We count it a special privilege to be in Singapore working among our sister church here for a few months. This is all happening in the years of our retirement—pretty amazing! May the Lord strengthen us for this great task. We have over the years of our ministry spent about ten years serving the church of Christ in Singapore. Our close bond with the saints who are her members includes many who were with us from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, as well as those whom the Lord has added to the church over more recent years during the ministry of my colleagues. It is such a great joy to see many grown up now in profound faith and steadfast knowledge and understanding of Reformed doctrine after years of being part of the church.
Interesting and exciting things continue to take place in the church, some of which are quite unusual compared to events taking place regularly in PRC local congregations in the U.S.
Attendance at both of the worship services, including the afternoon service, is good, greatly improved since years back. The audience is almost 100% Asian. The members are now of all ages. The excellent biblical tradition of two well-attended worship services is established in CERC. I know of no other Reformed church in Singapore having this and, in fact, less and less in America and in other places of the world have this great blessing of God continuing from year to year among them. By God’s grace this greatly helps to make a church strong.
What is especially heartening to see now is the presence of a number of young families of the second generation. There are rich times of fellowship between the morning and afternoon services. Lunch is prepared and provided by church members. Most people stay around. Little children are running around through the crowds. To the eyes of a Westerner these children are particularly precious. There are also young people of teenage years and older who have grown up in the church. They are enjoying fellowship together in the hallways.
There is a maze of smaller rooms available for special classes, the minister’s study, the meeting of the church session, and other purposes, including a church library.
The Heidelberg Catechism is regularly preached in the afternoon services. Between and after the two worship services catechism classes are being taught to the little ones as well as to the teenagers. Classes include covenantal instruction in the Heidelberg and in Essentials of Reformed Doctrine. This may sound so much like the PRC churches in America that it is hardly newsworthy. But what is unique about this is the fact that this is happening in a Reformed church that God raised up on the mission field. This is the exciting life of a Reformed church that has been in existence for a few decades now, and where God’s blessing of the truth of the covenant is so evident.
Marriages between members who have grown up in the church are now common. I officiated at one a couple of weeks ago. I am giving pre-marriage classes to two couples of the church who have wedding plans in the near future. I could write a lengthy part of this article about some of the unique features of the most recent wedding celebration. It was a very simple wedding. The church auditorium was full. The couple being united in marriage sat down in front for most of the ceremony. The Reformed Marriage Form with its excellent biblical instruction on marriage was read. After the ceremony, the newlyweds went up on the platform and together made a beautiful, sincere expression of thanks to God for the training of God-fearing parents and for a number of fellow Christians who had been especially instrumental in their lives as they were growing up and preparing for marriage. What was most heartening to ourselves, and ought also be to all the PRCA ministers who have spent large amounts of time laboring in CERC, was this part of the expression of thanks. There were copious amounts of hearty praise and thanks given for all the work of the PRCA in the last years, and what an influence this work had been in the lives of young couple to build them up in the knowledge and doctrines of the Reformed faith. Can anyone who has been here serving in the ministry ask for greater reason for joy and thanks than to hear such an expression from a godly couple of the church?
Many things are happening during the week between the Lord’s days. These include meetings of cell groups for Bible study and fellowship in several places all over Singapore. Sherry and I have enjoyed visiting these groups, and in some cases I have temporarily taken over the leadership. Given the situation with transportation from one part of the island to the other and the fact that many do not own cars, the cell groups function well.
Saturdays are catechism days. There are also youth meetings, which are led mostly by specially gifted, more senior and mature young people, who seem to be doing a great work in leading the young people of the church.
During the week there are pastoral visits at our apartment. As is true in all of our churches in the U.S., some of the individuals and families here are facing great struggles and trials in their lives. We are thankful that they are coming for counsel and encouragement, and we pray for wisdom from God to be able to give this as a pastor. Many are seeking practical guidance from the Word of God for real and sometimes deeply anguishing problems common among Christians in this world.
An aspect of the life of the church that not all of our readers may be aware of is that every Lord’s day there is a group of mostly elderly saints who can only understand the preaching of the Word when it is interpreted into the Chinese by fellow members of the church gifted to do this. Having existed now for as long as it has in the providence of God, CERC has elderly saints who are members of the church. Another example of the special dimensions of the work here took place a couple of weeks ago with an elderly saint who is now more than one hundred years old. She had a typical fall that often happens to the elderly, leaving her quite badly bruised. We visited her in the hospital with a Chinese language interpreter. What warmed our hearts particularly was to witness the joy of faith in this elderly woman. When the Word of God was read, there was such evidence of a true faith and confidence in the promises of salvation. We ought not neglect such evidences of the working of God’s grace in the lives of His people, in this case elderly saints near the end of their earthly pilgrimage.
The session (which we in U.S. call the consistory) meets regularly at least once a month and is obviously active in the leadership, oversight, and guidance of the church. There is a schedule for pastoral visits, so that all the homes receive a visit from the elders at least once a year or more. Along with all the work that a session has to perform in the church are labors connected with the overseeing of a missionary and his labors in India. Anyone who has been involved in such work in a local congregation knows how much labor is actually involved in overseeing a mission work in a foreign country, and how many serious direction-setting decisions have to be made.
At our last session meeting three fathers appeared to request baptism for their infant children. This too is a regular event in the life of CERC.
Besides all the activities on-going during the Lord’s day, there is a pre-baptism class in the afternoon attended by nine individuals, most of whom are preparing themselves for either baptism or confession of faith and church membership. This is another exciting activity in the life of the church that we are directly involved in; and it has such beautiful promise of the continued growth of the church, not only from the generations of the covenant, but also as God gathers His elect people in various wonderful ways from outside the church.
Especially those who over the years have been members of a large PRCA congregation may wonder why I am even telling you all of this, since most of these things are so common in our local churches. Perhaps the best response is that the very fact that these things are regularly taking place in the CERC is exactly the reason why they are so exciting, keeping in mind that the church here was raised up by God and preserved in Singapore for all these years.
With thanksgiving to God, we can say that there is a beautiful church here. Not one that is without weaknesses and problems. CERC has profound appreciation for the work of the PRCA that now has gone on so many years. She looks for and needs our continued help and guidance, especially over the next few years. There is an earnest prayer being heard continually in CERC for another minister-on-loan to help her yet for the next few years in the providence of God. It can be said that no Reformed church can imagine herself to have arrived, and not have a great ongoing need to grow and become stronger in the truth. Building strong covenant families usually takes as long as one generation or even longer.
By the Fall of this year CERC will have two of its young men as students in the PRC seminary in GR training for the ministry. This is rightly considered to be a tremendous thing for the future of CERC, giving her hope of having two of her own native ministers in a few more years, D.V. Our Theological School and its professors can be greatly encouraged that the Lord should use them for such great things.