There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:4-6 (ESV)
On October 14th, the Hanoi Evangelical Church celebrated its 100 year anniversary. It was celebrated by thousands of Christians together throughout the entire day, with a final grand event – a night of music, thanksgiving, and celebration in one of the largest stadiums in Hanoi.
It was a great joy to take part in the celebrations; I was able to attend the evening event. As I walked into the event, I thought, “Wow, all of these people are Christians! What a joy that we can come together to celebrate like this.”
Thousands came to the stadium that night, Vietnamese Christians and Christians from many other nations who are living in Hanoi. The event was to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the establishment of the Hanoi Evangelical Church.
My favorite part of the event that night was a dramatic re-enactment of the history of the church, which recounted the struggles and challenges, blessings and joys the church in Hanoi and Vietnam have experienced since the days the first missionaries came to bring the Good News.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, – Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)
Over the past 100 years the church in Hanoi & Vietnam has indeed been built up and many more churches have sprung up. Many of these were represented by those who attended and participated. From a variety of different churches and theological backgrounds we came together to celebrate. It was a good display of the unity of the body of Christ, despite the differences that exist between different denominations and groups of believers.
…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. – Ephesians 4:13-14 (ESV)
Paul continues to encourage the church to grow in unity, but a specific unity, based on knowledge and maturity, knowledge of the Son of God and maturity as the full and perfect maturity of Christ. The result of this is that the church will stand firm on true and proper doctrine, built on the solid foundation of Christ.
Reflecting on this, the church in Hanoi, in Vietnam, (and world-wide) is not all the way there yet. We have not fully attained the unity, knowledge, and maturity to the standard set before us. With all of the different denominations represented at the celebration, I knew that there were brothers and sisters there who I would be in agreement or disagreement with over various doctrinal issues and beliefs. Many of these issues are secondary or tertiary, but others are more important. The church in Hanoi at 100 years old is still growing, and still has many areas which need growth. Paul’s words continue to guide us in how we should grow,
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)
If we are to grow to maturity, knowledge, and unity we are to do so in love, speaking truth, and growing in every way. This is growth into and following Christ the head of the church.
Having been a part of the Southeast Asia Network for the Gospel since its beginning in 2014, I have seen that this is indeed one of the goals of the network and our events. At each of the conferences, I have been able to fellowship and network together with brothers and sisters in Christ from many different countries and contexts, and have been encouraged and equipped to help the church in my own context continue to be built up in truth and love.
The Southeast Asia Network for the Gospel’s 2016 Conference, “His Word & His Glory in Southeast Asia” is coming soon. It will be held in Bangkok, Thailand from November 10th – 12th. Online registration is still open until the end of this month and walk-in registration is welcome for those past the deadline. I encourage and invite you to come!