On September 15th, Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong was invited to lead the evening Bible-study at the eighth Chinese Coordination Center of World Evangelism conference held in Bali, Indonesia. Explicating on Apostle Paul’s example of mission and personal testimony, he encouraged the pastors, co-workers, and all the participants.
Tong, 71, boards the plane 300 times a year to various places around the world and preaches 500 times. His founding church Jakarta Reformed Evangelical Church has just celebrated its 22nd anniversary at the newly constructed Messiah Cathedral (Katedral Mesias) that he personally designed, which is the largest overseas Chinese church building, seating 4,700 in the main sanctuary and 1,800 in the side sanctuary.
The founder of Stephen Tong Evangelistic Ministries International said that 22 years ago he started a church with the emphasis on solid faith and the strictest form faith – reformed theology. And the second principle is that the gospel must be preached or else the church that does not preach the gospel is like committing suicide. Thus, Tong named his church the Reformed Evangelical Church.
Walking and preaching through all of Indonesia
About seven years ago, Rev. Tong followed Jesus’ example of traveling through all cities and towns in preaching the gospel and began the mission goal of evangelizing 20,000 people in Indonesia in the first year.
Tong said that by the end of the year they had 17,200 people joining their evangelism conferences. In the second year, they’ve raised their goal to 40,000 people, and 52,900 people showed up by year end. In the third year, the goal became 100,000 people, and 120,000 showed up that year. In the fourth year, the goal was 200,000 people. In the fifth year, it was 300,000 people. Last year was the sixth year, and their goal was half a million. Over 628,000 people showed up at the end of the year. This year marks the seventh year and their goal is a million people.
The influential Chinese preacher quoted Apostle Paul’s declaration of the power of the gospel from Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believers.”
“Any church that does not preach the gospel is a church that is walking towards extinction,” he said. “The greatest gift that God gave the church is the Holy Spirit and His power; the greatest gift that God gave to this world is giving His one and only son to die for us. Holy Father gave the Holy Son to the world; Holy Son gave the Holy Spirit to the church; Holy Spirit gave the truth to the apostles. Therefore, we come to know Christ through God’s word, God’s word through the Holy Spirit, and we return before our Father through the death and the resurrection of Christ. We must preach the gospel, for if we do not preach then there will be disaster.”
Tong’s last CCCOWE participation
In total, the senior preacher has attended eight world CCCOWE conferences since CCCOWE’s inception in 1974. He has announced that it will be the last time that he will participate, because he is already 71 years old, so it is right for the youth to stand up and continue.
“Apostle Paul said, ‘I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.’” Tong said that this sense of indebtedness is the source of strength for a preacher to continue to spread the gospel.
“When we see people today, what do you see? Do you see that he is now walking towards hell? Whether he boards the airplane or ride the ship, he will end up going to hell. Do you see their destruction is related to your not preaching the gospel? Do you feel that God has placed in your heart a sense of indebted responsibility?
Proportion of church growth and population growth
18 years ago, Tong said that if in ten years the number of churches in Jakarta increases by 300 with 100 members in each church, then there will only be an increase of 30,000 Christians. Yet, the annual population growth in Jakarta is approximately 500,000 to 700,000. Thus, no matter how many churches were built, it is impossible to deal with the population growth.
“In 1975, Jakarta’s population is around six million; today, the population is 21.5 million. How many churches and believers are needed in such a big city? Yet, we don’t care, for we only care about what percentage has our church grown and has the church numbers increase. Are we able to catch up with the world’s population growth proportion?” he said.
Tong said that in the last 54 years he has called over 248,000 people before the altar to dedicate their lives for preaching the gospel. If he is ever the conference speaker at CCCOWE, he will definitely call people to become preachers, for only when people come out to preach and the church cares about spreading the gospel will this world has hope.
When Apostle Paul said that “I am obligated to the wise”, it means that Paul is already prepared to deal with the wisest people’s needs for the gospel, explained Tong.
However, what does it mean when Paul says, “I am obligated to the foolish”?
Tong said that this means that I will also preach the gospel to those who are not learned, for the proclamation of gospel is not done by looking at the levels. Confucius taught to provide education for all people without discrimination, and Christians should preach the gospel to all without discrimination.
Moreover, Tong said that Apostle Paul spoke of two more types of people – Greeks and non-Greeks. The non-Greeks are the least cultured people who originate from the north Balkan near the Baltic Sea – the Celts. These people are very fierce, barbaric, and unlearned. Paul said that to these people I am also indebted to them. Every church must be prepared to deal with the needs of people in every social level, ethnic groups, and types of people.
In conclusion, the Chinese-Indonesian scholar said that Paul listed the wise, foolish, Greeks and non-Greeks together for three reasons: first, everyone needs Jesus; second, the word of Jesus is sufficient to deal with the needs of any type of people in this world; third, I am a debtor, so I must bear this responsibility.
“Dear brothers and sisters, preaching is a must, preaching is a must, because man needs God. Man needs the word of God.” Urged Tong, who called those who wish to dedicate their lives to come before the stage and gave them a prayer of blessings.