This week is a significant day for the baptism and membership transfer in MAC. First and foremost, we would like to congratulate the 11 brothers and sisters who have chosen to publicly acknowledge their faith and bear witness to the work of Christ in their lives. We are grateful for your commitment, and we pray that the Lord will strengthen you to be shining witnesses of Jesus Christ in your daily lives. Additionally, we welcome 8 new brothers and sisters who have chosen to join the MAC. Despite our diverse backgrounds, coming from various denominations and countries, we are thankful that you have chosen MAC as your spiritual family, a place where you can grow together with your brothers and sisters. We hope that we can all work together in unity to build MAC and let the light of Christ shine through us in Manchester.
Many people wonder why Christians get baptised after they have already accepted Christ. Is baptism necessary for salvation? Certainly not! Romans 10:9-10 tells us, ” If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Here, belief involves not just a verbal confession but also a heartfelt commitment to leave behind your old self, no longer living in sin but relying on the help of Jesus Christ to become a new person. As 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 states, ” Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Baptism is a liturgy that expresses this transformation. When a person is immersed in water, it symbolizes burying their old self with Christ, and when they come out of the water, it represents their resurrection with Christ. From that point on, they are no longer living for themselves but for Christ (Galatians 2:20). Baptism is a public declaration of this belief through a liturgy. I believe that baptism and wedding share a similarity in that they both involve making sincere, public commitments before others and living out those commitments with the ongoing witness of the community, not just during the ceremony itself.
Another meaning of baptism is to join the church (in the current context, it means joining the congregation). Of course, this relationship is mutual, where not only are you willing to become a part of this community, but the community is also willing to accept you as one of its members. Joining the congregation is not just about gaining the right to vote, be chosen and involves tithing (in fact, tithing is something we learn before baptism). Joining the congregation reminds me of getting married to my wife; from then on, her family became my family, and vice versa. When there are problems in each other’s families, we don’t ignore them. Of course, when there are celebrations and family gatherings, we naturally attend and enjoy them together. Joining the congregation is like this. Looking back at my past, I left the church where I grew up, which I had attended for twenty-three years, to enter full-time ministry. In my new congregation, the minister-in-charge repeatedly urged me to transfer, and although spiritually speaking, there is only one church, and all congregations are part of the body of Christ, I was reluctant to transfer because I felt that I was still a part of my home church. However, after two years in the ministry, because I genuinely believed that I was a part of this congregation, that its concerns were my concerns, and that I could wholeheartedly commit myself to it, I finally decided to transfer.
The number of Chinese churches in the UK has been growing rapidly. Recent reports indicate that Chinese churches in the UK have seen a 29% increase from 2021 (with a total of 115,290), while the fastest-growing local church has seen a growth rate of 2.8% during the same period. This is indeed an encouraging statistic. However, if you have been paying attention, you would know that in recent years, many Chinese churches in the UK have experienced splits. Initially, many participants joined local Chinese churches, bringing fresh energy to the congregations. However, as differences of opinion arose among the brothers and sisters, some churches split. I am grateful for MAC; it is one of the fastest-growing churches in the UK. We also experience tensions within our community, but because of our commitment to Christ, we are willing to work through these issues and learn to coexist with different people. Joining a church means recognizing its imperfections but still being willing to take an extra step to commit and build up the community together. Finally, on behalf of this family, I welcome these 19 new family members.