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Fear, love, baptism and Australia

Benny Tabalujan speaks to a class at Oklahoma Christian University. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

Blogging live from Oklahoma City
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.

Benny Tabalujan discusses fear, love and baptism at Oklahoma Christian. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

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.

Benny Tabalujan at Oklahoma Christian (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

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.

  • Feedback
    Erik, my suspicion is that the wisdom lit “fear of the Lord” is more akin to “respect” or “taking into account” rather than the “fear of hell” kind or flavor of “fear.” I have grown in my gratitude over the years regarding how important it is to translate scripture into the actual spoken language of individuals rather than the standard language of their culture or ethnic group. This is why God sends missionaries rather than just Bibles (hey, there’s a churchy word — I mean the writings of the Jewish people and the Christian church which have held a reverenced place within their communities and history).
    Ed Dodds
    September, 15 2010

    RE: more gospel teachers are needed
    Actually, Australia is building out a superfast National Broadband Network. What the global churches need to do is learn that a gospel teacher DOES NOT need to be standing in the same room when videoconferencing, webinars, skype, etc. are available. Watch this TED talk http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html (esp. minute 12 ff) and apply the GrannyCloud method…
    Ed Dodds
    September, 15 2010

    The first time I was baptised it was because I had been wrongly taught that my salvation was in baptism. I knew I was a sinner and did not want to pay the penalty for my sin and of course wanted the reward of an eternal life in heaven. I knew I was a sinner and, according to what I had been taught, if I knew and admited that I must then be baptised in order to receive eternal life and forgivness and I wanted those so I was baptised.
    Later I truly repented of my sin; I agreed with God about who I am, a hopeless sinner incapable of living in a way to please, honor and obey Him on my own, agreed with Him about my sin, confessed it and turned from it and accepted the free gift and made the decision to surrendure my will, my way and to make Christ the only Master of my life. I didn’t not accept the free gift of salvation to gain anything but out of an humbled heart of overwhelming gratefulness and amazement that He would give His life to redeam mine! And of couse He immediatly He baptised me with His Spirit just as John the Baptiser testified He would. Once I truly accepted Christ as my Savior it was many years before I actually obeyed Christ and followed His example into baptism. The Spirit patiently taught me that I had not at my baptism been born again; I had never repented and made Him Lord of my life. Oh I believed, just as satan and the demons do, that Jesus is God and the ONLY way, I knew I was a sinner but I did not choose to repent, or to open the door, did not choose to accept the gift He offered me. After 7 years of being a born again believer I was baptised. Why – to follow my Master and to walk in obediance to Him.
    September, 15 2010

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