by Bishop Malcolm Harding
published in Mustard Seed - May 2001

Dear friends in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. Michael Green, one of my favourite writers, has just completed a new book. The title is Asian Tigers for Christ and it reflects the amazing growth of the Anglican Church in South East Asia. As the Archbishop of Canterbury writes, "We have much to learn from the dynamic young Province of South East Asia."

I sense that the renewal and church growth amongst the Anglicans in South East Asia can be attributed in part to the four ideals which Bishop Chiu Ban, the first Indigenous bishop of that area, saw as characterizing the church he was called to serve. Using the acronym 'Pews,' he focused his sermon on prayer, evangelism, witness and service. His programme ultimately developed into training programmes for laity, solidly rooted in scripture to equip them for ministry. The focus, as it should be, and as Michael Green points out, was on Kingdom building and not on empire building. That's a lesson we need to be reminded of at times in the west.

In my opinion, we would also do well to revisit 'pews' if we're going to be serious about renewal and, God willing, revival, and so discover as the early church did that "…day by day the Lord added new converts to their number." (Acts 2:47) If that is to happen, the 'P' of pews is paramount.

Without prayer as a top priority in our churches and personal lives, nothing of any real consequence is going to happen with respect to evangelism, youth ministry, church growth, outreach and that growing awareness of the ministry of all the baptized which we now call Mutual Ministry. How much time are you spending in private prayer, small group prayer, prayers before and during Vestry meetings, prayers before church services, prayers for a new bishop for this diocesan family? Regretfully, prayer is sometimes seen as a last resort when it should always be our first crying out to our Lord. As you may have heard me say before, prayer should be the prelude to everything we do as servants of the Lord.

Here is a challenging thought! Many Singapore churches include a 15 minute solid time of congregational prayer during Sunday morning worship with a particular theme for that Sunday. The theme may range anywhere from social, political or economic concern to parish life.

Who can imagine what a concentrated time of Spirit-filled might do to enhance the life of a faith community - as well as in helping them to discover God's will for future ministry and church growth? If we were to solidly invoke the Holy Spirit in such a Sunday morning prayer slot of fifteen minutes, I suspect any faith community would very soon move on from a maintenance to a mission state.

Then they would understand God's word when he spoke through his prophet Zechariah; "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord." (Zech. 4:6)

Asian Tigers for Christ has much to teach us about Spirit-led church leadership, weekly cell-group life, evangelism, and loving outreach ministries, which are all vital signs of a renewed and healthy church. This book is published by SPCK, Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DU, United Kingdom. I believe Michael Green's latest book has much to help us in our spiritual journey as Anglican Christians in the west.

Every blessing,

In Jesus,

Bishop Malcolm

The Rt. Rev. Malcolm Harding
Bishop, Diocese of Brandon
Episcopal Visitor to Anglican Renewal Ministries

Anglican Renewal Ministries