“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Written by Elder Francis Lee
The work of the Lord requires the Spirit of God to guide and help us. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech 4:6). Nobody is able to accomplish anything for the Lord by his own power or strength. As Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Today’s dedication of the Gethsemane Media Centre (GMC) is testament to God’s goodness and faithfulness to His people. This building project, which took 6 years to complete, was accomplished because God has been good and gracious to us, as recounted by this report.
In mid-2013, with increasing ministries and worshippers in our church, it became clear that we would need a larger space for our church’s administrative centre, better studios for our Bible Witness Media Ministry (BWMM) and a more spacious work area for The Gethsemane Care Ministry (TGCM). In addition, finding venues to accommodate our fellowship meetings and seminars became difficult in terms of capacity and affordability. Just as God, by His Spirit, worked on the hearts of “the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites” to rise up and set forth to rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in the days of Ezra (cf. Ezra 1:5), God likewise acted on the hearts and minds of our church leaders. In Aug 2013, the Church Session unanimously agreed to work towards raising $5 million by 2015 to purchase a larger place to meet our increasing needs.
that point in time, we did not know many things. Can we ever reach this mammoth target of $5 million, as we are not a big or wealthy church? Will this $5 million be enough, considering the very high property prices in Singapore? How to go about buying a place, in view of many restrictions on churches buying property? We did not have all the answers, but we were assured that God is ever faithful to His people and He will help us. “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11).
In the beginning, the funds came in at a very slow pace; by end 2014, we only had $548,000. But we continued to trust God. Thank God for Pastor, who led by example and sold his HDB flat to raise money for the Building Fund. In 2015, the church had 4 fasting and prayer sessions (March, June, Sept and Dec) as we sought the Lord’s help and recollected His promises (cf. Phil 4:19). In 2015, while our General Fund was running a deficit of about $41,000, we were also trying to raise about $120,000 to buy a new van for Pastor’s continued ministry use. Thank God we were united in the Lord’s work! We fasted and prayed together, and members gave cheerfully so that we resolved the deficit, bought a new van and continued to contribute to the Building Fund.
By end 2015, we had about $1.74 million (still far from our target), but we “staggered not at the promises of God through unbelief” (Rom 4:19), and continued in faith, knowing that God will work out all things for our good in His time (cf. Rom 8:28). The so-called “delay’ in our finite minds turned out to be providential. In addition to funds, God showed us that He had to help us to obtain a number of government approvals before any purchase was possible. Furthermore, when we were ready to purchase a place in 2018, the property prices were not as high as before and it became advantageous for us to buy. Truly, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov 3:5-6).
In 2016, the Church Session decided to buy an industrial unit due to the following reasons:
Firstly, buying an industrial unit was the most viable option in terms of the space we needed and the financial outlay required. Secondly, the media work of BWMM and the printing work of TGCM qualified us to use industrial premises zoned B1, which was for light and clean industries. Thirdly, with new URA rules (effective June 12, 2012), there was greater flexibility by the government in allowing for religious use in industrial buildings, limited to 2 days a week and up to 40% of total space.
However, there were statutory regulations to surmount. The church, being a society, is forbidden to buy. God gave the leaders needed wisdom, and an entity known as a CLG (Company Limited by Guarantee) came to our knowledge. The CLG is used by non-profit organisations for charitable purposes. We did not want a private limited company as it would give an impression that the church is involved in business activities for monetary purposes. We needed professional help; by God’s leading, we went to a law firm through a sister from True Life BPC. At our meeting with them on 25th Jan 2016, we were briefed on the steps required to register a CLG. On 21st Feb 2016, we explained to the congregation the concept / purpose of CLG. Thereafter, we took 6 months working on the CLG’s constitution. We named the company, Gethsemane Bible Witness Limited (GBWL), whose constitution we wanted to be closely aligned to that of the church, so as to reflect the purpose for setting up this company. Being for the work of the Gospel, not as a profit-making business, it is to be operated according to Scriptural truths. However, the lawyers kept warning us not to link GBWL too closely to the church as the authorities viewed religious entities more stringently, and our application might fail.
Notwithstanding, we trusted in God and proceeded with what God’s Word has guided us to do. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). We had an ECM on 7th Aug 2016 to seek the congregation’s endorsement of the registration of GBWL and the selling of the old Church Resource Centre (CRC), which was duly given. Praise God for the unity of hearts! We submitted for incorporation in Sept 2016 to the government regulatory body known as ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority). Thereafter, it was a time of waiting patiently upon God. “I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry” (Ps 40:1). Having heard nothing from ACRA for almost 4½ months, God finally answered our prayers and we had successful incorporation on 14th Feb 2017. What a relief! Otherwise, we cannot buy an industrial unit even if we had the funds. This successful incorporation of GBWL was an encouragement to our hearts from the Lord and prepared us for further “battles” ahead.
For any property acquisition, we had to seek the approval of MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) as church funds were involved. However, the ministry would process our application only if we have a specific property in mind. We had to sell our old CRC and with the monies in hand, exercise an option to buy a property before applying to MCCY. We had much difficulty in selling the CRC as the property market conditions then were poor. We had few viewers in 2017, and those that came were not interested. God guided us to Knight Frank in Oct 2017 and provided us a buyer through them. The buyer requested that the completion to be within 6 months instead of 3 months. We agreed and sold the CRC on 28 March 2018 for $1.25 million, with completion in 6 months. With this sale, we had about $4 million in our Building Fund, and we set forth to search for a property, during which we discovered that with the softening of the property market, prices had come down significantly since we started this project in 2013. Hence the “delay” in our earlier years of this project was not really a delay, but God’s good timing, for we were then able to consider bigger units.
In 2013, we had thought we would only be able to afford to purchase a 5,000 square feet unit, but now we could even consider units of 11,000 square feet. Then God providentially guided us to 33 Ubi Crescent in April 2018. The premises met our requirements but the seller initially wanted $4.6 million, which was way beyond us. We intended not to consider it, but the agent and owner were eager to do the sale with us; after negotiations, the owner was willing to sell at $4.1 million – a reduction of $0.5 million! We could sense God helping us but even at that price, we were stretched in our finances. Other than the purchase price, we had to factor in renovation costs, legal costs, stamp duty and GST. Furthermore, we were also aware that the sale completion date of the CRC was 28 Sept 2018 while that of this new place would be 15th Aug 2018 (i.e. a month earlier), if government approvals were obtained. This was a concern, for the money from the CRC sale will not come in on time. How will all things work out?
God said in Isa 41:13, “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” We trusted God to work it all out for us and we paid the initial deposit on 15th May 2018. Some weeks later, we learnt that the (33 Ubi Crescent) owner’s daughter had come to our church to worship, being a new believer in Christ! Ironically, she was initially not aware that we were buying her father’s property. She only learnt of it through our church prayer meeting and from her father’s incidental mention of selling his property to a church during their drive past Ubi Crescent. To the church leaders, this was an amazing situation! Anyhow, the buyer of the CRC subsequently requested for an earlier completion in Aug 2018. Praise the Lord! There was no need for worries. God is in control of all things!
After exercising the option to purchase 33 Ubi Crescent, we had to get approval from 3 government bodies. Firstly, we applied to IRAS for the GST registration of GBWL to get GST refunds on the purchase of the property and subsequent renovations. (The GST on the property purchase was $287,000, a very significant amount!) Approval was obtained on 5th June 2018 and IRAS refunded us the money. Secondly, we had to apply for change of use of the premises for our media ministries. God gave us the grace to write the application to URA which was submitted on 4th July 2018. Praise God, we got the approval on 3rd Sept 2018. Thirdly, we wrote to MCCY on 27 Aug 2018, to seek permission to transfer the Church Building Fund to GBWL for the purchase of the property and subsequent renovations. MCCY set many tasks for us to do before they would consider giving approval. It was a struggle trying to fulfil all these governmental requirements, but God gave us wisdom to complete them and we obtained MCCY’s approval on 31st Oct 2018.
In all our applications, God moved the people in authority to help His people and accomplish His purposes. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” For the record, the purchase of 33 Ubi Crescent by GBWL was completed on 15th Nov 2018!
Even as the Lord was moving the authorities to approve our applications, He was also providing the funds needed for the renovations and other expenses. We had about slightly over $4 million when we bought the property, but it was not enough. God moved His people to strengthen their leaders’ hands with their cheerful giving. Indeed, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Cor 9:7-8). We received over a million dollars in about 6 months, from May 2018 to Oct 2018, and our Building Fund rose to $5.2m. More funds came in during our renovations. This was the Lord’s marvellous work. “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?” (Jer 32:27).
The planning and execution of the GMC renovations was a mammoth task, in which many brethren stepped forward to offer their expertise and time. Praise God for their dedication to the work, and their spirit of cooperation and unity. We were also heartened by the brethren who were knitted with us in this work through their prayers and cheerful giving. Not everyone could be physically doing the work, but God uses them in many other ways. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all” (1 Cor 12:4-6).
The planning took a few months, from Nov 2018 to Jan 2019. Tenders and evaluation of quotations were carried out from Feb to March 2019. Work started on the premises on 22 April 2019. We are grateful that God kept all the workers safe during the renovations, with no mishap or serious injuries. Praise God that He sent people who were not from our church to help us with our renovations. Thank God we were able to preach the Gospel to the workers during our Thanksgiving dinner for them on 11 Oct 2019, the day when we also obtained the permit for occupation!
When we began our Church Building Project in Aug 2013, nobody could have foreseen the magnitude of the task and the difficulties in this endeavour. Now, as we look back, we thank God for all that He has done. During these 6 years, our hearts were at times faint and weak, but His goodness and faithfulness towards us never failed. God provided for us, strengthened our hearts, increased our faith and kept us united in heart, so that by His mighty hand, we are led to victory with the accomplishment of this work. As we recollect the Lord’s help and blessings, let us cry out like the psalmist in Ps 103:1-2, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”. To God be all the glory, honour and praise!
Dear brethren, the long-awaited day of Thanksgiving & Dedication Service of the new premises – Gethsemane Media Centre – is now literally within sight. God willing, we shall meet this Saturday in two services (10:30am & 4:30pm respectively) to praise our God. To prepare our hearts to praise Him, I exhort you with the following article, and thereafter a poem written by Bro. Cornelius Koshy.
The prophet Isaiah says, “I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isaiah 25:1b). Praising God is the outflowing of a thankful heart. When a heart is full of gratitude towards God, it hastens to bless His name. A thankful heart is resolute in praising God’s name, just as Isaiah said, “I will praise thy name”. Here the prophet was determined to praise God.
In chapter 25, Isaiah (speaking in the first person) described the great wonders which will occur when the LORD’s kingdom is established on the earth. His heart, being full of adoration and thanksgiving, was greatly excited to express itself to magnify the LORD. It is those who are so stirred up within themselves to praise God that will stir up others also to do the same. Isaiah thus began with an intensely personal affirmation that the LORD is his God. He had already laid claim that the LORD is his God; he had earlier said, “O LORD, thou art my God”. Such acknowledgment of the LORD as one’s God provides the desire and motivation to exalt Him.
Having in his heart the knowledge of the great wonders of God which will occur when the LORD’s kingdom is established on the earth, the prophet determined to praise God. Here he gave two specific reasons for praising the LORD. The first reason for exalting the LORD is that He “hast done wonderful things”. In fact, Scripture presents our God as “the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things” (Psalm 72:18). Even when the LORD acts to chasten us or try our faith, we must confess that all His works are wondrous. His works are perfect, great (cf. Psalm 92:5), marvellous (cf. Psalm 139:14), powerful (cf. Psalm 111:6), merciful (cf. Psalm 145:9), holy (cf. Psalm 145:17), and in truth (cf. Psalm 33:4).
The second reason for Isaiah’s dedication to the LORD’s praise is that His “counsels of old are faithfulness and truth”. The ancient counsels of God’s Word are perfectly trustworthy. All that God has revealed from the days of old remain steadfast and true even today. Not a word of His revealed counsels shall fail. The fact that His promises and prophecies continue to be fulfilled assures us of the veracity and profitability of all the counsels of the Scriptures. Isaiah later declared that “the LORD of hosts… is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working” (Isaiah 28:29). Praise the LORD!
Excited though we may be,
Patient, and trusting still in Thee.
We look towards the day of dedication,
after five years of prayer and supplication.
Five years – (was it too long?) –
Did you once think that it was wrong
that God who promised to supply
would, seemingly, pass us by?
This journey was a test,
of our Faith when sore distressed
by the regulations, laws and more
when buying a property in Singapore.
Oh! that we were reprimanded
to have the blessing of God demanded.
When we gave as His Word commanded,
He never for a moment left us empty-handed –
God blessed us according to our need
with a place and funds: did they not far exceed
our expectations of just “a bigger space”?
He gave us 4-floors in an ideal place!
Never once we turned to the banks,
so that to God alone we can give thanks,
as we do now with grateful hearts,
and sing with joy in our four parts:
Come, let us raise our voices incessant!
Fill the halls of 33 Ubi Crescent!
Soprano, Alto, Bass and Tenor
sound forth in Gethsemane Media Centre!
The First floor with its ceiling high,
greeted by Care-brothers whose lives testify
of God’s saving grace which transforms –
their hands His Work now perform.
A spacious lecture hall on the Second,
Gethsemane Bible Institute beckons
every believer to hear and hide
His Word and in Christ abide.
Dwelling richly in God’s Word,
Let’s go up to the studio on the Third!
Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
with instruments unto Whom praise belongs.
Each labourer of God doing his best –
Our church office works with little rest
on the Fourth floor – where a library of books
sit on shelves for them – Go, have a look!
And when the sun begins to set,
Climb to the roof (children, not the parapet!)
To have fellowship “with a view”
Around his Word, and maybe barbecue!
When God has blessed us manifold,
It is required of us as His household
to be courageous for the Lord and bold
That for His Kingdom we reap a hundredfold.
May our love for God never grow cold,
neither for his Word – more precious than gold.
The Gospel of Jesus must be told
to all the four corners of the world.
The isles of Philippines yearn,
The land of Ethiopia must learn,
The Indians must be taught to discern
And to God the Chinese must turn!
We in Singapore must be careful:
Pride comes if we are not prayerful;
None of these blessings we deserve,
so God’s truth we must preserve!
O Lord, sanctify us with thy Truth!
That in the strength of our youth,
and with clean hands and pure hearts,
we may produce Christian Media and Arts –
To nurture the heart of the young child
and the youth, that they be not defiled;
The adults, too, by the Spirit’s leading,
guide Gethsemane to be God-glorifying!
A report of the Choirs’ Seminar by Bro. Cornelius Koshy
The Gethsemane Church Choir, Youth Choir and Children’s Choir give thanks to God for blessing us in the Gethsemane Choirs’ Seminar held at City Beach Resort on Monday, 28 October 2019. Pastor Koshy instructed 112 adult, youth and older children participants on the biblical understanding of the music ministry of the church. Concurrently, 10 younger children were separately taught on the same topic by Mrs Carolyn Koshy. This report serves as a brief summary of the key lessons learnt from the two sessions of learning, so that the choirs may reaffirm these biblical principles, and others may be reminded of God’s guidelines for music in the church.
More than an accompaniment of God’s Word, music is a carrier of God’s Word! In worship, music should not be for the mere pleasure of the ears, but for the declaration of God’s Truth (cf. Deuteronomy 31:19; Colossians 3:16). Therefore, singing should be prioritised over mere music without lyrics because the lyrics invoke our understanding. “Sing praises to God, … sing ye praises with understanding” (Psalm 47:6-7, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:15). With this as starting point, worshipful singing must fulfil the following three purposes:
Firstly, music must be God-glorifying (Psalm 92:1). Moses declares, “The LORD is my strength and song” (Exodus 15:2), and Isaiah joins in: “the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song” (Isaiah 12:2). Secondly, music must be used for teaching (Colossians 3:16), with lyrics which are rich with the wisdom of the word of Christ. Finally, music must affirm the congregation in God’s Goodness and Righteousness. Music helps the children of God retain the things which He has done for them or which they have learnt, so that “they shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness” (Psalm 145:7).
Anything contrary to these purposes is a perversion of music in the worship of God. So, great caution must be exercised in the choice of music in the worship. While some argue that music by itself is amoral (i.e. ‘not concerned with morality’), the way it is arranged and articulated can represent worldly, heathen backgrounds and associations (cf. Daniel 3:7). Moreover, when music is carelessly expressed, it will promote misconceived spiritual assurance (cf. Amos 5:23; 6:1, 5; Isaiah 5:12).
Having laid down the principles for worshipful music, Pastor went on to delineate the prerequisites for singing in the choir ministry:
Concerning the singer’s attitude in the choir ministry, the singer must:
Indeed, the calling of a singer in the worship of God is a high calling, which requires strict spiritual and choral discipline. It is the sincere prayer of the choir leader and choir members that we will press on to be biblical, beautiful-sounding, and the best singers for our King! Where we have not been up to scratch as singers, we are grateful to God for the gentle correction we received from His Word and the opportunity to sanctify our lives for an acceptable service to Him. May the choirs be obedient to His Word in their personal lives, choir-practices, and presentations of praise unto God!
With regard to administrative matters, the choir leader gives thanks to God for the sacrificial service of many who have rendered help in planning and preparing for the seminar. From the booking of the function room and logistical / transport arrangements to the food contributions and assistance with the children’s programme, God has greatly blessed us with edifying fellowship around His Word and His people. All glory be to God!
The Reformation of the 16th century began with Martin Luther in Germany, which took various forms and emphases in different places, particularly in Europe. Luther’s efforts were foundational to all the Reformation activities in Switzerland, France, England and Scotland. It affected not only Christianity, but also the social, economic, and political realms of those societies.
Luther stood out among all the Reformers as one who was mightily used by God to bring about biblical changes in the Christian church. All that had happened within the church regarding its doctrines and practices (sacraments, church organisation, church’s relationship with the state, etc., culminating in the Council of Trent) proceeded from Scriptural truths proclaimed passionately.
Luther’s early protest stemmed from his deep convictions about the sound doctrines of Scripture. His vehement protest through preaching of the Word helped to clear the widespread disenchantment with the church. It paved the way for people to overcome their own ignorance of the pure Scriptural doctrines and to reject the fallacious teachings of the church. He objected to its indulgences (sales of pardon or remission of sin for the living and dead, who were believed to be in purgatory), idolatry, ritualism in public worship, monastic routine, immoral and power-thirsty hierarchy, etc. He also brought to light the erroneous teaching of the Catholic Church that salvation could be achieved by faith and good works, and asserted the biblical doctrine that salvation is the gift of God’s grace through Christ, which a man receives by faith alone.
(For a brief reminiscence of Luther’s part in 16th Century Reformation, I include the following extract on Lutheran Reformation from “The Reformers and Their Reformations” by Trueman, C. R., & Kim, E. in M. Barrett (Ed.), Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary (pp. 112–114).)
Born in 1483 in Eisleben, the son of a mine manager, Luther became an Augustinian monk in 1505 as the result of being caught in a terrifying thunderstorm. He was also ordained a priest, which meant that he would always have regular pastoral duties in addition to those connected to his monastic vocation. In 1509, he transferred to the new University of Wittenberg, where he taught for much of his remaining life. A year later, a visit to Rome on business for his order confronted him not only with the heights of medieval piety, focused on relics, but also with the corruption of the Roman See.
Luther came to prominence when, in October 1517, he nailed his famous Ninety-Five Theses against indulgences to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. In doing this, he was merely calling for a debate on the practice of allowing Christians to buy time off purgatory for themselves or their loved ones. This had become a pressing pastoral problem for Luther when Johann Tetzel (1465–1519) arrived nearby to sell indulgences. For Luther, this practice effectively turned the grace of God into a commodity to be bought or sold on the market, with no reference to repentance or faith.
The details of the subsequent events that this initially nondescript act precipitated have been well rehearsed many times. The Ninety-Five Theses became a popular tract and rallying point for opposition to Rome. In April 1518, Luther presided at a disputation in Heidelberg, where he most memorably articulated his famous distinction between the theologian of glory and the theologian of the cross. Put simply, the theologian of glory assumes that God is made in man’s image and thus conforms to human expectations. So, for example, to please God, one does good works to earn his favor, as one would do with a fellow human being. The theologian of the cross, however, looks to God’s revelation of himself on the cross to understand how God has chosen to be toward us. There God shows that he is strong through weakness and overcomes death not by avoiding it but by going through it. This counterintuitive God contradicts all human expectations.
After Heidelberg, Luther’s move toward a definitive break with the medieval church both theologically and ecclesiastically continued apace. The church failed to take him into custody at the imperial Diet of Augsburg in late 1518. He debated with Johann Eck (1486–1543) at the University of Leipzig in 1519, at which point the issue of authority (i.e., sola Scriptura) emerged as a central Reformation concern. He wrote the three great manifestos of his reformation project in 1520, the year in which he was also excommunicated. And then in 1521, he was tried at, yet survived, the Diet of Worms.
What emerged in the four years after the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses were the central tenets of Luther’s theology. Human beings are dead in sin, incapable of moving to God in their own strength. God himself in Christ has taken human flesh and died and risen again. The righteousness of Christ can be grasped by the believer as he trusts in God’s Word, which unites him to Christ and leads to a joyful exchange of the believer’s sins for Christ’s righteousness.
Practically, this meant that the Word preached became central to Luther’s understanding of the Christian life. The preacher had to proclaim first the law, to remind his hearers of how far short of God’s holiness they fell, and then the gospel, to point them to the promise of salvation in Christ, who had done all things for them. This law-gospel, command-promise dialectic lay at the very heart of Luther’s understanding of the Christian faith.”
“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I would like to thank and praise God for the wonderful privilege of visiting The Gethsemane Care Ministry (TGCM) in Cebu with Pr Kelvin Lim, as well as the opportunity to share my testimony at TGCM’s 10th Anniversary Thanksgiving service.
Incidentally, it was Pr Kelvin who brought me to The Gethsemane Care Ministry in Singapore upon my release from Changi Prison more than 3 years ago. During my last incarceration, I said to myself, “I never want to step inside prison again, and if I were to step inside a prison, I mustn’t be in custody, but as a volunteer to encourage the inmates!” By the grace of God, I now have a new life in Christ, and I am no longer in the bondage of drugs.
Praise God for the opportunity to visit Bro. Tibo in the Talisay City Jail in Cebu with Rev. Reggor, Pr Kelvin and Bro. Alan. The configuration of the jail and its compound is so different from Singapore’s, not to mention the culture. We literally walked in, and visited him outside the dormitory openly with those locked up with him. Of course, this was done under the escort of three jail officials. Rev. Reggor exhorted the inmates to follow Jesus, and I shared my testimony of salvation and of how the LORD led me to TGCM in Singapore. Only the truths of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ can set a person free from the shackles of drugs!
In the Philippines, I was told that the authorities can shoot to kill during the raids on drug dens. Many drug addicts and pushers had been killed in the raids! As a Singaporean, I had been given many opportunities by the authorities to stop using drugs, unlike those in the Philippines. Many of them did not even have an opportunity to do so, as they were killed during the raids. These facts made me realise how much God had preserved me! I am thankful to be alive, and more so to be a child of God.
Next, I would like to thank God for the opportunity to visit Pr Edsel in Bohol and to get to know / fellowship with the brethren there. I am indeed humbled by the simple lifestyle of the people. I spoke to some of them and realised their poverty. One such brother only had the means to come for worship, and not back. Yet, he came! Thank God for using this brother to teach me to love Christ more, and to worry less about the material things of this world.
Furthermore, I also thank God for the privilege of visiting two other Gospel stations at different parts of Bohol – one located at Trinidad, and the other at Anda. As one of the locations is more than 100 kilometers away, the bus ride (which was on a non-air-conditioned bus) actually took up to 3 hours! I am grateful to God for this eye-opening experience to witness firsthand the love for God among the brethren there. How they would be willing to travel hundreds of kilometers to minister the Word of God or to worship the LORD!
Written by Pr Kelvin Lim
Praise God for the opportunity given to Bro. Guesstine Leong and me to attend the 10th Anniversary of The Gethsemane Care Ministry (TGCM) in Cebu, and to fellowship with Pr Edsel Locot in Bohol, another island of the Philippines.
Our flight from Changi (via Scoot) was smooth, and we landed safely in Cebu at about noon, where we were received warmly by Rev. Reggor Galarpe, who brought us directly to TGCM premises located in Mandaue City. Lunch had been prepared for us by the expectant TGCM brothers. And what a (‘boodle fight’) lunch reception we got! It is a meal that dispenses with cutlery and dishes. Diners instead practise kamayan, Filipino for “eating with the hands”. The food is placed on top of a long banana leaf-lined trestle table, with the diners standing shoulder to shoulder in a line on both sides of the table. Thank God for the fellowship with the residents and helpers (as well as some TGCM alumni whom Rev. Reggor had invited to join us), which continued after lunch. We were so encouraged to witness the bond between them. Basketball was next in the afternoon programme, during which Rev. Reggor and I had the opportunity to reminisce God’s goodness in our lives. After the game, we checked in to our hotel.
The next morning, we had breakfast in the church and Bible Institute premises, which doubles up as Rev. Reggor’s home. We spent a good two hours there being briefed on the Gospel work in Cebu and in Bohol. The Lord has been good to True Life BPC, Singapore, as well, for we heard it has also established mission stations in Cebu and Bohol! May Christ’s Gospel spread throughout the 7,107 islands of the Philippines!
The 10th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service of TGCM was held at its own premises. Currently, there are 3 residents and 3 co-labourers in the ministry. Rev. Reggor chaired the service. Bro. Guesstine shared his testimony of salvation and how the Lord led him to TGCM. I preached from Psalm 105:5 on the theme, “Remembering the Lord’s Marvellous Works”. It was an exhortation to us, who have tasted God’s wonderful grace, to remember God’s works in our lives, and not to forget His words, as well as to admonish one another to tell others about God’s doings in our lives. There were 4 Baptist ministers among the guests, one of whom told Rev. Reggor that his family was blessed by Bro. Guesstine’s testimony. Praise be unto God!
On the Lord’s Day, we woke up early to catch the 7.00am ferry to Tagbilaran City, Bohol, to attend the worship service of the mission church in Bohol. Pr Edsel welcomed us at the ferry terminal and brought us for breakfast. We arrived at the mission church with sufficient time for Pr Edsel to prepare to teach in the pre-service Bible study, and get ready for worship. Pr Edsel chaired the service, Bro. Guesstine shared his testimony, and I preached from Acts 8:4-5 on the theme, “Preaching Christ”. Among the worshippers were a toddler and 2 young children (who are the grandchildren of Bro. Bucio, one of the founding members of the church), and Bro. Levi (alumni of TGCM), besides others as well. Later at 1pm, Pr Edsel, Bro. Jheyson, Bro. Guesstine and I left Tagbilaran to visit Trinidad, a small town northeast of Bohol, which is a 3-hour bus ride away. There, Bro. Mikhail Gonzales (ex-resident of the House of Hope in Cebu) met us and drove us to visit Pr Rodolfo Gayon, a missionary of True Life BPC. Thank God we could witness the Gospel work in Trinidad and have fellowship with Pr Gayon, as well as for the hospitality of Bro. Mikhail who hosted us to dinner and opened his home to lodge us for the night.
The next day (Mon), we visited Anda (about 110 km from Tagbilaran, in the eastern part of Bohol) to conduct Bible study. This is an outreach, whereby Pr Edsel conducts the Bible study there every Saturday. We went there, first by bus to another town, and then by taking a “Chinook” motorcycle. Such vehicles are like a van fitted on a bike, which can take up to 10 passengers! We reached the village of Casica in Anda safely at about 4.00 pm. Bro. Hansel Timaan welcomed us into his home for the Bible study, where Sis. Roscelle’s relatives also came to join us. Pr Edsel led the singspiration while I shared from Psalm 105:1-4, encouraging the brethren to always give thanks unto the Lord by making His deeds known to others, by talking among ourselves the wonderful works of God, by giving glory due unto His name, by rejoicing in Him and seeking Him consistently, among others. As the sun sets at about 6pm in Bohol, we were not able to spend more time with the brethren there. We needed to find a “Chinook” motorcycle to travel back to another town, and catch a bus back to Tagbilaran. Though the time spent was short, the fellowship was sweet! We reached Tagbilaran after 8:00pm, had dinner and proceeded to Bro. Levi’s apartment (located at Panglao) to stay for the night. Thank God for safety for our day of travelling!
The next day (Tue), after lunch with Pr Edsel and Bro. Jheyson, we bought the 2.00pm ferry tickets to Cebu. Thank God for calm sea. We were hosted to dinner by Rev. Reggor and Bro. Bono, together with their families. Thank God for the opportunity to meet up with Bro. Bono, whom I’ve not met for at least 5 years. We updated one another about the things God has been doing in our lives, praising God for our friendship forged many years ago in Singapore. Hopefully, our conversation was an encouragement to Bro. Guesstine to press on for God’s glory!
On the last day (Wed), we visited Bro. Tibo in the jail of Talisay City, together with Rev. Reggor and Bro. Alan. The jail was located on top of a hill, and we needed to pass through 3 checkpoints to enter the area where the inmates were housed. At every checkpoint, the jail official would stamp our arm with a rubber stamp, as if our arm is a page on a passport! When we entered the compound, Bro. Tibo was waving to us from the 4th floor of a cellblock. Praise God, we were allowed to minister God’s Word to those who were housed with him. Rev. Reggor preached the Gospel to them, and I shared my testimony of salvation and God’s goodness in my life. Among the 3 jail officials escorting us, one is a Christian, who approved the inmates’ request for Bro. Guesstine to share his testimony. Praise God for such providential opportunity! In fact, the Christian jail officials were hoping for more preachers who would come to share Christ’s Gospel with the inmates. May the Lord answer that good desire! As we made our way out, the guards checked our arm for the rubber stamps at every checkpoint. Later on, I found out from Bro. Alan the reason for doing so is to ensure that the same person who goes in is the same person who comes out. Before leaving, we took a photo together at the main gate.
From there, we drove back to Cebu City. We stopped for lunch with Pastor Manny, a mutual friend of Bro. Alan who was there at TGCM’s anniversary. We packed our things in the church premises before heading for the airport. Thank God for a fruitful trip, blessed fellowship with like-minded brethren, and the opportunity to see the Lord’s work in the Philippines!
In the previous week, I raised three pitfalls of church leaders. They are: (1) having a sense of self-glory and vindictiveness, (2) succumbing to itching ears as love of truth evaporates, and (3) disregarding the family life. Today, two more pitfalls are considered here.
The struggles of a church leader are seldom fully understood, let alone empathised, by those who are around him. The apostle Paul has succinctly captured the troubles of the church leaders when he wrote: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Some in the ministry have been so plagued by problems that they allow their souls to plunge into self-pity and many other sins that accompany anxiety, worry and fear. Some leaders have used their needs, loneliness, problems to excuse their sins of greed, theft, sexual promiscuity, abusive behaviour, etc. They would say, “Nobody understands my problems. Nobody seems to care that I also have to take care of my family’s needs. It is such pressure that led me to steal.” Or they may say, “Nobody else seems to feel for me in my loneliness the way she does. If any of them knew what I was going through in this leadership role, they would understand why I need this kind of embrace, and why I need this kind of ‘unconditional acceptance’. I have borne enough of the burden of being everybody’s spiritual example; I can’t take it any more! And I don’t care if they don’t approve!”
Self-pity is a subtle sin; it is packed with deceptive power. It looks so meek and weak, but underneath it is pride. Self-pity is a blind leader of proud men, guiding them into pits of sins.
Every leader must learn to find his strength, wisdom, courage and provision in the Lord. The Lord—and He alone—must be our portion; otherwise we will give in to self-pity and all the sins that accompany it. We must seek the presence of God where there is “fulness of joy” and where “at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). Let us learn to draw near to God when all kinds of troubles befall us. Truly, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 46:1-2).
“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica…” (2 Timothy 4:10). Demas was a fellow labourer of Paul in the work of the Gospel (cf. Colossians 4:14; Philemon 24). Paul mentioned him along with the early church leaders like Luke, Marcus and Aristarchus.
Apparently, Demas left Paul and the ministry after he fell in love with this present world. What is it about the world that leaders (like Demas) in particular are tempted to love?
In Luke 8:14, Jesus cautioned, “…when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” Our Saviour mentioned three causes that could lead a man away from being fruitful in the kingdom of God. They are cares of this life, riches of this world and pleasures of this world. Sadly, Demas’ motive for forsaking Paul might have been his love for worldly ease, safety and comforts, as well as his disinclination to brave danger with Paul.
Anyone who sincerely serves the Lord will soon find that he needs to sacrifice all his desires for comfort, pleasure and glory of this world. Anyone who entertains an immoderate love for this material world, and its gain, pleasure and glory, will not be able to serve God fervently and faithfully. He will soon wilfully abandon the cause of the Gospel because of his love for this material world.
The best safeguard from this pitfall is to always set our mind on the glory of God and His kingdom. Paul said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). The spell of sin’s fascination is broken when the superior pleasures of God’s presence become our preoccupation.
If we love the Lord and His work, then we must also remind ourselves that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God” and “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). Think long and hard about those who have fallen so painfully and drastically, having drunk the deadly poison of worldliness. May we be warned!
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1a).
The apostle Paul often requested brethren to pray for him and his fellow labourers in the work of the Gospel (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:25; Hebrews 13:18). Though the apostles were called, equipped and endowed with the Holy Spirit and extraordinary miraculous gifts, they humbly beseeched the people of the church, both young and old, to pray for them. If Paul (with all his unique, miraculous apostolic gifts) required the prayers of God’s people, how much more preachers and pastors of our time need the prayer support of the church. Those who lead the church should not forget their need for spiritual support from the congregation. One’s office of leadership in the church or spiritual gift or past successful service does not make one self-sufficient for the work of the ministry. Mutual support, particularly prayer support, is vital for the success of one’s service.
Every member of the church, being joined with one another as the body of Christ, is to supply each other that which is needed. The eye cannot say unto the hand, “I have no need of thee“; nor the hand to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Mutual support, according to the ability that God has given, is vital for the efficient operation of the whole church.
The apostle desired prayer, particularly for the ministry of “the word of the Lord“. Prayer, both requested and offered to God, recognises God as the source of the progress and success of preaching. It is a great danger to attribute the success of preaching to the preacher’s talent and not to rely on God’s help, as that would ascribe to man the glory due unto God alone. Every Christian who hears the preaching of God’s Word must remember that he is in the presence of the preacher’s God rather than the preacher himself. The blessing he receives through the preaching of the Word is God-sent. So when he prays for the preacher and his preaching, he links the pulpit to the throne of God, the true fountain of all spiritual blessings.
The object of praying for the preacher is that the Word of God “may have free course, and be glorified“. Paul is here using Greek words that evoke the memory of the ancient Greek runners’ success and honour. Christians must desire and pray for great success through the faithful and fervent efforts of the preachers in turning sinners to Christ and establishing faithful churches for the edification of saints (cf. Psalm 67:1-3).
Church leaders are not free from the temptations of sin. They need to be always on guard lest they be suddenly overtaken by the deceitfulness of sin. My prayer is that the Biblical expose of the deceitfulness of sin that surrounds church leaders will further intensify our vigilance and prayer so that we may keep ourselves pure for the work of the Lord.
The apostle John wrote about an early church leader who walked into this pitfall. “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). It is not at all uncommon that the behaviour of certain men in the church leadership degenerate into one of self-assertiveness and self-glory. A sense of immunity from accountability and authority fills their minds. They act as though they are above everyone, and even the demands of morality and charity.
Like Diotrephes who opposed and sidelined the apostle John and other leaders of the early church, some of the modern-day church leaders also act highhandedly. They become domineering, bossy and love the prestige and power of leadership so much that they care for none but themselves. They forget godly men whom God has used to nurture the church. They slander good men and promote those who are just like themselves.
Let us protect ourselves from this sin of pride by co-labouring with and submitting ourselves to godly men who love God’s truth and righteousness and serve before Him humbly, faithfully and diligently. The apostle Peter advises church leaders, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock … Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:3-6).
Submit yourself also to a council of biblically-minded, spiritually-wise advisers. “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22). The Bible makes clear provision for rebuking an elder who persists in sin (cf. 1 Timothy 5:19-20). No one is above reproof. Everyone ought to be accountable. Let every one of us who serves in the leadership remind himself that God expects us to be humble, submissive and accountable to one another.
The apostle Paul cautions, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Many who express a passion for God’s truth at the beginning of their ministry have succumbed later to the popular notions and expectations of the people around them. The love of truth is weakened by the love for recognition and admiration, and soon integrity has no leg to stand on. Every manner of rationalization and compromise to meet the demands of the expanding audience takes over. Doctrines are not emphasized; moral purity is not pursued after. The audience is to be entertained — the itching ears are to be “scratched” — or else he would have to face the unhappiness of the crowd. He is afraid that people would desert him, so immunity from objection and opposition is created with a heavy dose of relational ethics. The language of love, forgiveness and acceptance abounds — but for those who have eyes to see, it is but a camouflage to cover up the abandonment of love for God’s truth!
In order to protect ourselves from such perilous compromise in the ministry, we should cultivate an unflinching commitment to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). Remain fully dedicated to proclaim the truth, even in its smallest details, and turn a deaf ear to the desires of men to have their ears scratched. Compromise with falsehood often begins in small things.
In order to be a brave and faithful preacher of the Word, “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). In the ministry of many leaders, the Word of God has taken a back-seat to storytelling, social analysis, family discussions, psychological diagnoses, etc., which begin to usurp the authority of the inspired and preserved Word of God. Loose and sloppy handling of the Scriptures eventually leads to loose and sloppy living of the leaders and the congregation. Let all leaders protect themselves and their congregations through a disciplined study of God’s Word and faithful preaching.
The apostle Paul very emphatically advises that leaders should “be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” (Titus 1:6; cf. 1 Timothy 3:2, 4, 12). It is tragic that many leaders have failed to give careful attention in the nurturing of their own children in the ways of God. Therefore, Paul challenges us, “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5).
Our loving treatment of our wives ought to be the reflection of Christ’s wonderful love for the church. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Let every church leader remember that his treatment of his wife is reflective of how greatly he thinks of the Lord’s loving dealings with the church.
An adulterous church leader is a disastrous testimony before the church. He does not portray the Lord’s faithful and true love for the church. The apostle Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5:31-32 that Christian marriage is a token of the mystery of the relationship that Christ has with the church. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Adultery is an appalling desecration of the image of Christ and His church.
Let every church leader remember that God expects him to prove his faithfulness as a leader in his own home first. Remind yourself repeatedly that your marriage is a living testimony of Christ’s relationship with the church. We simply must recover the wonder of this truth. Marriage has to do with Christ, not just two people trying to seek fulfilment. It is a mission whereby God’s love is to be portrayed to the world. It is an extraordinary calling.
As it was mentioned before from the pulpit, the Board of Elders have decided that all the present members of the Church Session will be nominated to serve for another 2-year term. All of them have been assessed according to the Scriptures and our church’s constitution, and are deemed eligible to stand for election to the Session.
Information on the candidates’ prior service is published below. This information is not exhaustive. In fact, all of them have been actively serving the Lord in our midst, both as members and leaders, for many years. We thank God for their faithfulness in their appointed areas of service in the past, and for their readiness to continue in the service to which the Lord has called them.
Today, the election to the Church Session (2019-2021) will be held, along with the Annual Congregation Meeting, at 2:00 pm. All communicant members are required to attend the ACM which is deemed their constitutional duty.
Let us continually pray for the members of the Church Session and their families to remain faithful, humble and diligent in their lives and ministries.
Candidate for the office of Pastor and Chairman of the Session
Candidate for the office of Elder & Assistant Treasurer
Candidate for the office of Elder & Treasurer
Candidate for the office of Elder & Session Member
Candidate for the office of Elder & Session Member
Candidate for the office of Deacon & Session Member
Candidate for the office of Deacon & Session Member
Candidate for the office of Deacon & Session Member
Candidate for the office of Deacon & Clerk-of-Session
When a person is ordained as an elder of the church, he is being entrusted with God-given duties to fulfil. His ordination is a public acknowledgment of his calling and equipping by the Holy Spirit to carry out the God-given duties of an elder. Following is a brief discussion of some of the major biblical duties of an elder.
In conjunction with the pastor (the teaching elder), the elders take the oversight of the spiritual and administrative matters of the church. Elders are exhorted in 1 Peter 5:2 to “feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind”. The word “feed” translates a Greek word (poimaínō) which denotes the duties of a shepherd towards the flock. An elder is to be like a shepherd who cares for the flock of God in the local church where he is appointed to the office. His duty of shepherding means that he must willingly and readily “take the oversight” of the congregation. Exercising oversight – as denoted by the Greek word (episkopeo) – would mean that he cares for the nurture, protection and guidance of God’s people like a shepherd (Acts 20:28a).
Every elder must co-labour with the pastor and fellow elders to provide the necessary spiritual and administrative oversight. He must work with genuine pastoral concern for the flock of God. He must know the affairs of the flock and oversee their spiritual well-being. As part of the Board of Elders (or presbytery), he must personally and jointly labour to watch over the flock of God. The wise words of Solomon are applicable to every elder: “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds” (Proverbs 27:23).
The oversight of the flock would include visiting the poor, the sick and the afflicted. The elder must be willing and prepared to attend to the spiritual and temporal needs of the needy among the congregation. In fact, Scripture encourages the needy to call on elders – “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). As under-shepherds of Christ’s flock, every elder ought to manifest Christ’s compassion and care, with much love and tenderness to His suffering sheep. He may minister to the afflicted with an appropriate hymn, or the reading of a portion of Scripture, or a brief prayer.
That is not all. He must also attend to the backsliding members of the church in order to correct them and nurture them back. Every elder must prayerfully work to avoid the spiritual decline of the congregation. He should admonish members who neglect the fellowship gatherings and sacraments, which are means of grace that are essential to spiritual growth and health. Without proper supervision, the members of the church can slowly slip into spiritual lethargy and degeneration. Every elder must labour to avoid having members of the church degenerate and fall away unnoticed. Though the pastor bears much of the responsibility of the pastoral care, elders are also called to share with him the pastoral supervision of the church.
According to 1 Timothy 3:2, elders must be “apt to teach”. In Titus 1:9, elders are expected to be “holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” The Greek word (parakaleô) translated as “exhort” can also mean “encourage”, “comfort”. Thus, the ruling elder’s teaching – though not formal or on a full-time basis like that of the pastors who are teaching elders – includes informal counselling and words of encouragement. The elder should also be able to “convince the gainsayers” by sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). The Greek word (antilegô) translated as “gainsayers” refers to “those who speak against”. Hence, elders must acquaint themselves with the biblical doctrines and practices of the church, that they may give a sound response to those who object to the doctrines of the Word of God.
This, of course, does not mean that every elder must be equally knowledgeable and gifted to perform the task of teaching. It is abundantly clear that there are some elders (being pastors) who are specially tasked to “labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 5:17), while others focus mainly on ruling the church. However, every elder must be able to communicate sound biblical knowledge. To fulfil such an important duty, elders must have a constant, prayerful commitment to equip themselves with sound theological knowledge. They must equip themselves to teach competently in Bible studies and to answer the inquirers wisely and adequately. They must labour to both propound sound doctrines and defend them for the purity of the church.
Elders are expected to rule well, and such are worthy of double honour (1 Timothy 5:17). As rulers, they are not to be “lords over God’s heritage” (1 Peter 5:3a), but rather as fathers who rule their household (1 Timothy 3:4). They teach the Word of God (Hebrews 13:7), and labour to admonish the church (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12). They watch for the souls of God’s people (Hebrews 13:17b), and lead them by example (1 Peter 5:3b; cf. 1 Timothy 4:12). As men entrusted with responsibility for the well-being of the souls of the people, they will have to give an account to the Lord for them (Hebrews 13:17b).
Elders ought to be in charge of the admission, spiritual nurture and discipline of the members of the church. Their collective supervision as rulers of the church is crucial to maintaining the purity of the church. The special attention of the elders to catechise those who seek membership and to ascertain them to be credible followers of Christ is most needful. It is also their duty to admonish (with a loving and firm spirit) members of the church who walk disorderly. They are expected to carry out their roles as rulers with much diligence and labour (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:12).
In order to rule well, the elders also have important duties to perform in the meetings of the Board of Elders and the Church Session. In those meetings where the situation and needs of the church will be considered, the elders should confer together to find the best biblical way to manage matters at hand for the benefit of the church. Hence, elders must have a commitment to attend all such meetings and to participate in the discussions concerning the administration of the church with eagerness and patience. As the Board and Session meetings cannot be held in a hurried or perfunctory manner, much forbearance, tolerance and endurance are expected. Elders must not think of themselves as mere advisers in the Board or the Session, but as co-labourers together with the pastor to shepherd the flock of God. In this respect, elders must also be careful to avoid any misunderstandings, quarrels or alienation among themselves.
The importance of godly, able and dutiful ruling elders in taking the oversight of the church cannot be overemphasised. The apostle Paul knew this full well, hence he was not at all apologetic to write: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour” (1 Timothy 5:17a). Indeed, such honour would be gladly rendered by the discerning church which recognises that only when the elders – who are the rulers of the church – endeavour to work together in sincerity and faithfulness, in harmony and love, and with zeal and patience can the church be effective in bearing a glorious testimony for the Lord.
To understand the biblical importance of ruling elders in the church, it is pertinent for us to recognise the necessity, nature and duties of ruling elders.
In the apostolic times, when the Gospel spread through Judaea, Samaria, Asia Minor and in other regions, churches were formed. Their proper spiritual and administrative care became a great concern to the apostles. Paul then wrote to Titus regarding what should be done for the proper management of the church – “that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5).
The apostolic instruction is that the appointment of elders as church officers who oversee her affairs and ministries is vital to an orderly, well-managed church. The ordaining of elders is an imperative. It is on no account to be omitted. Paul’s counsel was that Titus would go through city by city (wherever there was a church) and ordain a body of elders in each congregation (cf. 1 Timothy 3, where Paul also mentioned the appointment of deacons, who are to be assistants to the elders). The elders, then, are to rule and organise the church.
The basic biblical pattern for the proper organisation of a local church is that elders (plural in number) ought to be ordained from within the congregation, in accordance with the biblical requirements of abilities and standards of behaviour. This is corroborated by Acts 14:23 – “And when they (Paul and Barnabas) had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Elders ought to be men of sound moral and spiritual character. Their qualifications are plainly laid down in the Word of God, as attested to by Titus 1:6-9 – “(being) blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
A similar requirement of irreproachable conduct is also given in 1 Timothy 3:2- 7. “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
The passages quoted above lay special emphasis upon high morals and sound spiritual abilities and character. So, every man who is considered for the office of eldership ought to be blameless in life and steadfast in the faith. He should be a man of wisdom and discretion. Neither wealth nor social position can qualify a man to be a ruler in God’s house. Holiness must characterise his pursuit of life so that he may be an example to the flock. Devotion to God – piety – should characterise every ruling elder. He must be a godly, spirituallyminded man. His piety is an indication of the measure of his strength. All his duties require godliness, without which all his skills and capabilities are of little use in the governing of the church. If he is truly godly, then he will truly influence the church for the glory of God. It is the elders’ godly influence that is instrumental in directing the proper conduct of the church.
Though piety is indispensable, it is not the only qualification. Not every church member who is devout is qualified to be an elder of the church. A candidate to the office of eldership must also be a man of intelligence, practical wisdom, experience and no mean administrative capacity. The best and wisest godly men in the congregation should be selected. From time to time, the Board of Elders will have to deal with matters of utmost gravity and grapple with perplexing problems. In such situations, the ablest of minds and the most knowledgeable of men are to be found among the rulers of the church. It goes without saying that men who lack excellent mental capacity would not be able to handle such duties. Thus, we should thank God for capable men whom God gives to us in the church leadership. In the same vein, we must also pray for more competent men for the eldership.
The apostle Paul also insisted that an elder should be “apt to teach”. This is not necessarily a reference to public and official instruction, for ruling elders are not those who are called to labour in the Word as teaching elders (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17). What this means is that there must, however, be present in them the ability to communicate and defend sound doctrines of the Bible. Elders must take every opportunity available to them to increase in the knowledge of God’s Word. They should be diligent and faithful students of God’s Word so that they may teach in the Bible class, and guide worshippers and inquirers in the wisdom of God’s Word.
Elders who are “apt to teach” ought to have the competence and purposefulness to teach true doctrine and to refute false doctrine. Hence Paul’s instruction to the Ephesian elders: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For … grievous wolves (shall) enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also … shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30). This role of the elders is of vast importance in preventing the church from departing from the truth of God’s Word and in defending the church against errors of all kinds that will creep in through false teachers!
By the grace of God, in the upcoming Bible Witness Retreat (September 11-13), about 50 participants will be studying the prayers recorded in the Book of Acts under the theme, “Church: A People in Prayer”. In the previous retreat held in March 2019, we studied the prayers found in the earlier chapters of the Book of Acts.
It is indeed a special blessing to contemplate on the legacy of prayer recorded in the Scriptures. The Book of Acts mentions prayer to God about 50 times, thus making it as the book with the second-most reference to prayer in the New Testament book– the first being the Gospel of Luke. Of the 28 chapters of this book, 20 of them have references to prayer. When we study those instances of prayer in their specific contexts, many spiritual truths can be gleaned that will benefit our Christian life. Not only principles of prayer, but also many essential spiritual truths that will impact our personal and church life will be touched upon when we pursue the expository study of those prayers.
Since we are exhorted to be prayerful in everything (Philippians 4:6), the study of biblical prayers will provide lessons that would permeate every aspect of our life and ministry. It will provide us with biblical perspectives on various facets of godliness. Hence, we can expect our study of the prayers in Acts of the Apostles to provide biblical counsels that span beyond the spiritual exercise of prayer.
Prayer is communing with and communicating to God. It involves acts of worship – praise, thanksgiving, confession about God’s attributes and works – repentance, oath, vows, consecration, supplication, intercession, inquiring of God’s will, His guidance, His help, His blessing, etc. The attitudes expressed in prayers found in the Bible teach us about faith, submission and obedience to God’s Word, dependence on His promises, love for God and His church, commitment to His work, preoccupation with God’s glory, etc. That’s not all. The answers to the prayers recorded in the Bible teach us about God’s sovereignty, providence, wisdom, power, faithfulness, guidance, sufficiency, etc.
Acts records private prayers, as well as public prayers. All of the prayers recorded in Acts are vital to the fulfilling of the book’s major theme that believers may be witnesses in the power of the Spirit “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (1:8). Prayer, as a vital factor, can be seen in the following instances: (i) as believers waited to receive the power (chap. 1); (ii) when the Jerusalem church was constituted and began its activities (2:42); (iii) in the performance of the apostolic ministry (9:40); (iv) in precipitating the release of the imprisoned apostles (4:24-30; 12:5, 16:25); (v) at the time of Stephen’s death (7:59-60) (vi); in sending missionaries (13:3); (vii) in establishing churches (14:23); (viii) at the time of bidding farewell (20:36; 21:5); etc.
These and other aspects of prayer in Acts will provide us with an exhilarating and edifying time of meditating on His Word. Let us gather together with great expectation of His blessing upon the retreat. We covet the prayers of the church for the blessing of the upcoming Bible Witness retreat.
I thank God for His salvation grace upon me and my family. I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour in 1986. My youngest daughter, Stephanie, was the first to believe in Jesus in 1984. Through her testimony and sharing of the Gospel, all my other three children and I came to believe in Jesus. My husband, who initially was anti-Christian, also became receptive to the Gospel. Before he passed away at aged 56, he accepted Christ and was baptized in the hospital. Though widowed at aged 50, the Lord has been my constant strength and comfort. I was illiterate but the desire to know more about God and His Word motivated me to learn to read the Bible. Soon, I was able to read the Bible (and even write some simple words) – giving me much joy to know Christ more, and understanding / comfort during times of painful trials.
I was baptized in Calvary Pandan BP Church in Dec 1988, worshipping there for about 20 years. In 2006, I left Calvary Pandan BP Church because my eldest son-in-law asked me to reach out to his Teochew-speaking mother, Mrs Ng, with the Gospel and to accompany her to Singapore Life Church’s Teochew worship service. Praise God she eventually accepted Christ and was baptized. I continued to serve with Mrs Ng in Singapore Life Church and in their Teochew choir. I transferred my membership to this church on 1 June 2008.
It has always been my desire to share the Gospel with all my unbelieving relatives and friends, though they have repeatedly declined my invitation to attend Gospel rallies. Thank God for such a providential opportunity granted on my 80th birthday (in 2016) to hold a birthday thanksgiving celebration cum Gospel meeting, where Pastor Koshy preached the Gospel with Chinese translation. I invited many of them to attend. May the Gospel seed sown reap the fruit of salvation in due season.
Within a week of my 80th birthday, I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. God filled my heart with peace despite this news, as I am ready to go home and enjoy heaven’s bliss with the Lord. “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). I know God is in control and will carry me through this trial at such an old age. Stephanie provided caregiving for me during this difficult time and I moved in to live with her. I thank God for seeing me through 12 sessions of chemotherapy and all the tumours in my lungs and liver have vanished on the post-chemotherapy scan. (My cancer is not totally cured, but under control with ongoing monthly antibody treatment.) During this period, I received much encouragement and love from many brethren in Gethsemane BPC. Thank God for their prayers, love and warm fellowship.
When I sustained a fractured spinal disc due to a fall in May 2019, I was thankful that God spared me from paralysis. Though the MRI showed a possible spread of cancer to my spinal bone, further tests proved negative, and the Lord continues to bless me with good health reviews month after month. Despite the chemotherapy side effects of permanent numbness in my toes and fingers, I have learnt to trust and rely on God’s grace and strength day by day. Truly, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I thank God for sustaining me and giving me much joy and peace despite this bodily affliction.
During my recent hospitalization, I was once again touched and encouraged by the love, care, prayers and visits of many Gethsemanean brethren. After the Lord has seen me through this recent trial, I thank Him for giving me the conviction to transfer my membership from Singapore Life Church to Gethsemane BP Church. Thank God for leading me to worship in Gethsemane BP Church as I see the love of Christ exhibited in so many brethren, and also how God’s Word has been faithfully preached by Pastor Koshy and the preachers. I am also encouraged and blest to be found in a mission-minded church, with which I share the same passion for lost souls. May the Lord continue to sanctify me for His glory, and help me to be an effective witness for Him and serve Him in Gethsemane BP Church until He calls me home. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
About 20 years ago, I was called to salvation in the nick of time, before I plunged deeper into the occultic practice of the New Age movement of Reiki. Though a non-Christian then, I was very well aware of the presence of religious cultic groups and was careful not to get myself involved in such. At that time, Reiki had promoted a type of channelling of positive energy in oneself to heal oneself and even others. I was told it’s not religion-based. So, I was sold to this idea as I was then having an issue with a hand injury that hinders my daily duties of cooking, cleaning and caring for 3 young children as a housewife and mother. I thought foolishly that learning this skill would help our family save a lot of money for medical expenses. Over 2 weekends, I attended the Reiki course. On the 1st Sunday when I was away on course, God sent His servant to preach to my husband who was at home looking after the children. The 2nd Sunday, my husband and children went to church for the first time, without me, as I was still on course. The 3rd Sunday, I joined my family in church. However, I continued with my Reiki practice as I didn’t know it’s a dark art. To cut the long story short, by God’s grace and mercy, I became a believer after going to church with my family for some time. The Holy Spirit illumined me and helped me to realise that Reiki is evil. I can’t praise the LORD enough for His salvation of my soul!
From my early 20s, I had rejected the Taoist religion of my mum and grandma because my grandma had failed to answer the many questions I posed her whenever she practised her belief. My questions were either brushed off as she had no answers for them or I was told not to ask too much. Being fiercely loyal to my Chinese roots, I had never sought Christianity whic9999h to me was an ‘angmoh’ religion. I was exposed to Christianity in a mission junior college, but becoming a Christian is like betraying my Chinese roots. To satisfy my spiritual needs, I turned to Buddhism, which many Chinese also practised. Practising and studying Buddhism for a short while at the basic level were enough for me to realise that it has no answers to my many questions about life and the spiritual realm. Buddhism doesn’t recognise the existence of a Creator God. Yet, deep in me, I know there’s a ‘Supreme Being’ up in heaven. I want to know who He is, and how to worship Him. In my workplace, I came to know of Christian and Catholic colleagues who are insistent that theirs is the real faith. I wasn’t spiritually discerning enough to know the truth. Besides, I was cautious, sceptical and wary not to jump into the wrong religion or wrong church without some sort of assurance. Somehow, at this point of my life, I was no longer averse to Christianity. In fact, I desired to go to church with my family. But which church? I believed God had already prepared the hearts of my husband and I. By God’s providence, when my husband said they were going to church on the 2nd Sunday while I was on the Reiki course, I was very happy actually. I knew at that moment God was directing my family and I to Him. He had sought me and prepared this stubborn and foolish heart of mine to receive Him without any doubt.
I came to Gethsemane BPC as I found out that this is a vibrant, God-honouring church, with many ministries for God’s children to serve and grow in faith. I like that in GBPC, biblically sound doctrines are preached, taught diligently and practised; and leaders are prepared to administer church discipline without fear of man, but with fear of God. Many churches nowadays have fallen short of one, or even both, of these conditions, including my former church. This is the reason for my transfer of membership.