PREACHING SYMPOSIUM @ TTC

The preaching symposium was held on 8,9 March 2018 in celebration of Trinity Theological College’s 70th anniversary. It was one of many other events to be held.

Panel to answer questions n the second day

I saw the publicity information, the titles and speakers at the symposium, and it perked my interest. Topics included: What is Preaching? The Bible and Preaching, Theology of Preaching, Preaching and Liturgy, Preaching as Pastoral Care, Preaching in a Pluralistic Society, and Preaching and Church Growth. The workshops included: Preaching on NT Genre, Preaching on OT Genre, Preaching a word from the Lord, Preaching by Listening to the World, Preaching as Evangelism, and Interest Groups: 1) Preaching to Children 2) Preaching to Youth.

As it turned out more than 400 signed up including the Mandarin version. The English-speaking version was held in the chapel while the Mandarin-speaking version in the multi-purpose hall. I hope the organisers see the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing his servants to this conference. There is a real hunger among pastors to be more effective and faithful in their preaching ministry.

I have always been interested in the craft of preaching and for many decades have read one book a year on average, and even more in some years. So I would consider this symposium as an equivalent to my annual reading.

Anglican Bishop Rennis Ponniah giving his talk

What I liked about it:

The topics were relevant and interesting. They were comprehensive but I came away wishing they had added something about “Preaching and Prayer” and look at the role of silence, solitude and prayer in the formation of the preacher, in sermon preparation, and in gaining insights on Spirit-guided applications. Perhaps another one on, “Preaching to Today’s Audience”.

The panel discussion that answered the questions from the floor were helpful and enlightening. One person asked about the way the preachers in the panel have seen themselves changed in the way they preached today compared to when they first started out. Another great question was about what sea change in the audience that the preachers have observed over their decades of preaching? One answer stood out: today’s church member is consumer-oriented unlike the members from the older generation, who were loyal to their traditions and churches.

The sessions were back to back from morning to late evening, with “no rest for the wicked”. I had to skip a few sessions as I felt over-saturated with information. I also found the session after lunch particularly difficult to pay attention to.

I met my friend Rev Vincent Hoon, an Anglican priest from The Church of True Light

On the whole I was glad with what I gleaned. I would have preferred a wider and comprehensive treatment of the topics. A few of the lecturers picked a key passage as a basis for the support of their talk. This narrowed the number and breadth of the truths they can draw from the limited text. If they had a topical approach, more insights and balance could have been shared about the subject as “all scripture” can be utilised to shed light upon the subject instead of one key passage. For instance the talk on “Preaching as Pastoral Care” used the text in Isaiah 40 where comfort was emphasised and what was communicated was a truncated form of pastoral care: comfort, consolation, support and tenderness. However, real pastoral care included reproof and rebuke, and even church discipline. What is the role of preaching in communicating and implementing discipline? That would have been a helpful facet to learn about!  This was missed out because an expository approach was employed and it was based largely on one passage. Good thing this could be clarified and explained during the panel question and answer. It was the same for the lecture on “Preaching in a Pluralistic Society’ which was based mainly on an exposition of Acts 17:16-24. Perhaps the organisers wanted such an approach as a form of demonstration of how good exposition should support whatever case you make about those subjects, so I do not wish to dwell too much on this issue.

I was impressed that they invited Rev Dr Naomi Dowdy, a well known Pentecostal preacher, former senior pastor of megachurch Trinity Christian Centre, and Chancellor of a theological college, to sit in the panel and share her wisdom. Another woman who made an impression on me was Rev Dr Maggie Low. Her lecture on “The Bible and Preaching” was basic understanding for preachers but her delivery led me to conclude she is one of the best women preachers in the city! She was articulate, passionate and connected well with the audience.

On the whole, I enjoyed it and wished they would organise more of these, more frequently. I applaud the organising committee and say a big thank you to Trinity Theological College for organising this.

 

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Billy Graham: a Singapore pastor’s tribute

Gravestone of Billy Graham

So he was buried yesterday. Billy Graham went home to glory at the great old age of 99. I remembered the National Stadium in 1978. I was trained to be a counsellor. One of thousands who were instructed to walk down to the green field when Rev Graham gave his invitation to the audience to receive Christ. Hundreds streamed down to the strains of “Just As I Am”. I did not counsel anyone. Nor prayed with anyone. But I remembered the stadium was packed with people and the choir was huge.

I remembered that months before the evangelistic crusades a team had come to talk to pastors and to share their hopes and plans. It took months of hard work to galvanise the churches, train counsellors, the choir, ushers and to rally prayers for the crusades. It was my fifth year as an enthusiastic believer and I was happy to attend the training and participate in the meetings.

To me it is plain to all that Billy Graham is the greatest evangelist of the 20th Century. His messages were persuasive, powerful and impactful. I was surprised at the compactness of his preaching. It never felt lengthy or draggy and yet he never left the important things unsaid. In fact you felt his gospel was marked by simplicity, effectiveness and sincerity. He keeps the main things the main things, and kept them fundamentally orthodox, and never majored on the minors.

I salute Billy Graham for his godliness and integrity. He was a man of simple devotional habits. He read the Bible regularly and he prayed. He has no secret techniques. He loved God and kept himself faithful to His Word. He lived out what he preached: he was a man of integrity.

I like it that he lived modestly without extravagance or unseemly flaunting of wealth or fame. He did not accumulate great possessions but neither was he a pauper. He lacked nothing and was well off. He lived above any accusation of financial or sexual impropriety. No one could accuse him of taking advantage of his large and loyal following that he had built over many decades of faithful ministry, operating under a board that managed financial affairs of his world wide ministry.

He was faithful to his heavenly call to preach the gospel to all the world. He stuck to his mission. With his fame and the vast financial resources and trust that he had built it would have been easy for him to be diverted to other challenging, interesting and inspiring projects but nothing deterred him from his focus on declaring God’s good news. He will certainly hear his Master say, Well done thou good and faithful servant. Something we should all aspire and desire for our lives too: steadfast obedience to God’s call.

I have read biographies about him but wished that one day his journals could be made available. I wish to see the real man – the struggles, the ambiguity, the sorrows, the temptations, the failures. The Billy painted by his biographers shows the public man but does not contain enough to understand the real man. A fuller picture of his struggles and mistakes would make his future biographies much more enriching, nourishing and encouraging for a new generation of evangelists and spiritual leaders.

Thank you Sir, for leaving us a legacy the church could be proud of.

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Where do pastors go to after they retire?

Which church do pastors go to after they retire? There are pastors who are one-church pastors. There are others who have served several churches during the period of their pastoral service. What are some of the factors that determine where the pastor will go to after retirement?

A pastor may have a painful exit and continuing in the church that caused the hurt is difficult. He or she leaves for another church because he or she feels that there is no welcome or acceptance there. Seeing old enemies who hurt them may re-open old wounds and that can be all too painful.

A pastor may need a sabbatical from ministry: a lengthy period of rest, renewal and retooling. Staying in a church he or she served in, will make it difficult for him or her to rest from ministry. He or she will hear of needs, problems and end up helping, visiting, mentoring.

A pastor may leave the church he had served to facilitate the establishment of the new lead pastor’s leadership in the church. If he or she stayed on, people may still look to him or her as the shepherd and leader. Of course there are exceptions, where the new pastor is secure and the retiring pastor knows how to keep from interfering.

A pastor may leave the church to take on a new assignment in another church that invited him or her over to help out in ministry, or even take on a paid role. He or she may also go to another country on a missions assignment.

A pastor may leave the church because if he had stayed on he would be able to do a lot of ministry, but all for free, something he had always done for Christ but with financial compensation. Rightly or wrongly, the pastor may feel sorely taken advantage of, “I am doing the same work, but not paid at all.” This is a real test of maturity and doing ministry for love of God, not for payment.

A pastor may leave to have a new experience of church. A Pentecostal pastor may end up in a liturgical church, and vice versa. A small church pastor may prefer a large church experience, and vice versa. A pastor may just want to avoid the “institutionalism” of church, and be in fellowship with an family kind of house church.

A pastor may leave simply for pragmatic reasons: be where their grown-up  children are so as to be able to help them care for the grandchildren; or attend the church closest to their home.

A pastor may very well stay in the church he has served, and loved, because he sees it as family despite all its flaws, and despite all the sorrow he has experienced while leading it.

To read about why pastors resign click HERE.

 

 

 

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