Reflections For Our Tenth Anniversary

By the providence of God, Pilgrim Covenant Church was founded on the Sabbath of 4th July 2009 when about 90 souls (of whom about 70 continued to come the next Sabbath; and more than half continued unto this day) gathered for the inaugural service. The sermon for that morning was entitled “A Covenant Pilgrim” based on Hebrews 6:13-15 &11:8. This was published in our bulletin on the occasion of our 5th Anniversary (PCC bulletin, vol. 6, no. 1, dated 4 July 2004).

We have come a long way as a branch of the body of Christ. It was a journey marked by “the joy of the LORD” (Neh 8:10) mingled with “sorrow upon sorrow” (Phil 2:27). By His mercies God caused us “to triumph in Christ” (2 Cor 2:14), and as a church we have marched on, the gates of hell, not being able to prevail against us (Mt 16:18). But it has not always been easy. While we have had additions, we also suffered casualties. We have much to be thankful for, but we have also been remiss in many areas, for which the Lord has graciously brought to our attention in various ways.

We set out with the principle that a Reformed Church must always be reforming (Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda); and I believe this has happened and is happening. Some us who are more right-leaning may think that we have reformed too much to the left, while others who are more left-leaning may think that we have reformed too much to the right. But I am confident that we are in reality finding our biblical balance as we are led by the providential hand (cf. Ps 139:10), and the goodness and severity (Rom 11:22) of the Lord. I am confident that He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6).

The Old Path is a narrow way determined by the Word of God. It must not be determined by the preferences of men, however, godly they may be. It must not be determined by surveys, practicality, culture, or effectiveness (i.e. what works!) It must be determined by a biblical balance in which the “weightier matters of the law” (Mt 23:23) must be given priority over the “tradition of the elders” (Mt 15:2) even if they do no contradict the Word of God.

In light of this, I think it is good for us, to pause for a moment, on this special occasion of our 10th Anniversary, to consider where we are and how the road may look like ahead of us. If you like, this is what I foresee will be the direction of the church. I have hitherto resisted defining what may be the direction of the church not only because it is difficult to do so, but also because I perceive that some of us may find it very difficult to agree with what I have to say. But then we are, as a church, entering into our teenage years, which I think can be tumultuous years unless we develop a common understanding together. Thus, I believe it is best for all of us or for the church as a whole, if we, at least, have some working principles to refer to that we may understand ourselves and may moderate our expectations as we journey along together. Note, however, that some of what I am going to write represent my opinion as the pastor of the church; whereas the church must be ruled by a plurality of elders and not only by the pastor (like papacy or episcopacy). Our existing elders and future elders may or may not agree wholeheartedly with what I will say. Therefore, take this, if you like, as my personal manifesto for the church, which I believe is consistent with the Word of God. I hope it will contribute to our thinking and planning. But ultimately the decisions pertaining to the church at each point in her life must be made by the Session working on the principle of majority rule.

We shall address 15 areas of concern, viz.: Theology; Worship; Covenants; Discipline; Baptism; Lord’s Table; Covenant Education; Marriage; Church Fellowship; Fellowship Groups; Conferences; Evangelism; Mandarin Service; Another Congregation; Fraternal Relationships. Obviously, with so many areas, to cover in a short article, we will have to be quite brief, but it is my prayer that it will at least set us thinking and praying.

1. Theology

PCC was founded upon the Westminster Confession of Faith as agreed upon by the Westminster Assembly of divines on 4 December 1646; with some footnotes highlighting the modifications to chapters 23 and 31 in matters pertaining to the civil government as adopted by the First General Assembly of the American Presbyterian Church in 1789.

In our adopting statement dated 15 September 1999, we noted that:

This Confession, together with its Larger and Shorter Catechism, is, we believe firmly founded on Scriptures and therefore useful: (1) for the purpose of doctrinal unity; (2) for the systematic instruction in the Word of God; (3) as a doctrinal yardstick for office bearers; and (4) as an aid to resolution of doctrinal conflicts.

This church, will as such continue to be founded theologically on the Westminster Confession of Faith as our statement of unity.

We would as such, deem matters which are not directly addressed in the Confession and Catechism as of lesser importance and therefore they should not become the basis of unity or separation. For example, while I personally believe that women should put on headcovering in public worship, our Confession is silent on it apart from a reference to 1 Corinthians 11:13–14 at WCF 1.6; and as such it should not be an issue of contention. Likewise, while Premillennialism (especially dispensational premillenialism) cannot be reconciled with our Confession, Postmillennialism can be. As such, though I am convinced that Amillennialism is correct, we cannot refuse to admit a Postmillennialist who is not militant in his view into office.

One area, though which, I think I must highlight on the matter of Confessional unity is that I believe our Confession does not support the view of Professor John Murray that God has a real desire to save even the Reprobate (See his Majority Report submitted to the 15th General Assembly of the OPC in 1948). We understand that it is fashionable in many circles today to label anyone who disagrees with Prof Murray as a hyper-Calvinist. But I believe that Calvin would have agreed with our Confession that God is “without… passion” (WCF 2.1), and therefore he would never agree that God has a real desire to save the reprobate. He says in his commentary on Hosea 11:8—

God, we know, is subject to no passions; and we know that no change takes place in him. What then do these expressions mean, by which he appears to be changeable? Doubtless he accommodates himself to our ignorances whenever he puts on a character foreign to himself. And this consideration exposes the folly as well as the impiety of those who bring forward single words to show that God is, as it were like mortals; as those unreasonable men do who at this day seek to overturn the eternal providence of God, and to blot out that election by which he makes a difference between men. “O!” they say, “God is sincere, and he has said that he willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live.” God must then in this case remain as it were uncertain, and depend on the free-will of every one: it is hence in the power of man either to procure destruction to himself, or to come to salvation. God must in the meantime wait quietly as to what men will do, and can determine nothing except through their free-will.

To this, the minority report submitted by Dr William Young agrees ( I believe Dr Young is correct. I believe this is the correct interpretation of our Confession. But may a man who holds to the position of Prof Murray be admitted to office in future? I believe this is a question that must be settled by the Session or the Presbytery sitting when the decision has to be made.


But now a question that some of us may be asking is: Must our deacons also subscribe to the Confession of Faith? Well, historically when we first started, most of our deacons who were ordained to the office were not prepared to say that they subscribe to our Confession for various reasons. As such at that time we thought it expedient that we should relax this requirement for confessional subscription. After all, the Scripture does not require Confessional subscription for ordination of deacons. Over the years, however, both elders and deacons began to see more and more of the wisdom of our presbyterian fathers in requiring not only elders, but all officers to subscribe to the Confession. And as such, as the church matures, it would be prudent for unity sake to ordain only such men as are prepared to subscribe to the Confession of Faith.

What about our existing deacons who were not able to subscribe to the Confession? I think it is essential for us to recognise their contributions in the church. PCC would not be what she is today without the loving and sacrificial contribution of every of our existing deacons. And although, they may not be able to wholeheartedly subscribe to every point in the confession, the points of disagreement are generally not major (as far as I know) and they have been extremely supportive of the work of the church through a spirit of charity and accommodation. We must thank God for them and commend them for that. I believe they have been called by the LORD to be deacons in His Church of which we are but a branch. I believe we did not make a mistake in ordaining them. I believe that as long as they are willing to, they should be given the blessing and encouragement to continue to exercise their gifts pertaining to deaconship in the congregation. But what about future deacon? Well, while I believe that it is desirable to use the Confession “as a doctrinal yardstick for office bearers” (see the adopting statement quoted above) for all officers, I am not sure if we are ready for such a stricture as a congregation. Perhaps it may be prudent for us, instead of requiring subscription, to ask our brothers who are willing to serve as deacons to list down any reservations that they may have. The Session will then decide in consultation with them if it will be a major problem or if it is but a minor issue that should not hinder them in their service as deacons.

My prayer, of course, is that all of us will come eventually to appreciate and adopt the Confession as our own wholeheartedly.

2. Worship

In line with our Confessional Standard, it is necessary for us to affirm that we are not free to reform our mode of worship. We believe that the Regulative Principle of Worship that whatever is not appointed in the word of God is forbidden for His worship is correct. We believe that the Lutheran and Romish doctrine that whatever is not forbidden is allowed is wrong. As such we believe that the Psalms alone should be sung in worship, and that without any musical instrument except our hearts (Eph 5:19). Uninspired songs, Christian or otherwise, may be sung recreationally; just as musical instruments may be used recreationally. But they may not be used in worship.

Likewise, we believe that we should never have any performance choirs or item presentation, or testimony time during worship. We find no warrant for these in New Testament worship in Scripture.

I think the most we should change in terms of our regular worship service must pertain to when to stand and when to sit; what tunes to use for the psalms or the order of various elements in the worship service. Most of us may have notice, for example, that we have started standing for the opening and closing psalms because we have found that we can sing so much better when we are standing. This is especially as the acoustics of our worship hall does not particularly encourage singing.

Apart from this, I think it is essential for all of us to work together on our congregational singing. Needless to say, we have much room for improvement. For this purpose, the Session might perhaps consider inviting a precentor from say the EPC to come to help us for a season.

But let us remember that while the outward form of worship is important, equally important is our heart and attitude in worship. Therefore let us pray that we may not fall into the sin of hypocrisy—having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Let us remember to pray regularly for the Spirit’s help to strengthen us in the inner man to enable us to know all the dimensions of the love of Christ that we may worship God in true humility and gratitude.

3. Covenants

One of the distinctive features of PCC is our use of covenants. We have membership covenants, covenant for parents of covenant children, and covenants for ordination. What are covenants? Covenants are essentially oaths and vows to seal a relationship. Thus, when we take a membership covenant, we are essentially affirming (by oath) to one another our faith, and promising (by vow) to God before the congregation of our resolve to serve Him as a fruitful and faithful member in the covenant body which He has brought us into (see PCC Bulletin, vol. 4, no. 1; dated 7 July 2002).

Such covenants have their precedence in the canonical history of God’s people. We think of the covenants made during the reigns of King Asa (2 Chr 15:12) and King Josiah (2 Kgs 23:3); as well as during the time of Nehemiah, where we are told, the people made a “sure covenant” which was written and sealed by the princes, Levites and priests (Neh 9:38).

Based on these biblical examples, most Protestant churches had in earlier days made conscious use of some form of church covenants. In recent days, however, in line with the modern culture of accommodation and non-imposition, these covenants, if used, are more often known as membership pledges. These pledges are generally very simplified and used only when new members are entered into the church.

In PCC, we want to take our covenants seriously. And therefore, we have made it a point to have the covenants renewed, if not yearly, at least say, five-yearly.

I believe this is a practice that should be maintained. I am aware, that historically, some of our members who left us, left because they felt uncomfortable renewing the covenants that they had made. I am sad that they had to leave for this reason, but I wonder if they understood that whether they renew the covenant at all really makes no difference to the real question, which is: are they prepared to keep the covenant. When we renew our covenants, we are basically seeking to remind ourselves of what we had promised the Lord and seeking His strength afresh to keep what we had promised.

4. Discipline

One of the marks of a true church is (PCC Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 7, dated 15 Aug 1999) is the faithful exercise of church discipline. When we first started as a congregation, the Session, in our enthusiasm to recover the practice of church discipline (which we had never seen exercised in our former churches), could have been overtly stern in this regard. I am not sure. I think the decisions to exercise ex-communication in three instances were not wrong ultimately. However, in two of the cases, we could perhaps have exercised more patience and demonstrated more loving overtures.

Today, the Session, having fought many disputes over the exercise of church discipline feels our hands weakened and our knees feeble whenever we think of exercising discipline. However, I believe the exercise of discipline is essential for the reclamation of erring brothers. Woe are we as a congregation of Christ if we cease to exercise church discipline when the name of Christ is trampled underfoot by scandalous sins and by denial of Christ.


Nevertheless, I think it is essential for me to remind the congregation that church discipline is not only the work of the Session. Every member should take it upon themselves to come alongside any erring brother they notice to seek to turn him to the right way by counsel and persuasion. This is one area we have failed as a congregation. We have failed to be our brother’s keepers and not only so, but some of us are tempted to question the Session when the Session takes disciplinary actions even though whenever the discipline becomes public it is usually because the person being disciplined has refused to take heed to private admonishment.

It is my desire, beloved brothers and sisters, that as we enter into the next phase of our life as a covenant community, we will all take a more concerted effort of encouraging one another to walk in the way of the Lord.

5. Baptism

“Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, doth signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s” (WSC 94). To whom is baptism to be administered? “Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized” (WSC 95).

Most of us, I believe, would have no problem with these statements. However, what about the infants of members of the church who were baptised as infants, but have not made profession of faith? Should they be baptised? Our catechism seems to suggest that they should be as they are members of the visible church, but I believe it is essential for the church to study this question more carefully.

What about elderly folk or those who are mentally incapacitated and are unable to come for worship? Should these be baptised when they seek baptism? Should we urge them to seek baptism if they say they believe?

I do not propose to give an answer, but I think it is essential for us to think carefully about the purpose of baptism. Does baptism save? Can a man who is truly a believer be saved if he is not baptised? Also, who should decide whether a man has credible profession of faith and therefore can be baptised? Is it the man, or the members of the church, or the elders of the church who hold the keys to the kingdom (Mt 16:19). The keys to the kingdom is a heavy one.

Let us pray for our elders that they will not give in to the temptation to administer baptism upon superstitious requests and yet if they have to err that they will err on the side of charity.

6. Lord’s Table

PCC practices what may be known as a close communion, or restricted communion. This means that the Lord’s Supper is opened to communicant members of the church in good standing and to members of good standing in credible overseas churches who are temporarily with us.

The reason for this practice is that the Lord’s Supper is really a privilege of the Church of Christ, and since Christ has appointed that the elders of the church should be the custodians of the keys of the kingdom, it would be rather inconsistent to admit someone to the Lord’s Table who is not willing to submit himself to the rule and discipline of the elders.

As such, although close communion is an unpopular practice, and my heart goes out to those who find themselves unable to commit to membership in the church, I believe this is a practice that we should maintain.

Related to this point is the admission of our covenant youths into the Lord’s Table. While I believe that we must regard our covenant children as Christian, I am convinced that we should only admit them to the Lord’s Table when they are able to personally make a confession of their faith. I used to think that they should perhaps be allowed to make confession of faith when they reach 12 or 13; but more and more I can see the wisdom of the EPC in encouraging the covenant youth to make confession only when they are more stable in their thinking (perhaps when they are 17 or 18 years old). This is not set in stone, but I think we should wait patiently rather than rush in to make sure that we have a covenant youth making confession. We must not pressurize our youths into making a confession when they are not ready as yet to own the covenant of membership.

7.  Covenant Education

For the last decade, we have been operating a Sabbath Class curriculum that uses a series of doctrinal and Bible-History Catechism. I understand that some of our parents find the work involved in getting their children to memorise the lessons to be too much. However, I believe that as a church we should seek to maintain some standard. If we desire our children to strive for excellence in school, should we not also desire for them to strive for excellence in the knowledge of the word of God?

That said: I must emphasise that the instruction of covenant children is really the responsibility of their parents, especially their fathers. The teachers in the Sabbath school, as such are there only to supplement and assist the fathers in their attempts. Therefore, I believe that every father must have the prerogative to opt out of any class that they do not want their children to attend, and likewise every father must be given the freedom to limit the number of questions they want their children to learn. So for example, if you are a father and you find that your child simply cannot cope with the ten questions scheduled to be tested on the Sabbath, you must feel free to let the teacher know which question you had your child learn that he may be tested on those.

Now, a note on teachers: I believe that it is a proper safeguard that elders who are officially recognised as being ‘apt to teach’ (1Tm 3:2) be appointed to take the catechism class. I know that at the moment we do not have enough elders, and we are really functioning in a sort of compromised situation with the deacons and some fathers taking the classes. I have come to accept that this may be the situation for some time to come, though I am not extremely alarmed about it as the way that our catechism classes are designed, the main role of the ‘teacher’ is really to review the lessons that should have been taught by the fathers. Nevertheless, it is my prayer that the Lord will raise up more elders that we can enjoy a greater biblical consistency in this area of our church life.

In the meantime, one line in compromise which I think we should not cross is to ask our sisters to take the catechism class, for the apostle Paul specifically forbids women from teaching in the church (1 Tim 2:11-12). Even when the apostle Paul instruct Titus to teach the older women to teach younger women (Tit 2:4), he uses a word (swfronivzw) that suggests that he is not talking about doctrinal instruction but guidance in sobriety. This does not mean that in private (even in the church premise), women may not express their view. Remember how Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos unto themselves and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26).

But apart from Sabbath Classes, I think the church should eventually think about starting a covenant school. I am not sure if we will ever get there, but I believe that such a school will strengthen the church tremendously by giving our children a biblically consistent education.

8. Marriage

Although marriage is a civil ordinance, the Word of God has given us many instructions and guidelines on it. In particular, the Word of God condemns unequally yoked marriages (Dt 7:3–4; 1 Kgs 11:4; Neh 13:25–27; Mal 2:11–12; 2 Cor 6:14; etc). Thus our Confession of Faith in chapter 43, paragraph 3 states:

It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet is it the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

If we believe this to be correct, then it really behooves us to help our brethren who may be tempted to enter into relationships that may lead to unequally yoked relationships away from the intended course. Of course, it is possible for the unconverted to be converted while in courtship. But it appears to me that for a believer to court an unbeliever with the prospect of marriage is to tempt God; and can be very unfair for the unbeliever because it would cast a shadow on the credibility of his or her conversion.

What should the Session do when there is an unequally yoked relationship? I believe the Session should exercise discipline by way of private counsel and admonishment. We should refrain from any public statement unless it is absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, the Session would have to exercise public discipline should a member of the church marry an unbeliever, especially after repeated counsels.

What about the cases where the conversion or profession of the other party is doubtful? In such case, the Session must exercise charity of judgement as much as possible (especially where the member is open to counsel), but it must reserve the right whether to marry the couple in a church wedding.

9. Church Fellowship

Over the last decade, I have heard many complaints that the fellowship in the church is cold and the members are not caring. But honestly, I believe these complaints are really sweeping generalisations which arise out of subjective perceptions. The fact is some of us will have more need for personal fellowship and others less. Those who have more needs will tend to think that fellowship is lacking whereas those who have less need will find it adequate. And moreover, some of us are by nature more extrovert or approachable, whereas others are not. I have come to accept that I am more introverted than extroverted, and I have also come to realise that I am less approachable than I thought I was. So there were times when I feel somewhat alone in church! I am not complaining. I kind of enjoy being alone at times. But the point I am trying to bring across is that many factors can create an impression, and we must not be too quick to point fingers.

Nevertheless, it is my desire to see members of the church enjoying the fellowship of the church in the bond of love that centre on Christ. As such may I urge the following:

First, I think it is essential for us to meet often if we are going to enjoy one another’s company. There is no short cut to knowing one another. We need to spend quality time together! This is one of the reasons why we have our weekly fellowship lunches. (The other reason being to encourage Sabbath keeping). But other than the fellowship lunches, if we would attend all appointed meetings and continue on in fellowship after the meetings, it will definitely help us to get to know one another.

But secondly, I think it is essential for us to cultivate a positive and optimistic attitude of trust towards one another. Essentially, this is what the apostle Paul is teaching us to do when he says:

2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:2-5).

In a Reformed church where a lot of emphasis is placed on right theology, right behaviour and right attitude, it is almost inevitable that an atmosphere of tension develops so that those who perceive themselves to be falling short in one way will think that they are being watched, that fingers are pointing at them and that there are wagging tongues talking about them. But such an atmosphere is contrary to the spirit of Christian fellowship which is one of love and charity, where the church is a place where we can find rest amongst those who understand. How shall we address the problem? The answer does not lie in ceasing to emphasise on what is right. That would create an even more dangerous situation of antinomianism and easily-believism (cf. Mt 7:21-23). The answer lies, rather, in cultivating a right attitude towards the Lord and towards one another. Our attitude towards the Lord must be a fear of Him coupled with thanksgiving that He has justified and forgiven us and that therefore no condemnation of man should trouble us: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom 8:33-34). But conversely, every one of us must mortify any condemnatory or judgemental spirit against our brethren. We must never entertain a ‘holier than thou’ attitude (Isa 65:5). We must rather judge one another as charitably as possible according as the apostle Paul has taught us. Such is the mind of Christ which we must cultivate. Therefore, though there may be occasions when we have to admonish one another (2 Th 3:15), we must do so with great charity and evident love. And likewise, we must trust each other to make the right decisions about our own lives. Thus, for example, we must not begin to probe too much or to make a fellow member feel ostracised because he decided not to join in a particular activity (e.g. church camp or fellowship gatherings).

10. Fellowship Groups

Some years ago, I wrote an answer in Now, That is a Good Question! in which I explained why we do not have fellowship groups or contact groups like other churches (see PCC Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 38, dated 19 March 2000). I gave three reasons: Firstly, regular meetings of fellowship groups often put a huge strain on the families and individuals in the church and tend to weaken family bonds; Secondly, experience has shown that fellowship groups and contact groups have been the cause of errors and disunity infiltrating the church; and Thirdly, there is no biblical basis for autonomous fellowship groups with its own leadership and constitution within the church apart from the families that make up the church.

A few years later, however, a groundswell developed into the Session acceding to the request to start a Youth Group. I wrote another answer to a question asking if I had changed my mind about what I wrote in 2000 (see PCC Bulletin, Vol. 7, no. 13, dated 25 Sep 2005). The short answer was that no, I had not changed my mind. I was still not convinced that we should have any autonomous or semi-autonomous groups within the church. I wrote:

 I am, however, open to the idea of informal fellowship groups. These can meet on a regular basis. They can even have a somewhat structured programme. What they should not have is their own constitution and an autonomous leadership structure that would make them like churches within the church. I am also open to the idea of having informal young people’s groups, which are directly overseen or managed by the officers of the church. This is the kind of fellowship gathering that our deacons have initiated for our young people.

I am not unaware of the specific needs of our young people who often find themselves sandwiched between the younger children who can easily socialize (or play) with one another, and the adults who often leave them out as they interact amongst themselves. Though in an ideal world, this should not be the case, the reality is that many of our young people, especially our teens and pre-teens, often find themselves feeling quite lonely in church. My heart goes out to them.

It is my prayer and desire that they will, under the supervision of the brethren who are committed to helping them, begin to build strong bonds of friendship one with another. It would be tragic if our covenant teens have close friends amongst unbelievers in school but are mere acquaintances with one another in church.

Well, that was 5 years ago. About two years later, another groundswell developed which requested for the formation of care-groups in the church to better foster the bond of love between members. The Session took about a year of deliberation and consultation with the Diaconate, before deciding in 2008 to divide the church into 4 zones and formed four care groups, each one headed by an elder (or ministerial student) and two deacons. A couple of the groups are still meeting regularly today, while the other groups are meeting on a more ad hoc basis. To tell you honestly, many of us in the Session and Diaconate were actually quite half-hearted about having the care groups. But we recognized that some of our members might benefit from the fellowship that the structure would afford; which is the reason why we decided to try it out.

Today, there is a call for the men to meet together by themselves occasionally for fellowship and prayer; and perhaps for the women to do the same.

Where will this lead us? Frankly, I don’t know. But let me suggest this: I don’t think it is wrong for these fellowship groups to exist so long as they are informal gatherings. I think that for the groups to evolve into something like a church within the church so that there are officers elected from within the group would be wrong.

I think it is much better for these gathering to grow out of mutual desires to meet rather than for the Session of the church to start them. There are already informal gatherings for birding, for games, for breakfast in the park, for soccer, etc. I think these are positive developments, which should be encouraged rather than discouraged.

They are part of the covenant life of the church. But I am not keen to start any more semi-formal groups like the Young People’s group or the care groups.

11. Conferences

For the past 9 years, we have called our conferences, ‘conferences.’ But our 10th Conference was called a Family Conference or a Family Camp. The change was quite deliberate. It was designed to cultivate the family bond between the members of the church. For this reason, some activities previously unheard of were introduced by our camp master such as group discussion, a time for thanksgiving and games. I think though some of us were quite apprehensive about some of the new additions, most of us who went for the camp enjoyed most parts of it. The messages were edifying and the fellowship was quite rich.

Is this a sign of things to come for better or for worse? I believe it is for the better, though, I am personally wary of how things can deteriorate. For example, the testimony time can easily become a boasting session. Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that we do not need to regulate the conference too much. I don’t think we should ever do away with the singing of psalms and preaching at the conference. But other than that, so long as the fellowship activities are not too frivolous and boisterous, I don’t think we should be too restrictive.

We must make a difference between formal worship and fellowship and covenant life activities.

12. Evangelism

I believe it is the church’s duty to evangelise. However, I do not think that we need to go out two by two to ‘share the gospel’ in the street. I believe that the main evangelistic activity in the church should be the preaching of the Gospel. Members may evangelise by giving tracts, by speaking to our colleagues, friends and family members, or even strangers about Christ. But one of the main things that we must do is to maintain a good witness by our lives and when the opportunity arises to invite unbelievers (or even professing believers) to come seek the Lord through the hearing of the Gospel.

We must remember that assembling with the saints for worship is a duty of all believers (Heb 10:25). We must also remember that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God preached (Rom 10:17). Therefore we must not discount the place of the church in our desire to see our friends and relatives converted to Christ!

13. Mandarin Service

We thank God that He has given us an opportunity to minister to the old folks from the neighbourhood. It is our desire that those who come regularly will not only increase in the knowledge of the Lord, experience genuine conversion and assurance of salvation in the Lord.

But I believe that we should not be content to simply have a translated Mandarin Service. It is my desire, rather, that we might soon be able to start a proper Mandarin congregation. I see a need for it, not only for our neighbourhood friends, but for our parents, and for workers from China who are in Singapore temporarily!

Shall we not pray that the Lord will lead us to this end! We need a preacher. We need committed brethren. We need the Lord to bring in His lost sheep! Shall we not pray and work towards this end?

14. Another Congregation?

Related to the above point, I believe we should start thinking about starting a new congregation. We have a ministerial student finishing his studies soon. He could labour in the church as an assistant pastor for a season, but it would be much better if we can start another congregation who would be ready to call our brother when he finishes his study. This is the advice that I have heard from two experienced and respected ministers (one from EPC, the other from FCC), separately. 

I am thinking, when we first start, the two congregations can worship together in the evening service, and we can swap pulpits for the morning service regularly so that our work loads may be reduced.

Where will the new congregation meet? Who will go over? These and other logistical things matters must be thought about soon.

But another good reason for starting another congregation is our desire to form a presbytery. The presbytery will be made up of representatives namely a pastor and a ruling elder from each congregation in the denomination (what will we call ourselves?).

Until we form a presbytery, we cannot really function as a true Presbyterian Church; where there is a higher court for appeals and counsels in matters of discipline and doctrine.

We will of course need more instruction, whether oral or in writing concerning the functions of a Presbytery.

15. Fraternal Relationships

We are thankful to the Lord that we have been able to establish some friendships with other churches, most notably of which is the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia (EPC) for which we have found much like-mindedness in practice and theology. The EPC has a much longer history compared to us, and they have graciously extended access to their courts for brotherly counsels.

We are grateful to the Lord for their love, prayer and assistance that they have rendered to us over the last decade. It is as such our desire to see our two churches cultivating and formalising a fraternal relationship of mutual love and respect with each other.

It is accordingly my hope that more of us when considering overseas vacation will consider going down to Eastern Australia and to visit the EPC church on the Sabbaths. I believe when you have worshipped with the EPC, you would come away understanding better what it means to enjoy Psalm-singing!

What about other Reformed and Reforming churches in Singapore? Well, although we may not be able to cultivate official fraternal relationships due to theological and doctrinal differences, it is essential for us to maintain fellowship with them. And this we will want to do if the Lord gives us the strength and energy. Indeed, it would be nice if the various congregations can enjoy fellowship together even if we can’t worship together.

Ten years have passed. What will the next ten years be like if the Lord should tarry? It is my prayer and hope that PCC will grow together in unity and love and may be used of the Lord for the salvation of other sheep which the Lord has laid His life down for.

I don’t know what the next ten years will be like. But I hope this article will clear up some confusions and doubts and provide us a common understanding to labour together. It is my prayer that we will stick together with one another to see the realisation of our desires and dreams pertaining to our aspiration for the church we love.

I don’t know about tomorrow. But I know who holds tomorrow. I believe that He who has begun the good work in us will perform it unto the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that Christ will through this church that He has raised glorify Himself. And I desire through these reflections to be a humble instrument towards that end. May the Lord help us. Amen.