Son of God Speaks (Missions and The Trinity: Part 2)

(Below is a summary of the second day’s presentation of an unpublished lecture given at Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, during its Missions Week, September 17-19, 2019. The theme for the week is “Missions and The Trinity: A Proposal for a Missiological Practice” — By: Dr. David W. Clemente)

Tonight’s talk is about the theme of missions and the Trinity. We will explore missiological concepts related to God’s activity in the world. Yesterday, we gave more time discussing God’s work in the Father. God the Father calls people to himself and sends them to experience salvation in God. For today’s lecture, we will focus more on the work of God through the Son and the work of God by the Spirit. We are grateful that the Triune God is at work in creation and in our lives.

The Iguassu Affirmation states: “We commit ourselves to a renewed emphasis on God-centered missiology. This invites a new study of the operation of the Trinity in the redemption of the human race and the whole of creation, as well as to understand the particular roles of Father, Son, and Spirit in mission to this fallen world” (William D. Taylor, ed. 2000:19). This is the Trinitarian Affirmation of Mission that Ajith Fernando shares at the Iguassu Dialogue, held in Brazil in October 1999.

We will articulate this work of the Trinity in the world as the view of Trinitarian Missiology. In the Gospel of John, the biblical narrative presents the relationship and activity of the Trinity. The Father and Son are one from the beginning of creation and in Jesus’ ministry in the village streets of Palestine. (Compare John 1:1 and 10:30.) The Spirit works with Jesus through miracles, healing, and transformation. (See John 16:14-15.) They work as one in harmony bringing love, joy, and peace to all the people of the earth.

If we can illustrate the work of the Trinity in missions, we can use Stephen Bevans’ illustration of the Music Analogy. He says that the Son is the melody that presents the musical score, and the Spirit is the series of bass notes that moves the harmony and chord progression in sync. And, if I may add, the Father is the rhythm that sets the beat and character of the song. Everything starts with the Father’s beating heart for the world. When the symphony is playing,  the melody, bass, and beat moves as one.

Let us talk about the “melody” of the Trinity. Jesus was an exemplar of obedience to God. He was full of hope and joy. He obeyed the Father with so much enthusiasm and passion. Jesus, with the joy set before him, endured the cross and is now seated by the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 12:2). We can call this the “joy of Jesus” ministry. Jesus said “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Jesus longs for his joy to be made complete in our lives (John 17:13). He sings of God’s love and jumps with joy when a person listens to his speech. Remember the Parables of the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep, and Prodigal Son? (See Luke 15:1-32.) He is the melody of the Trinity that speaks of God’s salvation for the world and brings healing for all creation.

When we refer to the work of God in the world through the Son, we center our discussion on the life, ministry, and teaching of Jesus Christ. He is the God who speaks. In our discussion of the topic of God’s mission through the Son we need to study the incarnation of Jesus explained in the New Testament. The following is a cursory investigation of the incarnation and its implications for missions. This is a summary made by Craig Ott. (Craig Ott and Stephen J. Strauss. 2010:97-104.) I am sharing this with you so that we can have a good foundation for our study on Trinitarian Missiology.

In Encountering Theology of Missions: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues, Craig Ott explains that the incarnation of Christ is the character of mission. He discusses the implications of of the incarnation for mission by presenting six models of the incarnation. The following is a summary of these models. (See Craig Ott and Stephen J. Strauss. 2010:97-104.)

Craig states there are six models of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. One is that the incarnation is a model for mediating the life of Christ. Incarnating the gospel in this sense means becoming Christ to the people one serves. Two is that the incarnation is a model for holistic ministry. Craig cites Darrell Guder, saying that “the incarnation serves an integrative function in theology of mission, bringing together the being, doing, and saying of witness” (2010:98). Three is that the incarnation is a model of cultural identification. Four is that the incarnation of Jesus is a model for contextualization or inculturation. Five is that incarnation is a model for understanding and evaluating mission. Six is that incarnational mission is a model for humble and selfless service. For a more detailed discussion of these six models, one can consult Craig’s work. (See Craig Ott and Stephen J. Strauss. 2010:97-104.)

Darrell Whiteman adopts an approach that rejects the extremes of “going native” and advocates an incarnational witness which follows the model of Jesus. He states: “In the same way in which God entered Jewish culture in the person of Jesus, we must be willing to enter the culture of the people among whom we serve, to speak their language, to adjust our lifestyle to theirs, to understand their worldview and religious values, and to laugh and weep with them. . . . The same process of Incarnation, of God becoming a human being, occurs every time the gospel crosses a new cultural, linguistic, or religious frontier.” (See, Misssiology. 2003:408; and Craig Ott and Stephen J. Strauss. 2010:100-101.)

Incarnational mission is the core of our ministry activities and defines the character of mission. Our understanding, our method, and our commitment in mission are present because we hear the melody of God through Jesus. Ministry is shaped by the attitude of Christ and the “joy of Jesus.” We follow the Pauline principle of becoming “all things to all men, that I may by all means win some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). We are witnesses of God’s salvation because we listen to God the Son who is speaking to all humanity. We incorporate incarnational mission in our lives and our ministry because God’s speech became a person in our midst and we want to obey him. Christ’s incarnation defines what we do in missions and what we become when we participate in God’s work in the world.

At this point, let us have a fun activity to summarize our deliberation about the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Let me ask you a question. If Jesus were born a Filipino in 1968, what would our life in 2019 look like? Do you think we will still be eating lechon and dining with sinigang baboy? Do you think the original languages of Scriptures will be written in Tagalog, Cebuano, and Ilocano? Do you think our Christian communities will be inviting Manila street kids to their worship gatherings? What about inviting corrupt trapo (traditional politicians) leaders? Do you think the Filipino followers of Jesus would invite LGBTQ persons to their religious meetings? What do you think?

When God speaks he includes everyone. Christ’s incarnation models for us the encompassing scope of God’s mission in the world. Everyone is invited to the banquet of God. (See Luke 14:12-24.) God’s speech is not a system or religion that people (or the church) can control or manipulate. God’s speech is a person. God became flesh and dwelt among us. He was full of grace and truth. (See John 1:1-14.) When we see God’s work in the world as the work of a person, then we see the need to encounter this person. Missions work becomes tangible and personal. It is no longer a set of teaching or a plan to accomplish, but a time to listen to a person, the Son of God speaking to all of us.

There was a time when I visited local churches for several months here in the Philippines. I was doing my research writing then. My goal was contextual in nature. I wanted to see God’s work in the life of Filipino Christian believers who were meeting together regularly as a small group fellowship. I had ten questions with me. I took down notes while the group members prayed, shared from their life experiences, studied the Bible, and worshipped together. After my analysis of the research data, I noticed the theme of strength and encouragement emerging from the people’s stories. They saw God’s dasig (strength) giving them victory over their struggles and hope from within their suffering. (Dasig is a Cebuano term that means encouragement or strength.) These Filipinos saw God as a person. They encountered him as their Savior and Victor. They listened to God himself and they received strength and encouragement.

If I had visited these Filipino groups with a Western mindset, equipped with my discipleship training manual, and teaching them a systematic theology of God’s strength, then I most probably would not have captured the people’s encounter with God. I would not have been able to listen with the people as they listened to God himself. Nothing wrong with manuals and systematic teaching, but these approaches could not help us in listening to God’s speech. When God speaks, he becomes a person, a real and tangible God the Son in our midst. He dwells among us (John 1:14). We need to practice Trinitarian Missiology by training our eyes and ears to encounter our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus describes the Spirit of God as the Spirit of truth who will guide every disciple of Jesus into all truth. The Spirit will glorify Jesus, for “he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15). He will bear witness about Jesus (John 15:26). He is our helper, our teacher, and he will remind us of all that Jesus said (John 14:26). He will move among us.

The Spirit will move for God and bring God’s peace in the lives of the people andshalomto this earth. During my missionary service in Asia starting in 2005, I witnessed the movement of God among the Chinese people of Taiwan. I met locals who considered themselves Daoist or associated themselves with a Chinese religious group . However, these same persons believed in the Almighty God the Creator of everything, prayed to Jesus for solutions to their everyday problems, affirmed the fruit of the Spirit in their lives through love for their families and a life of joy and goodness to their friends. We call this group of Chinese as Mu Dao Yo (慕道友), or “people who appreciate God’s ways.” The questions I ask everyone are the following: Are these local Mu Dao Yo Christians or not? Have they received the love and grace of God? Are they listening to the Son of God? Do they have the joy of Jesus in their lives?

Most Chinese evangelical Christians in Taiwan consider Mu Dao Yo persons as not-yet Christians. They are simply viewed as seekers of the truth. Evangelicals are aware that God’s grace is flowing in the lives of their Mu Dao Yo friends. But still, they are not prepared to accept them as Christian believers or to mark them as legitimate members of a church family. They think these Mu Dao Yo’s need to go through rigorous discipleship lessons and receive the ceremony of water baptism in public confession of their faith before they are called Christians. Gospel is now within the confines of the church. Is this stance towards the Mu Dao Yo a reflection of Western Christianity? I think so. Paul G. Hiebert considers this stance as “reducing the gospel as a set of disembodied beliefs that can be individually appropriated” (International Bulletin of Mission Research. 1987:108). The Christian gospel applied to the Mu Dao Yo phenomenon is reinterpreted as a set of confessions and participation in a religious ceremony.  God’s speech is no longer an encounter with the living person of Jesus.

On a footnote, the current situation of the Mu Dao Yo situation in Taiwan still needs a lot of study and reflection. A significant number of the local Mu Dao Yo’s have become members of a local church and are actively involved in the life of a Christian community. Some are still floating around. A few churches and Taiwanese denomination have a place for Mu Dao Yo persons. At the most, the Mu Dao Yo’s of Taiwan come in and out of local churches and stay in the fringes of Christianity in the region.

What would happen if my brothers and sisters in Taiwan apply Trinitarian Missiology in their local churches? I do not know. It would be a great learning experience to discover the work of the Trinity in and outside Taiwan local churches. One thing is sure though. Mu Dao Yo persons will have a place they can call their own. I am not sure if this place will be within Evangelical churches or become a new movement of the Spirit of God in the people’s work places and family sanctuaries. The practice of Trinitarian Missiology will most certainly birth new expressions of the Christian faith.

To conclude tonight’s sharing time, let us look at my suggested definition of missions again. “Mission means God, in the Father, by the Spirit, and through the Son, revealing himself to this world crossing cultures and other boundaries that resist the understanding and acceptance of the gospel, and leading the Church to the proclamation and celebration of the kingdom of God.” (David W. Clemente. 2013)

The Son of God is the person who crosses boundaries so that God is revealed to the world. When there is resistance to the understanding or acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then Christ’s incarnation becomes our model and way of revealing God’s salvation. Let us thank God for Jesus. In our prayers, let us send our prayers with a missiological doxology.

“Our Father, may you call these my friends to yourself. Lord Jesus, may you speak of God’s salvation in their lives. Spirit of God, may you move among them and in their communities. Triune God, may you reveal yourself to these my friends, so that they will be able to proclaim and celebrate your kingdom. May the love of the Father, the joy of the Son, and the peace of the Spirit be with everyone, now and forever more. Amen.”

Copyright 2019 by David W. Clemente. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Some Selected Bibliography :

Clemente, David W. 2002. “Filipino Group Life: A Contextual Study of Small Groups in Free Methodist Congregations.” DMiss diss., Asbury Theological Seminary.

Hiebert, Paul G. 1994. Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues. MI: Baker Books.

Hiebert, Paul G. 1987. “Critical Contextualization.” International Bulletin of Mission Research. 11 (July): 104-12.

Ott, Craig and Stephen J. Strauss. 2010.  Encountering Theology of Missions: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues. MI: Baker Academic.

Taylor, William D. ed. 2000. Global Missiology for the 21st Century: The Iguassu Dialogue. MI: Baker Academic.

Whiteman, Darrell L. 2003. “Anthropology and Mission: The Incarnational Connection.” Missiology: An International Review. 31 (October): 397–415.

Whiteman, Darrell L. and Gerald H. Anderson, eds. 2009. World Mission in the Wesleyan Spirit. TN: Providence House Publishers.


Missions and The Trinity (Part 1)

(The following is an excerpt of an unpublished lecture given at Asia Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, during its Missions Week, September 17-19, 2019.)

“Missions and The Trinity: A Proposal for a Missiological Practice.” (By: Dr. David W. Clemente)

David J. Bosch summarizes the concept of God’s mission. He states that mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God. “It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church” (Bosch quotes Moltman here.) Bosch cites Aagaard, saying: “Mission is thereby seen as a movement from God to the world; the church is viewed as an instrument for that mission. There is a church because there is a mission, not vice versa.” To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love. (See Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission. 1991:390.) God’s mission is in his heart and in the innermost parts of his being, and he calls out to everyone to come to his loving presence.

What is missions then? Let us look at a definition I am proposing here. “Mission means God, in the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit, revealing himself to this world crossing cultures and other boundaries that resist the understanding and acceptance of the gospel, and leading the Church to the proclamation and celebration of the kingdom of God.”  (David W. Clemente. 2013)

In this definition, mission means God reveals himself to all people of the world and to all creation. God is calling everyone to himself. God is speaking of his salvation. God is moving all creation closer to the kingdom of God. In this study, we refer to God’s call, speech, and movement as three missiological activities of the work of God in the world.  I am suggesting here that these three activities or acts of God’s self-revelation are portrayed in the work of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The Father is calling people to his presence and sending them to accept his call. The Son is speaking of God’s salvation. The Spirit is moving for God so that God’s rule is realized in all creation. The Triune God is at work in the world. The Trinity is active in missions.

The work of the Triune God in our world is referred to here as Trinitarian Missiology. Our study of missions and the Trinity is viewed through the lenses of Trinitarian Missiology. So, what is Trinitarian Missiology? The short answer is that it is the way of defining and explaining missions and missionary work based on our understanding of the Trinity. It is not the classic explanation of the Trinity. It is rather, as Timothy C. Tennent summarizes, “The Father is the Sender, the ‘Lord of the harvest’; the incarnate Son is the model embodiment of mission in the world; and the Holy Spirit is the divine, empowering presence for all of mission” (2010:75). Simply said, it is the Trinity active in missions work.

Alan Roxburgh warns us that “Evangelicals are often still guided by frameworks in Western thought which holds that the fundamental basis of all reality is monadic—singular in nature and form.” The idea of Trinity is difficult and at times does not make sense. Evangelical “missiology reveals our failure to develop a communal missiology from a Trinitarian foundation.” (See Taylor, William D. ed. 2000:185-87.) We should understand Trinity from God’s activity in the world and his calling, speaking, and moving in our communities and from within creation.

Earlier, I proposed a way of describing God’s activity in the world to help us understand Trinitarian Missiology. My hope is that we can use this description to see our role of obedience and participation in God’s mission. Let me explain this description a little further.

What is a way of describing the activity of the Trinity in our world and in our lives? One way is portraying God the Father calling out all creation to himself. He sends out his Son, the Spirit, and everyone who wants to participate in his calling so that everyone and every created thing draws closer to him and experiences his love. God the Son speaks salvation, healing, reconciliation, and forgiveness. He demonstrates his speech and redeeming work with his words, example, his silence, obedience, his joy of the journey, and his glory with the Father. God the Spirit moves in the world. He moves for God. His movement brings empowerment, restoration, shalom and peace, cleansing, and renewal. We describe the Trinity as God the Father calls us, God the Son speaks to us, and God the Spirit moves among us.

In order for us to visualize this description of the work of the Triune God, let us use the Light Analogy. Imagine the many modes of light. We know light as one bright white light. At times however, when it shines through a glass or a mist of water vapor, then the light is reflected in different colors. We see red, blue, or yellow, or some other combination of these primary colors. In the same manner, God’s activity in this world is revealed to us as one bright white light. At other times, we only see one color, or one working of one person of the Trinity.

Let us now look at some Bible references to illustrate the multi-colored working of the Trinity. We will focus on the Father’s calling and sending activity. This way of description will help us understand Trinitarian Missiology.

God calls us to himself. In Genesis 2:19-20, we read of an early activity of God at the Garden of Eden. The text goes: “Now out of the ground the Lord God has formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man [Ad’am] to see what he would call them. And whatever the man [Ad’am] called every living creature, that was its name.” (Genesis 2:19-20. ESV). We see God calling Adam to sit with him and give names to all the animals. He called out the animals to join them in the celebration. God could have done this himself. But, he wanted to express his love to Adam by affirming his intellect and creative faculties. Adam was able to name all the animals. Whatever he calls them, then it was its name.

Even after the Fall, God still wanted to sit and walk with Adam. In Genesis 3:8-9, we see God calling his friend to walk with him, like they always do every afternoon at the Garden of Eden. God loves Adam, even in his state of sinfulness, he calls out to him and wants him to have fellowship together with him.

When God the Father calls, he calls people to himself out of his love for them. When they cannot hear, then he sends others, whether another person or a created thing, such as a star or a donkey, so that they will hear him and listen to his call.

He called the families of the earth to himself. When they could not hear and would not listen, he called Abraham and sent him to be a conduit of his love. Let us read the biblical text:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.” (Genesis 12:1-4a, ESV.)

God wanted to bless the families of the earth through Abraham. “Blessing for the nations is the bottom line, textually and theologically, of God’s promise to Abraham” (Wright 2006:194). God’s calling of Abraham is missional in nature. “The covenant reveal’s God’s heart for all nations” (Tennent 2010:112). God’s call flows out of his compassion for all humanity.

In Hosea 11:1-11, we see the Father’s love and compassion in a graphic way. God’s heart is overflowing with love for the people of Israel. In verse eight, it says: “My heart recoils within me: my compassion grows warm and tender” (Hosea 11:8b). In the NASB, it states: “My heart is turned over within me.” The Father’s love is pervasive and internally moving. God’s love is outwardly expressed when he calls out to the people of Israel and draws them closer to his presence.

In verse three, the NIV rendition has a dramatic picture, when it says: “To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek.” God is described as bending over for the people of Israel. He reaches out in his love. Isn’t this a picture of the incarnation story of Jesus Christ? In the Father, the call of God becomes the revelation of the Trinity’s love for Israel and to all humanity.

God calls the people of Israel out of their exile. He calls them like a lion calls a cub. He woos them like a dove woos its partner (Hosea 11:10-11). He calls from within his love for Israel. He sends Hosea and other prophets to persuade Israel to come back to the promised land.

God the Father calls people and all creation to himself. He calls and he expects them to accept his calling. When they don’t then he sends another to help the called out ones to listen to his call. We see this calling and sending actions best exemplified in the relationship of the Trinity. The Father calls and sends out his Son, and God sends out the Spirit so that all creation listens to God.

John 20:19-23 portrays the three streams of light working together, relating to each other, as one Triune God. Father sends the Son, and the Son sends the disciples with the peace of the Spirit. The Father’s love is now experienced through the mandate of forgiveness that Jesus entrusted to his disciples. With the Spirit’s leadership and reign of peace, the disciples can also practice a life of love and forgiveness. Going back to the light analogy, the three streams of light become one bright white light in the lives of the disciples. The mission of God is now joined together with the disciples and through their obedience. Trinitarian Missiology is practiced in real time and space.

Leslie Newbigin reminds us that: “We are not engaged in an enterprise of our own choosing or desiring. We are invited to participate in an activity of God which is the central meaning of creation itself. We are invited to become, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, participants in the Son’s loving obedience to the Father” (Trinitarian Doctrine for Today’s Mission. [1963]1998:83).

Copyright 2019 by David W. Clemente. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



(List of Books on Trinitarian Missiology)


1.) Tennent, Timothy C. 2010. Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century.MI: Kregel Publications.

2.) Bosch, David J. 1991. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission.NY: Orbis Books.

3.) Ott, Craig and Stephen J. Strauss. 2010.  Encountering Theology of Missions: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues.MI: Baker Academic.

4.) Wright, Christopher J. H. 2006. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Narratives. IL: IVP Academic.


5.) Newbigin, Leslie. 1989. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company.

6.) Hiebert, Paul G. 1994. Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues. MI: Baker Books.

7.) Sanneh, Lamin. 1989. Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture.NY: Orbis Books.


8.) Taylor, William D. ed. 2000. Global Missiology for the 21st Century: The Iguassu Dialogue. MI: Baker Academic.

9.) Whiteman, Darrell L. and Gerald H. Anderson, eds. 2009. World Mission in the Wesleyan Spirit. TN: Providence House Publishers.

10.) Hesselgrave, David J. and Ed Stetzer, eds. 2010. Missionshift: Global Mission Issues in the Third Millennium.TN: B&H Academic.

11.) Ott, Craig and Harold A. Netland, eds. 2006. Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in an Era of World Christianity.MI: Baker Academic.


Being A Child

“How did you become a Christian?” “Did God ever speak to you through a dream?” “What is the most difficult time in your life as a missionary in Taiwan?” Q & A time. These questions belong to 5th and 6th Graders from the Manahanim Elementary School. These are very serious questions. No one would expect these sort of questions from any elementary school aged children. 

I am here in Bekasi, Indonesia, visiting the Christian Education ministry of the Mahanaim Foundation, our host for our team. We are a group of twelve people from the seminary in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, coming to Indonesia to serve children from different areas around the cities of Jakarta and Bekasi. Today, our team members are scattered around different classrooms leading devotions for the day. This is a Christian school, and each class meets every morning for devotions before they start their day. I am assigned to the elementary English program consisting of children from the 4th, 5th, and 6th Grade levels. I am a little surprised with the questions, and pleased with their serious inquiry, considering the ages of these children.

Jesus said: “Let the children come to me, and  do not hinder them,   for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not   receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17, ESV)

These words of Jesus has gained a deeper meaning to me after my visit to the children of Indonesia. That day, with their questions, they truly helped me come to Jesus with a sense of awe and wonder, and with much humility.

During the next five days in Indonesia, our team members, students from the Holy Light Theological Seminary from Taiwan, went to several places serving children in their different localities. We visited indigent children at a community center helping poor families from a nearby garbage mountain. We played with children from a small orphanage. We saw Muslim children dance. And on the last day, we were at this Mahanaim Elementary School leading devotions and teaching Mandarin Chinese to school children from K to 12 Grade levels. We learned so much humility. Every team member came back from a whole day of teaching with a sense of wonder and a deeper appreciation for God’s amazing grace and wondrous work here in Indonesia. These children belong to the kingdom of God.

Going Where God Is Moving.

(The following is a description of what I do in Asia. My name is David W. Clemente and I am a missionary teacher.)

God is calling me to a life of teaching in Asia. I am obeying our Lord by going to Free Methodist (FM) congregations located in Southeast Asia and helping their local pastors and church leaders become better servants of the Christian gospel.

Myanmar 2016 January

This year I will be assisting FM leaders in Asia as they prepare for ordination. I will be going to Cambodia and Nepal to lead seminars on Wesleyan Theology and other Bible courses. I will be working with several other missionaries and teachers. Our goal is to empower our Asian leaders to be better servants of God’s church in their localities.

Cambodia 2016 August

In the past, I have visited Light and Life Bible College (LLBC) in Yangon, Myanmar and Light and Life Graduate School of Theology (LLGST) in Butuan City, Philippines. Both are FM training institutions. I will still continue my time of ministry in these schools and provide theological education for our FM pastors. I look forward to learning together with our church workers and seeing through their eyes what God is doing in Asia.

HLTS 2017 January - Copy

I am also still teaching at Holy Light Theological Seminary in my capacity as an Adjunct Faculty. I enjoy teaching inside a classroom, but God’s call in my life is to go to where our pastors and FM leaders are and help them in their work as God’s servants of the local churches in Asia. I go where our Lord calls me to go to be a resource for our Asian Free Methodists around the world.

Seminary Life 101

(The following is a letter I sent to a retired university professor who is a good friend of mine and a passionate supporter of God's work here in Asia.)

Dear Dr. R,

Greetings! Thank you so much for your prayers and support.

Your gift at the end of this year is another confirmation of God’s call in our lives. I am so thankful to our Lord for friends like you who are committed to partner with us here in Asia.

We just finished our first semester two weeks ago. Several of the students came to me to show their appreciation for my time with them. They specifically mentioned the “devotions” time, the 15 minutes period I spend on reflection from God’s word and drawing personal application for the students on issues of spirituality. This 15-minute period sets the tone for the next three hours of lectures, group discussions, and course assignments.

You know of course that there is a broad line between head knowledge and life learning, between understanding and application. I am sure you have seen this with your time of teaching in a university setting. The students who know so much and are performing well academically may not be prepared to deal with practical things (such as loving their spouses), or at worst, they may be living an immoral life. There is a great need to bring classroom lessons to a level where they engage everyday life and practical problems of the day.

Last year, one professor recounted a story of a seminary student. At that seminary, it was discovered that one of its graduates had been caught in an adulterous relationship. What was sad about the news was that during the time of his immoral dealings, he was registered with that same seminary. It was devastating. This student was living a lie, right in front of all the seminary family.

Of course, we at the faculty can only do so much. The students can still decide to live a life apart from all our teachings. But when I heard that story of one seminary student who was living a double standard life, I resolved to use my time in the classroom as a time both for gaining knowledge and practicing spiritual truths. And so, this is the reason why I spend my first few minutes in the classroom, before I give my lectures, to a time of reflection from God’s word. I challenge each student with biblical truths that are meaningful to one’s family relationships, relevant to current ethical issues, and helpful to solving social problems of the day.

As you pray for us here in Asia, pray that I will have the wisdom from God to prepare lessons that will ready our students for future time of service and missionary work. At the same time, pray that our Lord will give me discernment as I lead students to a time of deep spiritual reflection from God’s word. Pray that I will teach in the power of His Spirit (2 Tim. 1:7 & 1 Cor. 2:4). Thank you for all your prayers.


Christine's Testimony: I Can See What God Wants From Me

(Christine Liao is a student at Holy Light Theological Seminary, here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. She shares here her testimony of God’s guidance in her life. Together with her husband, Sean, they are registered with our Free Methodist school in Taiwan, Holy Light Theological Seminary.)

Today, I am going to share with you about my sweet moments at Holy Light seminary. Sean and I made a big decision in 2014. We decided to resign (from our work) and come to Holy Light seminary to study for our MDiv degrees. For me, this is the grace of God. When I was young, my parents taught me to work hard, earn a lot of money, and get a good reputation. These became the goals that I was pursuing. But after I achieved all these goals, my heart felt empty and lonely. I encountered a difficult situation at my work place, so I did not get promoted during that time. I have been reading the Bible everyday. When I read a passage in Luke 18:22: “When Jesus heard this, He said to him: one thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” At that moment, God spoke to me. God said: let go of whatever you are holding on to right now and come back to me. After struggling for a while, I finally gave up all of my worldly desires. God has always been in control.

In the first year at Holy Light seminary, I met many teachers and classmates. During one semester, I started to know what my weaknesses were. It was the pride inside my heart.  After realizing this, I was really ashamed of who I was. God wanted me to change. He refocused my vision. This is the precious lesson that I have learned in my first year at school. Also, in my first year at seminary, I learned to put down everything so that I can see what God wants from me. The best lesson of all is the lesson of being humble before Him.

Time flies. The second year at Holy Light, I gradually learned of God’s calling in my life, and that is, to be a good pastor’s wife. I never thought about it and has been avoiding it. How do I deal with this problem? I have no talent and don't know how to sing, how to play piano, even simple songs of worship and praise. Influenced by many churches in Taiwan, the tradition of being a good pastor’s wife has become a difficult role to fulfill. Meanwhile, Sean and I have been doing youth ministry in the churches. At first, I’m not used to getting along with teenagers. But the weird thing is, I like to listen to them share about what happened in their schools, families and personal lives. It made me feel closer to them. And they also enjoy sharing with me. God gave me a warm heart to care about people. Fortunately, the teachers and classmates continued to give support and pray for me. I can glorify God with the gift of listening and caring. In the second year at Holy Light, I learned to be brave and face difficulties. The most important thing is I learned obedience.

In my third year at seminary, I know God will give me a whole new lesson. I have no idea what difficult situation I will meet. But I know one true fact, that is, God will always be by my side and He will protect me. The Bible says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

By: Christine Liao, 2016

Missions and Travel in Asia

“What are we good at?” Professor Naoto asks the chapel participants. “Koreans are good at prayer. Taiwanese are good at singing,” he continues. “We, Japanese, are good at thinking.” Everyone at the seminary chapel laughs. I give out a big smile of approval. I am guessing this group of Japanese Christians is making fun of themselves. Everyone seems to take the joke well.

Last month of June, 2016, I was in Japan, around the areas of Osaka city and Kobe city. I went with a music team from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, for a mission trip, to visit different Free Methodist churches and two seminaries. Most of us were there for two weeks. At the Kansai Biblical Seminary in Kobe, we visited the chapel service where I spoke on “Seeing the Lord’s Harvest” and shared about some ways to prepare for the harvest happening around the world. Professor Naoto is the current Dean of this small seminary. After the service, our team had a good time of fellowship with the seminary students. We made promises of hosting them when they come to Taiwan. Professor Naoto also expressed his desire to visit our seminary, Holy Light Theological Seminary, in Kaohsiung. We ended our meeting with a renewed commitment to be future partners in the Lord’s work.

On another day, we visited Osaka Bible College and shared at its chapel service. I spoke on the same topic about the Lord’s harvest in missions. Again, I heard the joke about Japanese people being good at thinking. Come to think of it! This was the reason why I came to Japan. I wanted to help local Christians think about the Lord’s harvest around the world. Prayer and singing would naturally come whenever we as Christians come together. However, thinking would need a little help, the assistance of an outsider, like myself, to come and challenge national leaders to seriously think about missions and global issues.

Next month, August 2016, I will be in Cambodia for a time of teaching. I will participate in the YLMC (Young Leaders Mission Congress) of APFMMA (Asia Pacific Free Methodist Missions Association), an FM ministry. I will speak on the topic: “A Biblical Theology of Mission.” Most of the participants will be young leaders and pastors who have a passion for missions work among our Asia FM ministries. At this congress, I hope to see participants thinking about God’s work, to seriously consider their role in the Lord’s harvest around the world and to examine missional concepts from Scriptures so that they can be informed. We will pray. We will sing. And we will be thinking about God’s work in the world.Miss

Prayer For A Student

“So, how are you?” I never realized a casual greeting could turn out to be a question of deep significance. But, Jane Hsieh, one of our seminary students, responded with a lengthy telling of her current family situation. I listened and we prayed. Right there at the motorcycle parking area, we bowed our heads together and I put my hands over her shoulders and we prayed.

Right about the same week, I bumped into Pastor Lawrence, one of our seminary alumni and a recent graduate. So, I asked the same simple question: “How are you?” And he responded with a long explanation of their local church’s condition, its move to a new location. He also recounted some of his struggles with pastoral life and the joy of expecting a second child. So, right there and then, in the hallway in front of the main entrance of the seminary bookstore, we prayed. I placed my hand over Lawrence’s shoulder and asked God for more blessings and guidance for this new local church pastor.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2) I have to confess I haven’t been praying with all steadfastness, as Paul has reminded us. However, I am grateful that “being watchful” in prayer is not an individual endeavor. My prayers for our seminary students resonate with the prayers of our faculty and staff. Prayer is a community thing. I give thanks to God, because whenever I pray for Jane and Lawrence, I know that many friends in Michigan and Illinois are also praying together with me.

At our graduation day, right before the ceremony started, Jane Hsieh came to me and we both had our selfies taken together with our cell phones. She graduated this year. I was so happy for her. Honestly though, when I first met her and had her in my class a few years back, I never thought she would make it. I saw a lot of hardships and trials that might keep her from reaching graduation. But, she made it. To God be the glory! This year, she finished with an MA in Christian Studies. In between our selfie photo snapshots, she repeatedly thanked me. I felt a little embarrassed. I did not do much. All I did was encourage her with her reports, coached her on some writing assignments, and some other small stuff that any teacher would do for one’s student. Obviously, she did the hard work to get to this point. I took her hand, and together we smiled. I whispered to her and said: “God’s grace is sufficient.” 

Sounds of Silence

“I feel the earth move under my feet.” Not really. But there is some earth moving activity and there are a lot of feet on the move. People here are doing small construction, piling up gravel and sand into a walkway for the Bible College dormitory. Everyone is moving about, cleaning, painting the ICCM (childcare center) rooms, teaching children, and giving lectures to the Bible students. It is not actually a song, but I feel like singing a song anyway. I am pleased to see that because of the donation of some people from Taiwan, we are able to give a small amount of money to pay for construction and painting materials. And, because of the work of this Taiwan Team volunteers, the Bible College students are free to come to their classes where I team-teach for a week with two of our members.

I am tired. I just finished my class. However, it is encouraging to see the students’ faces light up whenever I mention missions work from some foreign lands. It is their first time to take a class on missions. I know there are many more things they need to know, more missional concepts to understand, before they can go and become missionaries in some unknown land or within this country among different tribes and people groups. Well, maybe, not before. Because sometimes God leads people to go and when they are already there in missions work, then they learn missionary lessons along the way. If you were to ask me, I prefer the former. It is better to be prepared and learn your lessons before going to the field. I am sure you will agree with me.

I am here in Yangoon, with a group of Taiwanese seminary students and some friends from a local church in Pingtung. There is twenty of us. Eight of these have come for the first time, their first time to join a missions trip. At the beginning, I was a little apprehensive leading this group. But now, after watching the more experienced ones assisting me, I am a little more relaxed. God is truly my Helper!

With 20 of us, we are able to divide into eight teams, going to six different places, doing nine different forms of service. I am so blessed with this team. They are so efficient. The team leaders are so responsible. Everyone is cooperating. I am not saying we are not experiencing difficulty or miscommunication. These problems come to all missions team. However, the way the members are responding to each situation is a testimony of God’s grace. Whenever there are changes and adjustments, everyone is flexible and willing to go with the flow. God is truly leading or ways.

Tomorrow, we will spend more time with the Chinese church. Pastor Esther and her team has been a great help. They cook for us, their van brings us to places we are going, they assist us in everything. What a testimony to the Body of Christ, the oneness we have in the Lord. I feel like singing a song. “And the vision that is planted in my brain.” Well, more like God’s vision for missions resting in my heart, moving my life, reaching for His glory. I love leading missions team for God. Maybe, someday, you can join me in one of our Asian trips. Give me a call or write me an email. God will do the rest. He is our Helper.

Homeward Bound

Inside the classroom, we talked about being at home with the gospel. We were challenged to present the gospel in such a way that the listeners “feel at home” with the demands of Christian discipleship. Home here means feeling natural about Jesus’ prophetic call to loving God and acting justly. We looked at the life of Zaccheaus, the Samaritan woman, and many others who felt close to Jesus, and yet responded to the gospel of holiness to God and service to humanity.

I am home here in Butuan City, Philippines, for about a week, teaching a course on Contextual Theology to a group of pastors from the Philippine General Conference of the Free Methodist Church (PGC-FMC). I feel at home here but, my heart is pulling to Taiwan. It is obvious that I am thinking of my family back in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. However, I am also thinking of where God is calling me for the moment. His call is for me to be at Holy Light Theological Seminary and teaching Taiwanese students in the area of missions and theology. In so many ways, I will always be at home in places where God has called me to. Home is where God is present and working.