Note from the Editor: This interview was conducted by the Salt Shakers when Rev. Emmanuel Singh was in Singapore for his examination on 29 October 2016, according to Article 9 of the Church Order. Rev. Singh sustained his examination and was subsequently installed as CERC’s missionary to Kolkata on 8 January 2017. We thank Rev. Singh for his time and insightful remarks.
Salt Shakers: Emmanuel, Could you tell us more about your work in Kolkata? What do you normally do with your time?
Rev. Singh: In Kolkata, I am very isolated. I am not (in) very good (standing) among the Christians there. I have resigned my position to be a part of the council (of churches) in Kolkata – the people think I am isolated and my group a cult because of the Reformed truth. I am not so popular (laughs) as I was before, not well-accepted by others. When I came out from the Brethren denomination (where I grew up in), they circulated a letter saying, “Emmanuel – he has become a Roman Catholic, because he believes in infant baptism. So Emmanuel should not be allowed to preach from the pulpit in any of the Brethren churches. They also stopped giving me the Lord’s supper. They said, “Emmanuel, you must repent, you have backslided”. Among the evangelicals, they said, “his doctrine is too robotic, because he believes God controls everything and man has no role in salvation”. All kinds of things – persecution within the church and outside of the church.
So what I do now, I work at the personal level. I meet people. Sometimes I go on Facebook and try to send friend requests to other people in Kolkata, meet them, call them, ask them to join the church. So, reaching out to people using technology. Also by making friends. We hold Bible studies two days in the week at two different locations. The aim is to gather His people, as He provides, in His time, so that the work in Kolkata may become a church one day. So maybe there may be a Reformed Witness there one day too.
Salt Shakers: What can you tell us about your congregation in Kolkata?
Rev. Singh: There is a church, but not yet an organized church. Many people are coming to the Reformed faith. They are from different backgrounds. Some were previously charismatics – after they heard the Reformed gospel and asked questions, they are convinced and they are joining with us. There was this brother, he said, “I used to speak in tongues”. I asked him, “Do you understand tongues?” He said, “No, I don’t understand”. I said, “What is the use of prayer? Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14 – pray with understanding. When we pray to the Lord, we must pray with understanding. If you don’t understand what you are saying, it is fake. So don’t believe in the mystical experience. Understand God and His written word”.
So the people, they are coming. But my next plan is to start teaching a pre-confession class. If there are other people that come from other denominations, they can join and learn the Reformed truth. But it is a process. It will take time. Because mission work is not easy. In Kolkata, there are many counterparts – Hinduism, Islam, within Christianity itself, different sects and denominations. So we have to be strong as we teach the people.
Another issue is that we don’t have much translation of Reformed literature. So we need to do some literature work that is relevant to the context. So I am planning to write down some common questions and translate the answers for the people. For example, the question of “what is the tongue?” A lot of people came and asked these common questions and I answered them from the Bible. But is it also good for them to have something to take with them to read. I am also hoping to do some articles on TULIP. So there is a lot of work. Without literature, the Reformed faith cannot spread. That is my burden, to work on the Reformed literature in Bengali. Only the Heidelberg Catechism has been translated, only the simple questions without exposition.
Salt Shakers: What are some of the activities that you do to get people to hear the message?
Rev. Singh: Sometimes we do open air preaching, go distributing tracts. So far, we don’t really have the literature. There will be two kinds of ministry. One is weekly going outside the metro station and distributing tracts and handouts, second is prayer meeting in houses or some hall, calling them to hear the gospel.
Salt Shakers: How can our churches grow closer together?
Rev. Singh: We are already close together. I think we need to work together for the literature. I am also thinking of developing small apps where I can stream the gospel messages. Because nowadays in Kolkata, even young men have android mobiles. I want to develop small apps where people can download the messages.
You know, the father of modern missions is William Carey. In his time, 200 years ago, he was the first man to come to India and translate the Bible into 14 languages. He used the latest technology in his time. He was the first man to bring the printer into India. So he used literature, and he used technology – the printing machine. So now I am a missionary, and being a missionary, I love William Carey – not his doctrines, but the work he has done. He used the available technology to reach out to the people. We live in the 21st century; a lot of the technology can be used – tools to reach out to the people.
Salt Shakers: Another question. You know in December (2016), we are going to have a Bible camp for the youth? We also hear there is also a Bible camp planned in Kolkata. Will there be other such opportunities for our people to go to each others’ activities?
Rev. Singh: Yes, in the future there may also be a conference planned, where people from many denominations can gather and hear a pastor speak, find a common place and invite others to attend. In Kolkata, you have to understand that the Reformed gospel has not reached the others. Whether Baptist or Pentecostal – on our Reformed map they are unreached. So we need to reach other people. Hindu, others – especially those living in the wrong area of the gospel – the Arminian faith. I hope to organise some meetings where pastor can preach.
Salt Shakers: A last question. Can you tell us more about your fellowship – like what are the people there like? Any prayer requests?
Rev. Singh: There are quite a few young people, also some older saints. There are some that come but have yet to recognise themselves as members. So many are coming, but it is a long process. Will they be faithful to the Reformed doctrine? That is the question, to me.
Salt Shakers: Emmanuel, thank you for the interview.
Interview conducted by Salt Shakers | Issue 43