Author Archives: William Chong

Five new songs to cultivate a mission-minded church

Recently a friend asked me if there were any good congregational songs that specifically focus on global missions. In God’s timing, the music team at SMBC have just finished serving at our biennial Missions Conference. (The theme was “A Heart for the Lost”, we were challenged with six talks by Tim Chester from the book of Isaiah, and cross-cultural workers and mobilisers from restricted countries shared their experiences living and serving among unreached people groups.)

We’ve been hearing song recommendations from other places too. For example, in our home church one of our pastors has also been introducing songs to help us reflect on world mission, alongside the prayer updates we receive. We’re about to commission a new family this Sunday as they seek to share Christ with the Warlpiri people in Central Australia.

I’ve also been reflecting on how, as John Piper puts it, “missions exist because worship doesn’t”. In one sense, we sing praises, longing for others around the world to join in. Also, in one of Tim Chester’s talks, we were reminded that the cross is worth the nations (Isaiah 49:6), and it’s too small a thing to be concerned only about our own people, church or area. The cross of Christ deserves the nations.

So here’s a couple of songs that help to remind us of our purpose in God’s mission.


Facing A Task Unfinished (We Go To All The World) – Frank Houghton, Keith & Kristyn Getty

Frank Houghton wrote this hymn (originally titled “A hymn for the forward movement”) for an annual gathering of China Inland Mission (now OMF) missionaries. Keith Getty comments:

“Frank Houghton understood this and in response to great turmoil in China, turned to writing hymns to encourage those who were witnessing martyrdom around them. ‘Facing a Task Unfinished’ provided inspiration to a generation of missionaries when it was first written, and it urges us on still, even as we also live amid persecution and martyrdom, both at home and around the world today. Into these situations the call of Christ and His Kingdom is our only hope. His gospel is the window of light pouring into the darkened corners of this world. He is the good news we must sing and bring.”

The Gettys updated the hymn with a simple chorus:

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

You can view the lyrics and grab sheet music here.


We Will Declare Your Glory – Rob Smith

Rob Smith (Theology and Music Ministry Lecturer at SMBC, Emu Music songwriter) wrote this song as part of SMBC’s Centenary commemorations in 2016. It’s fairly easy to pick up, and has several challenging lines:

Martyrs and missionaries answering your call
Ready to sacrifice giving up all
We are yours
Trusting in Jesus despising the shame
There is salvation in no other name
We are yours
Ransomed to serve
As we long for our Saviour’s return

The last verse even includes a mention of Ezekiel 36:22 as we declare: “Not for our sakes but the sake of Your holy name”.

You can read the lyrics here, and grab the sheet music here.


Across the Streets – Mike Begbie, Rob Smith, Troy Munns

Mike Begbie is a former SMBC and Moore College student who co-wrote this song with Rob Smith and Troy Munns. I like the clear challenge in the words, and how it grounds a call to go “across the streets” and “across the oceans” in the heart of the Father and his desire that all of the nations be saved. There’s a mix of the triumphant and simple: “We will go”, with the acknowledgement that “Though fearful and trembling, we go remembering the gospel is mighty to save.”

My favourite is part is where the bridge paints a picture of God’s Harvest:

The time has come lift up your eyes
The harvest fields are shining shining
The time has come let us arise
For Heaven’s judge is soon returning

The song is rhythmically driven and consistently off the beat, so you’ll have to work hard at making your arrangement not sound like an out-of-control polka (Mike has a tutorial video here).

You can get the lyrics here, and get the sheet music here.


May the Peoples Praise You – Keith & Kristyn Getty

Here’s another excellent one by the Gettys. I like how the motivation for mission here is not guilt or achievement, but God’s ownership of us and a growing mercy for those who haven’t heard the gospel:

All the earth is Yours and all within
Each harvest is Your own
And from Your hand we give to You
To make Christ known

May the seeds of mercy grow in us
For those who have not heard
May songs of praise build lives of grace
To spread Your Word

The chorus is catchy too, and a reflection on Psalm 67:4:

May the peoples praise You
Let the nations be glad
All Your blessing comes
That we may praise
May praise the Name of Jesus

You can read the lyrics and grab the sheet music here.


For Your Glory – Leeland Mooring

I first heard this one off an Asialink mission mobilisation video. The words are virtually lifted from the refrain in cricketer-turned-missionary CT Studd’s well-known poem, “Only one life“:

We have only one life
And it soon will pass
And only what’s done
For Christ will last
Jesus, You can use me Lord

Riches and houses
Cars and lands
Will all pass away
But my life will stand
Jesus, You can use me Lord

For Your glory
For Your glory
For Your glory
You can use me Lord

It’s neat to think that all these years later, CT Studd’s words are being heard again by a new generation of Jesus followers.

You can grab the words and music here.

OK, over to you: are there any other songs that help to fire you up to partner in God’s mission for the world?

Greater Than We Can Imagine – SMBC Praise & Prayer – Set List

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of organising a praise and prayer evening for our bible college community. It all started with a fireside conversation: “Wouldn’t it be great to come together for singing and prayer?”

We’re incredibly blessed at college to spend hours and hours drinking from a firehose of theology, missions, languages and ministry training. Also, God seems to have given us a range of gifted musicians, poets, artists and songwriters at present. So it seemed fitting to set aside a few hours to respond to God’s greatness: both in who he reveals Himself to be, and in how He saves us through Christ.

So on the 28th August, we had a room full of students and families, young and old, all worshipping God in song, prayer and reading His Word. The theme of the night, “Greater Than We Can Imagine”, came from Psalm 145:

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendour of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”
– Psalm 145:3-7, NIV

I had the job of picking songs for the night, while my fellow music coordinators Luke and Alastair prepared the rest of the program and arranged the space beautifully. I really appreciated how varied the contributions were from everyone, and how there was a real freedom to enjoy God together and to delight in His Word, and to “sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord…” (Eph 5:19)

If you’re interested, here’s a recap of what we did together on the night. We sang a variety of songs from a range of sources including Sovereign Grace Music, Stuart Townend, Indelible Grace, CityAlight, Hillsong, and even a few homegrown offerings from SMBC songwriters.

Part 1 – The God Who is Greater Than We Can Imagine

  1. Welcome & Prayer: an invitation to prefer one another and “let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor 14:26)
  2. Read: Group reading of Psalm 145
  3. Sing: All Creatures of our God and King by Sovereign Grace Music
  4. Sing: How Great is our God by Chris Tomlin (with How Great Thou Art)
  5. Pray: 1-sentence “popcorn” prayers to praise God for who He is
  6. Sing: Psalm 62 (My Soul Finds Rest) by Stuart Townend & Aaron Keyes
  7. Pray: Silent, self-directed reflections on Psalm 145
  8. Listen: Poem on Psalm 145 by Sam Gempton
  9. Listen: You Won’t Forsake Me by Matt Lo
  10. Sing: Psalm 130 (From the Depths of Woe) by Indelible Grace
  11. Sing: Only a Holy God by CityAlight
  12. Pray: A free response
  13. Sing: Great Is Thy Faithfulness (My Treasure) by Thomas Chisholm, John Piper

 

Part 2 – The God Who Saves is Greater Than We Can Imagine

  1. Welcome: a reminder our great God is also the one who redeems us through Christ Jesus
  2. Sing: Come Praise and Glorify by Sovereign Grace Music
  3. Sing: You Are the God Who Saves Me (Psalm 88) by Nick Freestone
  4. Sing: Love, You Will Not Let Me Go by George Matheson, music and lyrics by Brian Leung
  5. Sing: I Stand In Awe by Mark Altrogge (with scripture reading of Rev 4)
  6. Listen: Lord of the Heavens by James Peters
  7. Listen: Poem, “Here I Am” by Steph Leung
  8. Sing: Let Your Kingdom Come by Sovereign Grace Music
  9. Read: Revelation 5
  10. Sing: Revelation Song by Jennie Lee-Riddle
  11. Sing: O Praise the Name (Anástasis)
  12. Pray: To give thanks and close


SPOTIFY PLAYLIST:


 

What’s it like to study at Sydney Missionary Bible College?

A few weeks ago, the promo team at Sydney Missionary Bible College (where I’m currently studying) interviewed several students about our college experience. If you’re interested, here’s my interview (I’ve included a written version of it after the break below). Better yet, I’d encourage you to hear from several college friends:

  • Kim Patterson – “I’m hoping to go into full-time ministry in Ireland, and I wanted to be further equipped and trained to do that well.”
  • Matt Sharpe – “If you asked me five years ago if you’d be at Bible College, I would have said: ‘No way!'”
  • Emma Bott – “Being able to read the Bible in its original languages has been a joyous experience…”
  • Alex Prentice – “I’m really enjoying Greek… which I probably shouldn’t say too loudly!”
  • Dave Bott – “In a way I didn’t want to come to Bible College, because it meant leaving friends and family behind, and that was scary!”
  • Dorothea Amann – “I thought Bible College is for someone who’s really certain to be a pastor or missionary… so probably not for me!”
  • James Peters – “I had put God into a pretty tight neat little box that I thought I could understand and control, and coming to college has helped me to understand how very little I know about our great God.”
  • Joel Abraham – “One of the best things is learning alongside so many different people from different church backgrounds and cultures.”
  • Julian Baalbergen – “I love how it’s not about the numbers or scores on your essays and exams, but it’s about how your heart is being developed and changed to be more Christlike…”

Praise God for raising up all these labourers for the Harvest!


Tell us a bit about yourself, and how you ended up at SMBC.

My name is William, and I’m here at SMBC with my wife Cheryl and our three children. We moved here last year to study at SMBC. Previously I was a medical writer, and also helping out as an intern at my church back home in Auckland, New Zealand. Through that process, and being able to do ministry alongside my pastor, watching him preach and teach and visit people, I had a growing conviction that I’d love to be better at applying, teaching and sharing the Word with others in a local church setting. He encouraged us to consider SMBC. We also knew a couple of graduates whose love for Jesus and knowledge of the Word seemed really compelling for us. I remember observing one of them and thinking, “I want to be more like that person.” That’s a big part of why we decided to come to SMBC.

How have you found life at college?

We moved here last year (January 2017), and it was a bit of a culture shock – lots of people with Australian accents! The scariest thing is when you start picking up some of their little tweaks (e.g. shortening words and phrases). That’s been a bit of a challenge, but we’ve also gained some great friendships as well. This really is an international community we’ve come into. We’ve loved meeting students and their families from places like Pakistan, Austria, Indonesia (Ireland, Ecuador, Germany, Tanzania, Singapore, Malaysia, Vanuatu) – whereever in the world! It’s great being reminded that God’s workers are being sent all around the world with His glorious gospel.

What’s it like to undertake theological studies at SMBC?

It’s a great environment to study in. Things I’ve really enjoyed include:

  • Time together – in the Word, starting and ending the week with chapels, Principals Hour in the middle of the week, and during morning tea and lunch to talk about what we’ve been learning in class
  • A focus on preaching – I love how everyone who studies full-time learns how to preach, to understand God’s Word to us and apply it for a world who needs it
  • Being stretched with theology – we just spent three hours thinking about the role of the Holy Spirit, and I don’t know if I’ve ever had to work my brain so hard!
  • Lecturers as role models – they model not just head knowledge but also apply it to their hearts. For example, I loved how Dave this morning invited us into his devotional life as he taught us about the Holy Spirit. All the lecturers here don’t want to just tell you things, but they also want to get into your lives. They share the gospel, but their lives also (1 Thess 2:8).
  • A focus on global missions – every week during lecturers, we’re challenged by missionaries from all over the world, who give us a global picture of what God’s doing in the world, and how we can be a part of it. When you’re from the ends of the earth (NZ), you don’t tend to think about much more than the ends of the earth. So it’s been refreshing and challenging to have our eyes opened to what God’s doing – and to be challenged by my lack of passion and zeal for global missions as well. This means that, after college, whatever I do needs to have global missions in mind, and a global view of what God’s doing.

What are your plans after college?

Our national anthem ends with the line: “God defend New Zealand”. I feel like that’s part of our call – we’d like to go back and help to defend it with the gospel. New Zealand is a more liberal and secular country than we’ve expected, and is changing quickly – even during the time we’ve been away. We’ve seen changes in society that reveal a lack of the gospel, and a need for people to find their true satisfaction and life in Jesus. We don’t know what that looks like yet, but we’d love to be part of the many men and women who want to give their lives to defending the gospel in New Zealand.


 

Book review: The Extent of the Atonement by David Allen

The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (B&H Academic, 2016).

by David L. Allen

Genre: Biblical Reference / Christian Theology

Size: 820 pages (and weighs in at 1.7 kg!)

What’s the big idea: David Allen makes a comprehensive biblical, historical, theological case that the majority of Christians, even within those who are considered Reformed, affirm an “unlimited atonement” as the best understanding of the extent of Christ’s saving work.

Easy to read? It was OK. It’s certainly an extensive tome on the atonement’s extent, so I’ve read through about a third of it so far. The sheer size of the book will probably appeal to those interested in the topic, rather than general readers. That being said, B&H editors have helpfully indexed the book by subject, author and Scripture passage. If you know how to search through this book, it becomes easy to read and a goldmine of information.

What I appreciated:

  • It’s comprehensive. From Irenaeus to Al Mohler, Allen surveys what every well-known (and more unfamiliar) Christian leader has believed regarding the extent of the atonement. You’ll need to discern between the historical data and Allen’s own commentary and assessment interspersed throughout. But a lot of research has gone into this book, which we can be grateful for.
  • I appreciated the tone of Allen’s work. He doesn’t play the man but seeks only to critique the positions that they hold. This kind of writing style is often lacking in the intramural debates on this topic.
  • He provides two helpful charts (p.xxviii, 766) – one is a summary of four different views of the extent of the atonement. Another is a comprehensive list of theologians and their view on this matter.
  • Part 3 of the book comprises a chapter-by-chapter critique of Jonathan and David Gibson’s From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, the most comprehensive defence of definite atonement to date. Even for someone who’s persuaded by the arguments for definite atonement, I found it helpful to understand the objections from Allen’s side of the fence. He summarises each contributor’s arguments fairly, and offers thoughtful and persuasive rebuttals.

What I would have liked to see:

  • For an 800-plus “tour de force”, there was surprisingly little discussion on OT conceptions of the atonement. For example, the Day of Atonement is only referenced twice (p402 in a discussion of Robert Lightner, and when Allen critiques the article on definite atonement in the OT in From Heaven He Came And Sought Her).
  • A bit less of an inquisitionary tone. I understand that this is meant to be a comprehensive historical survey, but Allen seems to take aim at any and every author who’s ever published about the atonement’s extent. In some cases, he pulls apart their arguments in the kind of lengthy, meticulous manner one normally associates with blog posts you disagree with (e.g., poor Paul Jarvis in p.610-12). At times, it seemed like a meeting or phone conversation would have sufficed in place of the extended critique.
  • Some more trimming. I appreciate how extensive the data is out there, but there’s no reason why some of the historical surveys couldn’t have been abbreviated.
  • Allen sometimes adopts unclear labels to describe his and other viewpoints. He insists that no Baptists can be “Reformed” in the confessional sense (p.xv), and goes so far as to call his own view not Arminian, or Moderate Calvinist – but simply, a “Baptist” perspective (p.xviii).

Who I’d recommend it to: Anyone who is interested in the debates about the extent of the atonement. Carl Trueman (an advocate of definite atonement) offers a warm endorsement: “While David Allen and I disagree on the matter, this work is an irenic and learned contribution to the topic which carries the historical, and thus doctrinal, discussion forward in an extremely helpful way. I am thus happy to recommend this work of a friendly critic. It deserves wide readership and careful engagement.”

Verdict: Not for the faint-hearted, this extensive tome about the atonement’s extent serves as a thorough, critical companion to From Heaven He Came and Sought Her.

More info:

  • Jeff Johnson offers a detailed critique of Allen’s book from a definite atonement perspective.

(I’m grateful to B&H Academic who provided a review copy of this textbook, which has not influenced my opinion of the book.)

 

Book review: Amyraut on Predestination

Amyraut on Predestination: The First Published Translation from the French (Charenton Reformed Publishing, 2017).

by Matthew Harding, with a biographical sketch by Alan Clifford

Genre: Church History, Theology

Size: 190 pages – a 30 page biography, some translation notes, and then 100 pages of Amyraut’s own words from Brief Traitté de la Predestination et de ses principales dependances (Brief Treatise on Predestination and Its Dependent Principles).

What’s the big idea: Never heard of Amyraldianism? This English translation of his seminal work on predestination and the atonement (which sparked three heresy trials!) will help you understand where the idea of “4 Point Calvinism” or “Moderate Calvinism” originated from.

Easy to read? Definitely. Harding’s translation is lucid and clear, and even sounds like a “French” person is saying it. I found the book easy to use when preparing a theology essay on Amyraldianism.

What I appreciated? A few things:

  • The fact that this work now exists. A lack of primary sources has been a longstanding barrier to evaluating Amyraut’s teachings accurately – for example, if you want to know what Calvin himself taught you can read his Institutes. Matthew Harding and Alan Clifford have done a service to the church by publishing the first English translation of Amyraut’s most well-known work, This will hopefully provide clearer insight into Amyraut’s teachings.
  • The biographical sketch by Alan Clifford reads well. While he comes across as very adoring of Amyraut (complete with photos of the archway he used to walk under!), it doesn’t seem to seep into hagiography.
  • Harding is a careful guide – his explanatory notes are helpful, particularly when Amyraut seems to his metaphors or says confusing things, e.g. a “predestination unto salvation” and a “predestination unto faith” in Chapter 13.
  • Amyraut’s words exude a warm and pastoral tone. It certainly helped me to gain a fuller picture of his teachings, not just as an abstract theology, but motivated by real issues from real people. It’s much harder to see Amyraldianism in this way if you’re reading him through the lens of secondary authors who seem more interested in dissecting his theology rather than listening to his words.
  • While I don’t agree with Amyraldianism myself, reading his words directly helped me to appreciate his view as a legitimate view of the atonement within the Reformed evangelical tradition.

Who I’d recommend it to: Two kinds of people – those who call themselves Amyraldians (e.g. Sydney Anglicans) but have never read Amyraut’s own teachings; and those who are wrestling with the idea of the “L” in “TULIP” (limited atonement). Don’t discount Amyraut’s views before studying him first-hand.

Verdict: Lisez-le s’il vous plaît! (Please read it!)

Get the book from Amazon or Book Depository.


(I’m grateful to Dr Alan Clifford who provided a review copy of this book, which has not influenced my opinion of the book.)