Hong Kong, once a small city in China, has become one of the world’s financial centers.* With a population of more than seven million in only 1,100 square kilometers (425 square miles) for businesses and residences; high-rise buildings, traffic jams, and people crowding the streets have become a normal scene whether during daylight or nighttime hours. Located at the southern part of mainland China and part of the province of Guangdong, the history of this city began, more than 100 years ago, as a British colony. Like other metropolitan cities such as Tokyo, New York, and Seoul, Hong Kong could be called one of the melting pots of world cultures and religions.
Known as a free port, Hong Kong draws more than 20 million tourists every year. Although Hong Kong boasts of one of the highest living standards in the world, residents live in limited spaces and work in stressful environments. According to reports, one-tenth of the city’s residents have emotional problems and therefore need professional help.
History and background of the church
The Seventh-day Adventist message was brought to Hong Kong by Abram La Rue. After the 1888 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Session in Minneapolis, Minnesota, La Rue requested to be sent to the Far East as a missionary, but his request was turned down by the committee because he was not a trained minister. His age was another factor for, at that time, he was 65 years old. However, because he had an urge to do missionary work in that part of the world, he decided to support himself without any denominational financial assistance.
La Rue’s work was fruitful. Mountain View church, along with 22 other churches and groups, make up the Hong Kong-Macao Conference. At the end of 2009, the church membership totaled 4,600; in addition, the three conference-owned high schools have a total enrollment of approximately 2,300 students.
Located in the west section of the New Territory area of Kowloon, the Mountain View church is just inside the campus of Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital. Organized in the early 1970s, the original mandate of the church was formed to cater to the needs of the medical personnel of the hospital. Since the missionaries eventually returned to their homelands, the local members took over the administration of the hospital, as well as ministering to the community.
Since then, the church’s focus has been on ministering to the needs of the neighborhood, in addition to caring for the needs of the patients. The community is diverse and the following countries are represented: Australia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, mainland China, United States, Myanmar, as well as others. Because of the variety of cultures represented, the church has become bilingual. Each Sabbath, members and visitors fill the church to its 200-seat capacity.
Because the church is composed of different age groups, the associate pastor and I have divided the members into three areas of ministry.
1. The children and early teens. We allocate a very significant budget each year to cultivate these age groups to be the future leaders. Since Boy Scout or Girl Guide activities conflict with Sabbath worship, we have used the Pathfinder Club (an organization for both boys and girls) to help this group grow up in a Christian environment.
Not only do the parents of our congregation’s children send their young ones to enroll in the Pathfinder Club, we have also attracted the parents of the children in the neighborhood to send their offspring to join this program. Each year we have baptisms from that group.
2. Inasmuch as the church building is located inside the hospital’s compound, we use friendship evangelism to make contact with the hospital staff—professionals in their working fields—and we invite them to join social programs and activities. There is interest in Bible studies, and every year we have some who commit to baptism and join our church.
3. As in any other city, Hong Kong has an aging population that is increasing rapidly. Thus there are many seniors’ homes operated by business people. We took the opportunity to conduct meetings inside some of these homes. Many seniors, having never previously heard the good news of the gospel, were given a chance to listen. So far, this group of people has been very responsive in accepting Christ as their personal Savior.
How to mobilize members to use their spiritual gifts
Members participate in spiritual gifts inventory surveys and this helps them identify their strengths. With this information in hand, we then ask them to identify the areas in which they would like to serve. Since they are aware that the Holy Spirit has given them certain gifts, it is easier to nominate church officers to serve in areas that would work the best.
As a good foundation has been laid, the members participate in the activities with enthusiasm. Some members provide excellent leadership in small groups; some provide good involvement as they guide in the Personal Ministries department. We may not inspire the whole church to participate, but since more than half of the members willingly lead in different ministries, the church is successful in sharing the good news. The pastor, along with key lay leaders, oversees all ministries.
Short-term and long-term goals
When I was assigned to pastor this church, I conducted a self-survey to discover how I could grow and develop. During a church board meeting, I highlighted areas in which I needed to pay more attention. I visited all the key leaders and shared with them my assessment of the various ministries and how to best utilize them.
As the pastor, I challenge the members to consider what they would like their church to be in a year and then in two years and finally in five years. This gives them a vision and it helps them anticipate the challenges that have to be met in the future. Pastors come and go, but usually members stay in the church for a much longer period of time.
Thus planning for short- and longterm goals is essential. Some pastors may say, “I will only be here a few years, why do I have to worry about long-term planning?” It is true that some members may resist change; but once they see a more complete picture of the church for the coming years, they will be more inclined to plan and, if necessary, change.
Reaching the community
In the Tsuen Wan area, we concluded that the most effective methods of reaching our community included health evangelism, Pathfinder programs, women’s ministry, and youth ministry.
With the multifaceted ministries that the church offers, we can witness the blessings that God has given—they were even more than we expected. But if the church stays still, then eventually, it will have a natural death, for no new members will have been added into the congregation.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:5–9, “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (NIV). Paul reminds us that each of us has, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a role to fulfill in the proclamation of the gospel.
* Wikipedia contributors, “Hong Kong,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hong_ Kong&oldid=356761196 (accessed April 19, 2010).