The Organization of the ERCS

The most blessed and wonderful event of the history of our labors in Singapore has taken place. On January 24, 1982 the Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore was organized. For this goal we have all labored long and hard and have long been in earnest prayer to God. We thank the Lord and praise His name for His wonderful goodness and faithfulness. From several points of view the organization of the church here was a momentous event. First of all, of course, it is a most blessed and significant event for the youthful saints of God here. Now they are organized as a church and can enjoy the full blessings of the church of Jesus Christ including among other things the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in their midst and the benefits of the spiritual care of the special offices in the church. It would be hard to describe in words the joy and excitement among the saints here on account of this. Secondly, this event marks the establishment of the first Reformed Church in Singapore that stands as a testimony to the wonderful sovereign grace of God in Christ Jesus. There is a real vision and zeal in the midst of the church to publish the Reformed Faith in this area to the glory of the name of God and the further gathering of His church in this part of the world. Thirdly this is certainly a great event for our Protestant Reformed Churches. We can give thanks and praise unto our God that He has been pleased to use us in the work of the establishment of His church. The Lord has certainly blessed the labors of our churches. He has answered many prayers and rewarded all those who have faithfully given to the cause of missions in Singapore. Finally, and certainly not the least of all of these, this event was an occasion of great joy and gladness and thanksgiving for your missionary and his family. 

Let me tell you first of all a little about the organization itself. The church was organized with 102 founder members under the name Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore—Evangelical because of the earnest desire of the church to continue. the great and wonderful work of evangelism, the preaching of the glorious and blessed gospel of salvation in Christ Jesus; Reformed because this church is founded on the historic Reformed Faith expressed in the Reformed creeds and known especially for its emphasis on the glory of God and salvation by grace alone. The Evangelical Reformed Church has learned to know and love this faith as the truth of the Word of God and desires to proclaim and defend this faith by the grace of God here in Singapore. The membership of the new church includes six married couples. All the rest are individuals, most of whom are between twenty and thirty years old. This is therefore a very young church; both because it is made up predominantly of young people and also because almost all of these young people have been recently called by God out of heathendom. We rejoice to see that there are many dating couples in our midst and we look forward to many marriages in the very near future. The first infant child of one of the married couples will be baptized this coming Lord’s Day. Three more babies are expected during the coming year, the Lord willing. At the organization service eight office bearers were ordained, five elders and three deacons. Perhaps by comparison with our churches in the U.S.A. of similar size this may seem to be a large number of office bearers. However, in view of the situation here, the great amount of work that needs to be done in the midst of this young congregation, and also the great potential for the work outside of the congregation itself, this is by no means too many office bearers. 

The worship service at which the organization of the church took place was certainly a very moving experience. Let me just relate a few of the parts of this worship service. During the service the names of all those joining the organization of the church were read. (This was not done by your American missionary, for that would have been quite a difficult task, but rather by the native born chairman of the meeting. Imagine reading more than 100 long Chinese names.) When all the members of the church were standing they read together in unison a beautiful resolution of membership which had been prepared for the occasion by one of the members of the G.L.T.S. I would like to quote the entire resolution for you but space does not permit this. Two things were particularly moving about this resolution. First, there was the rich meaning of the portions of Scripture quoted from Ephesians 2, especially in the context of a church that for the most part has been very recently called out of heathendom by the wonderful sovereign grace of God. In this situation such passages of Scripture certainly take on new and richer meaning. Secondly, we were greatly moved by the expression of agreement with our Reformed Creeds that the resolution included. To appreciate fully why this meant so much to us you would have had to have been with us in the last months as’ we labored together to study carefully the creeds. 

It was certainly a great joy and blessing to have present at the organization representatives from our Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Rev. James Slopsema and Elder Edwin Van Ginkel were present as official representatives of the Foreign Mission Committee and of our calling church, the Doon Protestant Reformed Church of Doon, Iowa. Rev. Slopsema read the form for the ordination of elders and deacons that we use in our Protestant Reformed Churches. This was followed by a ceremony of laying on of hands. It is the conviction of the brethren here that this ceremony according to Scripture belongs to the ordination of all the offices. Your missionary, Rev. Slopsema, and Elder Van Ginkel took part in this ceremony. After this I had the privilege of preaching a sermon based on I Corinthians 3 under the theme; “The Church Founded and Built upon Christ Jesus.” 

Two more things about the organization services which I must tell you: It was a great joy to have in our midst not only the two emissaries from our churches in the U.S.A. but also Mr. and Mrs. Dewey Engelsma and Mr. John Kalsbeek, who had come to Singapore especially in order to witness and experience the organization of the church. To appreciate thoroughly the significance of this you must remember that the Engelsmas have been here to labor in the midst of the G.L.T.S. on several previous occasions, and it would be hard to tell in words of the great love- that the members of the G.L.T.S. have towards them. At the conclusion of the worship service more than half an hour was spent publicly reading greetings received from many of our churches in the U.S.A., from the O.P.C. of Christ-church New Zealand, from our seminary in the U.S.A., and from a number of individuals. What a wonderful evidence of the communion of the saints and the catholicity of the church of Jesus Christ was sensed in this. 

Since the organization of the church we continue to experience more exciting events. On Friday evening, January 29, we had our first session meeting (or consistory meeting as we call it in the U.S.). On the Lord’s Day of January 31 we had our first celebration of the Lord’s Supper. What an unspeakable joy this was. One of the greatest longings for the organization of the church was fulfilled in this. For many in the congregation this was the very first time ever in their lives they had come to the Lord’s Supper. Next Lord’s Day there will be yet one more special event. We shall, the Lord willing, experience the first infant baptism of a member of the E.R.C.S. With this and with the other babies expected in the church we have wonderful evidence of God’s faithfulness and His promise to continue His church in the line of generations. 

After all of this has taken place the church stands before the great calling it has for the future. Well does the church know that organization is not an end in itself. There is great need to carry on the work of the church. The organization of the church will by the grace of God help the church to carry on that work more effectively and in a more orderly way according to the Word of God and for His glory. There are many areas of work that stand before this young church. There is of course a very great need to grow in the faith and become strong. There is great need for the church to learn more perfectly the doctrines of the Reformed Faith and to study her creeds more carefully. The E.R.C.S. is alone as a Reformed Church in this part of the world., It is young and small in comparison to the world around. She has the calling to defend the Reformed Faith. As far as the church situation here is concerned it is not much different from that in the U.S.A. There is great apostasy in the churches; errors abound, such as the errors of liberalism, Arminianism, and Pentecostalism. The E.R.C.S. will surely be called upon to defend the faith on which, by God’s grace, she has chosen to stand. Furthermore, different from the U.S.A., this church stands in what is predominantly a heathen nation. Christians are by far in the minority in Singapore. The truth of the Christian Faith must be preached against the rising tide of heathendom. There is Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Islam. All of these are predominant in Singapore, and these heathen religions are by no means passing away. As in every large city in the world, so also in Singapore, there is the presence of the wickedness and immorality of the world. As we look at the situation we see the tremendous need for the preaching of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

There appears great potential for the growth of the church in Singapore. Presently we have a prebaptism class that has twelve people in regular attendance. Six of these have not yet been baptized and are desiring to be baptized. As a result of the many pastoral visits made before the organization of the church we found that a large number of our regular worshippers who are not presently members of the church desire to join our next prebaptism and membership class. We regularly have from 25 to 30 people worshipping with us on the Lord’s Day who are not members of the church, most of whom have not yet been baptized. There are always at least a few new visitors at our worship services on the Lord’s Day. Plans are to try to start a second center of worship in another location in Singapore with the goal of another congregation some day, the Lord willing. There is also great need in our midst for a Chinese ministry. We have contact with a number of Chinese-speaking people with whom we could work if only we had a minister who could preach and teach in the Chinese language. 

We are looking forward to the return of Mr. and Mrs. Lau Chin Kwee from the U.S.A. It will be another great event in the history of the E.R.C.S. when Mr. Lau is ordained as their Pastor. 

As far as the future for the work of our Protestant Reformed Churches is concerned, we see that there is much work to do. We rejoice and give thanks unto the Lord that the E.R.C.S. desires that we continue our labors here. We as your missionary and family continue to enjoy greatly the work of the church of Christ Jesus and to count it a great honor and privilege of the Lord to be able to labor in His Church for His glorious name. There seems to be no end to the work to do, and the work remains tremendously exciting. Even when Mr. Lau becomes the Pastor of the E.R.C.S. there will be plenty of work for two full-time pastors. There is great need for the training of young men from here for the ministry of the Word. We in Singapore will continue to be involved in this work. Our Seminary in the U.S.A in the years to come will continue to serve a very important role for the development of the church in Singapore. Presently we have plans to send another brother from here to our Seminary in 1983. 

We could tell you much more about all the above matters but we must end in order not to make this article too long. We continue to covet your prayers and support for the wonderful work of the church of Jesus Christ in Singapore. We want to thank all of you who have in the past months sent us greetings. We are deeply conscious of our need for the support of our churches in all our labors and thank you all for your prayers, letters, and monetary support.