Ministry in India by WRF Member Dr. Matthew Ebenezer
I have been involved in the following ministries over the past several months:
1. Teaching. Apart from teaching at the New Theological Seminary, Dehra Dun, I have taught in church and seminary contexts both in Singapore and Indonesia. These have been immensely valuable in giving me a wider scope of people of other Asian cultures and seeing the wonderful work of the Reformed churches in these countries.
2. Preaching. I preach regularly in the local fellowship where I am interim pastor and occasionally in local churches. I also preached in an English worship service during my visit to Indonesia and, more recently, after the WRF General Assembly 2010, at the Govanhill Free Church, Glasgow.
3. WRF. One of my recent blessings was to be part of the WRF General Assembly at Edinburgh in March this year. The fellowship and mutual encouragement was stimulating. The privilege to speak at the gathering was also special.
4. Local Church Fellowship. I am Interim Pastor of the Bethany Fellowship, Rajpur (Dehra Dun). This is a church plant that emerged from Dorcas ministries which reaches out to help women in general. Our numbers are few but we are encouraged by a young man who has just joined us as Pastoral intern and who is teachable and enthusiastic.
a. As Convenor of the Liturgy Committee I co-ordinate the publication of a bi-lingual worship book for the Nav Jeevan (New Life) Presbytery. The committee met to scrutinize various orders and liturgies that would be suitable for the Indian church. Our liturgical handbook will use material from other sources adapted to our situation (we have just received word that the Presbyterian Church of Australia will allow us to use some of their forms of worship). Our task is to develop liturgical forms that will be contextually meaningful to our congregations.
b. As one of the senior ministers deputed to assist in the formation of a new Presbytery in New Delhi, I am in touch with the leadership there to help them in this process. This new presbytery holds promise as the pastors involved in it are interested in evangelism and church planting.
6. Counselling. My interest in counselling always leads to opportunities to counsel:
a. Ministry. The pastoral intern has many questions about the ministry. Among these are, “What should I say to someone who asks me what I am doing?” In India, care needs to be exercised by evangelists sharing the gospel when asked about their occupation, because of the possible opposition to the gospel (especially when talking to strangers or non-Christian friends who are curious). For evangelists, the tent-making model is probably the best since a legitimate occupation helps to avoid common misunderstandings that the spread of Christianity is sponsored by western interests. I have asked the intern to think and pray about something that he could do (such as self-study /research – perhaps on a topic that is connected to the ministry) that may offer a legitimate occupation that he could be doing.
Another question, “How and when do I share the gospel with someone?” Probably not the first time you meet the person. In India making friendship is very important. Knowing a person is important. It is as the bond of friendship increases that people are willing to listen and respond. Seeing the gospel in the lives of Christians is as important in India as hearing the gospel from them. Also, in a country where people are so important, it is the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than the Church or even the gospel, Who is the main attraction. Being attracted to Christ is the first step towards becoming a Christian – a believer and a follower of Christ. The exemplary life of a Christian is the first step for a non-believer in being attracted to Christ.
b. Personal. Recently while counselling a young person I was asked, “What should I do about those anxious thoughts that come my way repeatedly about my present responsibilities, the future etc.?” (I have read of innovative secular counsellors who recommend controlled and limited anxiety – be anxious for a set number of minutes and then stop. This is easier said than done!) What I suggested was to take 5X3 cards and write the matter that the person was anxious about and on the same card note Scriptural insights that addresses that particular problem. Each time the person was tempted to be anxious about any of these issues, looking at the card would remind them about the matter already being known to the Lord and the Scripture promises that confirm His dealing with the matter. This seems to have worked because the person concerned was greatly helped as a result of this suggestion. This is not a permanent solution for anxiety, but a reminder that God is answering our prayer concerns because we have already approached Him with them.
NOTE: I would be especially appreciative of any responses other WRF members might give regarding these two items. And if there are any WRF members who would like more information about these matters, I would be happy to provide it. My contact information is below.
7. Developing Teaching Aids. I have been blessed to observe “independent” pastors (if they can be called independent – no one in the church can ever claim to be independent) learning about Presbyterian church government and being willing to know more about the biblical idea of churches governed by presbyters. Developing teaching aids in certain core subjects helps us give these men a taste of Reformed teaching. This is followed by examinations and ordinations of the men by their Presbyteries. This is the initial stage of the experiment and the results are encouraging.