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Communicating the Gospel in the Malaysian Contextµ by Sivin Kithttp://sivinkit.net/
Introducing Malaysia & myself My name is Sivin Kit, man of one wife May Chin, and father of four children. They are Gareth (9), Elysia (6), Ewan (4) and Anja (2 Months). Since February 2011, I am doing my PhD in Religion, Ethics and Society with the University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway. It·s refreshing to have a pause from 14 years of being a pastor. Especially the last 11 as the founding pastor of Bangsar Lutheran Church. My sincere thanks to Mission OneWorld for giving me the chance to share my experience and some lessons. It has been a learning experience for me to look back as well with new eyes. Bangsar Lutheran Church re-started in the year 2000 Kuala Lumpur. I called it the ´resurrectionµ project because the church was born previously during the times of the missionaries to Malaysia in the 70s, but unfortunately had to close down. So, a small group of about 12 of us started this adventure together. Now, Kuala Lumpur (KL) is the capital of Malaysia. It·s perhaps a total opposite of what Neuendettelsau is with heavy traffic and a packed population of about 1.4 Million (2010). Bangsar is very close to the heart of KL and known at one point for its pubs and rich residents. But when we went there, our focus was less on that but more on the existing relational networks we had, and slowly to get pass the ´stereotypeµ of Bangsar and allow the church to organically grow. So, we saw the church premises more like a base or home, rather than a ´church buildingµ in a traditional sense where people could walk in. Because even the Bungalow house we renovated was located more on the ´edgeµ of Bangsar, rather then the center of Bangsar. When I started with the early group, I was 29 years old just got married, and so were most of them. The only children we had were three then toddlers. So the group was mostly young adults in our late twenties and early thirties. It·s important to highlight this background, because first, whatever I am going to share is very much based on this history and context. It assumes the first group which gave ourselves a lot of freedom to explore and experiment with ideas. The church leadership of that time, the previous Bishop Gideon Chang, and current Bishop Philip Lok have been supportive throughout. And we had no hindrances in trying new ideas. Second, I want to stress the uniqueness of each person, each congregation and each context. So, what I share is not offered as something others should copy but perhaps more like a witness of how we embody the Gospel in our given situation, and trust in the leading of the Spirit. Having said that, I however, do believe that, in the midst of reflecting together, the listeners might be able to hear what is most appropriate for their situation given the limitation and resources that they have. Third, especially on technology like social media. I obviously do no take the position of a NJ pastor who blamed ´adulteryµ on Facebook. And I would be very much be close to our Icelandic pastor whom advocates the use of technology. However, as I will be talking about specifics, I do not believe technology or technical know-how is the solution to our problems. E.g. if I start a blog, or have a facebook account, use twitter, then I would automatically be successful in reaching out and preaching the gospel. I do not see technology as neutral as well. There are many assumptions about technology which we can talk about later, but for starters it assumes
Meal/Response. God.workingpreacher. it was never a debate between using modern songs or hymns. So that informs the way we do our ´ritualsµ so to speak.pdf Maundy Thursday Meal (Adapted): http://sivinkit. How this was done for example was (using some resources from the internet).g. How are you doing it (Sunday service. There will be quite a strong autobiographical dimension. Fourth. our own photos. besides more specific emphasis on special topics of concern. Gathering. And yet. e.someone has access to a computer for example. through the internet. i. The way you are communicating the gospel on the more technical side.) How do you reach the people? Sunday Worship Gathering& Other Worship Experiences I learnt a lot during the first few months in 2000. the ´Howµ and the ´Whatµ I have done thus far. evangelization.net/2007/06/02/world-weekend-of-prayer-for-children-at-risk/ 2 . because we had to meet in our parsonage before moving back to assigned premises in Bangsar.net/2009/04/10/maundy-thursday-a-ritual-ofremembrance/ Tenebrae Good Friday: http://sivinkit. Another examples areSpecial services for the year: y y y y Stations of the Cross http://sivinkit. and that itself assumes a certain economic standing in society. our use of powerpoint and music. and then the Father·s House (as I like to call it). I think the emphasis on Theology and Spirituality is very important from the theme. or debates about liturgy or free style. Because underlying our discussion on communicating the ´Gospelµ today.net/2006/04/14/good-friday-tenebrae-tonight/ Prayer for Children at Risk: http://sivinkit.net/archives/stations_of_cross. and how a community needs to work out dynamically different ways in which people connect with God. As we moved to the chapel. input on how things can be done with content supplied to them. Sending. and in a home we somehow are more relational. And following the Christian year to guide the themes of preaching and focus. the 4fold model and the Christian year. encouraging creativity with classic and contemporary resources: y y Overview: http://textweek. These are complex discussions which we can deal with perhaps though the Q & A. to guide the flow of the service. it·s harder to be very formal.com/ Preaching: http://www. Another thing is the obvious dangers of technology. because when you are in a home. Word. twitter etc. I will no doubt add the ´Whyµ along the way. And because the learning journey has also been a very personal one. For me. and my job was just to give people space to try within the framework we have.org/ Our congregation were generally very creative people. 1. visits. theology and spirituality gives us the form. the content and the discernment needed in a world which I assume to be quite messy! Two Interests I have been asked to share on first. and the illusion that we have ´communityµ when we don·t. We were also open to use what we have within us. So. for the main Sunday Worship we use a simple fourfold model. As a former youth pastor and worship leader/musician. This was very much the DNA of the church which is about the people more than the place. the place is important. I had come to the conviction that these debates distract us from the main focus of worship. there was more structure but then the relational dimension was very much in our minds. And in between we borrowed a little chapel when we grow from 12 adults to about 20 people.e.
a mixture of confessions. and compile my books. and concerns. and newcomers. So. we also needed to pay attention to what it means to be ´Intergenerationalµ and how we can help children connect to God. others fortnightly. the bigger gathering on Sunday now is seen as a cluster of not just individuals.net/ I have used my blog mainly as a personal blog. but it·s also extended now to sharing and spreading ideas. and links to people. 20 chapters a week) It became very challenging as families grew. and the children were toddlers needing attention.org/index.com/sivinkit For FB. I do not use it as direct evangelism.Small groups Now it is clear that. linking and sharing of pictures. random thoughts. Facebook https://www. It the early years this was my primary way beyond the local to the global. Children As the church was a young growing one as young families. some met weekly. it can be overwhelming too. meditations.com/ This is how I keep up with blogs from friends and church members.com/ Social Media as extension of self to others (and vice versa) y Blog http://sivinkit. it started of first as place to collect my photos.org/ Faithinkubators http://www. It also shows like my blog what I am concerned about.com/articles/2070/reclaiming-the-gift-we-typically-ignore y y Godly Play http://www.feedly. e. There for having a theological and spiritual grid is important.facebook. we tried all the following: y y y y Using lectionary text with guides : http://catechumenate. first families and then friends.g. Reclaiming the Gift We Typically Ignore http://cpc. But sometimes. y y y Internet as resource and new field The main benefit of the internet as shown above is the vast resources available.php?page=bible-studie Free Resources from ELCA http://www. As far as the format and content is concerned.godlyplayfoundation.faithink. To balance what we experience as One Church.ymtoday.elca.g. Furthermore the quality of the resources depends on each case.org/ Reading a Book Together Reading long passages of Scripture together (e. 140 characters! It·s been good to keep me from being longwinded! Blog reader: http://www. but of smaller groups of relationships.com/sivinkit I use this mainly to share short spurts of idea. but as an authentic witness of how I live my life (as much as I can and willing to share it ). we too learn to experience ´churchµ in smaller settings. 3 . Twitter https://twitter.
key themes I think have been constant for me have been. leadership. Stories from Bangsar Lutheran Church. but also God·s initiative in all things. 4 . the joys and struggles of family life. c) Socio-political concerns: a. from then most personal and especially in later years of my blogging the social and even political. but his relevance to my life and our life in general. what is the content? First. I·m very aware that not only there are people directly reading. when you are communicating the gospel? What are you telling the people so that they become Christians? What are the most important points of Christianity in the cultural context of Malaysia? The starting point of sharing is who I am. Justice and peace themes. Faith Alone ² Trust. E. Interfaith relations b. taking risks to believe. and how I am living and struggling with what it means to be human. Religion and the State &Islamization c. Grace alone ² this has been a key message in a works driven country like Malaysia. technology. there maybe others eavesdropping. Sometimes. Some times very explicitly in posts which are more meditative with relevant scriptures or texts. What are the contents. I noticed. I still keep a personal journal for very private thoughts. Not so much of direct exposition or exegesis. Perhaps. movies. my experience of civil disobedience.g. but more reflections and devotional. or use FB. Third. the following: a) Luther·s ´Solasµ as a model. But when I blog. in hindsight. when I joined a club called Toastmasters. Christians do come across with a language no one understands. and loose network called Friends in conversation. or Tweet for example. At first. Christ alone ² the focus on Jesus and not just his uniqueness.2. other times more subdued implicitly with a phrase or two. I had to learn to speak like a normal human being again. Perhaps. I share occasionally and in between what I talk about above. Democracy and Human Rights d) Random fun stuff and interests: music. and Christians in general. etc. and how spirituality is important in a world where it·s easy to forget that. this may sound very individualistic and the danger is really there. b) Community life as a church. But the fact is we have no other starting point. in the early years of BLC. where I have gotten most response is when I am reflecting on very human and common themes. earlier as a pastor and now as a PhD student in today·s world. God and the what being a Christian means for the human themes I mentioned above. and reflections on the struggles in Malaysia. fear later!µ Scripture Alone ² This is where I connect with meditations on specific texts or theological themes. This doesn·t mean telling everything about ourselves. and wider denominational and ecumenical interactions. Second. I love the phrase ´Jump first. a Christ-follower. Grace here is not just God·s unconditional love. and hope. if we want to be personal or relational. what is more important is what do I ´talkµ about.
Every change we desire. I do not want to and cannot slip into hopelessness. law suits. A full list of the contributors can be found here. Corruption. or better God desires for the good of the world and all people works through us not out of obligation but from an overflow of the grace of God in us. 2008. The fabric of Malaysian society in public and in private are faced with forces pulling people apart and pulling people down. struggles with credit card debt. which is taking place throughout the Easter Season. Malaysia . Of course. from Easter to Pentecost. there are those who will say it is not that bad. Perhaps more will come. the list goes on and on. somehow. we all know it is not that good either. Out of the sight of the public eye. or more precisely has changed because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What is the Good News for our city? What is the Good News for the people living in Malaysia? The story is not over yet. I heard the good news again ± in the form of a personal reflection after meditating on the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to a young church found in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 15:1 11). will change. no job security. crushing dreams and aspirations. shaky marriages. We have had a new prime minister sworn in during April 2009.2009 Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News. Life must go on. racial religious sentiments played up. refugees on the run. political coups and turmoil occupy our newspaper every day until I have concluded subscribing to cable TV is a waste of money when reading the front page has more twists and turns. On Easter Sunday.´ 5 . but we have to tell it as it is. there battles with cancer. We are moving into the 6th By-election in the coming month after a roller coaster ride in Malaysian politics since the last 12th General Elections March 8. As a Christ-follower. But we don¶t know whether it means we are geared to a better future. children at risk. Maybe. Sivin¶s local city newspaper is The Sun of Kuala Lumpur.Sivin Kit on The Good News 04.17. ³Everything can change. and w orking out through obedience and an ongoing re-orientation to the reality of our Living Lord. In all honesty. Here is Sivin Kit on the Good News. and sowing seeds of distrust or destruction. power play. Let¶s agree it is a mixed bag of news for now. numbness or worst cynicism. That is front page news. So. THE GOOD NEWS There has been a lot of bad news in Malaysia for quite a while.
He is wondering whether he will ever finish his part-time Masters of Theology with The South East Asia Graduate School of Theology. He finds some time to be involved withFriends in Conversation and The Micah Mandate. He is addicted to Potato Chips and blogging athis garden. How do we know? Not by working it out and adopting it as well -founded opinion. Elysia (4) and Ewan (1). It begins as simple as an email exchange on a controversial topic on the use of the word ³Allah´ to translate ³God´ in the national language Bahasa Malaysia which we have done for ages. and politics. not by deciding that this idea suits us. have begun to sit down and work things through with respect in small steps. the parting words were. It is good news when more than a few Muslim friends who are unhappy with the way Islam is used for political mileage in our country. not by getting all the arguments straight.It is good news when after I sat and listened to my new Buddhist monk friend share about how and why she became one. who¶s story is not frozen in the past but continues in the present. A fresh look at Christ¶s resurrection invites us to stop and take notice of the influence and ongoing impact of this person Jesus Christ ± his life. There¶s something good in this story of Jesus. 2009. religion. economic standing. convictions and dreams of my 23 year old friend andfellow Christfollower. but because we are dimly aware of something having changed around us. even death cannot stop this change where glimpses of the kind of world God is dreaming of is caught by those who stop and take notice. I think the good Archbishop of Canterbury says it quite well: ³Resurrection has started. Yes. God is not finished with us yet. He needs prayer is all areas 6 . He¶s the pastor ofBangsar Lutheran Church.´ Sivin is the Husband of one wife May Chin. Kuala Lumpur. He died in his sleep on February 4. Markus impacted almost every sphere of society that is fragmented by race. national identity. mere presence of people who cared enough to be there was sufficient for now. There was no short term possibility yet. It is good news when two car loads of people could sit with new friends who ran away from their home country and have been stuck here for the past 5 years weaving palm crosses celebrating Christ and God who has not abandoned them. Finally. The good news is there is something good which can and will happen here and now even in the midst of a world full of bad news. ³How did you become a pastor?´ We will continue this conversation again as we work together to share strategies on Religion and Society for common good in a project directed to the government and the public. his death and most of all his resurrection. It is good news when the life story. death and destruction. Malaysia which was resurrected in 2000. and Father of three children Gareth (7).
What·s next? 7 .
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