Pastors’ & Marketplace Leaders’ Retreat

Pastors' & Marketplace Leaders' Retreat Aug 2015
Pastors’ & Marketplace Leaders’ Retreat Aug 2015 organized by Love Singapore

What was the retreat about
The Pastors’ & Marketplace Leaders’ Retreat on 23-25 August 2015 at the Changi Cove four stars hotel began with an atmosphere of anticipation as senior pastors and marketplace leaders mingled over a 5.30pm Sunday dinner. Catching up and talking shop with acquaintances and fellow pastors made for relaxed banter and laughter.

Benny Ho sharing the Perspectives on Marketplace Ministry
Benny Ho sharing the Perspectives on Marketplace Ministry

This retreat was organized by Love Singapore movement in collaboration with Arrows Resources. At the first session, Pastor Benny Ho, founder of Arrows Resources, mentioned the earlier retreats they had. The first was a pastors’ and marketplace leaders’ roundtable luncheon at Orchard Parksuites. This was followed by a second retreat at Changi Cove where the senior pastors sat down and came up with a common framework to lubricate future communications. I missed that retreat. The fruit of that retreat was a booklet titled, “Perspectives on Marketplace Ministry”, which was given to every participant in this retreat.
I was accompanied by Francis Shin (Board President) and Donnie (a youth leader), and the others in our roundtable were from River of Life Community Church, and Revival Centre Church. We had lively discussions, and the mutual sharing from our respective contexts aided our understanding of localized challenges. We remained in the same group for all the sessions.

Francis, Donnie and me
Francis, Donnie and me

What I learned
Here are a list of things that I learned over the six sessions, each comprising a short 20 minutes talk, and 45 minutes discussion.
1. The “Perspectives on Marketplace Ministry” provided a common framework of understanding about the kingdom of God and it’s relation to the marketplace. It gave us working definitions of words like marketplace and clarified the purpose of Christians in the marketplace. It put everyone on the same page as to how we view the marketplace and the types of Christians in the marketplace. At the end of the retreat, it was decided that some of the material needed clarification.
2. There are different types of Christians in the marketplace and one way the church can help equip Christians is to help them evaluate themselves and tailor a curriculum to help Christians in each stage move to the next level. The types of Christians in the marketplace are: struggling>surviving>stabilizing>succeeding> significance attained. The idea is to do a kind of questionnaire to help people evaluate themselves like a “spiritual gift inventory”.
3. I saw that for the church to help people be salt and light in the marketplace there needs to be an intentional disciple-making process established in the church. In addition, the church needs to proclaim a full incarnational gospel of grace. Unless Christians are walking in faith, hope and love there will be no Daniels in the marketplace. What we will have instead are the dry bones of Christians eaten by beasts in the gladiatorial politics and temptations of the workplace.
4. The church needs to examine and trim off the fats of church ministry and involvement that overtax the member and nullify his effectiveness in the marketplace. Christians are too church-chained as they labour for numerical growth, that they hardly have time, and are often too jaded to serve the needs of people of the marketplace. The mind shift needed is to focus on equipping, encouraging and supporting members to be effective salt and light out there rather than focus too much on attracting prebelievers to church, as though it were the church activities or pastors that saved souls.
5. I loved the idea of designing an interactive session for people who are entering the workforce for first time. It’s purpose is to orientate all young adults and others who are entering into the workforce and seeding them with a vision of the kingdom and of discipling in the marketplace.

Panel of marketplace leaders who shared how they were salt and light in their respective context
Panel of marketplace leaders who shared how they were salt and light in their respective context

Interactive format great for learning
There was hardly any breaks, but short talks and more interactive learning has helped make this round-table a great learning experience: engaging, stimulating, and interesting. The seminar format keeps you awake and helps you digest, assimilate and apply the truth and ideas.
Thank God for the sponsors. The cost was generously subsidized and the rooms were very comfortable without being luxurious. I almost missed this retreat. I was still having a slight problem with a lingering vertigo attack. I was glad that by the grace of God, I made it through all the sessions.

It takes a community to make a disciple

Jesus now present in his body, the christian communityBurden of solo discipling

A burden of expectation lurks somewhere at the back of the minds of many Christians. It insinuates that they have neglected a key responsibility. This idea that a believer who is a good disciple will make other disciples who makes other disciples is one that has been embraced by many. The solo Christian is to take a new convert, teach him the basics of Christian living and help him grow mature in Christ, and for him while growing, to make another disciple. By and large, he is on his own in this difficult task, and by and large, he usually fails in multiplication. It is wearisome for anyone to carry the memory of such a discouraging, erosive experience.

Redressing a bias

Perhaps too much have been made of solo discipling. The Scripture may have been made to say more than what it may have said. A re-examination and a re-interpretation of the same texts may reveal an additional perspective that shouts for greater emphasis and weight to redress a Western driven bias towards individual responsibility and action. There is in Scripture a community aspect of disciple making that we have failed to give sufficient weight to. We missed it because our lens are too Western.

It takes a community

An Eastern, and more balanced perspective is this: it takes a whole community to make a disciple. Just as it takes a whole village to raise a child it takes a church to make a disciple. The Gospels  seem to show that Jesus made disciples solo, and discipling actions emanated from him and the disciples’ learning was centered around Jesus. The rabbi of Jesus’ time would have followers and learners whose lives revolved around learning and imitating their leader, despite his imperfections. Jesus however was God incarnate, perfect and sinless, and filled with the Spirit without measure. The Twelve had a perfect model.

Discipling by the Spirit

With the ascension of Jesus and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit a new way of discipling has been opened up. Jesus was no longer around. He said, It is to your advantage that I go away. Now I am limited by my physical body. When I am gone the Spirit will come on you and where a community is gathered in my name, there I am in their midst; there is the body of Christ. In effect, the discipling that was centered around Jesus when he was physically present, has now shifted to the community, the body indwelt by Christ. Now it is the Christian community, together reflecting the fruit of the Spirit, and releasing the gifts of the Spirit, that makes a disciple. Discipling is still “centered around Jesus”, but Jesus is now present to us as a body, a community of believers not a solo disciple. This insight was developed most thoroughly and clearly in a book titled “Making Disciples” by Sylvia Collinson. Obviously no one person have all the strengths of character and gifts we see in Jesus. It takes the Spirit working through a whole community to get anywhere close to that. It takes a community to make a disciple!

Revival community

Let me give an example of what it means for a community to make a disciple. I became a Christian in a revival that began in Dunearn Tech Sec School. It happened around the same time as the ACS clock-tower revival but it developed differently: it became a church. It was a  revival of tears, love and joy: one where the deep moving of the Spirit resulted in hundreds turning to Christ and being baptized, filled with the Spirit and having their lives transformed. I was one of them. As I reflected on my experience, I noticed I did not have a solo Christian who discipled me. There were key encouragers who told stories, shared experiences and life. There were the values of the revival community: intense prayer, enthusiastic evangelism and missions, love for the Word, desire for spiritual gifts, great love for one another, that I saw lived out in the lives, activities and ministry of the people of the revival. It was a community and its values that discipled me, a socialization for citizenship in the kingdom. I learned behaviors, values and beliefs just by being deeply enmeshed in the social interaction, and involved in the community’s life and activites. The Spirit that indwells the community was implementing His curriculum in His time and in His way.

Jack Hayford at Love Singapore Pastors’ Forum

Jack Hayford at Pastors Forum, Love Singapore

Jack Hayford. That name alone should pull in quite a crowd of senior pastors and staff. Jack Hayford was the senior pastor of the Church on the Way, a Foursquare Church at Van Nuys, California. Most people would know the song he composed, Majesty, worship His Majesty. Over a hundred pastors were at Trinity @ Paya Lebar to attend the Love Singapore Pastors’ Forum. Jack Hayford talked about the need to focus on the essentials and to avoid jumping from one new methodology or model to another. Don’t go for the numbers, he says, but work on the essentials. All his years as a pastor he never had numerical targets. Its not about acquiring people but discipling the people the Lord sends. The essentials were birthed out of his experience. They are:  1) work on a discpling plan to teach and incarnate the word among the people; 2) develop the worship life of the church as it opens the people up to the Spirit’s presence and power; 3) cultivate a ministry focus, releasing people to minister outside the church building;  4) and have a prayer strategy, of which he had no time to elaborate, or I dozed off.