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Missionary Spotlight-Recovering the gospel in Fiji

June 2004 | by Vijay Chandra

Indigenous Fijians have professed Christianity for over 100 years, the gospel having first arrived through Methodist missionaries. But today the Methodist Church in Fiji has departed from its theological moorings and the biblical gospel.

In the late 1970s a Baptist church was started in Lautoka, Fiji, with the aim of fresh evangelistic outreach to Fiji’s diverse ethnic communities. The work has progressed since that initiative, and there now exist about 30 Baptist churches.

Problems

 

These Baptist churches are not reformed in theology. Some belong to the Fiji Council of Churches. But among both these and other denominational Protestant churches there are still evangelical Christians, who hold to the major truths of the Bible and gospel.

Legalism, nominalism and a lack of evangelism characterise most churches, and progressing the biblical gospel in Fiji meets many problems. There is only one Reformed Baptist church. This is in Ba. It holds to the 1689 Baptist Confession. There is no reformed literature work in Fiji.

Many of the Fijian churches today are built on strongly ethnic lines. Sadly, Indian and indigenous Fijian churches do not mix. This is because of various barriers – linguistic, cultural and even political. In society generally, Fijian Indians are looked down upon by native Fijians.

Persecution

 

The Hindu and Muslim populations of Fiji are only patchily evangelised; often they are hostile to the gospel.

During the recent major coups, Indians were beaten, their houses burnt down and their leased land taken away. The Hindu temples were burnt and mosques looted. These actions, being perpetrated by a nominally Christian indigenous Fijian population, have created great antagonism.

Little is being done to reach Muslims. The few who have been converted from Islam to Christ have suffered persecution. They have encountered threats and ostracism from their village communities; or even beatings and physical mistreatment.

Sometimes those professing conversion from such religious backgrounds try to syncretise Christianity and paganism. For example, although they profess to be Christians, when they become sick they seek instant healing through the agency of village witch doctors.

Strong charismatic influences emanate from America and Australia, but there is much division and little sound teaching in the Fijian Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

Missionaries

 

Fiji has a wide open door for expatriate missionaries. Some missionaries in the past have been a very bad influence, engaging in misleading teaching, splitting churches, enticing people to become ‘rice Christians’, and moving on irresponsibly from church to church.

Sometimes they have baptised people too quickly, because they have wanted to ‘successfully’ establish a church. But when they have left Fiji, most of their ‘converts’ have returned to paganism.

Fiji needs missionaries who are sound in the faith and who will give themselves in life-long commitment for the sake of the people of these islands. People are still willing to listen to the gospel. Most people speak English and understand it well.

The Indians need reaching with pioneer evangelism, and the native Fijians need re-establishing in the biblical gospel. There is also much need for village evangelism, as previous missionary efforts have focused largely on the towns and cities.

In spite of all its problems, the nation does have, in the providence of God, one reformed church, which is committed to sound biblical teaching and evangelism. But it urgently needs more Christ-centred preachers of the doctrines of grace.

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