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Why were you baptized? Was it fear? Love? Both?
Benny Tabalujan discussed that question with a classroom of students here at Oklahoma Christian University today. Benny is a deacon of the Belmore Road Church of Christ in Victoria, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. He and his family were in town visiting Kent and Nancy Hartman, former missionaries to Australia who now serve as missionaries in residence at OC. (I blogged about the Hartmans’ outreach to Third Culture Kids in July.)
Benny is an associate professor at the University of Melbourne, where he teaches business and law. Here he is preaching at Belmore Road, using a bicycle wheel to illustrate the body of Christ and the need for church unity. (See other parts of the sermon here.)
In the OC class, Benny acknowledged that fear played a role in his decision to become a Christian. An Indonesian native of Chinese descent, he was baptized during a gospel meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1972. A week or so before, he had heard a sermon about hell. He and his mother gave their lives to Christ the same day.
Is fear alone enough to sustain a relationship for 38 years?
Benny posed that question to the students just before they were dismissed. He mentioned 1 John 4:18. (“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”)
I, too, have thought a lot about the relationship between fear and love recently. I’m teaching a Bible class at the Memorial Road Church of Christ this quarter on wisdom literature, and on Sunday we discussed Proverbs 1:7. (“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”) How do these verses relate?
Though fear played a role in Benny’s baptism, it’s easy to see how love got him to the church in the first place — and has kept him there. At age 11 he traveled to Singapore to go to school and befriended a lady who introduced him to the Queenstown Church of Christ, now the Pasir Panjang congregation. (We featured Pasir Panjang and other churches in Singapore recently as part of our “Global South” series.) After his baptism in Indonesia, he continued his education in Melbourne and found a new home in the Belmore Road church. Missionaries Dave and Lillian Roper became an important part of his family.
During our brief visit, Benny and I talked about Churches of Christ in Australia. Currently there are about 2,200 church members “down under,” spread out across the continent in about 75 groups, he said. Only four congregations in Australia have elders, but he was encouraged that these churches have shown the ability to sustain their elderships. (In some places, elders are named, but the eldership does not survive the first “generation” of leadership, he explained.)
There are large swaths of the country with no Churches of Christ, Benny said. Many of the churches are blessed with financial resources, but more gospel teachers are needed, he added.
Do you have any thoughts on fear, love and baptism? Or do you have experience with Churches of Christ in Australia or Singapore? Please feel free to share.
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