Christian fellowship is a defining characteristic of who we are in Christ. Without vibrant and Christ-centered fellowship, our spiritual growth is stunted, our gospel testimony is diminished, and our global mission is hindered. Believers are especially aware of this reality in regions of the world where Christianity is unpopular, restricted, or persecuted.
Last month, our training center in Singapore (Grace Bible Seminary) hosted a conference for pastors and church leaders in China and Southeast Asia. Believers in these regions generally share a measure of loneliness and intimidation that is unfelt in the west. The aim of the conference is not only to equip men in God’s Word but also to bring together men of God to stand united on God’s Word. Pastoral training is necessary, but so is their fellowship, especially as opposition mounts. It may surprise you that the country with the largest population of Muslims is not found in the Middle East but rather is located in Southeast Asia. Some congregations we’ve spoken to must carefully investigate new converts for fear of spies who would seek to harm or otherwise jeopardize their gospel ministry.
You can imagine, then, the excitement that these church leaders had to attend a ten-day pastors conference full of biblical teaching, gospel proclamation, and mutual encouragement! This was Grace Bible Seminary’s first shepherds’ conference, and pastors came from every corner of China, as well as from Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Security is a big issue. Many of these men refuse to receive Caucasian missionaries to their churches because it would draw unwanted attention from the government, but in Singapore, everything is open and legal.
The attendees unanimously expressed a desire to return next year with others. One pastor commented, “The speakers were very committed to the Bible. It is amazing to me—and unlike many conferences we’ve attended—that their teaching is consistent and they did not contradict one another. That reinforces our faith in the Bible.” Another shared his gratitude in an anonymous feedback form, confessing that many false ideas and unbiblical ways of thinking had been corrected even in his own mind during the course of the conference. A third pastor especially appreciated the hospitality of the hosts. He wrote, “Besides the excellent teaching, we were deeply touched by the love, humility, and commitment of the brothers and sisters of Grace Bible Fellowship. They are our examples of how a church can come together to serve in unity.”
“Besides the excellent teaching, we were deeply touched by the love, humility, and commitment of the brothers and sisters of Grace Bible Fellowship. They are our examples of how a church can come together to serve in unity.”
The conference, which lasted ten days, had a major focus on Muslim evangelism, as well as on preaching and spiritual formation. One of the keynote speakers has labored for Christ for decades amidst continual life-threatening situations in the Middle East. He has co-translated and edited the first Greek-Arabic Lexicon of the New Testament and has pioneered several international ministries for Muslim evangelism. We are grateful for his lifetime of ministry and partnership with Grace Bible Seminary (GBS).
Roger Ng, president of GBS, is thrilled with the possibilities in China and Southeast Asia. He says, “We will continue to focus on our full-time students but cannot neglect our graduates and the faithful pastors in the region. Many have expressed to us that they experience much loneliness and difficulty, but that when we rally together on God’s Word we have newfound confidence to face whatever theological threats, political dangers, or governmental pressures that may exist. Pray for us. We need the power of God.”