Lessons from our 35 years of church history
Dear BPCWA worshipper, We thank God for His merciful keeping of BPCWA for the past 35 years. Last month, we traced our church history at our 4-part Church Study Series. We thank God for His providential provision of much available documentation that allowed us to confidently review our history knowing that it was from documented facts. The provision and review of such documentation is yet another testimony of God’s providential care over our church – what greater care would He have over His Word! I want to take some time to recap some key lessons we learned and must remember at this church series.
A quick recap of our roots and history. 1) BPCWA was BP’s 1st mission outreach to Australia. As is stated in the preamble history of our Constitution, BPCWA was founded in February 1986 as an outreach of Calvary Bible-Presbyterian Church of Singapore’s “Australia missions, in obedience to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ”. 2) We are Bible-Presbyterians, as our very name bears testimony to. As is expected in any denominational church, we uphold and practice our distinctive beliefs, teachings, and practices as being that which is Bible-Presbyterian. Even very early in our history, we saw how men arose to draw men to themselves, conspiring to come in in sheep’s clothing to “steal” a church for themselves. This was BPCWA’s first wake up call to the biblical warning against “men crept in unawares” (Jude 4). Without staying close to our BP roots and firmly to our Constitution, BPCWA was always dangerously teetering away from what we stood for as a church. 3) BPCWA started in 1986 with English services, with Chinese services inaugurating four years later in 1990. Since then, for a large part of our history, except for periods when we had no pastor, we have had separate English and Chinese services, a practice which we have resumed since last year’s COVID lockdown.
Lessons on Membership. 1) Understand how membership can impact a church. I wish to be emphatic that we are not against non-members. We have non-members among us today and we fellowship with much joy together. We welcome everyone to worship with us, so long as they respect and do not undermine the biblical doctrines that we uphold and teach, nor disrupt the church in any way. We must learn never again to allow non-members to disrupt the church’s beliefs and practices by promoting the non-members even when they question or undermine the church’s beliefs and seek to influence others. We have tasted by experience the importance of peace and unity in a church, something that we must treasure and do our utmost to keep – but never at the expense of the truth and doctrines. 2) Be careful of whom we accept as members. We learnt how when we indiscriminately received into membership those who disagreed with our BP faith and constitution, it inevitably caused disunity in time. This is because we ignored God’s Word, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Amos 3:3 is a key reason why agreement to the church’s constitution is critical because therein is explained the what and why of our beliefs and practices for all to read to avoid ambiguity and misunderstandings. The constitution is not the Bible. But it explains how a church will practice its beliefs and interpret Scriptures in its denominational beliefs. When we allow men who openly disagree with it to be members, there is no reference point to resolve disagreements in faith and practice in the church. 3) Be careful before you join as a member. Membership is voluntary, and we do not force anyone to become a member. So, one should only join if one is sincerely convicted of the church’s stated beliefs and practices. It is not honorable to expect the church to change its standard of acceptance into membership just because you defer from its beliefs and yet want to be a member. Worshippers are very welcome to stay and learn and not rush into membership. This is why our BBK class is critical. It is here where worshippers are taught clearly the doctrines of our faith that we stand for and uphold. They must not merely accept these doctrines so that they can be members. These doctrines must genuinely be their personal convictions and practices as well. This is good for both the person and the church, and both parties must take it seriously. As a confessional church, our system of faith is outlined in Articles 4, 5, and 6 of our Constitution. We must be careful when we take in members since teachers and committee and session members should only be chosen from our pool of members. Members can vote and move for changes in the church at congregational meetings. That is why anyone who takes up membership must affirm their belief in, and promise to uphold in their life the doctrines set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and of the Bible Presbyterian church. Members also promise to “keep the purity, peace and unity of this church… will not disrupt the order of this church by introducing false doctrines or beliefs contrary to this church, or by disobeying regulations and the Constitution, or by creating disharmony amongst the members”. Convictions are what you hold dear to your heart. They are what drive you to do or not do certain things, receive or reject certain teachings. While differences in beliefs in themselves may not be sin, it is sinful when one expresses differing convictions in a way that disrupts the peace and unity of the church. 4) Why only members should hold key positions. Members who hold on to different beliefs and are then placed in teaching or positions of influence will influence others to take on their views. Members with dissenting beliefs but yet holding key positions will allow and want to have more who hold their dissenting beliefs into membership and leadership, causing more conflict and confusion. The church will then slowly but surely change and schisms can arise. This is because the church will stop practicing what she declares she holds to constitutionally. This is also “false advertising” and deceptive to people who come in because we are not truly the denomination which the signboard outside our building declares. That is why membership intake is the first gate that must be jealously guarded. Such a practice is not unloving but done out of love for the peace and unity of the local church. This is also a reason why we now require commitment and rededication forms for those serving in key roles, a need that they annually affirm their standing together with us on our beliefs and practices. Again, I stress, membership is voluntary. All are very welcome to worship with us. But none should seek to change the church and cause disunity.
One of the main purposes of membership is that the church can work together with one accord, with gladness and singleness of heart (Act 2:46) especially among those in teaching and leadership positions. “For the body is not one member, but many . . . But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (1 Cor 12:14, 18). There are roles for different people in the church, from worshippers to members to leaders, and all this so “That there should be no schism in the body” (1 Cor 12:25). Peace and unity are fragile. We must do all we can to ensure that they are maintained in BPCWA so that we can all focus on doing God’s work without distraction, to “. . . stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Let us value and thank God for the blessed unity that He has given to us and use it to advance His work and His kingdom through BPCWA!
Yours in our Lord’s service,