During this visit to Southeast Asia, we have given 3 different Emotionally Healthy Spirituality conferences in 3 very different venues. This included a conference for the 27 churches of the Anglican diocese of Singapore (along with a number of other churches) and the Eagle’s Leadership Conference with over 1600 leaders representing 19 countries. We joined a diverse group of speakers that included high-ranking government officials, CEO’s, bishops, pastors, and the President of Fuller Theological Seminary. While we spoke on “Leading out of Your Marriage or Singleness” to the whole conference, we also gave an all-day EHS seminar to about 200 participants that was simultaneously translated into Bhasa Indonesian, Cantonese, and Thai.
The third leg of our trip was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where Pete preached at a dynamic, 3000+ member SIBKL church. Over the next two days he will be giving a conference on “Transforming Your Church through the EHS Course, EHS Skills, and The EH Leader” to about 500 leaders before returning home Friday.
Since Geri is flying home two days early, we thought it would be good to highlight a few of our observations together:
- Asian Christianity is growing, powerful, dynamic, and pulsating with the life of God. There is much we need to learn from the church here. We observed first-hand how Christianity’s center of gravity has shifted from North America/Europe to Asia (along with Africa and Latin America). The North American church is not, by any means, the center of what God is doing in the world.
- A number of issues that we often argue about in the USA church are largely irrelevant here (e.g. women in ministry, the finer points of Reformed theology). For example, China has one of the fastest growing churches in the distinctive world with over 100 million believers. And many of their pastoral leaders are female! Openness to signs, wonders, dreams, visions, and the supernatural is part of most churches here, be they Methodist, Anglican, or Presbyterian.
- Being with the church on this side of the world offers a rich glimpse of the worldwide, multiracial, multicultural family that is the body of Christ (Revelation 7:9-10). The beauty of each culture (Indian, Tamil, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, etc) with aspects of His image in their distinctiveness is a wonder to behold.
- We are amazed at how many people from East Asia have experienced EHS, accessed EHS books/curriculum, and had their lives significantly impacted as a result. Geri sat down with one pastor among a group of 200 people at our all day workshop so he could practice appreciations (the CTR). To her surprise, he shared appreciation and love for her life and book (EH Woman that was formerly published under I Quit). He later thanked Geri publicly for and how much she has changed his life.
- We spent two days in Penang, Malaysia vacationing on the beach with a large number of Saudi Arabian families. We were initially shocked by all the women dressed in Burqas (which covers the body from head to toe with a narrow opening for their eyes). It turns out that Saudi’s often vacation in fellow Muslim countries like Malaysia after Ramadan. Then we grew curious, initiating conversation, for example, with one man (the wife didn’t speak) who was a teacher of special needs children with Down syndrome and autism. It was good to see these families as real people like the rest of us. Finally, I prayed and wondered, “Are we equipping our people to have a relationship with Jesus robust enough to authentically engage Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism in places like this, or are we allowing them to remain trapped in a narrow evangelical subculture?”
If you are interested in reading more about the Asian church, let me recommend a chapter written by my good friend, Scott Sunquist, the Dean of Fuller’s Graduate School of Intercultural Studies entitled “Evangelicalism in Asia.” It can be found in chapter 7 of Global Evangelicalism, edited by Donald Lewis and Richard Pierard (IVP).