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day one – come to Me and you will find rest.

I’m blogging from my mobile phone so posts will be short and sweet. I’ll do the tagging and categorising when I’m back in Singapore. These are what I took home from day one at the Grace Retreat 2010.

  • There’s a need to be a man of the Word but it’s also important to be a man of the Spirit because the Spirit gives birth to the truth of the Word.
  • I can pastor people but I can’t do their ministry. (I’ve actually written an entire entry on this but I guess I’ll wait until after Retreat to elaborate on it.)
  • In Matthew 11:28, it’s almost as if Jesus was saying, “If you don’t come apart, you will come apart”. I thought that was a nice word play with nuances of truth.
  • Going out of wine was the most disastrous scenario for Jewish customs; this was paralleled to being “weary”. Will read up more before I nod in agreement.
  • When the enemy can’t take your heart, he’ll take your vision. That’s why it’s important that you always have vision – one of the most common and significant miracles Jesus did was to heal the blind, so they they could see the plans of God; a good analogy, but a little presumptuous, nonetheless, I’ll give benefit of doubt.

That aside, God has been speaking to my heart about certain issues I’ve been struggling with pertaining to ministry. I will continue to struggle with the Lord on these matters.

Lord, may You reveal things to me that would change my life. I love You and I need you to touch me fresh and anew. I cannot run on empty and I need Your grace in my life to help me operate and advance. Spirit, don’t pass me by…

top ten reasons to leave church.

It’s been over a decade since I joined Grace Assembly and never once did I consider leaving church for greener pastures or stiller waters. Grace, like ACS, has played a big part in making me who I am today and there is little possibility that I’d want to leave. Of course in the last 13 years, I’ve seen countless people – both pew-warmers and high-profile leaders alike – leave church. Some exit for legitimate reasons and some do not; I’m not in the place to judge. I’ve never been one to hold people back should they opt to venture elsewhere – I’ve always seen it as a personal choice.

This “Top Ten” list looks like it’s going to be a weekly release (you can read the previous list on the desired ingredients of a worship leader here). For this week, if I may, I’ll muse about the top ten church-exiting justifications I’ve gathered over the years. I won’t elaborate on each point because I want to leave its details to your interpretation and imagination. My adapted observations are based on an official research conducted. If people do leave church, this is what they might say:

  1. “The church doesn’t seem to be growing spiritually.”
  2. “There’s little significance in my meaningless ministry.”
  3. “My church friends are so judgmental and critical.”
  4. “The preacher is weak, non-expository and not engaging.”
  5. “There are too many changes – no stability, no consistency.”
  6. “The environment is so superficial and artificial – a bunch of hypocrites.”
  7. “I don’t even know if my church is doing God’s work.”
  8. “Socially, it’s such an elitist and exclusive culture – not my cup of tea.”
  9. “There’s no grace when I share my problems with my pastors and leaders.”
  10. “My pastor doesn’t walk his talk – he’s just another hypocrite.”

You can find other variations and a more methodical breakdown here, here, here, here or here. However, allow me to turn the tables a little – here are the top ten reasons why you should stick around in your church:

  1. “The church doesn’t seem to be growing spiritually.”
  2. “There’s little significance in my meaningless ministry.”
  3. “My church friends are so judgmental and critical.”
  4. “The preacher is weak, non-expository and not engaging.”
  5. “There are too many changes – no stability, no consistency.”
  6. “The environment is so superficial and artificial – a bunch of hypocrites.”
  7. “I don’t even know if my church is doing God’s work.”
  8. “Socially, it’s such an elitist and exclusive culture – not my cup of tea.”
  9. “There’s no grace when I share my problems with my pastors and leaders.”
  10. “My pastor doesn’t walk his talk – he’s just another hypocrite.”

Believe it or not, should you choose to go, you will always be able to identify another problem with your new church. At the end of the day, there is no perfect church; but if there was one, you wouldn’t be in it. So, be loyal, be patient, stick around and be the difference in your church (but if God tells you to leave, do it quietly and quickly). Don’t jump ship on a sinking boat; there’s no pluck in that. (But maybe, just maybe – no offence here – when you do jump ship, the original boat may actually start to float! Then maybe we’d say, “Good riddance to bad rubbish”.)

I’ll conclude this post with something I found on the net – “Note to pastors and youth ministers who choose to live in denial: this list does not apply to YOU and YOUR church, only to other churches and other youth groups that are not as spiritual, strategic, relevant, cool, committed or emerging as you are.”

I hope my second top ten list was helpful in expanding your perspective of being in your church.

scrunitising yourself.

It seems that blame-shifting and responsibility-shirking has become ingrained in our systems. Time and again when something goes wrong, we never fail to push the blame to someone else and absolve ourselves of all fault. It happens everywhere – home, school, work, ministry and with friends. We are always reluctant to believe that we can be at fault, or at least, we have too much pride to admit that it might just be our mistake.

For instance, I’ve seen many people join and leave their church. More often than not, when they exit, they will find a pastor to crucify, a preaching style to criticise or a leader to cuss. I managed to do this of course, but in a less violent way. When I decided to leave my former church for Grace, I politely gave reasons like “you need to be 18 before you can serve”, “when the pastor preaches it’s like he’s scolding us” and of course the timeless classic of “it’s a family church that’s too cliquish”.

Surely we are familiar with these “justifications” when we considered leaving our church:

“Oh I prefer a more expository style of preaching.”

“The leaders are too demanding.”

“The youth group has too many rules.”

“I feel that I can’t grow anymore because the teaching is too basic.”

I think I recall BH (who happens to be one of my favourite speakers) saying something like this before, “If there was a perfect church, you wouldn’t be in it“.

Well, what is my point then? I think it’s always easier to change ourselves than to change other people.

  • Before you complain about your imperfect church, ask if you’ve been a good member.
  • Before you lament about your nagging mother, ask if you’ve been a good child.
  • Before you carp about your boring job, ask if you’ve been excellent in all your tasks.
  • Before you grumble about your substandard school, ask if you’ve been a good student.
  • Before you whine about your unsatisfactory grades, ask if you’ve been studying hard enough.
  • Before you grouse about your small allowance, ask if you’ve been a good steward of money.
  • Before you mutter about your weird cell, ask if you’ve been putting effort to unify everyone.
  • Before you kvetch about your disloyal friends, ask if you’ve been a reliable buddy.

So I urge everyone to do some self-scrunity once in a while. It may do you more good than harm.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

never forget that it’s ministry.

Last week, as I routinely called the 80-over potential REAL candidates, I found myself repeating the same lines and asking everyone the same question, just phrased differently. My purpose in calling them was to put a voice to a name and to put a name to a programme. At the same time I also wanted to acquaint myself with more young people.

Most of them responded in the same manner; they confirmed their contact information and acknowledged that they would be awaiting my email before they respond from there. On a side note, I was reminded of the massive responsibility that a preacher has and how crucial it is to exercise his influence well. People KNOW and REMEMBER who you are once you go on stage and your public profile increases significantly whether you realise it or not.

When I met with my first and only “I am not interested” response, it caught me offguard. I simply, like a professional telemarketer, responded with a polite “thank you” and “maybe another time then”. When I put down the phone, I still hadn’t realise that with every new phone call made, I am starting to miss the whole point of calling in the first place.

CX snapped me into place. She had overheard my conversation and asked me why I didn’t ask the person why he wasn’t keen on REAL. “Maybe he backslided? Maybe something happened? Maybe he needs someone to talk to him?” I sobered immediately and realised that I should have been more pastoral in my approach instead of being just professional and polite.

It was a good nudge on the purpose of ministry. It’s been a week since and this anecdote still lingers in my head. May we never forget that it’s always about ministering to people and not about the task to be completed.

P/S – Yes, I am attempting to revive this blog by writing more regularly.

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