Catching the Vision
It’s one in the morning, I’m on a Jumbo Jet on the runway of Hong Kong International Airport and take-off has been delayed for two hours due to “adverse weather conditions”. In economy class we’re packed like sardines in a tin, the cabin temperature is soaring and it’s going to be some time yet before we are in the air. So instead of sitting idly while I slowly roast, I’m doing something useful; writing to you.
I’m here because I have just completed CWI’s first visit to Sarawak in Malaysia. We were invited by Pick Chiong Diong, a Methodist minister who attended last year’s Summer School in London. Pick Chiong was so excited by the experience that she wanted to enthuse her denomination with a vision for Jewish mission. It has been an encouraging and, I hope, profitable time.
On the first Sunday of the trip, I visited Christian Central Church in Hong Kong where I preached at two services in the morning and conducted a seminar on Jewish mission in the afternoon. It was a great experience to speak to a good number of people – most of them young – who have a burden for the Jewish people. One of the most encouraging things about the day was meeting three ladies who had come from mainland China because they heard that someone would be speaking about the Jews. After the service, one of the ladies explained that she had had a dream sometime before in which she heard someone speaking in a foreign language. She told me via an interpreter that, as she heard me speak on Psalm 67 that morning, she was listening to the words she heard in her dream; only now she could understand the message because someone was able to interpret. In Malaysia, the Methodist churches are all firmly evangelical and evangelistic. In the town of Sibu, there are about twelve Methodist churches, all of which have several hundred members. These fellowships have seen remarkable success in their evangelistic forays into the interior among the animistic peoples who live in communal “long houses”. Within the past few years they have begun to expand their missionary endeavours beyond their own shores. Few representatives of Western mission agencies have been asked to address the Malaysian Methodist churches, so it was an honour to be invited to meet the mission board and speak at their churches.
At the weekend I travelled to Bintulu – a bone-jarring three-and-a-half hour bus journey from Sibu – where I spoke at the youth meeting at Emmanuel Methodist Church. The custom at the youth meeting is for everyone, including the speaker, to remove their footwear, including socks. The youngsters sat on a hard wooden floor for over an hour as I spoke about Jewish mission and the necessity of getting our priorities in life right: seeking first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), believing of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3) and getting the right priority in mission by remembering that the gospel is for the Jews first (Romans 1:16).
One young man asked me: “If you are right and the gospel is for the Jew first, does that mean God is selfish?”
I think I knew what he meant and explained that Israel’s calling was to be God’s mission to the world. The Jewish people were intended to be his instrument of salvation for all nations. God called Abram in order to bless all the families of the world through his “seed”. The composer of Psalm 67 understood Israel’s missionary calling when he prayed that God would bless Israel precisely in order that salvation would then come to the nations. Israel’s salvation is the precursor to the world’s salvation so the success of Jewish mission is the key to world mission. At the Sunday morning service I spoke to a congregation of some 200 about the biblical priority of Jewish mission. The feedback was positive and all the literature was taken. When we talked after the morning service, Pastor Hii, a youthful forty-something, told me the visit was timely for the Methodists in Sarawak because it was at a time when they were developing a missionary strategy. He, like Pick Diong Chiong, has a burden for the Jews. We must pray for these people as they contemplate engaging in world mission, especially for the Missions Board, that they may, as Robert Murray McCheyne pleaded with his denomination over 150 years ago, “not only be evangelistic, but evangelistic as God would have us be – not only dispense the light on every hand, but dispense it first to the Jew”. We’re still on the runway and the cabin is even hotter but the captain has just assured us we’ll be airborne soon. Let’s hope so.
Yours for the salvation of Israel,