The Culture of Christian Leadership

Recently a number of friends have been telling me about how they found it unhelpful to be pressured into becoming a leader for certain ministries in their respective churches or other Christian organizations and circles. It was hearing about these attitudes being passed around by Christians which made me reflect on the nature of Christian leadership in our culture, and how at times it seems to be steadily deviating from the picture of the leadership that the Bible paints. Note that I am in particular talking about my experiences in my home city; and they may not necessarily reflect the Christian culture in other parts of the world.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Non-Stop Road

Lots to go through in this post; but let me start with something less relevant just to get the ball rolling.

 

Today’s title is brought to you by an anime airing this season called “Natsuiro Kiseki” (A Summer-Coloured Miracle), quite a nice title with a nice slice-of-life storyline; and awesome voice actors who perform the opening and ending themes – I’ve always liked how Japanese anime like to get the voice actors of the main characters to also perform the music for that anime (the most well-known for doing so is probably “K-On”). Nevertheless I really like the song, here’s the opening clip:

 

Full Time Ministry (Prelude #1)

Another question I get asked quite often is whether I will go into full time ministry. Each time I’ve given the same answer but it was never an answer that I felt fully confident about; as in, it didn’t feel like an answer that correctly portrayed my feelings and thoughts about the issue. And I don’t expect people to get it when I say that I have a feeling that I’ll be doing full ministry in the future, just not now. I guess if I had to describe what I mean by that, I would probably draw upon the “gut feeling” that Mandy tells me about. It’s kind of like that. Confused? I am too.

 

But apart from that I think this semester at university has given me much to think about in terms of full time ministry. All of you will know that I had a busy semester (still having – it’s not over yet) but only few of you will  know to what extent I’ve been busy. And that’s fine. Given my restriction on time I haven’t really been able to share my daily life with many people, and that is quite saddening at times. Nonetheless, I think looking back at everything this semester, I’ve come to a strong temporary conclusion about full time ministry. Strong, as in I feel “strongly” about it, as described above. And “temporary” as in my decision may change later on.

 

For now, I will not go into full time ministry. I see the desperate need for it, but for now, I don’t think it is for me. Does that mean I’ll give up ministry entirely? Obviously not. I’ll definitely keep doing ministry at my church after I graduate, it just won’t be a full time thing. As for the reason behind it, I’m glad people gave me examples of reasons to think over. Have I been “called” by God to do it? Sure, I guess I can say that. Is it a money issue? Not exactly but it does make me hesitate a bit, not enough to put me off full time ministry. Then what is it?

 

I’ve come to realise that full time ministry seems to mean ministering to people all the time. I take one look at my pastor and I see he is doing just that. That’s not something I can do. Relating to people all the really isn’t something I can do, especially if it’s with people I’m not familiar with. Now that’s different to work. There is no expectation for me at “work” to keep a strict guard over my behaviour and to evangelise, train and encourage my workmates. Sure, they are great things, but in the workplace, they would not be my primary tasks. Not doing them would be okay. I guess in other words, the responsibility of full time ministry is too great for me to carry.

 

Over this semester, my godliness has taken a great hit. Of course most of you on the front end aren’t really exposed to my negativity, but there are people back stage who cop a lot of my venting, like my parents for instance; those people know who they are. And just having that pressure of needing to be a “holy” person in front of everyone all the time is just too much this semester. Yes, of course you say to me that there’s no expectation to be perfect, and indeed full time ministers are not perfect all the time. However, you definitely cannot swing to the other extreme whereby if you are tired or stressed you just let it out at whoever is present; everyone knows you can’t do that. There will be a breaking point for each person whereby they won’t be able to hold it in, sure. However, nobody else knows where that point is. And for the people we don’t see breaking down much, we tend to think that they can handle a lot of stress. So in a sense, the higher you go, the harder you’ll fall when you break down.

 

I honestly don’t think I’ll be ready in the short term for full time ministry, there is much honing in my attitude to be done over the coming years before I will consider it again. I’ve said it before that this was my busiest semester to date, and I honestly do feel disappointed at how hard a struggle it has been, not only to get all my work done, but also to get it done in a godly way. I think at the end of each week it’s been so hard that I can’t even keep my lips in check for one hour while playing badminton with my high school friends. I don’t really have an excuse for that, and as such if the same thing were to happen while I was in full time ministry, it just wouldn’t be good for anyone who was caught in that situation.

 

One line summary? I will not do full time ministry (for now) because I am not “perfect” enough.

 

I predict I’ll get the answer: “But you need to rely on God to be “perfect” and not on your own strength”. Sure, at the moment I don’t really have much of an answer to that to formulate a decisive point, so I’ll probably give an answer to the first few people who ask. But after that I’ll probably get tired of it, so if I reject answering the above question please don’t feel offended. I think this will do for now.

RICE Regenerate

In light of me missing out on NTE, went out to RICE Regenerate instead on Saturday night. It was really rushed for me, having to come out of work straight away and head down to the city. As with all RICE events, the “advertised” start time of 7pm actually means a 7:30pm start. It was held at the Wesley Mission Centre. I’ve really heard of churches that are dead centre in the city; but well, there’s a few.

 

After I got off the train at Town Hall, I came across people who were also going; but although they called out my name, I actually didn’t remember their names. All I knew was that I served with them at the actual RICE event earlier this year. We bought our tickets at about 6:30 and then went back to have dinner. We had about several hundred people come to RICE Regenerate; it’s weird seeing all these old people there: men and women who were at best first year uni, all the way up to people in their late 20s.

 

 

 

The night was chaired by Peter Ko, and our theme for the night was “Treasuring Jesus”. Essentially, the topic was exploring how we can keep our passion for Jesus burning as we age and potentially lose our desire to serve Jesus that we might’ve done when we were younger. We had a testimony from a guy who funnily enough was also called Malcolm Turnbull; spelling might’ve been a bit different. He’s been in a wheelchair for several decades. He was telling us his story of how Jesus had comforted him for those years of his life and stuff; it was pretty encouraging.

 

Later, we had someone show us their Facebook profile page; can’t remember the reason for it, and it might have been a set-up, some guy who had several fan pages and other weird embarrassing posts. Our speaker for the night was none other than Al Stewart; I only ever saw him in that DVD about apologetics. He’s a pretty funny guy when he starts telling us his anecdotes and such. His talk was based around the passage where Jesus goes up to a few people to ask them to follow him, but they give excuses and don’t do it straight away.

 

SAM_0035_Edited 

 

He raised points about being committed and not just involved in ministry. His analogy for that was bacon and eggs. The two main “ingredients” for that is a pig and a chicken. The chicken is involved because it lays the egg, but the pig is committed because it IS the bacon. I suppose that one thing we can all think about when we next serve God; just how much it is we are giving ourselves for some part of ministry, whether it’s our whole, or just partial contribution.

 

After the talk, there was a half hour session where everyone was allowed to have time to respond to what we just heard. They had several room, including a net cafe place where people could post on Facebook and twitter how they’ve been changed by the Word of God; such typical 21st century attitude. There was also praise, a letter room where you write a letter to yourself, and a solitude room, a prayer room; and the Al Stewart room where he would answer any questions that we had. It was pretty popular and heaps packed.

 

Most of the questions were indeed relating to ministry, seeing as how it is probably the greatest way you can devote your life to God; how we should approach it, when we should do it, what about money, what about generosity, stuff like that. Al basically said that we should go into ministry when we feel willing to do so and especially not out of obligation. There wouldn’t be much of a point because your heart isn’t in it and so you won’t be serving as best as you can; much the same as working in a field where you have no interest in. His comment on generosity was that rather than follow the “tithe” method and giving a 10th of all we own. Rather it would probably be about when we start to “feel the burn” from giving.

 

SAM_0029_Edited

 

And the night pretty much ended after that; it was pretty late by the time we ended. What I got out of the night is perhaps more direction in what I should be doing in service for God; and at the current time it most definitely is not ministry. I’m more than happy to commit further into what I am doing: in church, in CBS, and my other devotions; and only consider ministry at a later time when the door is properly opened for me. Sorry this post came a bit late; it should be up after I come back from NTE mission.

Mini-RICE Evangelical

No, this has nothing to do with RICE at all; it was the only title I could think of  with the energy I have left at 11:30pm at night. Tonight, Lillian invited me and a number of people from Baulko out to this “Jesus Loves You” church out in Blacktown, where they were having an evangelical night for their youth group, at least I think that’s what it was; Lillian didn’t tell me much about what was happening, she just told me to come.

 

Strange enough it was  Pilipino church, first time I’ve ever been to one, there are many other single-culture churches that I haven’t been to, so it was a good experience tonight. I guess I do liken the evangelical event as a RICE-like thing. We arrived a tad late but already they were pumping music with lots of people bobbing up and down to it. I know it would’ve seemed strange to people who aren’t used to a church environment, surely I wasn’t either before. The last time I saw anything as “wild” as this was the church camp that Grace invited me to; still thanking her for letting me have the best 5 days of my life!

 

But yes I was not new to this sort of “wild” Christian activity; funny how you see it hard to associate the crazy rock concert activity with Christianity, who would’ve thought Christians could get this crazy? Shame they played so few songs, and also that I didn’t know any of the songs. But the music was really good; their band was really good I have to admit. One thing that stood out the most was the song leader (lead singer if taken out of context). He was very passionate in his song-leading; he got everyone to sing loudly, he sang really loud himself and he was dancing all over the stage in a fairly controlled manner. This is sort of the type of song-leading I like to see; one who can encourage the congregation to take part enthusiastically. How else are you going to encourage the congregation if you yourself aren’t willing to go crazy too? That’s the sort of effort I admired in him.

 

Afterwards was a short dance type skit which was okay; a copy of RICE much? Funny how the structure of tonight mirrored RICE very closely. I mean we even had a game like after the first round of singing. We played that animal farm game that we played at iLight; four teams, each with a given animal, and one leader for each team who has to find the other animals (who make their respective noises) while everyone is blind-folded. Me and most of our Baulko group took part; I must’ve jinxed something about being a leader because when I drew the piece of paper, I was given “Cow Leader”, deary me…We didn’t win though, yeah I’m a bad captain for this of game haha, I forgot to memorize the size of the room so I lost track of my position and I didn’t reach Vanessa, who was on the other side of the room.

 

We eventually got to the talk; and sadly this is the part which caused some controversy in my mind. I will create a separate post about it. The speaker was rather strange because he preached in an “African American” way, like in “those” type of churches. He constantly used phrases like “you get what I’m saying?” and “check this out”; strange slang like that. But I found his talk rather empty; in fact I couldn’t pick out the structure of his talk, and there didn’t seem to be any flow to it; he just kept ranting about those questions “Why does God let us suffer in this world?” those type of questions; and I don’t think he even answered any one of those questions. Vanessa pointed out that the one he did answer, sort of, was “Where is God?” although I will say he gave little effort in giving a proper answer for that.

 

Afterwards there was more singing; followed by something I would call “open ministry”. It’s hard to define what that is specifically. And somehow I am sort of against it depending on how it is performed. All other forms of “ministry” would be those regular “rituals” adopted by Christianity throughout history, such as the Holy Communion and water baptism. “Open ministry” I guess would be where preachers literally try to call on God, or God’s power, to actually move into people and stir them up. I guess one such account of something like it would be when the tongues of fire descend on the people in Acts.

 

Far be it from me to adopt these strange “rituals”, I don’t personally believe in being able to “call upon God or His power” to physically, or spiritually, do something. Logically I don’t believe in being able to “control” God in that sense; but I guess if God really did want to “move” someone He would do it of His own accord alone, influenced by people’s prayer. But I suppose I have been through something of the sort, this so-called “open ministry”. It was sort of conducted the same way as tonight; it was a chance for new believers to “experience” God and for others to re-new their faith. I will admit that at iLight, I really was moved for the first time in a way which somehow did feel as if God really did do something tangible to me; I don’t know whether such a feeling was emotional or spiritual but I surely felt something that seemed to transcend from God. And as corny as it sounds I did drop to my knees and I grovelled for a good hour amongst others, and I cried with utter remorse, something I’ve never cried over. That was an experience I would never forget.

 

But taking a step back from it now; I’m not sure if I do approve of what did happen to me 2 years ago, knowing what other similar “open ministry rituals” are like. I guess at this point I haven’t reached a conclusion as to whether it is “right” or not, since I did experience it for myself once, and somehow it does in a way convince me that God really can “move” you when you ask Him to. I will find an answer to that one day. Other things that conflict me is the tongues thing, where the preacher calls on God for a person to be filled with the Holy Spirit in a way in which they jabble on in tongues, sounding like jibberish. And another one I’ve encountered was tonight.

 

Practically everyone got up to have their faith re-newed and for God to directly work in them for that moment. Some people apparently were given a soft nudge on their head and they fell backwards, unconscious. Those people woke up like 5-10 minutes later; they were just sprawled over the ground during that time. It was very strange, and now having seen that it’s conflicting to wonder if something like that can actually happen. The idea of “this isn’t right” and “I’m seeing it, though” are two conflicting points which make you either re-assess your beliefs or force you to ignore what was clearly in front of your eyes.

 

But anyway I said I would leave this to another day when I’ve found out more; it was indeed a strange moment seeing “open ministry” conducted in this way; it’s all too confusing. And like usual, everyone was crying and were obviously emotionally moved and possibly spiritually if you weren’t crying but still felt that warmth. Ministry ended with more singing and that was the program for the night. The music finally began to fall flat because they played the same songs again T.T” and they played only one variety of music; hard rock, no soft mellow/emotional music. Not the strongest way to end, I’ve seen better haha. I was sort of disappointed that I couldn’t join in because I just wasn’t sparked by anything that happened. If I did know t he music, and if they had played enough songs and enough variety of songs I’d be full into it as everyone else haha! But on another note one thing is certain, I will never be moved by “open ministry” again. Again I can’t explain it too well but I just feel that people should only be able to go through ministry once; and feel “touched” by God in that way once. And so therefore I don’t think I can ever feel it again, hence I felt fairly indifferent throughout the course of the night.

 

Afterwards we had food, man I was starving then because I hadn’t had dinner yet and it was 9:30pm >.<” and then we chatted for like an hour and such; Philo-Christians are an odd bunch, or maybe it’s because they all grew up in the Blacktown region, where conduct is slightly less controlled; they were hooting and making noises which make them seem like drunks, very disorderly and slightly unfriendly. Adam from the grade above us was talking to me later about the “quality” of churches, quality as in what they teach about the gospel and such. Yes, I am beginning to understand that now. We took a bunch of photos in the carpark, Aaron should post them up soon, jump shots and various other weird photos haha so yeah.