
It was wonderful to have these few days of meals together. My wife and I had a wonderful time chatting with his wife Josephine, daughter Rachel, the huggable son, John, and two of their disciples Veronica and Pei Yi. The family is close-knit and warm. They are a hugging family and that’s a great model. The Chinese family stereotype of cold formality and unexpressed affectionate love should be thrown into the shredding machine. Amen!
Makan, shopping and makan
We were treated to warm Malaysian hospitality. Veronica’s niece brought us to an authentic Hakka meal in a restaurant at Jalan Apa Saya Tak Tau, where we had a meal with her relatives. Then she brought us to the Pavilion and we stayed around that shopping area for the whole afternoon. We bought some clothing at bargain prices – thanks to the good exchange rate.
It was Chua’s birthday so we went back to the hotel and had a seafood meal at a coffeeshop nearby. The food was not as tasty-great, but at the price we paid we ain’t got no complaints.
The TA Tuesday Fellowship meets in the TA Building at Kuala Lumpur, in the heart of the marketplace. The meeting serves to equip marketplace Christians to shine as light and be salt in their workplace. It reminded me of the Christian lunch fellowship that met at UIC building at Shenton Way. There were about a hundred people who sang, heard God’s Word preached, and encouraged one another over lunch. It was a privilege for me to speak on “The Righteousness of God: revealed and received” , a doctrinal talk on justification by faith, not the typical inspirational lunch talk. The meeting has been going on for about 14 years, and is still going strong.
TA group is a successful Malaysian stockbroking and property listed company owned by Datuk Tony and Datin Alicia. They are committed Christians who give of themselves in ministry. The Datuk has taught on Wealth Creation in the Eagles Leadership Conference and other places. They have also given marriage talks that won scores of people to Christ. The Datin, who loves to sing and led in the worship, enthusiastically shared how the Lord provided the huge finances needed to purchase the Merchant Court Swisshotel, giving glory to God spontaneously.