“The Shack”: an Asian pastor’s opinion

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Surprise runaway bestseller

I have just finished runaway bestseller “The Shack” by William P. Young. I like the fact that it was a self-published book and no established secular or Christian publisher wanted to touch it with a ten foot pole. So with $300 and a word of mouth marketing strategy and the power of the internet, the book remained number one on the New York bestseller list for months. It has sold 11 million copies and has been translated into about 30 languages. Everybody loves an underdog who becomes top dog story, including me. It gives us hope.

It took me some time to read the book. It was passed to me in July by a pastor friend during my vacation at the OMF bungalow. I finished the book only last week.

Its a fictional novel that conveys truths about the triune God, suffering, forgiveness, how God wants to heal and relate to us. I would rate it 3 out of 10 as literature, but 8.5 out of 10 for its power to connect with the post modern soul.

Opinions are poles apart

I googled to read up what others have said about this book. I already heard that the book drew lots of bouquets as well as bricks. Many wrote heartwarming testimonies of life changes while others burned it at the stake. Even among well known pastors, professors and writers the opinions are poles apart. Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver said, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” did for his. It’s that good.”  Michael W. Smith, songwriter and singer said, “The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God..” Dr Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said, “This book contains undiluted heresy”  and Mark Driscoll, the famous pastor of Mars Hill church in Seattle said, “Regarding the Trinity, it is actually heretical.” I have no idea what Simon Cowell said.

Right-brained and left-brained opinions

The opinions of these esteemed men displayed the contrast in views of the right-brained and left-brained readers. The former two read with right-brained creative, intuitive, arty eyes and interpreted it according to its genre, giving it its due artistic latitude, leaving the soul of the book intact. The latter left-brained folks dissected the book with logic, reason, systematization and and the surgeon’s knife of doctrinal precision, identifying the viruses that made the cadaver infectious. The former helps us to see possibilities, gives us the freedom to explore and seek truth, to struggle with dissonance, be frustrated with ambiguity, and search further until conviction grows. The latter seems to stifle exploration of faith, and want to keep everybody safe, orthodox and sound in the doctrine – and that is not all wrong either.

Connects to the postmodern mind

The Shack has a great appeal to this post-modern generation and attempts to answer questions they are asking about suffering, God, the afterlife, church, truth, life and forgiveness. It connects powerfully at gut level. Unlike left-brained, linear books that turn off a visual-fed people with rigid deduction and patronizing didactic outlines, the Shack is more like Jesus’ way of communicating eternal realities: the story. It is a doorway inviting people to explore theology, yes, I said theology. Today people only want pragmatic and practical lists of “how to” sermons and books.  There is a dearth of thinking and meditating about God, doing theology as laypeople. This book has the potential of tempting laypeople to leave the shore of shallow Christian cliches’ and sail beyond familiar waters. I would urge you explore this ocean with a reliable map or navigator.

To read or not to read

Should I read the book? Don’t be swayed by the opinions and reviews of others. Get one and read it yourself. Enjoy the ride with the first read, and if it doesn’t spoil the fun, underline the parts that make theological statements and struck you . In your second reading, go to those highlighted portions and compare it with a left-brained, conservative viewpoint (this is the map) like this detailed review done HERE by Tim Challies, and have a lively discussion or meditation with yourself, a friend or a group. Do not be afraid of theological exploration and debate and ambiguity. Let the journey enrich and deepen your faith.

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Chew Chor Meng: finding the True Way

Lord salvation belongs to you!All Time Favourite Artiste Award

“Chew started his career in MediaCorp Studios after winning Star Search in 1990, a bi-annual nationwide talent search. Since then, he has never failed to make it to the Top 10 Most Popular Male Artistes in Star Awards, an award ceremony for TV personalities, since its inception in 1994. In 2004, Chew was awarded the All Time Favourite Artiste Award as he had garnered a record of 10 popularity awards.

Chew is able to immerse himself so well into his characters that viewers often have a lasting impression of his roles. This was evident when he bagged the Best Actor Award in Star Awards 2000 in Hainan Kopi Tales. His popularity has also spread across the causeway as he was voted the Most Popular MediaCorp Male Artiste in Malaysia.

Converted to Christ

Chew is married to Deon Tan and they have two daughters, born in 2002 and 2004. He revealed during a celebrity talk show in early 2008 that he did not have a happy childhood, often being abused by his overly strict father (a compulsive gambler), who committed suicide when Chew was still in primary school. He began attending a Charismatic church, Renewal Centre from 2007 and was baptized in late November 2008 with his daughters.

Limping while filming

On December 19, 2008, Chew announced during a church event that he was suffering from Kennedy’s disease, a muscular dystrophy illness that resulted in him limping while filming for his latest role as Wang Zhongkun in Love Blossoms II. Chew said that he was diagnosed with the illness in September 2008, and that he alerted the local press as to his condition, but asked the press to not report it yet, as he was psychologically not ready for it. Chew originally planned on officially announcing his illness during the Star Awards 2008 ceremony, due to be held in March 2009. However, signs of his illness can be clearly seen already, and the news was hard to keep under wraps. The illness has also brought on cardiac problems and diabetes for Chew.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Here is his testimony in audio.

Chew Chor Meng from teachhisword on Vimeo.

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Chuck Swindoll wary of ‘corporatization’ of church

I have been pastoring since 1980 and there is a trend that I have observed: an increasing “corporatization” of the churches in Singapore. This is partly down to the fact that many lay leaders come from the corporate background and are successful in the MNCs or big local companies. When they are appointed leaders in the church they naturally think that what works to make the company a success must surely make the church a success too.

Some of the so called “best practices” of companies actually have spiritual parallel in biblical values. Forming high performance teamwork is a case in point. The church is the body of Christ and the members perform different functions according to the grace given by Christ. They work together, complementing and respecting one another, for “high performance” and growth of the community. Leadership in church should work well with a good gift mix and deep respect and mutual submission in the team.

However, there are some practices that do more harm than good when introduced from the corporation to the church. I shall not elaborate on these. For now, just read what Chuck Swindoll, respected evangelical pastor, best selling author, seminary president and mentor of pastors has to say on this:

I have discovered three principles and three imperatives I believe all churches should examine and apply. The first principle is this: clear, biblical thinking must override secular planning and a corporate mentality. And the imperative? Think spiritually! However well-organized our churches become, we must give priority to biblical rather than to secular thinking. In the first-century church, there were no secular organizational structures or church politics. There was no guru of authority or “chairman” of anything. There were no power grabs from control freaks. There were no personal maneuverings, infightings, financial squabbles, or turf protection. Instead, it was a place where a spiritual emphasis took precedence over the world’s way of doing things.

What does this look like when applied today? For starters, our teaching needs to be biblically based and spiritually inclined. Our Sunday school classes, adult fellowships, and small-group instruction gatherings need to center on the teaching of the Bible and spiritual lessons. Our songs and our hymns should have spiritual content. Our counseling ministry needs to be derived from the Spirit’s revelation in the Scriptures. Our relationships with one another need to have spiritual priorities—intimate fellowship where people can trust one another. The church ought to be the one place where spiritual thinking overrides everything else—all those battles we fight within the marketplace. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the Head of the church. The church is a spiritual entity.

To read more go to his blog post HERE.

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