Preaching a good sermon good sermon is never easy. It should accomplish three goals. Firstly, it should convince our heads. Secondly, it should convict our hearts and lastly, it should challenge us to commit our hands. But all these must be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching is not about entertaining but it is about engaging our minds, enlarging our vision and hearts, and enriching our lives. Preaching is not about informing but it is about internalizing the Word of God, igniting our passion and inspiring our lives. May God bless all His servants who have this awesome responsibility.
In missions, we tend to put our focus on the field. We think that God’s purpose is only for us to reach the lost. As such, when we go for mission trips, we pray for the lost and conduct many outreach programmes. Though this purpose of God to reach the lost is evident, we may have neglected another aspect of mission.
Consider the story of Jonah, is God only interested in the salvation of the people in Nineveh or is God also interested in the life of Jonah? God seems to tell us that He is interested in both. In the story, the author was putting a lot of emphasis on Jonah himself. God wanted an obedient messenger to get His message across. God awaited a response from Jonah in order for him to get to work.
Missions is not just about transforming the people in the field, but also transforming the messenger. We have been so task-oriented in missions that we have forgotten about ourselves! How can we miss out such an important purpose of missions. God expects us to be more like Him as we do His work. He is totally interested in us as well as the field. He wants to transform us as much as those people in the field. In fact, God can at times hardened the hearts of the people in order to teach us some lessons. This is especially evident from the lives of the prophets.
Perhaps, we need to reflect more when we go for missions next time. Listen to what God is saying concerning our lives. Let God accomplish the work in the field, but also let Him do the work in us too.
It’s a strange thing, but this happens all the time. We tend to get angry more easily with those people close to us, especially our family members. While we can put on a smiling face with others, we may yell and shout to our wife and our children. Have you ever wonder why?
Firstly, it’s because we let down our guard when we are with people we are close to. We need not put on our mask and act like a nice person. We can be who we are. But this also signals an issue we may need to deal with. This means that we are not transformed from within. The public self is different from the private self. We may have to work more to build our inner character rather than just suppressing our inner self.
Secondly, our expectations are higher for those closer to us. We set a higher standard for them than others. We expect our spouse to understand us in every of our moves and we also expect our children to be more obedient and nicer than the others. As such, when our spouse read our signals wrongly, we flare up. When our children go against us, we get upset and angry. Perhaps, it is time for us to manage our expectations.
The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. But this is not a license to shut up every feedback. The differentiation must be made.
To give thanks in every circumstance means that there is always something that we can thank God for in every situation. In good things or bad things, there is God’s will and purpose in it. We can give thanks to God as He reveals His plan to us.
However, in these circumstances, they may be a result of both good and bad choices. As such, there is room for improvement and change. Giving thanks and feedback can coexist together. Giving feedback does not mean we are not grateful to God. It does not negate what God is doing at all. In fact, it brings our thanksgiving further. Not only can we give thanks for the work God is doing, we can also be responsible to improve and correct the wrong we made.
However, feedback is not negative. It is given to build and not to destroy. We must not use the opportunity to give feedback as a license to criticize others. We should also take note that it is easier to give feedback than receiving feedback. It is always easy to spot something that is not right and question why we did not do it better. But we should also have the humility to receive feedback from others so that we can improve. This exercise can take place both in personal and corporate levels.
Let us be thankful to God in every circumstance, let us also be open to give feedback and receive feedback. This can bring about improvement not only in our church, but also transformation in our personal life.
Things don’t always go our way. But it is during these times that we show who we really are. Is what that is within us really greater than that which is in the world? Or our inner world collapses when things go wrong?
There are some people who tend to run away when things go wrong. They don’t want to face the reality. They try to avoid the situations for fear that they would be reminded of their hurts and pain. They don’t even want to come to God for help. Some just feel too guilty to come near God. However, running away can aggravate the situation and complicate the matter.
Instead of running away, we should run towards God. While God may not give us a direct solution to our situation, He guides us to the right path. He cools us down to grants us sensibility and serenity. He shows us the truth and empowers us to handle the situation.
Next time when something goes wrong as it always will, run towards God, not away from Him.
As the society advances, we work hard to prevent unnecessary hiccups in life. We ensure our transport system goes well, our company runs well and our education system functions well. While it is good to get these systems up and running well, we must remember that they do fail us at times no matter what. There is nothing fool proof and there is no Titanic that even God cannot sink. We need to be realistic about life.
But what is more crucial is how much we can tolerate such inconvenience. We can end up having such a high expectation of the systems that we start to complain whenever something goes wrong. We become intolerant to others’ failures. We think that they should get the job done well. They shouldn’t allow mishaps to happen at all. It’s their responsibility and it’s all their fault.
Secondly, we can become superior. In all these fault picking, we see ourselves as superior to others. We think they should serve us because we pay for the service.
Thirdly, we become inflexible. In a sense, we are handicapped. We do not know how to go round the problem. We do not know how to live with problems. Problems becomes something bad. But this is not necessarily true. The Bible tells us that God uses problems to build us up. Problems can train our patience and shape our character.
All these can have implications on our family. Our children are looking at us all the time. They see how we react to things in life. They would end up expecting us to solve all their problems. We become their servants rather than parents. They would not know how to solve their life problems and expect everything to be perfect. Dear parents, it’s alright to meet with problems, let your children solve theirs too. Let them face the real world and be shaped to be a strong yet flexible generation.
Have you ever wondered why Christians these days seem less committed as compared to the first century Christians? Try to get them to follow you and you may get questioned back. It’s not as simple as Jesus’ call of “follow me” anymore.
Perhaps, one of the most crucial reasons is the lack of preaching and teaching on repentance. Repentance has become a forbidden word in many churches. We focus more on love and grace of God. When we want to talk about repentance, we speak briefly about it. We go around it and dare not talk boldly about it. We don’t even dare to confront the sins directly. We are afraid that we would offend our members and chase them away from church. Gone are the days of John Sung, and the other great preachers.
The impact can be great on the church. Firstly, we compromise the holiness of God. We emphasize on the love and grace of God more than the holiness of God. But our God is a holy God and He calls each of us to be holy. People who truly understand the love of God would respond in holiness. They would repent from their sins. Secondly, we produce weak Christians. When there is a weak call for repentance, we produce carnal believers who are self-centred. They end up living their old lives and indulging in their sins. They remain attention seeking and create disunity in church. This problem also affects the quality of leadership in church. We would, as a result, produce weak leaders to lead the church. This deteriorating phenomenon is a worrying crisis that we need to pay attention to today.
Thirdly, we give a bad testimony to others. We are called to be the light and salt of this world but because of the lack of repentance, we are giving a bad testimony to others. In fact, it is not difficult to see heartbreaking behavior of our fellow believers today. It is really sad to see that some Christians are among the most prideful, snobbish, arrogant, egoistic, grudging people around. They expect others to live for them rather than to live for others. They expect others to wait upon them rather than to serve the people. They complain almost about all things.
We need to bring this word “repentance” back into our dictionary. God is still calling us to repent and live a godly life for Him. Will we be bold enough to heed this call today?
As our audience gets more intellectual, there is a tendency for us to to make our teaching more and more academic. We try to find new “teachings” and new “meanings” from the Bible so that we can impress our audience. But as teachers of the word, we must be extremely careful for we will be judged more stringently than others. We must be careful not to read too much into the word of God. Some can end up expounding every word in a verse. Some use Hebrew and Greek so much that nobody understands. Of course, some actually have little knowledge of these native languages but they just refer to word study guide. But the usual problem is that while only certain nuance is only used in a certain context of the Bible, the teacher gives the whole spectrum of the meaning of the word used. While it may amazed the audience, biblically speaking, it is using a word out of context. The general audience today do not bother much, they just want something interesting. But as a teacher, we need to be careful. We are not called to be entertainers or brain teasers. We are to be faithful to the word and be a good workman approved by God.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am not against Bible study or going deep into the word of God. I am just cautioning against reading too much into the word of God. God has chosen to make certain things plain, so don’t read more than what it should. Anyway, as teachers of the word, we are not here to impress others, but to impress the word of God into the hearts of man. Don’t make the simple things of God complicated, let’s make the complicated simple.
A lot of people know the importance of discipleship. But to carry it out effectively is the challenge. It is not easy to know what content to use. Even when we have good content, it still depends on the discipler to shape and pitch the discipleship process. Here are a few pitfalls to beware of.
Some discipling programmes just too academic. They focus a lot on head knowledge. As such, disciples get to know the Bible well, but they often lack the experience of God and a big heart to serve God. They end up spending too much time arguing about theology and strategy, but hardly got the passion to get things done.
On the other hand, some programmes focus too much on experience. They are usually actively engaging in spiritual warfare. They look for signs and wonders. They pray for healing. They listen to God’s prophetic word. They may even quote a lot of Bible verses. But they are often not properly grounded in biblical theology and principles. They tend to skew towards only a certain aspects of the Bible.
There are those discipling programmes whose main objectives are to get people out to serve. Not that serving is bad, but they miss out the task of shaping the inner man. These people end up running programmes for the church, but they are not renewed from within. Some may still be carnal rather than spiritual.
Some rely too much on their discipleship classes. They just run those programmes again and again, hoping that those classes would make disciples. They just do the same thing every year. But some of these courses may be outdated and warrant a review. They forget to work out discipleship for all their members rather than only those in classes.
A call for reflection and balance
We need to constantly reflect on the things we are doing. We may be very experienced in ministry. But our experience are not always right and we don’t always learn from experience. In fact, our experience can be a hurdle instead. We need to critically review the things we are doing and be courageous to call for a change. There is no point in doing the same old things again and again.
We also need balance. We tend to focus on those areas we are good at. But in discipleship, we need to disciple not just the head, but also the heart and the hands. We need to depend very much on the Holy Spirit to keep us in check all the time.
We often have plans to develop training or courses for the church. We probably have schedule to meet the leaders of the church and hold meeting with them. We may also meet those potential leaders in our midst. But one group of people we tend to miss is our staff. We maybe discipling them while they are not yet staff. But when they come on board and become our staff finally, we start to neglect them. Suddenly we have a lot of expectations on them to perform. We have a lots of work for them to do and follow up. We expect them to do well and show results. We may give comments and feedback but most of the time is about their work and duties. We do little about their character, their values and principles. Well, we may send them to a seminary and hope that the seminary transforms their lives. But it does not go this way most of the time.
We cannot leave the work of discipling or mentoring our staff to an institution or a programme or courses. It must be done in person. Being our staff, they have become the most important people to be mentored and discipled. They should have the priority in our time. Dear leaders, don’t neglect your staff. They are your most important assets in church. They would be your future leaders. Don’t just get them to work. Don’t just expect them to perform. Don’t just want them to show results. Spend time to relate with them and disciple them in their life, not just ministry.