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President's Message

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Counting the Blessings

2016 marks the seventh and final year of my service to Baptist Theological Seminary. During the last six and a half years, I have seen and experienced how BTS grows in ministry and stature. In this final leg of my service, I would make the remaining messages a platform to count the blessings and reflect on what these blessings mean to BTS’ role and mission.

The total student enrolment has grown from 22 in 2004 to 90 in 2016 (as of January 2016). For the English-speaking program, students are from Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and the USA. Not to be overlooked is the rise of local students in recent years (29 as of January 2016, one-third of the total student population). Students from China continue to be a factor in the overall student population, and the Chinese-speaking program in particular.

The gradual growth of BTS is a result of the following factors: Singapore is a place where different peoples can come together and be of benefit to each other. The cohesiveness of the society is marked by, among many policies and advantages, a common language that facilitates communication, and a hospitable multi-cultural context. With English as its lingua franca, Singapore is more able than any other city in the region to accommodate students from various nations. The other lingua franca Chinese makes Singapore appealing to Chinese speaking students as well. Take Christians from Mainland China as an example. Because of political reasons, places like Hong Kong and Taiwan rarely issue student visas to students from China applying for seminary studies. This is in spite of the fact that Chinese is used pervasively in these places.

So Singapore has become the unique place where the Good News can be preached and heard without language barriers, and the servants of the Word can be equipped without hindrance. Given the under-development of theological education in some parts of the region and the urgent need for quality pastoral ministry for the rising Christian population there, the contribution that Singapore has been making is tremendously important and is unparalleled.

It is this context that BTS is in; it is this vision that shapes BTS’ identity and mission for this era. But the world is constantly and rapidly changing. What is significant in this era may no longer be in future generations. In recent years, we have witnessed the rapid social and political developments in countries like Myanmar and Vietnam. Perhaps similar events, though essentially different developments, would affect Hong Kong and Taiwan, or even China. BTS may or may not be unique decades from now. In the former case it is important for BTS to sustain its momentum and vision. In the latter it is all the more important for BTS to seize the chance to respond to God’s call and the opportunities and the kairos He has appointed.

As a denominational institution, BTS has an irreplaceable contribution to make to Baptist Churches in Singapore, which in turn can make significant contributions to the larger Body of Christ. Two thousand years of history indicates that denominations are inevitable and necessary. But denomination in the form of the exclusive ideology of denominationalism is not healthy and might even be harmful. It is therefore important to remind ourselves of Baptist beliefs in responding to God’s work in our times.

Baptists are known for recognizing and articulating the tension between Church and the State, upholding the belief of soul competency, and maintaining the central place of Scripture in Christian life and mission work. William Carey, Charles H. Spurgeon, Oswald Chambers, Lottie Moon, Martin Luther King Jr., Carl F. Henry, Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore are but some of fellow Baptists who, because of the nourishment in Baptist tradition, have made contributions in their particular contexts, to the Church, to humankind and even to the global environment. We are thankful for all those who walked before us and who demonstrated to us that God has been raising Baptists for His glory and love. We should be mindful of and thankful for these vibrant ancestors.

We must not be satisfied with what we are blessed with, but we must seek what to do with what we are blessed. As we count the blessings we experienced, we also want to ask when we will carry this torch and shine forth because Baptists strongly believe that God makes every believer instrumental regardless of age, gender, gifting, ethnicity, educational background and social background.

Let us give thanks to God

  1. He has prepared political and social contexts for BTS to serve His purpose in the region.
  2. He has grown BTS to meet the needs of churches in Singapore and beyond.
  3. He surrounds us with a great cloud of witness to bring forth the good news of peace and love.

Let us pray to God

  1. We will be discerning in reading our times.
  2. We will be responsible to the blessings God endows us.
  3. We learn to serve with the other parts of the Body of Christ.

*“Bonhoeffer in Advent,” by Timothy George. http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/12/bonhoeffer-in-advent, accessed 2 December 2015.

 
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