On Tuesday, our team said goodbye to our friends in Singapore, and took a short 45 minute flight north to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
This is a very different place than Singapore. Most notably, it is a predominantly Muslim nation. The majority of government leaders are Muslim. Right at the heart of all federal buildings is an elaborate mosque. It is against the law to share Christianity with a Muslim.
One big similarity, however, is that Malaysians love to eat, eat, and eat. They love to have their guests, eat, eat, and eat. They are fond of saying that they only eat one meal a day…but that meal lasts all day. It is true! Our first meal in Malaysia was at a “banana leaf” restaurant. No plates. No silverware. You sit down in front of a large rectangular banana leaf, which serves as a plate. The servers then come and spoon out huge portions of rice, okra, chicken, fish, and a wide variety of unknown items. You just scoop it all up with your hand (right hand only) and have at it. As usual, I went into the meal thinking, “OK Rob, you are still stuffed from the last meal. Just take it easy here.” I left thinking, “OK Rob, next meal you really need to take it easy.”
Our conference here, “Igniting the Fire of Family Ministry” is being hosted by Focus on the Family Malaysia. We are so thankful for the hospitality of the Focus team. They have a wonderful vision to bless the people of Malaysia. 60 church leaders have come together to be equipped with a biblical vision and strategy for family ministry.
I had the privilege of launching the conference with the same two messages I had shared in Singapore: God’s Grand Vision for the Home and The Essential Role of the Family for World Evangelization.
The church in the US is losing the majority of our children to the world because we abandoned the biblical model of parents being the primary spiritual trainers of their children at home. The church in Malaysia is a few decades in to the same crisis! It was so encouraging to see the response of these godly men and women to the simple commands God gives us in His word about the role of the family in the Great Commission.
I had wonderful conversations with pastors and church leaders throughout the conference. Here were two of my favorites:
“Rob, when I am meeting with my elders, they keep me accountable. They keep me accountable for the programs I run at church. They keep me accountable for my counseling ministry. They keep me accountable for my preaching preparation. But they have never once asked me about my disciple making ministry at home. They have never asked me how I am encouraging faith in my wife. They have never asked me how I am doing discipling my children. They have never asked me about family worship in our home. This needs to change!”
He was absolutely right. We had talked about 1 Timothy 5. In the New Testament church, it was a prerequisite, for anyone who wanted to be a pastor/elder that he had to demonstrate he was leading his family spiritually. They never allowed a man to be a pastor, unless he was first pastoring the souls God had entrusted to him at home. Why would the church give him more souls to minister to, if he was not being faithful with the calling God had already given him? Why would the church allow him to lead “corporate worship” if he was not already leading “family worship?”
Here was another great response from a godly pastor. “Rob, we are a small church. For the last five years, we have been encouraging families to have a ‘family altar’ time at home, in obedience to Deuteronomy 6. (He was using the term ‘family altar’ the way we use ‘family worship’ or ‘family devotions.’) But many families leave the church when their kids get to 6th grade. They tell us, ‘We think need a big kids program,’ or ‘We think need a high energy youth program.’ It breaks my heart. It was so encouraging to hear that parents passing faith to their kids at home is not just a good idea – it’s God’s idea. The Bible teaches us these things. I am going back with encouragement and renewed passion to explain to my congregation that we encourage families to grow together because of God’s Word. We are going to trust God, not man.”
Last but not least. One of the leaders from a major seminary here in Malaysia boiled it all down like this, “If we don’t learn to build the family, the church in Malaysia will die.”
God is on the move! He is turning the hearts of parents to their children, restoring marriages, and bringing pastors back to the sufficiency of the Bible. Amen!