Mega-churches in Indonesia

Very interesting. Indonesia is famous for being the country with the most Muslims in the world, followed I think by India or maybe Pakistan...not sure. From the WSJ:

[...]In Kemayoran, a business district of high-rise offices near the city center, the Reformed Millennium Cathedral is set to open officially on Sept. 20. It will seat 8,000 and house a seminary, a university and a museum of Chinese porcelain.

Preacher Stephen Tong, a 69-year-old Chinese-born Indonesian, founded the Indonesian Reformed Evangelical Church in 1989 and says it took 16 years to persuade the central government to issue a permit to build the new church. In that time, hundreds of churches have been burned down by hard-liners across Indonesia, he estimates.

"I've built a bigger one" than all the destroyed churches combined, says Mr. Tong, who used to hold his church's meetings in a hotel. "I want it to be an image that Indonesia still has freedom of religion."

Mr. Tong acknowledges persistent problems, and Christians complain that in day-to-day life, President Yudhoyono, who faces re-election next year, has generally been slow to defend religious minorities. The police often turn a blind eye to Islamist violence against churches without security in poor parts of Jakarta and rural Indonesia.[...]


Don said…
My denomination (Church of God) has more members in Indonesia than the U.S., and churches such as this in Jakarta and Surabaya are one reason why.

Unfortunately the WSJ article is only available in complete form to its subscribers, so I can't address the specifics of the article.

However, one large Jakarta church financially contributed to my local church's prayer centre in a substantial way, after we had supported work in Indonesia. These churches are definitely on the move. My local church has been blessed with preaching and music ministry from these large churches on numerous occasions. In many ways, I like their praise and worship music better that ours!

It's sad that Muslim extremists target the smaller churches and Christian communities in places such as Sumatra and Sulawesi. I think one reason why megachurches work in Indonesia is safety in numbers, but the situation there is precarious at best, and Indonesian Christians know that.

Information on the Church of God's one and only missionary to Indonesia can be found here. Sometimes I don't know whether his main job is to be a missionary to the Indonesians or the Indonesians' representative to the Americans!
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Don,

It is very good to hear that your church is investing ministry there in Indonesia. It is, I think, a very strategic country and a place where many Muslims are ready to hear the good news.
Leo said…
I think it's sad that in the midst of religious tension and social gap between the rich Christians and the poor neighbor, this church chose to build a billion-rupiah building with so many unnecessary symbols. The biblical identity of church is never a big and fancy building, but a loving community.

We are proud of our building while our real ministry to reach out the unbelievers and help the poor is not focused on.

I learn a lot from this book this book that one of the reason the church lose its impact to the society is due to the wrong focus they have on their resources.

I believe we must focus on the personal ministries of the church, such as evangelism and discipleship, instead of glamorous worship service or putting up a 'great preaching' without personal empowerment. This is the call from Matt 28.
Don said…
Although I agree with Leo that churches in the US spend way too much money on building, I'm not sure how this applies to the Indonesians.

A few years back my local church partnered with a church in Surabaya. They built a church for 20,000 people that looked more like a sports stadium. Because of the delays in construction, they ended up not having to use the construction loan to build it.

They challenged us to build larger also, and we did. What no one stopped to think about is that a 20,000 seat sanctuary is big until you consider they had 80,000-100,000 members, so they were still running 5-6 services on Sunday, which is better utilisation of the facility than most North American churches can manage.

We built bigger, and we still have the usual single Sunday AM service (with a supplementary Sunday PM service.) They waited until the payments had to be made to make me Finance Committee Chairman, and I can assure you that it's not fun. It does drain from your ministry options.

Now 5-6 services are fine with me. But most North American Evangelicals are too high maintenance and traditional to dream of switching their normal Sunday AM service times.

Maybe our ongoing financial crisis will bring some sanity to this situation. But keep in mind that how big your sanctuary and other facilities need to be depends on the size of your congregation, and given that most Third World megachurches do run many services on Sunday the buildings aren't as big as they seem to North Americans.
CT said…
I agree with Leo when i watched the "show" of that church of glass in LA. But when talking about the one in Jakarta, i want to ask whether Leo has attended or listened to one preaching by Rev Stephen Tong. His preaching is what every Christian needs to build up solid faith. It is not something for the good feeling of the church goers. CT
Leo said…

thanks for your reply. I guess my issue with all this is not so much the policy of how big of a building we should have but the paradigm of what is most important (and hence deserve more financial resources) in advancing God's kingdom.

Going small is the way to go cause the Bible emphasizes community more than a great preaching. The great preacher is to equip the saints (all believers in the church) to do the ministry. The main ministry is done by all the members, not by the main preacher. The time and financial investment should be directed to equipping the believers to reach out through personal relationships.

Big buildings have its place, but the burden of proof is why we need such a fancy place.
Leo said…

I've heard his preaching a few times, he is indeed a great gift from God. I'm not questioning his impact. God always works through a great preacher as well as a great janitor. My issue is with the priorities of the church.

It's one thing to preach, and another thing what is actually being done and where money is spent. Like the old saying, your wallet (or in this case, budget allocation) does not lie about what is important to you and what is not.

In the light of the blog topic - islam and christianity - this is not helping the religious freedom but incite more social gap which is already worse. Wouldn't you think that investing those billions of rupiahs in community building around the neighborhood will change the face of Christianity in a much better way compared to building a *bling* in the midst of hungry slum?
CT said…
Also the author writing the article in WSJ is very dishonest. Who told him the church is funded by the Lippo guy!? His intentional misreporting has hurt a lot of people.
CT said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
CT said…
When we everyone want to make our home nice and pretty, why the home for our Lord should not be the same. If it is not the work of God, I don't see it is possible. When a woman poured the expensive ointment on Jesus, yes, his disciples had the same remarks : why not use the money for the poor. Why our eyes are still on mundane level. Labour not for the perishable on earth. People better fad, clothed doesn't mean they will be closer to God.

I cannot agree with you more that great preacher is to equip and every follower of Jesus need to preach the gospel as it is the great commission. Preacher Tong travels every week to HK, Taiwan, Singapore, KL for 9 years, to do the expository talks. While not staying at home church, but traveling all the time to serve God, if not for God, i really don't see the possibility.
Don said…
Leo, I agree with your point re the work of the laity. I actually work for a ministry whose mission is to equip laity to to the work that God has called them to do.

Based on what I've heard, the lay people in these very large churches are very active in sharing Jesus Christ in all kinds of ways with those around them. As Abu Daoud will tell you, that can be tricky in a Muslim country. But that kind of interaction the best way to do it.

For example: in the U.S., peoples' idea of a "miracle working ministry" is for one high-powered preacher to come in and run a meeting. In places like Indonesia, the lay people pray for the miracles, and they do happen. The Muslims around them are duly impressed. From what I know about Indonesian megachurches, that is what is taking place.

My point may be too simplistic but it's this: if you have 100,000 members, and you want to simply have a place where 10% of them can meet at once, you're going to have a big building with a big price tag.
Bremen said…
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