Let the River Flow | Bishop Writes

Let the River Flow | Bishop Writes


Bishop Rennis Ponniah Photo
Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah is the 9th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. He is married to Amir Ponniah and blessed with four children.


All 2018 May Bishop Writes

28 May 2018

Let the River Flow

By Bishop Rennis Ponniah

“Everything will live where the river flows.”  (Ezekiel 47:9)

We are as a Church preparing for revival in the midst of escalating darkness in the world. I see our Diocese as a conduit for the river of life that flows from the throne of God (Ezekiel 47). For us, it is a river that spans seven nations. The fresh water of life that we bring to each nation of our Diocese is the life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is life flowing from the Cross, in the power of the Holy Spirit that brings transformation to the person, the community and the society in the varied contexts of our Diocese.

The Lord’s Promise
In these days, we are led to believe God for a mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit. It is through such an outpouring that a river of life will flow, causing people to turn to the Living God, the Creator of heaven and earth and the only Saviour (Isaiah 45:18-25), in repentance and faith. At such times, people experience not only the healing power of Jesus, but also His transforming power that brings about moral change. Converts become disciples who bring life to others. Change comes through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection personally experienced; and so the Kingdom of God advances person-by-person, family-by-family and community-by-community. This is how the landscape of a nation changes.

In times of REVIVAL, the most barren and lifeless place becomes a wellspring of life and fruitfulness. Not only that, but as soon as the seed of the Gospel is sown, the person becomes a fruitful tree for Jesus. It is such a season of rapid fruitfulness that the prophet sees that “the days are coming when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed” (Amos 9:13; cf. Haggai 2:19; John 4:34-36).

The Lord’s Encouragement
The LORD is encouraging us in many ways that it is indeed HARVEST time. Let me begin with world missions. I am writing this piece right after our Diocesan Missions Conference cum Missions Consultation Roundtable in late October 2017. At our Missions Conference, I believe that our Parishes have been stirred to renew their commitment to proclaim the Gospel in every nation (‘That None Should Perish – 2 Peter 3:9) and that a new wave of longer-term cross-cultural workers is being raised. I was deeply touched to be praying not only for earnest individuals but for couples and young families who responded to the altar call. We are not alone in reaching the harvest field in our Deanery countries. The Lord brought a record number of over 220 delegates from 16 overseas dioceses and 26 mission organisations, altogether representing over 24 countries to discover ways that they can join us in our holistic Gospel work in the Deaneries. Little wonder that our planted churches and our outreach / community service arms are growing under God’s mighty hands. Just to illustrate, three congregations in Nepal are about to become self-sustaining parish churches, the St Andrew’s School in Batam is well under way, our English language centres are well staffed and indigenous leaders and pastors are being raised all across the Deaneries. The licensing of trained Lay Stewards to administer the Lord’s Supper in the widely scattered congregations in some of our Deaneries has begun.

In Singapore, an initiative has been launched among local churches across various denominations and groupings to work towards a culminating harvest time at the National Stadium in May 2019. The approach is not to see these three days of evangelistic events as mass evangelism, but rather as personal evangelism on a mass scale. Doubtless, we will seek to do this within the parameters of religious harmony and religious persuasion in this secularly governed and multi-religious nation. How wonderful it will be that all Christians in this land unite with one heart and one voice to lift up the ONE NAME in which all mankind have a living HOPE! I am excited to anticipate that 40 years after the Billy Graham rallies in 1978, we will see again a mighty harvest of souls together with a harvest of HOLINESS and a harvest of new Kingdom workers. Unity of the body of believers and a winsome holiness among God’s people is as much on God’s heart as the new lives He is seeking to bring home to Himself.

The public proclamation of the Gospel must take place against the backdrop of the total witness of the Church in love and good works. Anglican witness in Singapore is well over a hundred years old. We have developed a whole range of sought after educational and community services. Our schools and preschool centre are highly valued as excellent communities of learning and character formation. Our medical services (SAMH) have gone beyond our flagship Community Hospital (SACH) to include specialized nursing homes. Our care for those with autism will soon go beyond day care and schooling to include residential care. This year, we celebrate the Golden Anniversary of Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS). Amazingly, God has given us a niche area in providing a whole continuum of care for those with mental health issues. These services demonstrate our commitment to serve in ways that promote ‘the welfare of the city’ (Jeremiah 29:7). We are poised to make our well-developed services more available to our Deanery countries.

Personal evangelism and public witness must be accompanied by intentional disciple making. Our Archbishop, the Most Revd Ng Moon Hing, at our recent Missions Roundtable, emphasized this point. The Lord has worked this emphasis into the life of most of our churches. Not only that, He is moving in such a way that there is active evangelism and discipleship in the marketplace as our lay leaders set the example and train others to see one’s total life in the context of being Christ’s disciple and advancing God’s kingdom. Praise God!

Our Anglican Communion is in a state of flux and disrepair. Yet God in His mercy has caused Global South Anglicans (GSA) and GAFCON to jointly form a Study team on Ecclesial Structure and Responsibility so that we may be a coherent, biblically based mission-engaged, global body that is part of ‘the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’. I found new energy for this task when the Lord showed me in my Quiet Time that a well-founded and well-governed Church, infused by the Holy Spirit, is what is needed for God’s people to be ‘a light to the nations’ (Isaiah 42:6). God has given us so much through our Anglican roots, not least through the Reformation five hundred years ago. He is not finished with the Anglican Communion yet.

The life-giving, landscape-transforming river in Ezekieh 47 has its source from the throne or dwelling place of God. 

The Lord’s Call
The life-giving, landscape-transforming river in Ezekieh 47 has its source from the throne or dwelling place of God. We are only the riverbed. The life-giving power must come from the Lord God Almighty. He must pour out His Spirit form on high if there is to be REVIVAL and a mighty HARVEST. He has revealed that this is on His heart and this is the hour. Some of us, through the witness of the Spirit, would say that this is not only God’s desire, this is what God is promising. What I do know is that God’s desire and indeed even God’s promise is fulfilled through the prayers of His people
(2 Chronicles 7:14).

My people, let us cry out to God in brokenness. We have no power of our own to overcome the dark, chaotic and destructive forces loosed on the earth at this time. In some parts of our Diocese, there is intense hostility against Christians. There is much in the life of churchgoers that is dishonouring to the Lord. In Singapore, there is a drastic slump in the growth of the number of Christians. The percentage of Christians (Protestants and Catholics) among Residents aged 15 years and above grew only from 18.3% in 2010 to 18.8% in 2015 – an increase of 0.5%. Compare this with a 1.5% increase, from 17% to 18.5% over the same period for those preferring “No religion”. We need to pray in brokenness for Revival.

And God will hear our prayers. He will revive the Church. He will enable His children to live with poise and praise in the midst of chaotic and difficult times. He will enable us to serve our fellow countrymen in HOPE. He will bring in a mighty Harvest. He will cause the River of Life to flow! To Him be all the praise and glory!

This message is included in the November 2017 issue of the Diocesan Digest.

About the Bishop

Bishop Rennis Ponniah Photo
Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah is the 9th Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore. He is married to Amir Ponniah and blessed with four children.

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28 May Let the River Flow