Monthly Archives: March 2013
The Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. How true this is. Yet we often struggle to give. We often want more for ourselves. We demand a bigger house and invest in more properties. We want a new car and more holidays. We want more savings and more investments as well. There’s no end to this. We just desire to have more and more.
In our mind, our wants have become our needs. We rationalize that we cannot live without those things. All thanks to the media and marketing strategies. Many things have become things we cannot live without today. Just take handphone for example, who would imagine that it would become something we are so addicted too. It has become something we must carry along wherever we go. To some, it is the first thing and last thing we see everyday.
I wonder if this trend also applies to church building. Churches today are spending more and more money to beautify their church buildings. Church is no longer a simple building. There are many different designs to attract people to come. It seems that we are trying to build King Solomon’s temple of yesterday. Though members can give generously, certain things may not be necessary. There may be much more we can do with those money.
The Lord was born in a manger. He shows us the house He choose to dwell. It was no longer the glamorous temple but just a small and humble manger. As such, we may need to evaluate what we are putting into the church building today. While it is good to give, it may be also appropriate for us to think for what cause are we giving.
For those who have not give much, let us learn to give more to God. Invest more in the kingdom of God rather than in the world. Make sure whatever we do have a value in the kingdom of God, don’t just keep more for ourselves. Not everything needs upgrade all the time. Don’t make our lives too enjoyable lest it become our comfort zone and we forget that we are not of this world.
For those who have been giving, make sure it is for a good cause. There are some places with too much resources and others with little. There’s a need to redistribute. Many a times, people just give to big names. Sometimes, people don’t even care about the false teachings are preaching. Just because they are great charismatic speakers, people give unreservingly but blindly. I call for discernment before we give. Make sure every cent counts in the kingdom of God. Don’t use it for satan or for the world.
If we are to grow in obedience to God, there are three things that we should look into:
1) Right intention. God weighs our heart. He knows the intention deep within. We need to have a right intention if we are to please God. It concerns whether our thinking is in line with the principles and values of God.
2) Right thing. With so many choices on hand, it is becoming more difficult to make the right choice. It is often said that we need to do the right thing, at the right time, at the right place and say the right words. Some of us may have the right intention, but we may not have choose the right thing to do. We need the wisdom of God to help us choose the right thing to do so that we would not break the commandments of God.
3) Right way. After knowing what is right to do. We still have to decide how to do it. We may be able to choose the right things, but are we able to do the things right? Like it or not, there are many ways of doing things. If we always choose to do things our way, we are unlikely to be sensitive to others. While right intention check our thinking and choosing the right thing check our actions towards God, doing things the right way check our attitudes and actions towards people. This is because God did not just commanded us to love Him but also to love our neighbour as ourselves. Disregarding the feelings of others may not just provoke others but it may even cause people to be less receptive to the things we say. We experience this most in the way people are sharing the Gospel. Even with right intention, many people are put off because of the insensitive way we present the Gospel.
Let us ask God to sanctify our thoughts so that we have the right intention. May we also have the wisdom to choose the right thing that pleases God and finally, the sensitivity towards others to do things the right way.
These days, we often see churches having a lot of activities. Even churches smaller in size also run many programs, sometimes beyond what the members can cope. This is a worrying phenomenon that need to be addressed. Here are some reasons:
1) Over fatigue. Many ministers are suffering from fatigue, some at the expense of their health. Some have even wrecked their own family because of too much serving. The case is similar to the lay people as well. Besides their secular vocation, they are also actively involved in the church. As a result, they are suffering from fatigue as well. It is good to serve God actively, but not to the extent of over-commit. It should be what we are able to manage and cope. It is not wise to sacrifice your health and family for the sake of God because God has never intend it to be this way.
2) Encourage false spirituality. Due to a shortage of manpower in the church, believers are put up to serve very quickly. Some have not even finished their follow-up. Of course, there are leaders who think that they would grow as they serve. But the truth is that the leaders often get too engrossed in the serving that they forget to look after the spiritual growth of the believers. This is especially true for those with certain talents like playing keyboard or guitar. The believers get to play the instruments before they know what worship is about or how to worship while playing. Some end up merely showing off their talents. We need to understand that most believers come from a background thinking that ‘to believe is to do’ mindset. This is not the kind of working faith that James was taking about but the pharisical faith that Jesus was against. It is a faith without a genuine relationship with Jesus. The focus is on doing rather than being. In fact, believers can think that serving God can gain favour from God and earn them a place in heaven. This kind of serving made them think that they are spiritual. But inside them, they are really hollow. It is time to do a reality check. Regularly pick a few believers who are very active in check and ask them about their spiritual life, we may be surprised to find some not spending time with God. We must be careful not to put people up too fast to serve. We may be killing them spiritually. It is just not possible to eat the fruits from a tree without waiting for it to grow. We may be just taking fruits from the old tree.
3) Compromise discipleship. With so many programs and activities, both the leaders and believers can hardly breathe. Even if they have the time, they would meet to discuss the programs rather than discipling. Well, the believers may be in some discipleship classes I supposed, but it may not be enough. Most disciples do not get transform as a result of attending some classes. They changed because of the people who walk along side with them. This is Jesus’ method. Serving God should not compromise discipleship but should complement it. We need to pace the believers correctly rather than letting them serve too much.
Serving God can part of the discipleship process, and it should be. But please be reminded that serving without discipling can take place too. It is like doing good without having a relationship with Jesus. It is like doing a lot of charity without spending time with our parents. Serving God should be done in the context of discipleship. It may time that we break away from our driven mentality be more deliberate about discipleship. Don’t just anyhow get people to fill in those places of service.
Whenever people talk about the Great Commission, they often use it to talk about the mandate to reach the lost. We use it to preach about the urgency to evangelise to the lost world. Indeed, it is the heartbeat of God to save the lost. There is also a great sense of urgency to accomplish this task. However, to take the Great Commission as a mandate to evangelise is not enough. In fact, we can also see the Great Commission as a mandate for discipleship.
Christ’s last word was not to go and evangelise but to go and make disciples. This discipleship process instituted by the Lord is often overlooked. We forget that Christ’s goal was not bringing people to church but to train them as disciples. They are to be baptised and trained to obey the commandments of God. This is not to say that the church today is short of discipleship programs. I believe there are many to choose from. But the process of disciple making is often left to the work of Sunday school classes or cell groups that focus on biblical knowledge, spiritual discipines or simply fellowship. The disciples may know more and even practice various spiritual disciplines. But that does not mean that we are becoming more Christ-like. There are issues of character and worldview that may not have dealt with. There are just certain things that are beyond the classrooms. No wonder Jesus never confined Himself to teach in a synagogue. He spent His time walking around and used life issues to teach the disciples.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that biblical training is not important. But there are a few points that I would like to bring out through this:
1) Relook at the Great Commission. Due to the pressure for church growth, we have use this mandate lopsidedly. We press for evangelism, but less on discipleship. Where in fact, we may be able to say that evangelism is part of the discipleship process. Therefore we should not use the Great Commission to over-emphasize on only evangelism. It must include discipleship. For if we fail to make Christ-centred disciples who are obeying the commandments of God, rightfully speaking, we can say that we have not accomplished the Great Commission even if we have a massive attendence every meeting.
2) Reprioritise the use of our time. Like it or not, ministers spend a lot of their time forming committees, attending and chairing meetings, conducting rituals, teaching adult classes, preparing sermons and preaching the Gospel. We are left with very little time for discipleship. We do not have time like Jesus to talk casually with His disciples and discussed issues with them at their most teachable moments. We have become busier than Jesus and the result is that we have the least time to do the most important job. Jesus commanded us that making disciples is the most important task. We need to reprioritise the use of our time if we are really serious about the Great Commission. We cannot just be pleased with having lots of people attending our church every Sunday. We need to spend time discipling them especially the next generation of leaders.
3) Rethink our programs. Are we having too much programs that discipleship cannot take place naturally? People need to connect in a natural environment. From there, discipleship can take place among the people naturally. Not just from leaders to members, but also among members themselves. Though having classes can solve a lot of our problems but they must definitely be coupled with meaningful relationship. If not, we would only be giving knowledge and building spiritual disciplines without inner life transformation. It may be a good practice to evaluate how much percent of our training is placed on character and worldview transformation besides the usual biblical knowledge and ministry skills. Our programs should facilitate and encourage discipleship. Don’t run programs for programs sake. We may even have to delete certain programs that are taking up too much of our time.
Let us re-align our church according to the purpose of God as we take a fresh look at the Great Commission again.