English and Chinese Prayer meetings
Dear BPCWAians, In this week’s Pastoral letter, I wish to let you know that we shall soon begin to have both English and Chinese prayer meetings on Tuesday nights. This decision to have a Chinese prayer meeting is not a sudden decision. It has been made with careful deliberations within both the Board of Elders and the Session. After several discussions and prayerful considerations, we all feel that it is time to do so.
The reasons. After the church split 10 years ago when we were left without a Pastor or Preacher, we had no choice but to combine both the English and Chinese worship services and prayer meetings. As communicated in the Friday fellowship groups’ combined meeting on 1st Feb, we are now in a position to at least commence having Chinese prayer meetings. This is because Yew Jinn, who has been trained in FEBC and who is also fluent in Mandarin, is now serving in our midst. Such an arrangement provides us with useful indicators for assessing and guiding us on how the Lord leads the church regarding having English and Chinese worship services. Moreover, with the separate prayer meetings and without the need for translation, messages will be more effectively communicated and more easily understood by those who use mainly English or Chinese as their first language.
When and how it will be. The intention is to commence the Chinese prayer meeting group in mid March (19th March). Since I will be preaching at Bethel’s Family Camp in mid April, this allows me to observe and oversee the initial transition. To minimize disruptions to people’s schedules, both prayer meetings still remain on Tuesday nights at 7:30pm. I will preach at the English prayer meeting, while Yew Jinn will preach at the Chinese prayer meeting. Thereafter, the groups will continue with prayer in their own respective English and Chinese prayer groups, with the monthly prayer lists also given in the respective languages. On the occasions where either of us are not around, the English and Chinese prayer meetings will combine. For example, if I were not around, Yew Jinn will preach in English and there will be translation since the groups are combined. If Yew Jinn were not around, I will preach in English and there will be translation as well. After the message, the groups continue thereafter in their usual English and Chinese prayer groups using the monthly prayer lists in their own languages.
Which prayer meeting should I join? As communicated in the combined fellowship meeting, the important consideration you should take into account is whether you can read the language, pray in the language, and sing in the language. This is based upon the Biblical principle in 1Cor 14:14-17, “For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. (15) What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. (16) Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? (17) For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” The word “tongue” means dialect or languages. “Unknown” is in italics, meaning it is added by the KJV translators and it provides clarification. We should understand that this language is unknown to the other person or persons, not that the unknown tongue means a language that does not exist. The church had people that could speak different languages. So, the instruction given was to pray in a language which others could understand. Else, when you pray for something, give praise God, and give thanks, though you understand, it is unfruitful to the other party in your presence and neither can he say Amen. In a combined prayer meeting group like we have currently, we at times have people in the same group praying in different languages. This is because they are more comfortable praying in that language but some in the group do not understand, or at best grasp only part of what is being prayed. This is not ideal, but we can move now to the more Biblical model.
We will see more next week regarding the important criteria of being able to read in the language of the prayer group as another important criteria. In the meanwhile, do approach myself, any Session member, or Yew Jinn if you have any questions. Also, pray for the Session as we plan the transition.
Yours in our Lord’s service