Post-script: My apologies to Ps Kieran Chew for publishing this entry only now… It was in my drafts since 3rd June, but the madness of June overwhelmed me, and this article got forgotten… Well, Ps Kieran, you’re right, “It’s no longer news”, but hey, it’s still newsworthy, at least on my blog it is. HAHA! Hope this works for you! (:
Credits to Matthew Tan for his good work in putting this video together.
a two month[s] ago, the full-time staff at Grace AG embarked on its Home Improvement Project (HIP) as part of its internal 40 Days of Community (40DOC). This campaign is an initiative launched by (the Deputy Senior Pastor) Ps Calvin Lee, and is set to be launched church-wide in July-August in a strategic effort to bring the church together. It is adapted from Rick Warren’s programme (of the same title) that has been tried and tested with positive results, first in Saddleback Church, then in many other churches worldwide.
I’m not sure if I was alone in feeling this way, but honestly, I had to rummage my heart for enthusiasm for this project because it certainly didn’t come naturally from the onset. It was an acquired taste of sorts – the more you did it, the more you enjoyed it. I enjoyed Ps Cuixian’s leadership of my group as well as getting to know some of my colleagues (like Andrew Tai and Edmund Quek, who were great fun to be with) a little better.
My 40DOC began with the devotional series in the accompanying book, “Better Together”, which I hope most of you will purchase. If something could fire me up, it would definitely be the Word and its practicable outcomes. Coming together weekly to watch Rick Warren (who incidentally looks like a cross between a tour guide and a taxi driver – no offence – he has such a down-to-earth look about him!) on DVD was also refreshing – he has an uncanny ability to simplify biblical themes into instantly applicable aphorisms. Speakers (like Edmund Chan, Peter Chao and Benny Ho) with that ability always get my attention.
HIP was definitely the highlight of 40DOC. It required us to literally move out of our comfort zones, put our money where our mouths are and to get down and dirty with our hands and feet. (Clichés, I know, but definitely used in the right context.) I shall offer some honest observations of my day spent with over 10 other full-time staff; I don’t enjoy giving Sunday School answers anyway. Allow me to share these thoughts through 5 C’s.
No matter how old you are, what species of gender you belong to, and regardless of whether you’re a church staff (even if you are a pastor), you will still have a tendency to complain. It’s a sickening and disgusting part of our wretched human nature and I caught myself at it. Of course, I tried to mask it under the cloak of humour but I could never hide it from my inner man if I was frank with myself. I was rather put off by some the apparently “harmless” and “honest” negative remarks that floated around the room. Sometimes, it is good not to say anything if you indeed have nothing good to say.
This alone I think, humbles the greatest of saints – even if they were ordained by a board of holy people! Our fallen state truly requires the infallible grace of God. Help us shine for You, Lord, simply by not complaining!
From the way I see it, there are three ways a person could contribute in HIP – either by offering your time, energy or resources. I took a backseat (as there were enough leaders) for this project and I knew I had to leave a couple of hours earlier than the rest, so I wanted to make up for it by chipping in with a little more money. I gave an amount as the Lord put upon my heart to – this was my act of obedience. However, to my surprise, I received (almost) the entire sum back as we did not need to spend as much as we had budgeted for the house. So I decided to channel that sum into the weekend’s offering bags.
The bottom-line of what I want to say is that, due the complexity of planning and the complicated layers of coordination, this HIP might just be the first and last one for you and I; and if that’s the case, what’s there to lose by going all out?
If anyone told you that painting a house was easy – tell him to go paint another one. I regretted not taking before-and-after photographs of the house we helped to transform. Before we could give it a face-lift, we had to give it a face-off. Peeling and scraping the ancient paint off both the walls and the ceiling were a mammoth task in itself. Try arching your neck upwards for an entire morning in an unventilated and weird-smelling room and having every fifth of ten scrapes feel like a fork scratching a blackboard… Can you feel and imagine the icky sensation in your mind’s eye? And speaking of eye, you also had to battle with fragments of dried paint and cement flakes with each blink.
I felt like I burnt more calories than a regular workout and received a good toning on especially my arms, but it was the conditioning of my heart and mind that I truly appreciated from this experience.
If ever there was a cry that screams from within my heart as a shepherd of people (i.e. a pastor), it would be how I want to aggressively avoid being irrelevant to society. (No disrespect to anyone here, but) I felt sad to have heard some conversations that transpired in the one-room flat, between some of my colleagues and the home-owner we were helping. It was dismal to see how they were unable to converse on the same frequency because one has obviously lost touch with the harsher dimensions of society. Forgive me, for I know this is a quick, harsh and judgmental assessment (and I apologise for it if it stumbles you) but a part of me fiercely rejects an innate incapability to relate with the felt needs of the man-on-the-street. It would almost be ironic for a pastor to arrive at that state.
In the same breath, I will say that this applies to anyone who calls himself a Christian. How relevant are you to society? Are you so far-removed that you can no longer relate to those less-fortunate? HIP is a good way to get reconnected.
The saying goes, “Tough times make tough men” and as a staff team, we have not and do not go through anything tough as a collective; this HIP was enforced (as a professional obligation) and emblematic at best (we had to lead by example before we could encourage our sheep to do it), hence it already prepared and toughened us up psychologically before execution. Nonetheless, the beautiful thing about going through something uncomfortable, unconventional and uncommon like that was that it forced us to forge teamwork. And I reckon this category of teamwork (honed through hardship) is a little more cohesive than organising a church event or attending a staff retreat together.
I am confident that embarking on HIP together, be it as a cell group or a real family unit, will only serve to strengthen the existing bonds that are holding the body of believers together. This may just take your cell and your family to the next level.
It is quite unlike me to blog about something that I do not believe in, or write something here out of professional obligations. And so, I shall not. But hey, I have already written nearly 1,500 words on this upcoming 40DOC – perhaps this is a telling indication of my optimism towards this campaign.
I believe in it not because of its proven track record, programme or content – that’s just hype. No, I believe in it because I serve a big God who desires to unite His church. Like I mentioned it over the pulpit two weeks ago, I firmly believe that 40DOC isn’t just going to be another campaign, but THE defining campaign for Grace AG.
I bought home three things from HIP – a photo frame, a certificate and a recap sheet – but I took home so much more, if you know what I mean. I urge you to allow 40DOC to become a part of you. After all, what do you have to lose?