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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
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    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
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    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
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    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
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Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Entries in Malaysia 2011 (12)

Sunday
May152011

Why a Christian state is a bad idea - and an update on the Christian and Unashamedly Ethical controversy in Malaysia

The Malaysian Insider posted an interesting article stating that the government has ordered a probe into Ibrahim Ali remarks he has made against Christian leaders in Penang that could be construed as violent.

You can read the article here.  Here is another report in the same newspaper that suggests that journalists should be allowed 'freedom' to report on such matters.

The long and the short of it, from what I read in the media and hear from our friends on the ground in Penang and KL, is that the Malaysian government has realised that it was the media that blew the story of our visit our of proportion.  We were clearly in Malaysia to encourage Christians, work for justice and righteousness (which is in the interests of Malaysia) and to bless the nation as a whole through the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical campaigns. It was the media who fabricated the story of wanting to establish a Christian government - that is complete nonsense.

Here are a few thoughts:

1.  On the issue of a Christian government in any nation - I personally believe it is naive of believers of any faith to think that having persons of their faith persuasion in power will make things better.  What Christians should pray for and work for is a just, ethical and unbiased government that looks out for the interests of all of the citizens of their nation. It is the role of the Church and believers to bring people to faith, not the government.  We should not long for a modern form of Constantinianism.  Faith driven political agendas are destructive to faith and society.

Here's my view. 

  • You don't want an anti-religious government (like that in the former USSR or China, where people of faith are persecuted). Faith is an important part of life.  People should have the freedom to practise their faith as long as it does not destroy the rights of others.
  • You certainly also don't want a religious government (we have simply seen too many of these kinds of governments abusing people!  Governments like those in Iran, and even the calls for 'religiously sanctioned wars and killings' in America which have confused religion with foreign and domestic policy) are harmful to faith and society!  The problem with a religious government is that politicians are seldom 'religious persons' first and politicians second.  Most politicians are politicians first, and they hold some religious conviction when it suits them.  Also, if the religion in power is not your religion, or they belong to a different expression of your faith (e.g., Catholic instead of Protestant, or Suni Muslim instead of Sufi...) it can become extremely abusive.  I certainly believe that we should have Christians in government, they should be salt and light!  But, I don't believe that the Church should abdicate its role and function to the state.
  • No, I believe that one should work for an honest, impartial, just, servant minded secular state.  A state that will protect and uphold the rights of all of its citizens, giving equal space for all to exercise their positive beliefs. Such a state serves the nation well and protects the freedom and rights of its citizens to live out their faith convictions within society.  We have just such a system in South Africa.  It can be unconfortable for extremists and fundamentalists.  But, I believe, as a Christian, it is the way of Jesus to make space for others.  Let our love, not our laws, win the hearts and minds of those who hold different convinctions from our own.  I will write some more about this in the weeks to come.  I am also including some of these thoughts in a new book on the relationship between the Church and State that Wessel Bentley and I are writing at present.

2. I have been left with a wonderful sense of the courage of ordinary persons to do good work for their nations. I was so impressed by the level of faith and loyalty that I encountered among Christians in Malaysia.  Their hearts desire was to bless their nation with good things!  Their faith directed them to do so.

3.  I realise more and more that in many nations of the world faith is far too easy.  Here in South Africa it costs one nothing to be a follower of Jesus.  Perhaps that is why our faith is often so powerless.  We have local elections coming up this week and my prayer is that Christians will seriously seek God's will for their choice of party and candidate.  Being a follower of Jesus, loving His ways, has fundamental political implications!  We cannot support corrupt, unjust, abusive systems of governance and power.  We should live for the establishment of a society in which peoples needs are met and they can flourish in freedom and peace.

4.  Finally, I was left with a sense that the media in many countries is a business like any other.  Their primary aim is often not to report the news, but to sell newspapers!  As such they seek unsubstantiated controversy in order to increase readership.  How many people's lives are damaged because of this greed.  I know that those who hosted us who were arrested and questioned, because of a false report in two newspapers, have paid a price for the greed of others.

The way of Jesus is a way of peace. I pray that my life and my actions will not stir up controversy, but rather foster peace and bring true transformation. Please can I urge you to continue praying for those who remain behind in Malaysia after our departure, those who face persecution and unfair scrutiny for their faith.

For now, it is good to be home for a few weeks before heading to Jacksonville of the Global Day of Prayer. I have been invited to speak at a conference in Malaysia in October this year.  It will be interesting to see if they allow me to enter the country.

Tuesday
May102011

Christians, Unashamedly Ethical and Malaysia - an update

Controversy in Mayasia - update:  In this morning’s newspaper the language is softening and the integrity of original reporters is (rightly) being questioned. Please continue to pray for peace and truth.

You can read the article that was on page 3 of The Star by following this link.

Steve flies home this evening and I will be leaving tomorrow morning.  We are pleased to say that the local community has established some wonderful structures to see values, ethics and clean living roll out in Malaysia.  We had an incredible time and met some of the most amazing people!

I can't wait to be back in October to speak at the Alpha / Marketplace Ministry conference... Let's hope they allow me into the country! If not, it won't be the first time I've been refused entry. In 2003 I was refused entry into the USA and last year I was not allowed to travel to Lebanon.

The two following quotes spoke strongly to me about being a witness for Christ in such situations. Certainly we have faced nothing compared to these two great witnesses for Christ, but their testimony has offered me great encouragement!

"I don’t preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, ‘Now is that political or social?’ He said, ‘I feed you.’ Because the good news to a hungry person is bread."

Desmond Tutu

"Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down."

Oscar Romero

Grace and peace from Malaysia!  Tomorrow I will be in Hong Kong.

Monday
May092011

Unashamedly Ethical and the controversy in Malaysia - please pray!

Since our arrival in Penang a furore has erupted over Unashamedly Ethical in Malaysia. In fact, this morning the Prime Minister of Malaysia commented and it made the front page news of The Star newspaper.

He said:

JAKARTA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has called on all groups to calm down and stop exploiting the issue of a purported attempt to make Christianity the official religion of the country. Religion, he stressed, was a sensitive matter and that he did not want any religion-related debate to create tension among the people. “Cool it and calm down until we find the facts. It is not going to be of benefit to anyone. “Whoever it is, whether they are opposition or pro-government, they cannot and should not exploit this issue,” he told the Malaysian media at the end of the 18th Asean Summit yesterday.

Please see the rest of that newspaper article here. We have since departed from Penang and are back in Kuala Lumpur

What is certain is that the accusations are not true. Our intention is to bless the nation of Malaysia, to pray for her leadership and to see ethics, values and clean living established in greater measure among her people and leaders.

The security police have been asking questions, visiting locations we have visited and spoken at, and are looking to question some of the local hosts of our events.

What I do know is the promise of Romans 8.28 "In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him". Please pray for our local hosts, the thousands of new signatories to Unashamedly Ethical here in Malaysia, and for us!

Here is the story from yesterday's paper:

KUALA LUMPUR: A meeting between the Penang Chief Minister and Christian leaders has turned into a controversy with claims that the participants discussed making Christianity the official religion. The meeting was front-paged by Utusan Malaysia which quoted two blogs making such a claim. However, Penang CM Lim Guan Eng dismissed the report as a fabrication. He described such irresponsible reporting as playing dangerous politics. The DAP secretary-general said the party would lodge a police report against the daily over the matter. “We have never asked for Malaysia to become a Christian, Hindu or Buddhist state,” Lim said yesterday. The organisers of the meeting were the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, Global Day of Prayer, Marketplace Penang and Penang Pastors Fellowship. They, too, denied the claims, saying: “The Christian community in Penang is disturbed by the unwarranted and unsupported claims. “The seminar was organised to discuss and address the issue of bribery and corruption in the marketplace and had nothing to do with political succession.” Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has described the purported meeting of pastors as serious. He said any action by followers of a religion would invite reactions from followers of others. “The status of Islam as the official religion is sacrosanct and can never and must never be questioned. “The police must investigate whether or not such a meeting took place and whether or not this movement is under way. “Such a movement is seditious and places the entire country in danger,” he said. Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar, however, cautioned the public from playing up sensitive issues. “Don’t play with fire, or you might end up being burnt. We will not allow people to deliberately exploit this issue,” he said. MCA Youth Chief Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong described the report byUtusan as provocative, saying the newspaper should be more professional in its reports and not base them on blog posts. Party presidential council member Tan Sri Dr Fong Chan Onn said there was nothing wrong for religious groups to meet with political parties. “MCA can meet with Christians, Muslims and members of other faiths.Utusan should not impute any religious motives,” he said. Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia Ng Moon Hing said Christians had never challenged Islam as the official religion and had no plans to do so. Police reports were also made by Malay and Muslim rights groups Perkasa and Pembela, urging authorities to examine the validity of the article. “This has to be investigated. If this is true, we have to be careful,” said Pembela president Dr Yusri Mohamad.

With rich blessing from Malaysia!

Thursday
May052011

Penang - wonderful people, a beautiful place!

Last night Steve Johnstone (from Unashamedly Ethical), Pr Looi Kim, Eugene and I arrived in Penang. It is a beautiful Island in Malaysia.

 

Penang sunrise.jpgWe were met by members of the Marketplace Ministry committee (isn't it great that they have an organised committee to encourage, support and develop marketplace ministers?)

 

Over the next 4 days we'll be speaking at various events with Pastors, Marketplace Leaders, Local politicians, and then on Sunday we'll be preaching various Churches. In particular we shall be launching Unashamedly Ethical, and talking about the critical relationship between Pulpit ministers and Marketplace ministers for Transformation.

 

Please join us! If you're looking more information please visit the NECF website.

 

I would also appreciate your prayers for Steve, myself, the local team and all of those who will participate! Transformation is God's desire, and God's idea. Let's pray that together we can take another step within His will!

 

I took the picture in this post when I got back from my morning run along the beach. It is a beautiful place! It reminds me a little of the Strand back home.

Monday
May022011

Transform your work life! Turn your ordinary work day into an extraordinary calling!

Workplace Christians.jpgThis morning I will doing one of the keynote talks at the Malaysian Unashamedly Ethical conference in Kuala Lumpur - I'll be focussing on one of the places that is least dealt with by the Church. The reality is that,

98% of Christians are not prepared for 95% of their working lives.

In fact, I'll be speaking about how we can focus not on the 24 hours of the week that most Churches make their primary work - I'll be talking about the other 166 hours of the week, one of the least reached places on earth - the 9 to 5 window!

I'll upload my slides (and hopefully some audio) here as soon as I am able to.

In the meantime if you're interested in reading a number of posts, insights, and some encouragement to help you transform your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling, then please scan through a few of these posts.

Sunday
May012011

CanaanLand publishes 'Transform your work life'

CanaanLand books.jpgMy friend Larry Lee did such an awesome job of publishing our books, Transform your work life' and 'Not by might nor by Power' in Malaysia!

 

They look great and feel fantastic - I bought a few copies to bring back to South Africa. The copies on the left of this picture are Malaysian. Super!

 

Thanks Larry!

 

To order copies of the books in Malaysia please visit Canaanland here.

Sunday
May012011

Prayer and the Bible / Prayer and the Holy Spirit - notes and slides from the Methodist Prayer Convention in Sibu Malaysia

I had the privelage of doing two of the plenary talks at the Methodist Prayer Convention in Sibu, Malaysia, yesterday.

Some of the participants in those talks asked for copies of my notes and the powerpoint slides.  Unfortunately I cannot access my FTP server from the Hotel, so I've uploaded the notes to my dropbox folder and shared the files - I'm fairly certain this should work.  The PowerPoints are about 2.5MB each and the PDF outlines of my notes are only a few hundred KB.

You can download these files from my Dropbox folder by clicking the links below (you will just need to set up a free DropBox username and password in order to get the files).

If you have any problems downloading the notes please drop me a line and I will try to get them to you by another means.

God bless,

Dion

Saturday
Apr302011

Day 2 of the 2011 Methodist Prayer convention in Sibu, Malaysia

Last night more than 3500 people packed the main hall of the Kingwood Hotel conference center for the opening of the Methodist Prayer convention. Bishop Hwa Yung and Graham Power spoke about the global prayer movement. What was most significant for me was the 'concert of prayer' in which the entire gathering prayed together around critical issues in the world for almost an hour!

Today we continue with the conference. I shall be speaking at the Tamil Plenary sessions at 9.00 on the Bible and Prayer, then Graham and I speak on Unashamedly Ethical and Transform your work life over lunch to a group of 400 business people, after which I will speak at the evening plenary on the Holy Spirit and prayer.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for us.

Please could I encourage you to pray for the people of Syria today - they are facing extreme oppression as they protest for democracy. Also please remember our sisters and brothers in the United States of America who have faced the ravages of nature as tornadoes devastated parts of the South.

Friday
Apr292011

Speaking in Kuching Malaysia

We had a wonderful response from our friends in the beautiful city of Kuching in Saruwak. Here you'll see a picture of the city from the air, and a picture of Graham Power speaking on Unashamedly Ethical.

Thursday
Apr282011

Arrived in Sibu

I'm pleased to say that after 5 flights we have arrived safely at the Kingswood Hotel in Sibu where we will be speaking at the Methodist Prayer convention at the invitation of our friend Bishop Hwa Yung.

 

It is wonderful to be here! I last spoke at the 2007 Methodist Prayer convention which was held in Kuala Lumpur. In total there were about 3500 people at that conference and close to 13 000 people at the Sunday event. They are expecting similar numbers this week. (PS., I loved seeing these brightly coloured chairs on our last flight from KK to Sibu).

 

Graham and I will have to be clear and brief since our talks in the plenaries will be translated into Chinese (so one's speaking time must be cut in half to accommodate translation).

 

Malaysia is a nation that seems to share so much in common with South Africa. We have a similar Christian missionary heritage, both nations have a wonderfully colorful diversity of peoples! Yet both still struggle with ethnic and racial concerns, corruption is a huge national concern... Both nations are rich in human and natural resources. Yet there are problems with poverty.

 

It is our hope that as we a share with business people and Christian leaders on the Unashamedly Ethical campaign, and the Kingdom of God in every sphere of society - particularly as we've experienced it in the 'world of work' (see Transform your work life for more details) that we will be able to support the good work of the Church here. We want to encourage more fervent prayer, more courageous and sacrificial obedience to God's loving Kingdom, and the transformation of society. (The photo on the right was taken in the hotel lift showing a sign to the prayer room on the 5th level).

Of course the basis for everything that we do comes from the mandate for the Global Day of Prayer which has taken place in Malaysia since 2005 if I am correct.

If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways.  Then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron 7.14)

 

Please pray with us for this to take place!

Wednesday
Apr272011

The journey begins!

The first snow has fallen on the Hottentots Holland mountains behind our home in Somerset West - it is wet in Cape Town. But, I'm off to much warmer weather! By 3pm SA time tomorrow I would have reached my semi final destination Sibu in Malaysia.

I am missing my family already. However, I am filled with anticipation for what lies ahead over the next two weeks! Scroll down a few posts or do a search for 'Malaysia' on this blog for full details of this trip.

I'd appreciate your prayers for me, my family and our team.

Sunday
Apr242011

Join us at the Unashamedly Ethical conferences in Malaysia

On Wednesday I'll be boarding a flight from Cape Town to Malaysia where Graham Power and I will first be heading via Kuala Lumpur to Sibu to speak at the Methodist Prayer gathering (with some engagements in Kuching along the way). I had the immeasurable privilage of speaking at the 2007 prayer gathering (it was during this time that I first fell in love with Malaysia and her wonderful people!)  

Malaysia has a very special place in my heart - I have been back a number of times since then, and will be there twice this year.

Then, on the 29th we head back to Kuala Lumpur to meet up with Steve Johnstone (the international coordinator for Unashamedly Ethical) to speak at an Unashamedlly Ethical conference (see the brochure and video below).  Please find the full details of the conference here.  I would love to see there if you're in the area!

On the 5th and 6th of May we go on Penang for another Unashamedly Ethical Conference. Please find full details of that conference here.

 

The Unashamedly Ethical movement challenges individuals and organisations to make a stand for values and ethics.  We are convinced that we will never be able to deal with systemic poverty until we address systemic corruption. Please consider joining us by committing yourself to values, ethics and clean living here - Unashamedly Ethical online.

I will also be doing some seminars and workshops with pastors and business people on the topics of 'ministry in the marketplace' and 'practical social transformation' (based in part on the book that Graham Power and I wrote together called 'Transform your work life')  If you live in Malaysia and would like to order a copy of the book please visit Canaanland here. If you live elsewhere in the world please get your copy here.

Prayer requests

Please could you support us in prayer.  Here are some prayer pointers.

 

  • Please pray for our hosting committee in the Methodist Church in Malaysia who will host us for the first part of our visit (particularly Bishop Hwa Yung and his leadership team)
  • Please pray for our hosting committee from the NECF - close friends who are doing incredible work in the Church and the marketplace.
  • Please pray for Graham, Steve and I while we're away.  Also please pray for our families.
  • Please pray that the Lord will use us and that He will create wonderful opportunities for us to bless, encourage and partner with our Malaysian friends in bringing about renewal and transformation in the Church and world of work.

 

Thanks so much!  I'll be posting updates as regularly as I can to my twitter feed and will post here as well as often as I can.