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Twenty Years Ago

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.

Published by:
NECF Malaysia
32, Jalan SS2/103 47300 Petaling Jaya Selangor, Malaysia
Tel: 603-7727 8227  Fax: 603-7729 1139
Editor: Rev. Wong Kim Kong, J.M.N.
Assistant Editor and Writer: Ong Juat Heng
Design and Layout: Daniel Ang
Printed by: Akitiara Corporation