- Grace B-P Contributor
Grace BP Church's 46th Anniversary: Looking Back and Ahead
By Rev Tan Eng Boo
Paul said in Romans 15:19-20:
“Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation.”
Paul was a pioneer church planter. He went as far as Illyricum to plant churches. The area roughly corresponds to part or all of the territories of today’s Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia. This would be the same area as Yugoslavia in the 20th century.
It was a tough job for Paul reaching out to those people with the gospel. But what he said caught my attention. He said, “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.” Paul was involved in pioneering work.
In 1976, there wasn’t any Bible Presbyterian church (BPC) in the eastern part of Singapore. When the late Rev Timothy Tow started Grace Bible-Presbyterian Church in 5 Jalan Haji Salam, it was a also a pioneering work. We then went on to start the Grace Mandarin Service (March 1978), Shalom BPC (Sept 1981) and the Grace Evening Service (March 1988) which later became Gethsemane BPC.
On this blessed occasion of our 46th anniversary, I want to give thanks to the Lord for the pioneers of Grace church, especially the church leaders who worked with me. The first 10 years of Grace BPC was the foundational years in the establishment of the Pulpit ministry, Sunday School (as we called it), and the Youth Fellowship. We were concentrating on the spiritual life of the people to mature them in the faith (Col. 1:27-28). We didn’t embark on any overseas missions ministry then. We only had Sis Catherine Ng who served with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) in 1979 and Sis Chong Quek Keow who served with Campus Crusade for Christ in 1980. Both were involved in Singapore based ministries.
As I look back, I want to thank the Lord for:
1. Faithful men and women in the Session
It was not an easy task to plant a new church. We had to first lay the spiritual foundation of the church. I recall we had three deaconesses who served with the men in the Session. The ladies were Guay Hiah, Catherine Ng, and Katherine Kho. There were also Elder Willie Seah, and Elder Mah Chin Kwang. The deacons were Tony Chan, Michael Tang, George Tan, and Wee Hian Kok. Of course, there was also the late Rev Patrick Tan (pastor Grace Bible-Presbyterian Church 1976-1981) and Tan Choon Seng (who later became the Pastor of Shalom BPC). The Session was almost always a small group of dedicated leaders.
In the church session, the elders are important leaders in the church. There must be both the teaching elder and the ruling elder. Paul always made sure he had such people to take on this role before he went on to pioneer another new work. He told Titus, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained in order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you (Tit. 1:5, see Acts 14:23). The elders work with the pastor (the pastor is also an elder) in the pioneering work and help to establish it, laying on a firm foundation for the work to carry on. Paul says:
“According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11, 12)
Thank God for deacons, deaconesses, and elders who worked with me. I have been pastor of Grace since 1981 and I have always been very careful in selecting session members and especially elders. Since the days of Elder Mah Chin Kwang, Grace BP church went on to have Elder Seah Soon Huat, and later on, Elder Victor Goh at the last Session term of office.
2. A new generation of leaders
Grace is now 46 years old, and as we move into the 47th year, a new generation of leaders is now set to lead Grace B-P church forward. The elders in the Session must lead the way. Grace’s foundation has already been laid by the pioneers. I am sure that the pulpit ministry will continue to be vibrant and strong. It must continue to be established on Bible-based preaching. The Sunday School, or Bible Class as we call it today, continues to establish the believers’ faith.
I recall meeting a young man some time ago who told me that Grace BP church’s Sunday School (in the early years) gave him a solid biblical foundation of his faith. That was encouraging. The Youth Fellowship (YF) in the early years was vibrant, but it tapered off slowly when we began to see Saturday meetings disrupted by school activities. Parents objected to having their children attend YF etc. Praise God for fellowship ministries in church today, like the Adult Fellowship, Young Adult Cell etc.
Ten years after Grace BP church was established, we embarked on foreign missions. We had a 2-day mission weekend with the theme: “Dare to Go” in April 1986. We also started our first Family Salvation Night in 1987. We continue in outreach and missions till this day. May our missions and evangelism task force move on from strength to strength in sowing the seed of life.
Looking for a Pastor for Grace church
With the new generation of leaders in place, we also need to look for a pastor.
He should be someone as the Bible describes in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The search committee will have to consider a person who is “above reproach”. We need to look for good character and integrity in the person. Sure, a pastor must be able to preach and teach and have a theological education qualification, but if his character and integrity is questionable, he should not be put in office, as he will bring down the name of the church and God. We need to pray for the Search Committee and the church leadership to have wisdom in the selection process.