Tens of Thousands in Singapore Open Homes to Share Christ
December 24, 2008 - Did you know that the largest, most wide-reaching evangelistic Crusade in the history of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is happening right now?
by Ann Marie Chilton
It's called My Hope, and since 2002, its goal has been to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout every country of the world: That's more than 190 countries.
To focus this large project, let's look at Singapore, a nation of more than 4.5 million people located at the southern end of the Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia. Thirty years ago this December, nearly every one of the protestant churches in Singapore united to bring a Billy Graham Crusade to their country; it represented an unprecedented unity of the country's churches.
People crowded into the 55,000-seat National Stadium each night to hear Mr. Graham's message, bringing the accumulative attendance to more than 337,000. Guests could hear the message in six different languages because volunteers distributed more than 8,000 sets of headphones designed for this purpose.
At the conclusion of the Crusade, more than 19,600 people surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ, and the face of Christianity in Singapore has never been the same. Many of the country's pastors and church leaders came to know Christ when they heard Billy Graham preach those nights in the National Stadium.
Ironically, city planners have now decided to demolish that stadium; they want a newer venue. But in any event, no stadium could hold the work that God is doing today in Singapore through My Hope.
THE POWER OF PERSONAL INVITATION
Out of the hundreds of thousands who attended the Singapore Billy Graham Crusade in 1978, most of those who decided to surrender their lives to Christ were people who had received a personal invitation from a family member or friend.
Using this same concept of relationship evangelism during the past year, 236 churches participating in My Hope Singapore have trained more than 18,000 Christians to reach out to their friends and extend personal invitations to hear the Gospel message. This kind of personal outreach forms the core of My Hope, and it's called “Matthew and Friends,” after the tax collector from the Bible named Matthew.
Matthew had an encounter with Jesus and then invited his friends to his home so that they could meet Jesus personally, and that's what Matthews all across Singapore have been doing. Each believer, or “Matthew,” receives training from his or her pastor, and Matthews create a list of 10 people that they would like to bring to Christ. For example, that might mean that one family is praying for 30 or 40 people. As a result, millions of prayers are lifted to God every day for those who are lost.
The catalyst for My Hope is a Billy Graham or Franklin Graham message that is broadcast on nationwide, prime-time television; but the application of My Hope is in relationship evangelism encounters.
Bill Conard, Vice President of International Ministries at BGEA says, “My Hope creates a vast network of mini Crusades in every country. Each living room becomes a spiritual harvesting point for people to come to know Christ.”
On the evening of a My Hope broadcast, Matthews invite friends and family members that they've been praying for into their homes for a meal and to watch the program. If the host family is wealthy, then the meal might be a banquet; if it's a poor family, then it might be a cup of tea—but the evening is one of hospitality and friendship, no matter the culture or background.
Later, everyone watches the My Hope TV program together, and at the conclusion of the program, hosts or hostesses share three-minute testimonies of how they have found hope in Jesus Christ. Learning how to share one's personal testimony in a concise way is an integral part of My Hope training that Matthews receive in their own churches.
After giving their testimonies, hosts may ask, “Do you feel a need for this new life, this hope that there is in Christ? If you do, raise your hand, or nod your head, and please pray this prayer with me.” Then they lead guests in a prayer to receive Christ into their hearts and lives.
“That question is essential,” says Conard. “If we don't ask the question, it's just a nice evening of friendship. The hardest thing about My Hope is for the Matthews to ask that question.”
But this question presents an unprecedented opportunity for people who may have never heard the Gospel message to respond and make a public confession of faith—yet this decision takes place in the privacy of a friend's home.
“Something happens spiritually when a person says 'yes' to Jesus,” says Conard. “His Spirit comes and begins to work. That's the core of what this project is.”
SINGAPORE'S UNIQUE IDENTITY
Church leaders in Singapore decided to distribute DVDs to share the My Hope programs, and they established December 12-14 as target dates for holding the “Matthew and Friends” gatherings.
Likewise, the Chinese New Year in late January 2009 will be a natural time for many Matthews in Singapore to invite people into their homes for fellowship because 75 percent of Singapore's population is of Chinese descent.
In all, 15 different programs are being shown on DVD through My Hope Singapore. Each features a culturally appropriate program or film in addition to a message by Billy Graham or Franklin Graham. Every program lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.
One set of DVDs is in Tamil, a primary Indian language. Other programs are presented in Tagalog, a Filipino language. Another set of programs is in Bahasa, the language of Indonesia and Malaysia, and still more have been created in three dialects of Chinese: Mandarin, Hokkien, and Cantonese. Finally, a new English DVD was created specially for the culture of southeast Asia.
In a letter last month, Billy Graham wrote about My Hope: “Never have there been so many open doors for evangelism—and never has the need for proclaiming the Gospel been greater. God is using this project to call new believers to Himself at a pace we can hardly fathom.”
INSIDE SINGAPORE'S LIVING ROOMS
Of the churches in Singapore, many have hundreds, even thousands, of trained Matthews who will invite several people into their homes to watch the My Hope programs.
“Last Sunday I was in a church where they have about 690 Matthew groups out of that church,” says Conard. “If you take an average of 10 people per Matthew group attending, from that one church alone, the number of people that will hear the Gospel is astounding.”
After the initial showing of the programs, Matthew homes turn into discipleship and prayer groups, and new believers often begin attending church at the host's church.
“In many countries, we have what are called Harvest Sundays,” says Conard. “The first and second Sundays after the target broadcast dates, churches have parties, and the pastor gives a special invitation for new believers.”
At one church in Quito, Ecuador, following My Hope Ecuador in 2004, hundreds more came to Christ at Harvest Sunday when the pastor gave a special message. That has happened in countless churches where new believers are inviting their friends to church after giving their lives to Christ in a Matthew home. Results keep multiplying as people share Christ with their loved ones.
As the My Hope Singapore website says, “Everyone can be a witness.”
In the past six years, through My Hope projects, BGEA has trained almost four million people worldwide in how to share their faith, making BGEA one of the largest, most effective training organizations in the world. Since 2002, more than 44 countries have implemented My Hope, and churches around the world continue to grow enormously.
“Once a person learns how to lead another to Christ, he or she doesn't forget that,” says Conard. “We are able to count a few of the responses that come in, but our numbers are only a small portion of what God is doing and will continue to do in the future. Thousands of Christians across Singapore are willing to share their faith more than ever before.”
… AND TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
Though Singapore's culture is diverse, the country serves as the strongest Christian center in Southeast Asia. Some churches in Singapore have thousands in their congregations, and many other churches are growing.
But with so many still unaware of the Gospel message in Southeast Asia, the Christian community in Singapore takes their mission seriously and travels to nations in the area where westerners are not allowed to bring missionary activities.
During the Chinese New Year 2008, BGEA implemented an overseas Chinese My Hope project throughout seven countries using satellite TV and DVDs—thousands came to Christ. Once a minority religion, Christianity is spreading rapidly through Southeast Asia.
THE WORK CONTINUES
In 2008, My Hope was implemented in 15 sensitive countries of the world, while churches in Brazil and Singapore continue to report results.
In 2009, My Hope will reach throughout Thailand, and another country of Asia. We are exploring possibilities of working in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic in 2009 and 2010.
BGEA does not bring My Hope to a country unless we are invited and strong support exists in the country. BGEA will usually send only one or two outsiders into the country as project coordinators; all the rest of the work is done by nationals who then gather the support and involvement of more than half the nation's churches.
“This project means raising the evangelistic vision of the Christians of an entire country,” says Conard.
“We have materials, videos, training booklets, and procedures, but that's all dry bones. That won't convert a single person to Christ. The spiritual awareness, passion and love for Jesus Christ, love for ones friends and family, has to happen or My Hope will not be successful. It is an Ezekiel 37 project; if the Spirit of the Lord comes upon it, then those dry bones will come to life!”