1) Settling down in a Church
I started the year still without having settled down in a Church. It was hard for me to find a Church where I’d be comfortable with the teachings and practices. I longed to settle down in a charismatic Church, yet none I found could provide me with good biblical teachings which I needed. On the other hand, where I found good biblical preaching and teaching, there was no talk of the miraculous gifts being for today. For a long time that year, I attended an Anglican Church with a friend. It was a traditional liturgical service with weekly Holy Communion. Due to the influence of writings by Michael Horton and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE), I started to realize the importance of the Sacraments in the Christian life. I learnt that partaking of the Lord’s Supper today wasn’t merely for the sake of remembering Christ’s death, but it was a participation in the body and blood of Christ by the power of the Spirit. It was a means of grace. Michael Horton’s writings on Liturgy also made me appreciate a Liturgical service where the Word of the Gospel and the Sacraments are placed in its proper focus. Thus I really enjoyed worshipping at the Anglican Church’s traditional liturgical service and also participating in Lord’s Supper every week. However, I continued to long for a place where I could have more fellowship with people my age, as well as a place to serve in. Soon I came to a moderately Calvinistic Presbyterian Church and I attended this Church for the latter months of this year. However, because I liked to partake in Holy Communion and a traditional liturgical service, I would occasionally attend the Anglican Church.
2) First encounters with PDI (now Sovereign Grace Ministries)
In mid-June, a Christian named Sharon Koller joined the Reformed-Charismatic list and introduced herself as a member of a PDI Church. I searched the PDI website and soon got more acquainted with this group. PDI was formerly called “People of Destiny International” but they changed their name because they found it too “man-centered”. They are simply called PDI now – (P)roclaim, (D)evelop and (I)nfluence in their motto “Proclaiming God’s grace, Developing local churches, Influencing our world with the gospel”. Upon getting to know PDI better, I was very excited to find this Church planting group to be Reformed and Charismatic. They profess that their “doctrine is essentially Reformed, with a significant charismatic dimension.” Because of this, this group of Churches was of great interest to me. As I searched the website, I noticed that PDI had good relationships with many respected Reformed leaders like Wayne Grudem, David Powlison, John Piper, Jerry Bridges and many others. Reading through their magazine – Sovereign Grace – and their Statement of Faith gave me the impression that they truly were essentially Reformed in doctrine which they claimed. They showed they knew about Reformed Theology by quoting from many good Reformed authors and also having well known Reformed authors write for their magazine. Though charismatic, I didn’t come across anything in their website which was extreme in any sense. They don’t emphasize the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, it can be clearly seen that they emphasize the Cross of Jesus Christ and the desire to glorify God in all things. This was the first group of Churches (and the only group I know so far) which I found that professed to be Reformed and Charismatic at the same time.
Because I’m a big fan of praise and worship music, I soon ordered all their CDs they sold through the Net. When I listened to the CDs, the lyrics really amazed me. Unlike most contemporary praise and worship music which is not very in-depth theologically nor centered on the Cross of Christ, PDI’s lyrics were biblically in-depth and Cross-centered. Because of my influence by Lutheran teachings on the Theology of the Cross vs Theology of Glory, I realized the importance of focusing on the Cross of Christ above all else. Thus I greatly appreciated the focus of PDI’s music on the Cross of Christ.
3) The Cross and Biblical Theology
This year, I learnt a lot more about the Cross of Christ. Learning about the riches of what Christ did on the Cross and how this relates to the whole of Christianity blessed me a great deal. Alister McGrath, who has written on Lutheran’s Theology of the Cross and Justification, soon became a favorite author of mine. I also discovered a UK author by the name of Tom Smail. His writings on the Cross of Christ as it relates to Charismatism (and also on the Father and the Spirit as it relates to Charismatism) fascinated me and he remains my favorite author when it comes to giving an insightful and edifying critique on Charismatism.
Relating to the Cross of Christ and its centrality in Christianity, Biblical Theology also became a great interest to me. I joined the Biblical Theology list and began to read more into Biblical Theology and Redemptive Historical Preaching from a Reformed perspective. I realized how important it is to grasp a holistic view of the Bible and the progressiveness of revelation before one starts to interpret and preach on various parts of the Bible. I think this is one of the most important studies in Theology and I hope to study more into this very difficult but essential subject in future.
4) Don Dunkerley comes to Singapore
Don Dunkerley was invited and introduced to the Reformed-Charismatic list by Pastor Bob Vincent on 18th December 1997. Don was a former pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and is now the director of Church Planting International (CPI). He has helped in ministering to many Reformed Churches in third world countries like Myanmar and Uganda. Don is thoroughly Reformed yet believes in the continuation of the miraculous gifts. He wrote a good book called “Healing Evangelism”. He was also good friends with JI Packer and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. When I heard that Don was coming to Southeast Asia on a mission trip, I invited him to Singapore and also introduced him to some Reformed Churches that I knew of here. Don and his wife Eileen decided that a stopover in Singapore for a few days will be good and arrived here on the 31st of July, 1998. My friends from the Reformed-Charismatic list and I brought them out for dinner. The next day, Don led some of us in prayer walking along Orchard Road. At night, Don came to my home to share with a group of young people about Calvinism.
Don was the 2nd person I had met through the Net that didn’t live in Singapore – the first was in November 1997 when Stephen Schaefer, a Baptist missionary, visited Singapore. My friends and I enjoyed the time of fellowship we had with Don and Eileen Dunkerley.