Be AWARE: Where is the Church?

The recent Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) debacle had created quite a furore on a national level.

In the end, the now defunct new guard led by then newly elected President, Ms Josie Lau was overthrown by the old guard with a resounding no vote of confidence against them by AWARE members.

Even as the dust has settled after that extraordinary general meeting (EGM), there are still plenty of opinions and views of this AWARE saga being debated in cyberspace.

However, it is not my provocative to take sides.

Out-of-touch of issues

In my personal opinion, this AWARE debacle offers many takeaways and one that has largely exposed the gap between the Church and the world.

From my observation of the new guard’s actions, the reports from the media and the general reaction of Christians, it clearly revealed how out-of-touch and out-of-depth we are with our world.

Firstly, the new guard had cited that the reason for their sudden takeover of AWARE’s leadership was due to the old guard’s agenda in promoting lesbianism and homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle through sex education in certain schools.

Apparently, that discovery caused a knee-jerk reaction to their dubious takeover with the new guard seizing nine of the 12 positions on AWARE’s executive committee. It was subsequently revealed that 80 of the 102 the election attendees turned out to be newbies who had joined AWARE in recent months.

More unhappiness and tension escalated when Dr Thio Su Mien, the self-styled “Feminist Mentor” revealed that she was the person responsible for the takeover. Later, it was also found that she and several of the new elected leaders were members of a same church.

Out-of-depth in relating

Secondly, many members were left disappointed in how Ms Lau and her team was not able to answer many of the questions asked at the EGM.

It was reported that even though members kept asking to “please give me the right of reply”, the new guard stuck mainly to statements that had been already released to the media.

For instance, when queried on their stand on homosexuality, Ms Lau sidestepped the issue and maintained that AWARE would remain a secular society that would provide support to homosexual women.

One well-known blogger, Yawning Bread who was observing at the EGM made an interesting comment describing like-minded Christians supporters of Ms Lau at the EGM displaying “an over-earnest politeness in speech and demeanour, punctuated by frequent invocations of blessings and goodwill”.

He further commented that this behavioural pattern was the result of ‘brain-washing’. He wrote that “they were likely people who were uncomfortable with conflict and ambiguity, whose personality is such that they prefer order and hierarchy”.

I think with such encounters with Christians, it is not surprising that the world perceives us as being sheltered, anti-homosexual or judgemental.

Reasons for the gap

I believe that this gap between the Church and the world is caused because for too long we as Christians have loved people with a conditional love.

It is sad that we, Christians are known more for whom we hate rather than whom we love.

Too often, we have been too quick to judge and only choose to love readily those that are similar to us or who share closely to our beliefs and lifestyle.

Another reason might be us being too pre-occupied with church-related activities or ministries that have unknowingly drawn us away from the lost or unchurch.

Ironically, these activities or ministries have lost their original intent but have become self-serving and losing its relevance and effectiveness in reaching out to the lost and unchurch.

Whether intentionally or not, this has caused the Church to be out of touch with the world; losing our ability to identify and relate  compassionately towards the lost and unchurch.

Time to love radically and be the Church

We should not merely confine our love within the Christian community. Like Jesus, we must engage the culture we live in and start radically loving and serving people beyond the “four walls of the church”.

When we are IN the world serving others and not in isolation away from others, we’ll be in a better position to respond and address any moral or social issue in their early stage. This avoids any unnecessary knee-jerk reaction from us.

More importantly, we will be able to earn the credibility to lead in addressing such issues and avoid the same awkward situation that the new guard found themselves in when questioned during the EGM.

“Where were you when women were abused and battered in the home, and the girls raped?

“Where were you when children and husbands of Singapore women were denied citizenship?”

“Where were you? You were not there.”

WHERE IS THE CHURCH?

The Church: Renewed and Relevant

I chanced upon an interesting entry written to describe the present state of the Church in this 21st century. If you love His Church, I believe you will find this a thought-provoking and soul-searching read:

Among the ranks of the frustrated are members of Christ’s fold seeking a deeper walk of faith. Other Christ-followers have doubt, unanswered questions and, quite frankly, do not feel fed by the current vision under which the Church is operating.

One of the most significant challenges to today’s Church is to find ways to address the legitimate needs of these congregants.

Church leaders can no longer afford to turn a deaf ear to the issues raised by Christians who are less than satisfied with the status quo.

Given the context of the post-modern culture in which the Church now exists, to minimize the spiritual needs of these well-intended seekers is to invite death.

The great paradox here is the fact that the world today needs the Church more than ever. However, it needs a vital, vibrant and service-oriented church that is committed to carrying out Christ’s work in this post-modern age.

As Christ-followers, we are called to continue incarnating his life in the world. That is the fundamental duty of the Church and I look around and see that, although well meaning, we are not doing a very good job of it.

Many churches and many Christians are anything but “living epistles” or a “pleasant aroma.”

Read the full entry here>>>

The Divide Between the Church and the Marketplace

In my humble opinion, I think many churches in this present age function with a dualism that divides life and ministry into sacred and secular compartments.

Because of this, many of us followers of Christ unknowingly or knowingly grow up adopting a “only work in church and church-related ministries are spiritual” attitude.

This also forms a perception that   church-related ministries  or activities are of greater interest or importance to God when compared to secular activities.

The great divide

If we seriously take a quick glance across churches, we will find that majority are spending most of their time and money in equipping members to do church ministries.

Not that there’s anything wrong in doing so, but I think we have sincerely overlooked the fact that most of us followers of Christ are actually spending most of our time outside the church.

But the real pressing need is for us believers to be equipped for the marketplace.

Jesus in the marketplace

Re-visiting and studying  the life of Jesus Christ and His ministry while He was on earth should help us understand the essence of Christianity.

When we follow Jesus, we have a higher chance of  living out the faith out and walking in His will as originally designed for our relationship with God.

Statistics show that out of 132 public appearances made by Jesus, 122 of them were in the marketplace. Out of the 52 parables He had told, 45 had a marketplace context. Out of the 33-plus years He lived, most of His adult life was a carpenter.

He demonstrated for us a living faith that bridged the so-called spiritual and secular seamlessly.

Christians in the marketplace

I think it is clear that it is not enough to equip the clergy for the church. We need to equip all of God’s people for all of life. We need to equip Christians for the marketplace.

In this context, marketplace refers to anywhere outside the four walls of the church. And that’s the place where our faith needs to be lived out as everyday, that’s where we need to cope with the opportunies and temptations in our workplace and in our home.

Hence, if we are spending most of our time living only in the so-called spiritual world, what earthly use will we have to His cause?

Our work in the office or at home is as much God’s work as evangelism and praying for the sick.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31

If we desire to see the universal Church fully embracing and living out God’s original mandate for humankind to manage His creation, then churches need to teach, model, pray and provide relational support towards a balanced theology towards of life and work.

Some Insights for a Marketplace Minister

Recently, I was re-visiting the book of Daniel and was led to some interesting insights from the marketplace standpoint.

In chapter 1 from verses 3 to 4, it mentioned that the king ordered to bring in some Israelites to serve in his palace and these were the pre-requisites: “young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand.”

Lesson One- Outward appearance matters

I believe in this list of pre-requisites that the king was looking are similar qualities that our employers or bosses look for in promoting us or entrusting us for higher tasks.

Likewise, whether we are employees or not but as business-owners, we should strive to have this qualities as this would lead us towards upward mobility for higher influence.

Notably, physical appearance was highlighted by God citing that Daniel was handsome. Much to conventional christian thinking where heart is more important than looks, this provides an added perspective that looks do matter. If it didn’t, it would not have been included in this passage.

This means that as marketplace ministers, it is equally important that we pay attention to our outward appearance where we’re well-groomed. As people will normally judge our personality and character from our appearance, therefore we should dress to impress in order to impact positively.

I believe this is true as there have been many examples that I have personally witnessed where the boss did not appreciate the good work of his staff just because he (the boss) didn’t like his face or his style. Or how someone who dresses sloppily does not pass a job interview or sales pitch in spite of having a good portfolio.

Lesson Two- Attitude seals the deal

It was only after getting pass the physical test (as indicated by the order of pre-requisites), the king was then able to look further into the inward traits of desire for learning, being well-informed and quick to understand.

This clearly shows that we need to be people that keep learning and improving on the job. Employers are looking for people who display competence and a spirit of excellence that are ready and quick to produce and contribute to their ‘kingdom’ or organisation.

Having these inner traits speaks of forward-thinking people, who do not wait for things to happen, but make things happened because they see the things ahead that are coming their way.  With their progressive intelligience, they are able to respond and not react to the changing market forces.

Like Daniel who was able to interpret visions and dreams, as effective marketplace people we should also be able to interpret the trends in our industry. For example, understanding the trends would help in identifying the opportunities that might be present ahead and to seize it before our competitors do.

This simply means that we also be thinkers who give solutions to problems and not merely doers with our jobs.

Conclusion- My personal prayer

Many of us usually hope to see changes in our results or outcome, but I have come to discover more and more than it begins with ourselves first. It begins in redefining who we are, and upping our commitment to ‘play the game’ in the marketplace as a professional.

Once our thoughts and attitude changes, our actions changes, and so do our results.

With these simple insights, I pray that I will avoid complacency at work by just meeting the basic expectations. I want to strive in exceeding the normal expectations by putting more effort in taking my work to another new level with God’s anointing.

I believe every word that is written in the bible is inspired by God, is meant to teach you and me invaluable lessons for living successfully.

Impetus of the Contemporary Church Movement

During the Asia Conference, a well-known pastor called the leader of a local mega-church a driving force for the transition of the Asian Church from a traditional model to a contemporary one.

THE CHRISTIAN POST
By Edmond Chan

When the pastor asked Pringle about how the Asian Church can transit from a traditional church to a contemporary one, the latter replied, “Two words: Kong Hee.”

Kong, who founded the mega-church 19 years ago, is known for his emphasis on fulfilling the Cultural Mandate – a movement by which the Church attempts to penetrate society and transform it.

The pastor, who leads his church with his personality and gift of preaching, believes that the key to church growth lies in the importance of the leadership of the pastor. A pastor, according to him, needs to be effective in communicating the vision of the church to its members, and in motivating members through his or her messages.

Evangelism is also high on the agenda of the 44-year old church leader, who believes in mobilising his masses to spread the Gospel where they are based in the workplace and even in closed groups normally inaccessible to ordinary people.

He adapted this concept of “3rd Space” from author Erwin McManus, which explains Christianity in terms of space and how we need to connect with people in their space and help them to experience God.

Read the full article here>>>

The New Era of His Church in Asia

Wow… I am still reeling with the Spirit’s fire from last week’s smashing Asia Conference.

It was an awesome privileged to be part of this historical 5-day event and to be imparted by some of the world’s servant leaders of God.

Their sessions (including the controversial Benny Hinn’s) really expanded my paradigm of God’s word and God at work. 

The rising of His Church

For certain, God is rising His Church to a whole new dimension of anointing that many of us have not seen  or experience before. The kind of anointing that we only read in the book of Acts and only heard about at the Azusa Street in the early 1900’s.

The era is coming where the Church will no longer be regarded as an out-of-touch or irrelevant religious white elephant that has been confined to the ‘back of the room’ of society for too long.  

The Church will come in such power in the coming times that our world will start to pay attention to what She will have to say pertaining to every matters in the arena of government, education, business, arts & entertainment and mass media. 

Getting ready for this rise

What our governments of Asia have failed to do, the Church will succeed; in uniting Asia as one. In time to come, Asia will be one people with one mandate. Through that mandate, economies and political borders will be flattened.

The question for many of us is to what part do we want to play in this? Or will we let this slip through our fingers and leave it for the next generation to take responsibility.

I for one aspire to do my part and fulfill my responsibilities of His mandate in my generation. I do not think there is always an opportunity where we can be part of something great which will leave a mark in the history of mankind for His glory.

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.

Isiah 54:2

Brace yourselves and get ready to catch the next wave of the Holy Spirit’s wind.

Developing Your Reputation for Christ

Many of us overlook the importance of developing our reputation. This reputation should be one that displays a strong character and a sharp mind; one that adds to our value in the eyes of those around us.

If we believe we are ambassadors of Christ, we are to be conscious of our reputation because it can either be good or bad.

Being ambassadors of Christ

According to some definitions, an ambassador is a high ranking official representative of their country. He is someone who clearly understands the value, history and philosophy of his nation and puts his country’s interest above his own. 

Likewise, as Christians we need to imbibe the spirit, the power, the philosophy, the sense of purpose and the mission of the kingdom of God. We are sent out into our world to represent that kingdom.

This leads us to some hard questions we need to ask ourselves:

“What reputation am I building within the marketplace?”

“Am I known to be reliable or unreliable?”

“Does my reputation enable me to effectively bring the gospel across to others?”

“Or are my words and actions a constant stumbling block that hinders others from approaching Christ?”

Like it or not, we all have a responsibility as individuals to strive to grow and develop ourselves in all areas where required such as our character, intelligence and competence related to our profession. Even more so a greater responsibility for us Christians who are called to represent His kingdom.

Living out this privileged responsibility

As famously quoted from St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel at all times and used words only when necessary.”

In order to win people to Christ, we first have to win them to us. We can’t expect others to want to know more about our faith if we cannot even get them past who we are and what we stand for.

So let’s live out our responsibility and not let reputation ‘just happen’ to us. We need to build it intentionally; knowing the kind of person that we want to be and going to work on being that person.

If we want people to trust us, then we need to work on our trustworthiness as someone who gets the job done. Credibility comes from reputation which instills confidence towards our words, actions and choices.

Your reputation is a revelation of your character.