Why Is The Indigenous Church So Important?
The Indigenous Church plays a pivotal role in the future development of churches in Malaysia. Statistics taken from the 2010 showed that there are 9.2% Christians among the Malaysian population, of which 70% comprised of Indigenous Christians from the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli in Semenanjung. In other words, for every 10 Malaysian Christians, 7 are Indigenous people. In view of this significant representation and their identity as bumiputera, the Indigenous Christian community plays a prominent and pivotal role in the development and growth of Christianity in our country.
click here for english version
Why Is The Indigenous Church So Important?
1. Nominal Christians
Nominal Christianity, is a situation where the Christian faith is only regarded as a religious or cultural identity by a person who professes to be a Christian. That person may have called himself or herself a Christian only because he or she simply followed the religion of his or her parents but have never learnt or understood the real truth. And without sound biblical foundation, many nominal Christians simply drop out from the church at a young age.
There are several factors that have led to this situation:
Firstly, many indigenous Christians who are working could not attend church services on Sunday due to their work commitments.
Secondly, many indigenous Christian students who attend boarding school face opposition and obstacles when they want to join church services and activities. Many of the hostels are located far from the church, and without any means of transport , distance became both a valid reason and a ready excuse for many young Indigenous Christians for not going to church.
Thirdly, many indigenous Christian youth who have left their villages to study or work in other towns and cities find themselves easily influenced and led astray by the temptations found in there. They spend their hours loafing around entertainment outlets and pick up all kinds of bad habits and ungodly lifestyles. Also, some young Christian girls who are careless in their relationships get themselves entangled emotionally and many get pregnant out of wedlock, forcing them to get married with men of another religion which caused them to give up their Christian faith.
2. Proselytisation Efforts Of the Major Religion
In the past few decades, indigenous Christians have been faced with increasing challenges and temptations to abandon their faith. All kinds of proselytising efforts are aimed at them from a major religion and many of them find themselves unable to stand up to these challenges and they eventually succumb and leave their Christian faith.
One of the most effective proselytising strategy used against them is through education system at different levels. The basic level is through the use of kindergartens. The education department concerned would set up kindergartens and education centres in the indigenous villages, providing the children with free education. Many indigenous Christian parents innocently send their young children to these kindergartens, only to realise later that their children were being taught the practices and lifestyles of the major religion such as their way of praying.
The proselytising strategy is also carried out at secondary schools level. This is mainly done through the boarding schools. As there are not many secondary schools in the interior, and most schools are located far from the villages, most indigenous students who want to continue their secondary education have to stay in the government school hostels. In these hostels, the proselytising efforts are carried out relentlessly. The school authorities may actively encourage the students to join the activities of the major religion, or require them to attend their religious classes. Also, sometimes the Christian students are not allowed to join church activities or attend church services or some activities are arranged so that they are unable to go.. Other tactics used are making Christian students change their religion as a requirement to be eligible for a place in the hostel or to enjoy other benefits.
At the tertiary education level, all universities have made the study of the civilization of major religion as a compulsory subject. Additionally, there is even a project called “Project Love” (Projek Cinta) in many campuses, where the goal is to make female Indigenous Christian students fall in love to male students of the major faith, and once they are entangled emotionally or physically, to convert to the major religion through marriage.
Apart from using the education to proselytise indigenous Christians, there are aggressive and concerted missionary campaigns that target the interior villages. Large number of proselytisers are sent regularly into the villages to convert the indigenous villagers. Also, in almost every district, training centres have been set up to educate these new converts and train them to proselytise their own people.
Another unethical tactic used to convert indigenous Christians is to register them as belonging to the major faith in their identity cards without their knowledge.
What Are The Factors Causing Christians To Be Weak In Their Faith And Losing Their Faith?
The main factor is the weak spiritual foundation of many indigenous Christians. Many indigenous churches are often without pastors, teachers, or leaders, who can teach their members Bible truth effectively, resulting in a poor and shallow spiritual foundation among the believers. Most of them are happy just to attend church services and programmes passively but are not growing in their spiritual lives.
Other contributing factors include being attracted to worldly temptations, the effect of globalisation, the corruption of faith through mixing of different spiritual beliefs (syncretism), and the highly effective proselytising efforts and attacks on the Christian faith by the majority religion.
So, How Can We Help The Christian Indigenous Community To Be Stronger In Their Faith?
Pastor Lam in his talk has shared a number of proposals:
1. Provide training, materials and resources in Bahasa Malaysia to indigenous pastors and leaders to empower them to teach the Word of God and disciple their people effectively.
2. Seek and reach out to the indigenous youth who are lost in the cities and urban areas and lead them back to God and shepherd them in the church.
3. Help the indigenous Christians to build family altars by teaching the parents to take the lead and become godly models for their children.
4. Provide training in apologetics so that indigenous Christians know how to defend themselves and be strong in their faith when they are being attacked or challenged by the major religion.
5. Establish Christian hostels, to provide indigenous Christian students with a safe and good environment to stay and study away from the continuous proselytising influences of the major religion.
Message Shared by Pastor Lam Kee Hing
Written by Isaac Goh
Translated by Earnest Chiam