Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Beautiful Feet (Isaiah 52:7): An Inter-Church Event

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news...who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isa 52:7). I actually travelled across mountains and valleys from Ranau to Keningau last weekend. The Ranau-Tambunan's 64km stretch was especially trying with winding and mountainous terrains throughout. From Tambunan to Keningau about 50kms, one could get there in less than 40 mins as the roads are not as challenging. In fact as one approaches Keningau from Apin-Apin, there is one long straight road ahead for about 18 kms, probably the longest stretch of a straight road in Sabah. The meetings I spoke at were part of an inter-church gathering.
Thankful that the Reverends from the Anglican, Basel, Baptist and a couple of independent churches turned up. The pastor of one of the largest Baptist churches in town with a 3-shop unit attended every session from 8am to 12:30pm and then the night revival meeting. I was astonished to know that SIB youths were the minority in this Christmas gathering. One church, All Nations church that led worship during the night had about 70 youths turning up, about 20% of the whole attendance that night. Demographics and trends change constantly.
In Keningau township, the two traditional indigenous communities are Dusuns and Muruts. But there are now many Indonesians and Filipinos in the mix. The Torajas, an ethnic Indonesian group from Sulawesi made a huge presence in the Christmas meet. Churches that are open to other communities are growing while churches that are inward looking was getting smaller. The church is meant to be multi-racial and I see that in the Baptist, Anglican, Basel and independent churches in Keningau while the SIBs are still ethnocentric in their approach and thus overtaken in church growth and vitality. Vibrancy comes when we accept new people, people that God brings to us and into the body of Christ. With bodily weakness, it was a challenge to preach the Gospel afresh from Paul's Galatians - "Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil world" (1:4) which was my main evangelistic text for the first 20 mins of my sermon. Then I talked about the reception of the Holy Spirit based on Galatians 3:1ff. "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you obeyed the law or heard the Gospel preached? asked Paul to the Galatians. "O foolish Galatians!" who had bewitched you...?" With 8 or 9 responding to accept Christ for the first time and prayed for, I turned to pray for those who would want to receive the Holy Spirit afresh. By God's power and grace, I witnessed not a few young people, this time mostly young men coming forward to be prayed for and they came with loud cries and tears and the shaking of the Holy Spirit was evident in their lives.

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