Interview: OMF General Director Dr. Patrick Fung

( [email protected] ) Jan 17, 2006 11:42 AM EST

OMF International has officially appointed Dr. Patrick Fung as the tenth International General Director. It marks the first time an Asian was given the position throughout the 140-year history of OMF (formerly China Inland Mission) founded by the British missionary James Hudson Taylor.

Gospel Herald was granted an opportunity to have a phone interview with Dr. Patrick Fung, who is at the OMF international headquarters office in Singapore, on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

R: Reporter

F: Dr. Patrick Fung, OMF General Director

R: As we know that you are the first Chinese Christian that is given the position of International General Director to lead the world mission ever since the former China Inland Mission (CIM)/ OMF was founded 140 years ago. What is your reflection on your appointment?

F: I feel very humbled. However, I believe the Lord’s choice of a servant leader is not based on ethnicity lest we become proud. God has used many servant leaders in the past in the history of China Inland Mission and OMF who honored Him and served Him faithfully. They were not Chinese. But I do thank the Lord for my Chinese root and the opportunity to serve Him.

R: OMF is founded with the vision to evangelize Inland China by James Hudson Taylor. Till now although the door of the Gospel in China still cannot be fully opened, Chinese Christians are developing rapidly. What is your vision and hope for China?

F: My vision and prayer for China is that the church in China may grow strong, not only in number but also in spiritual maturity. It is the prayer of OMF as well. Our desire is that we may see a mature vibrant indigenous church movement in China for the Kingdom of God, reaching out to the unreached, not only among the "Han" people, but all the different people groups in China. In the past, China received the gospel. In the future, may the gospel go out from China to the ends of the world. The Gospel is for all nations, it’s not just for China. I pray that the church in China may catch that vision. I believe it is already happening.

R: In face of the restriction over the spread of the Gospel in China, what is the strategy to evangelize this great country?

F: We should learn from history that the Lord has allowed the church in China not only exist but flourish for years without outside help. As His servants, we need to acknowledge God’s sovereign rule. His timing is always perfect. We need to pray for the church in China that it will take up the challenge to bring the gospel to the unreached. Second, we need to be in a servant role to serve with brothers and sisters in China for the sake of the gospel. Some of the needs in China include training for cross cultural ministries as well as resource materials for spiritual growth. Our vision is to see the church in China grow strong, both in quantity and spiritual quality.

R: What is most needed for Christians in China? What the world can do for them?

F: One of the greatest challenges the church in China faces today is materialism and secularism. False teaching is also very common. I pray that Christians in China may grow spiritually strong, deeply rooted in the Word of God. With a growing economy in China, the temptation of materialism is strong. Christians in China need to be witnesses for Christ wherever they may be in the workplace, whether they are farmers, laborers professionals, or in business. May they be light and salt for Christ. Integrity is important. Transformed lives may bring about transformation in the community.

R: How about the need of Christians in East Asia?

F: East Asia includes countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia etc. Again I believe the greatest need is for Christ’s church to grow strong in faith and in spiritual depth through a deepening relationship with Christ and a growing understanding of His Word. Our prayer is that each people group in East Asia may evangelize their own people and reach out in mission to others.

R: What do you mean by spiritual maturity?

F: The Lord Jesus reminded us of two important commandments. First, we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our soul. We are to acknowledge Him as Lord in everything that we do. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. We are to not only proclaim the gospel but to demonstrate the gospel. If that really happens, we will see transformation not only in the lives of individuals but also in the communities where we serve.

R: In the history of world mission, the missionaries from the West brought the Gospel to the East. But now the Christianity in the West is losing the strength while in the East Christianity is reviving, many people believe that with the great number of Christians in China, they will be the ones who evangelize the world in the 21 century, such as "Back to Jerusalem" movement. How do you think about Chinese people bringing back the Gospel to the West and the most unreached world?

F: I think we need to be very careful here that we do not see ourselves more than we should and lest we become arrogant. Mission work is possible only by the grace of God as mission begins with God, His being and His purpose. However, God does not necessarily have to use just one instrument. God is calling His people from all over the world to proclaim His glory. And in this particular time of history, if God allows the Chinese, particularly the church in China, to bring the Gospel to the ends of the world, then we thank the Lord.

Coming back to the earlier question about the West, there are many things that we still learn from the West. The West, in the past 200 years, has carried out a very important responsibility in bringing the Gospel to Asia. There are many things that we can learn from our western brothers and sisters even today. I do not believe it is theologically sound to proclaim that "the time is now for the Chinese to take the lead in the Great Commission". Churches from the west, the east, from the north and south, should proclaim His glory and bring the Gospel to the world for His kingdom.

R: The founder of OMF James Hudson Taylor is known as one of the most influential missionary in Chinese mission. OMF appears to be trying its best to follow the tradition. In your opinion, what is the spirit of Hudson Taylor? What makes him an admirable missionary?

F: There are many things I can share about Hudson Taylor. However, I am mostly challenged by Hudson Taylor’s Christ centeredness.

In a letter to his sister Amelia and brother-in-law, Benjamin Broomhall, written on Feb. 14, 1860 when he suffered from chronic bronchitis in hospital, Hudson Taylor said, "If I have a thousand pounds, China should have them- if I have a thousand lives, China should have them all…." but the quotation didn’t stop there. Hudson Taylor continued, "No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Savior?"

The deep challenge for OMF today is that it will continue to be a godly community, characterized by the pursuit of holiness that authenticates the truth of the message we proclaim. It would do us well to recall the words of Hudson Taylor,

"If the members are godly and wise, walking in the spirit of unity and love, they will not lack divine guidance in important matters and at critical times, but should another spirit prevails, no rules could save the Mission nor would it be worth saving. The China Inland Mission must be a living body in fellowship with God or it will be no further use and cannot continue."

It is only in same spirit that OMF International can continue.

R: How the OMF missionaries nowadays inherit Hudson Taylor’s spirit?

F: Our focus should be on Christ and Christ alone. We should not build a name for ourselves, whether it is the name OMF or CIM. We should focus on building God’s community in East Asia. The ultimate goal is that churches become mature and indigenous and then we could phase out.

Hudson Taylor often used the concept of "scaffolding." When the construction is complete, you remove the bamboo sticks.

R: As a new general director, what is your plan for OMF?

F: We have seen God’s faithfulness in OMF for the past 140 years. Our responsibility should be that we must remain faithful to God and to the task He has entrusted to us. On the one hand, we are deeply committed to the urgent evangelization of East Asia’s millions for His glory. On the other, we are committed to the mobilization of churches from the West and the East for this task.