English or Chinese Prayer meeting – Which should I join?

Dear BPCWAians, As mentioned in last week’s Pastoral, we will be beginning separate English and Chinese prayer meetings from 19 March. This week, we continue answering the question “Which prayer meeting should I join?”

Important criteria for choosing. Last week, we saw the importance of being able to pray comfortably in the language of the group so that all can understand and say amen in accordance to Scriptural principles. This week, we see why it is critical that you can read the language. In the context of 1 Cor 14:14-17 about the use  of languages in church, Paul also addressed singing, which is part of the worship of God. By having separate English and Chinese prayer meetings, those attending the English prayer meetings will be singing in English, and vice versa for those attending the Chinese prayer meetings. To sing from the hymn book, you must be able to read. As Paul stated in 1 Cor 14:14-15, “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”. Also, the church prayer list will be either in English or in Chinese. Hence, a fundamental guideline for making your choice is your ability to read in the language of that group. Moreover, since the prayer meeting messages will either be in English or in Chinese without any translation, you naturally will need to be able to read the Bible to understand  the passage and also to grasp the message in the language of the prayer meeting group.

Preaching in one language. Since there will not be translation of the preaching, being able to read the Bible in the language of the group you chose to attend is crucial. If you cannot read the Bible in that language, you will not be able to understand it if the preacher refers to word or words used in that Bible passage. In fact, comprehension was so crucial that Paul would make these strong statements

in 1Cor 14:18-19 about hearers being taught in their language, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: (19) Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue”. For the sake and purpose of the edification of others in the group, Paul restrained himself from speaking any language he preferred by making the emphatic point that 5 words understood by others are far better than ten thousand in another language that is not known to the other persons present. With this change, one going to the English prayer meeting will be joining a distinctly English group – one that hears, converses, reads, sings, preaches and prays in English. This will also be the case for the Chinese prayer meeting. Following the principles set forth in the Scriptures in a church where different languages existed, we hope that one choosing to attend the English or Chinese prayer meetings will be fellowshipping and integrating with people that will communicate distinctly in English or in Chinese. This will enable maximal help and benefit to each other spiritually.

A question that some may have is – where do I go, if my husband and I have different “first languages”? Well, as the head of the home and entrusted with  the teaching and leading the home, the husband must be the best equipped with God’s Word and most knowledgeable in it through his study at church. So, the wife should follow her husband and attend the language medium that the husband is able to read and learn most in. Whatever she may not understand clearly, she can ask her husband at home (1 Cor 14:35). This follows the Biblical model of the husband being the head of the wife. Following a model based on God’s principles is putting on the breastplate of righteousness ie, obeying God’s family model with the head of the home following God’s order to help him grow spiritually so that he can lead his family.

Change is not easy. Some may look forward to this change, while others may struggle with it. Those who have been here when the church had separate English and Chinese congregations would find this change a natural reverting back from our current temporary combined situation. These may even wonder why we have not done so earlier. But those who joined us in our current combined state may find it challenging. What Paul needed to address about the language used for prayer may have stirred some negative emotions in his hearers too, thus requiring him to exhort them in 1 Cor 14:20 “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” He pleaded for them to be mature and to stop being childish (in fact in this reference, he refers to such behavior as being infantile), by wanting to do as they desired in this aspect of the language used in the church. And because some were angry and upset and behaving badly, Paul exhorted them that when it comes to such emotions, they should be like little babies who have no malice.

Change is not easy, so I hope that each one of us will pray for the unity of minds and commitment of hearts as one body of Christ, putting aside our personal preferences and avoiding the issues that affected the Corinthian church. I do fear that there may be minority pockets of people who may resist the change and just think that “I will do as I wish, regardless”. If it occurs, others seeing such examples will follow suit. This can undo the direction of the change which we as a church are trying to move in. I am sure you would not want to be such a person to cause such trouble in church. If, after considering these guiding principles, you are not in the group that will help you grow best spiritually, do consider changing to the other language group for the sake of your spiritual growth. I will not feel offended if any in the English fellowship groups decide to join the Chinese prayer meeting and fellowship groups, and subsequently the Chinese Worship. But I do hope that having understood the rationale for this move, you will support it by your actions and in your prayers.

Support this change. What we are trying to achieve is to encourage new people who are comfortable in either English or Chinese to come and remain in our church to learn about God. Support this purpose by encouraging and reminding each other to adapt to this direction that the church is moving in.

Once again, please do look for me personally if you have any questions regarding this matter as it is the best way to directly address any concerns you may have.

Yours in our Lord’s service