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President’s Message

Dr. Joshua W T Cho

Soaring High in Faith, Hope, and Love — The Envisioning of the Faith, Hope, and Love Project

HKBTS’s Wonderful Tradition of Lives of Missionary Teachers

The main character in the classic movie Fiddler on the Roof is an optimistic, self-contented Jew who stands aloof from worldly success. This Jewish father always mentions “tradition” and lays great emphasis on its importance. Tradition determines a person’s identity and explains his origin.

Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary certainly has its strong tradition. When we recount the early history of Baptist University and our Seminary, we discover that the education provided at that time was much more than the narrow training of technicians but was rather the best of liberal education. This implies that the Seminary has not only aimed at training ministers to shoulder the responsibility to pass on the gospel message effectively with passion and sentiment. The Seminary has also trained ministers to continue to pursue lifelong learning and to be careful in their thinking and develop clear discernment. This is the main focal point of early Baptist tertiary education and theological education. I still recall in the eighties that the word “integrity” was constantly on our lips as students at HKBTS. We took “integrity” to mean one’s personal authenticity, which is to say a person must match words with deeds and one must also have a tough mind yet act with passion and sentiment. We were taught always to “walk the talk” and “walk the walk.” This teaching was based on the model of Jesus Christ and on also the wonderful tradition set by our missionary teachers who lived out such a model in their daily lives.

Becoming a Community of Disciples Who Experience Christ’s Resurrection Power Together

Paul lived within the tradition of Jewish rabbis, “being circumcised on the eighth day, a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Pharisee.” Living within the Hebrew tradition, he was called, embraced and guided by Christ Jesus to become His follower “straining toward what is ahead” according to His will. There is something amusing about Paul: even though Paul has known a lot about Jesus Christ, he longs to know Him better. Paul says: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” (Php 3:10) He continues to say: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, press on toward the goal ….” (3:13-14a) Paul points out that even he himself has not become a perfect master. He still must press on and hopes others will imitate him, so that they follow Jesus Christ together and experience together the power of Christ’s resurrection.

As I meditate on Paul’s resolution and his outlook, I seem to hear him calling HKBTS’s teachers, students and staff workers to seek to know God more deeply and to imitate him as he presses on to follow Jesus and to experience the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Let it be our common cause together to experience afresh Jesus Christ’s resurrection. I can see that a key word is “together”: together we suffer, together we imitate, and together we experience God’s resurrection power. This is the meaning of this key point: HKBTS is a school, a learning community, a disciple community and together we experience the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

Mentors Having the Competence and Character of Communal Christian Life within a Disciple Community

To become a community of disciples who continually experience the power of the resurrection, contemporary theological educators must get at the root of their failings. Then they must face bravely, step by step, all obstacles to healthy growth as they reclaim the best of the past.

One of the problems of contemporary theological education is that professors are trained to regard themselves as “experts,” as a result, they can easily see themselves going on a mission to accomplish tasks very different from that of their students. They can easily forget that they must remain disciples not yet made perfect and always needing to be taught by their masters. As Christ’s disciples, our faculty must follow the example of Paul who continued striving throughout his life to know more about Jesus Christ and his feelings, thoughts and actions. To know the pattern of his feelings, thoughts and actions lifelong, disciples need to reflect Christ Jesus’ attitude and to have His heart (phronein). The heart of Christ is one of wisdom, filled with a life of practical wisdom (phronesis). We would do well to look to Paul as our mentor since he has absorbed so much of Christ’s wisdom.

To adopt Christ’s attitude and to learn his wisdom is a worthy lifelong schooling for the community of faith. A seminary at its best is such a “schooling” community. In such a community, every individual is taught and together everyone teaches one another. Students learn from the teaching of God and their teachers; teachers learn both from God and from their nurturing community. Everyone grows up together in an environment where all learn together from God and from men together, understand the wisdom of Christ and together adopt the attitude of Christ. In such a community, the best mode of theological education is one that allows students to serve as disciples or apprentices to their teachers.

To make this kind of education possible, teachers must intentionally decide to be Jesus Christ’s disciples. To understand the truth of the Bible, teachers must allow themselves to be molded continually by God to have a righteous life and a pure soul. In the first place, teachers need to have pure hearts in order to rightly understand the teaching of the Bible. Then too, teachers need also to have good character so that biblical truth can be transmitted through their lives. Those powerful preaching of God’s truth can then be transmitted through a teacher’s character so that students can appreciate their teachers’ beliefs and faith embodied in their lives.

The character of the mentor is infectious. If students are molded by teachers of good character, then it is quite probable that they will also become ministers of good character. If students are molded by certain teachers of “integrity,” then it is likely that they will become ministers of “integrity.” On this basis, students can follow their mentors, those who have mastered certain disciplines (biblical hermeneutics, church history, systematic theology, ethical thinking, preaching, missions, religious education, church music or life coaching), but even more those who have a life of good character. Then they and their mentors can learn together.

Faith, Hope and Love in Disciple community

This kind of discipleship education is based on adopting the attitude of Christ Jesus: such an education is well-defined but merciful, and it has integrity but is kind-hearted. This education is not only loyal to the call of Christ but is also loyal to the call which the Baptist churches also have received from God. One of the marks of this kind of theological education and disciple community is “faith.”

 Faith is the way for a disciple community to know God. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. To disciples, whether they be teachers or students, knowing God is a gift of God. God is not made known through a person’s search for Him. Knowing God is the result of humility and not a cause for pride. Humility is the first step in knowing God.

Another mark of a disciple community is “hope.” As with faith, hope is a gift of the Holy Spirit. To hope is not to seek one’s own salvation on one’s own but it requires belief in God and means a person must wait on God’s judgment and deliverance from this turbulent world.

Hope consists in a number of characteristics. First of all, it is the moral characteristic of a disciple community “on the way” as these disciples are moving toward a certain destination, a destination to which they have not yet arrived. The disciples are interdependent but not reliant on themselves.

Second, peaceableness is another characteristic of hope. The disciple community is aware that people’s existence and future are in God’s hand. Since they depend on God’s favor and salvation, there is no need for self-protection, for building their own stronghold or for abusing authority for personal gain. Such a mentality can break through all human barriers, enabling disciples to gestate peace and refuse to be mutual enemies, not to be caught up in endless contradictions, conflicts and violence. Instead, their mindset enables disciples with very different personalities, spiritual gifts and backgrounds to be gifts to one another so that together we are able to give witness to Christ’s reconciliation and continue to grow in the body of Christ (1 Co 12; Eph 4: 1-10).

Third, patience is also a characteristic of hope. Hope is the mark of man’s activity and not inactivity. Hope begets patience and even helps us endure suffering. Though faced with hardships and persecution, we need not be disheartened, knowing that God’s salvation plan is still at work in our lives.

Besides faith and hope, love is also a mark of a disciple community. In fact, love is the very heart of the gospel of Christ. Love refuses to repay evil with evil, hatred with hatred, violence with violence. To love is to love sinners, to love enemies and to treat cordially those strangers who are poor or weakened by sickness. When a disciple community willingly testifies to this kind of love, love becomes their life habit and love is the mark of all of their relationships, life and conduct.

In this way, the manifestation of the character and habit of love consists in the participation of the disciple community in the body of Christ Jesus. According to John 17, Jesus prays to the Father that his disciples abide in him and that he abides in them. He prays that the Father may bring them to complete unity: “… Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn 17:21) From this we can see that the prayer of unity is the manifestation of the unity of love resulting from new life in Christ. Love is a disciple community’s mode of life empowering the community to be loyal to the gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Launching the Project of Faith, Hope and Love in the Next Five Years

When HKBTS becomes such a disciple community grounded in faith, hope and love and continues to experience the power of resurrection of Jesus Christ, she will then be an excellent theological seminary.

When the time comes, the Seminary will be able to launch the project of faith, hope and love. We hope to accomplish this in the next five years. We will then expand our faculty team by adding more teachers with good character and competence as they devote themselves to teaching and research studies, nurturing leader disciples and keeping up the good work of nurturing each new generation of leader disciples. We need to have a strong, solid teacher team. Besides having a strong faculty team in biblical and theology subjects, we also need to build up our faculty team in practical theology subjects. In subjects on Christian missions, Christian education, life coaching, church music, we need to add more teachers with competence and good character.

Even as we unify the Lay Theological Education Department and the Main Campus and work to revise and develop the Distance Education Program, we will also within this year re-establish our own mission center dedicated to the study and practice of Christian missions.

We will also develop our graduate studies program, beginning to offer a doctorate degree program in theology or philosophy.

We will strengthen ties with the many Baptist theological seminaries in Asia and make a strong effort to help train theological students and ministers in the region in a renewed effort to promote theological education and prepare the Lord’s workmen for the rich harvest field in the region.

Furthermore, we will consider the possibility of setting up a research center for Baptist theology, a family education research center, and a center for social research and ethics.

All of the above is a part of the HKBTS’s project in faith, hope and love.

Soaring on Wings with Our Churches Together

This year is the year of thanksgiving as HKBTS celebrates our diamond jubilee anniversary. In the beginning of this year we have heard the call of Paul: “Strain toward what is ahead, press on toward the goal and experience the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” Certainly we know we have not yet been made perfect and we are a disciple community who are still walking on our way toward maturity and needing to continue to work hard. At the same time, we are encouraged to know that God has grasped our arms and guided us, enabling us to experience the power of Christ Jesus’ resurrection. When the ideal of this disciple community of faith, hope and love is realized and when the project in faith, hope and love is launched, we can then soar to new heights. We can soar together with our Baptist churches and our sister churches as we experience a new faith, hope and love offered to us by our gracious Lord.

Jun 2011