During 2008, the Thailand Adventist Mission (TAM) decided to launch an evangelistic effort in the Bangkok metropolis. This desire grew out of the Hope4BKK (Hope for Bangkok) project, a combined effort of TAM and Global Mission.
Hope4BKK began in March 2006 and now operates nine centers around the city. These Hope4BKK centers have opened up new avenues of engagement, created fresh contacts, and revealed Adventism in a different light. Through a combination of language teaching and mission activity, this project is slowly redefining the work of the church in Bangkok.
This latest evangelistic project is somewhat different from the traditional model. The whole project will be conducted over the space of about a year, 2009-2010. It begins with a series of meetings that will be held at the Ramkhamhaeng International SDA Church (RISDAC) in September 2009. These will be followed by similar meetings in different churches around Bangkok, one church at a time. There will be no central meetings for Bangkok but rather a sequence of decentralized meetings that will eventually involve all the churches in the Bangkok metropolis.
The idea of decentralized meetings is an innovation whose primary advantage is that it involves members from every SDA church in the city. Such an approach is being viewed as potentially more productive than the traditional form of centralized meetings. The result is growing excitement among the churches about their role in the effort.
RISDAC will be the church that launches the project and in preparation for that, the congregation has implemented several measures to rally support among its rather mobile membership. At the end of February, RISDAC members descended on a beautiful, tranquil holiday resort in Chanthaburi province in southeastern Thailand for a revival camp.
The group held a number of revival sessions and was challenged to raise its faith to higher levels. Since then, the church has determined to hold a reminder Sabbath at the end of each month to ensure that members do not forget their experience at the camp and maintain high levels of enthusiasm as the church heads towards the project launch in September.
This process is now being replicated in all the churches of Bangkok as each church prepares for the event in its own inimitable way. The Grace 107 company has also had its own version of revival camp at the beginning of April. This will eventually translate into concrete plans for evangelism. Every church in the city will fashion its own plans and host its own set of meetings.
It is difficult to predict the ultimate outcome of these activities. However, the effect on many of the members is almost palpable. It seems likely that the level of enthusiasm and commitment will continue to rise substantially as the dates set for the project approach. While evangelistic success may be impossible to predict, revival is definitely in the air. Perhaps that in itself is success enough.
In spite of this laudable attempt to push the work of God to a new level, a little dose of reality may temper the church’s enthusiasm. According to UN Thailand, the country’s population stands at around 64 million (http://www.un.or.th/thailand/population.html). Nearly 95% of the population is Buddhist. Greater Bangkok alone has an estimated 15 million residents (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangkok). The total Christian population in Thailand is estimated variously as follows:
1. At about 0.7% of the population, according to the Thailand, International Religious Freedom Report 2006, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, And Labor. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71359.htm. 2. At about 0.7% of the population, according to Demographics of Thailand. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Thailand#Religions. 3. At 1.1% of the population, according to David B. Barrett, ed., World Christian Encyclopedia, 1982, p. 664.
On the surface, these figures seem discouraging. However, a realistic assessment of the challenge might spur the church to greater heights of faith and a stronger sense of purpose. The God we aim to serve already knows the enormity of the task but possesses limitless power. The task of witnessing and ministering is gargantuan, but the commission is an insistent one. I believe that Thailand Mission has started something worthwhile and that this will take the church to new level of faith and experience. The prayers of the world church would go a long way toward turning the revival that is in the air into a genuine flood of growth.
Wann Fanwar is Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Religious Studies, Mission College, Thailand. He has lived and worked as a Bible teacher in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Thailand and has pastored in Singapore (SDA churches) and USA (St Paul’s UCC). He holds a PhD in Old Testament studies from Andrews University. In addition to full time teaching at Mission College, he also provides pastoral help to two churches in Bangkok.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1597