Adversities often unite people facing
the same troubles and sometimes,
new ventures are born through
them. Such seems to be the case with NECF
Malaysia, which was precipitated into being
by certain constraints challenging the
Evangelicals in the early 1980s.
Recalling the state of unity of
Evangelicals prior to its formation, NECF founding general secretary Pr Daniel Ho
said, “We Evangelicals were known to be
not very good at working together.”
Added NECF founding chairman
David Boler, “The Catholics and the
mainline churches were already organised
(at that time) but the Evangelicals had no
representative body. Each of us was in our
small corner, functioning
separately with no consensus,
no voice. Unfortunately, we
were emphasising on the
distinctives rather than what
we had in common.
“Those of us
(Evangelicals) who were
talking to one another would
bemoan the fact that we were
preoccupied with our own
things, that there was
dissipation of our meagre
resources and duplication of
efforts. We agreed it was not
the best kind of situation and we should do
something together. Then, certain things
began to happen in the country.”
The “certain things” were really the
challenges that catapulted the formation of
NECF. Among the challenges were:
The partial banning of the Alkitab (since
1981, only Christians are allowed to buy
and own one) and the prohibition of the
use of certain Bahasa Malaysia words;
The limiting of the number of sites for
worship which mainly affected the
Evangelicals who consisted of small
groups meeting in homes and shoplots;
Outlawing of public gatherings of five
or more people (amendment of Section
298A of the Penal Code).
“Because of these common problems
that we faced, we were in a sense pressured
to come together,” Pr Daniel said.
Thus it was that on March 21, 1982,
41 people from various churches gathered at Luther House in Petaling Jaya to form a
“friendly society” and name it “National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia”.
It was at this inaugural meeting that Mr Boler was unanimously appointed the
Chairman, a position that he held for the next 12 years.
Living Lee was appointed the Honorary Secretary and immediately set about to
register the society with the Registrar of Societies (ROS). A year later in May, NECF
Malaysia was officially registered.
Three years later, the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) was formed consisting of representatives from the
Roman Catholic Church, the Council of Churches of Malaysia, and NECF Malaysia.
NECF’s formation and participation in CFM was initially received with reservations
and apprehensions. Some feared that it would divert Christians away from the
primary task of evangelism and church planting, and cause doctrinal compromise
among the Evangelical network and syncretism by association with inter-faith
dialogues, and cause Christians to submit docilely to governmental regulations
inimical to Christianity.
But as Pr Daniel explained: “In Malaysia, the reality is that we need to work
with the Catholics and not just CCM, so that we may be able to present, on some
issues, a common Christian voice for the nation. The CFM is one platform.”
Time has proven the fears unfounded. Indeed, the gathering of Evangelicals in
particular and Christians in general, has provided the necessary conditions for the
gospel to make further inroads. As a result, many churches have been planted.
As for doctrinal compromise, there is a great deal on which we agree as to what the
essentials of biblical doctrine are. “In essential things, unity; in non-essential
things, liberty; and in all things, charity” – this favourite dictum of Mr Boler has helped
forged a strong bond of unity among NECF and CFM members throughout these years.
“I remember the time when I was leaving (as NECF Chairman). I kept saying ‘Don’t stress the
distinctives, especially distinctives that some other
groups can’t accept.’ Let’s continue to run it (NECF) in such a way that all can
participate without any reservation or fear,” Mr Boler advised.
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Editor: Rev. Wong Kim Kong, J.M.N.
Assistant Editor and Writer: Ong Juat Heng
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