Malaysian society faces an uncertain future. The Malay- and Islam-centric UMNO party dominated Malaysia’s political scene from independence. It followed policies that favoured ethnic Malays, but enriched a small proportion of them at the expense of everyone else. The gap between rich and poor increased as a result. At the same time, minorities feel frustrated with the discrimination and government corruption. As a result UMNO was defeated in the 2018 elections, signalling a new era in politics in Malaysia. Pray for the leaders, who must seek to hold the country together in ways that satisfy both moderate and conservative Muslims, as well as the sizeable and diverse minorities.
The Christian community faces many challenges beyond the external issues of religious freedom and evangelizing Muslims. Pray for:
- Unity among Christians. They face social ills, injustices and growing discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities. The Christian Federation of Malaysia represents evangelicals, Catholics and mainline denominations before the government. The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) consists of evangelical churches and organizations focused on building unity, prayer, ministry and mission. The NECF assists evangelicals in transforming the nation by promoting economic sufficiency, justice/advocacy and national righteousness.
- Godly leadership within the Christian community. Pray for godly leaders who are prepared, at considerable cost, to lead their churches by nurturing and empowering members to live godly lives - in the discipline of prayer and the task of evangelism - as they manifest witness to the concerns and needs of every sphere of society.
- Lack of Christian workers. Many smaller churches have no trained pastor, even with a healthy number of Bible colleges, seminaries and church-training programmes. Too few respond to God's call to service because of family expectations, materialism, a lack of role models and the perception that years of theological training are required.
- Marginalization creates anxiety, a ghetto mentality and the desire to withdraw from being the witnesses Christians should be. Emigration rates of professionals and Bible school graduates are high.
Restrictions on the use of the Malay language Bible and other Christian books. These were banned when the government deemed their contents to be detrimental to public peace. One main issue is the use of the word Allah for God in such material. After forcing Malaysians to use Malay as a common language, the government now fears that such use in Christian literature and services will induce Malays to become Christian. Pray for Christian publishers and ministries to be strong and shrewd in defending their legal rights over this issue.
Ministry to young people is crucial as the generation gap widens and many churches consist predominantly of older people. The temptations to young people - criminal activity, gambling, substance abuse, sexual immorality - are more pronounced than ever and are part of the reason for the resurgence of fundamentalist Islam. Many Indian, Chinese, East Malaysians and immigrants are finding Jesus through agencies such as YFC, Cru, Navigators, SU, FES(IFES) and others working in schools and universities. Pray for these ministries and their focus on discipling Christian young people to stand against the many influences that draw them away from their Saviour.
Expatriate Christian workers have declined in numbers due to visa restrictions. Their presence is still valued, and various ministries depend on their input. Pray for the issue of necessary visas and extensions; long-term presence is possible for those with adequate funds. Pray also for effective ministry within the limitations that exist.
The missions vision of the Church in Malaysia continues to increase. There are over 30 agencies invested in the harvest. The NECF as a national body trains local congregations and denominations to send out qualified workers. The Malaysian Centre for Global Missions also works to this end. Major agencies include Interserve, WBT, OMF, OM, STAMP/Strategic Missions Program, Methodists and YWAM. Many independent churches send workers directly as well; these are nearly impossible to enumerate.
The immigrant and foreign labourer population has swelled to over two million - probably significantly more with illegals included. They come from Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, India and elsewhere. This includes some of the world's least-evangelized peoples such as Acehnese and Miningkabau. Most work for very low wages in difficult, often back-breaking, labour. They are mostly Muslim but with some Hindus and Buddhists as well. The Malaysian Church has a wonderful opportunity to reach many unevangelized groups who are right on their doorstep. Pray that Christians might have the vision and the courage to reach out and seize this opportunity.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.