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.

Today’s pastors need encouragement

Thank you Lord for creative and caring members

I was so blessed to receive a gift the other Sunday. It was not a box of mooncakes. Rather, something more precious:  a wooden box  with a beautiful handpainted rainbow, the word “Inspiring” and my name “Kenny”. Each of the English adult congregation pastor received one – each unique. Inside the box were well-crafted and anonymous personal notes of appreciation and affirmation. I read mine a few times and was encouraged. There are always warm and loving people in church who are spiritually alert and know when their pastors need encouragement and they do something about it.

They are like  Jonathan, that rare gem, the covenant brother of David.

Your love for me abounds. Thank You Lord.

It is often forgotten that every pastor needs encouragement just as much as members. In fact, they need it even more. For many reasons too.

For one, they had entered the ministry with a passion to make a difference in people’s lives, but it frustrates and pulls them down when their expectations have not been matched with reality on the ground. People change so little and so slowly. Some even get worse. Some members show so much of their dark sides, it makes pastors feel like Elijah under the juniper tree.

The ministry is very demanding and people have unrealistic expectations of their pastors. To worsen things, the pastor lives in a Web 2.0 world where his members can hear the best preachers in town and the world, and be unfairly  compared to and criticized. In addition, the pastor pushes himself constantly, and even lays his health and family on the altar of people’s immature expectations .

Another pastoral struggle is the fight in the mind against anxiety and fear. Even more vexing is the struggle to embrace ambiguity, paradox and suffering in ministry.

Pastors  get burnt out from prolonged labour and no sabbaticals; weary from working with meagre fruit to show for sacrifices put in; and from being misunderstood and hurt.

To worsen things are professional critics who think they are doing the church good by criticizing with disdain and disregard the weaknesses of the church and pastors.

Satan is of course always searching for unmended gaps in the fence of unity through which to discourage, harass, attack pastors. Centuries of expertise has informed their strategies. “Get the leader and the sheep will suffer,” the devil officer will tell his demon soldiers. “Use the church members and it doubles the impact of hurt and discouragement.”

When David was running for his life with the state army of king Saul searching for him in the wilderness of Ziph, he was filled with discouragement and fear.  Jonathan risked angering his father Saul, and found David and encouraged him:

And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,”  he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”(1 Samuel 23:16-17)

Mooncakes supplies energy, which pastors need. But encouragement supplies hope and fresh motivation for the journey ahead.

Pastors of today, more than ever, need treasure boxes like the one I have received.

How I became an Arsenal fan

arsenal badgeI have been an Arsenal fan for ten years now. But it was not so before. When I was in Swiss Cottage Secondary School, I was a Derby County fan and then a Nottingham Forest fan. I liked manager Brian Clough and followed wherever he went except for his Leeds blip.  He brought the best out of his teams on a tight budget and that could only mean he was a genius.

Arsene Wenger  joined Arsenal in 1996 (when Arsenal was known as “boring Arsenal, 1-nil to Arsenal”) and was of a similar stature though of opposite temperament from Clough. He is more professorial, understated, detached, left-brained and philosophical.  Like Clough, he pieced together teams on a reasonable budget but got arsene wengerthem to play together like a premier orchestra. He transformed boring Arsenal into exciting Arsenal. That converted me into a fan. This is the only British team that plays with a Brazilian attacking flair. They are entertaining, and I hate it so it when they play against leg-kicking, anti-football teams. Yesterday, Arsene Wenger became the longest serving manager in Arsenal’s history and I hope he continues with the club till death do them part. This is unrealistic. Succession would be a real problem. They have to find someone with the same philosophy of football. It could be someone from the “Invincibles” team like  Henri Thierry. Or Tony Adams. As long as the baton exchange takes place without incident. I really wish Arsenal well in the post-Arsene era.

I am perhaps more a follower of managers. I sometimes ask myself, “Would I continue as a fan of Arsenal, if Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s heart and soul moved on? What if the players  and style of play changed, and it was no longer recognizable?” I probably would not remain a fan. Many fans are admirably or masochistically loyal to their clubs even when the club has been relegated numerous levels. I don’t think I can endure that kind of humiliation and pain. This makes me a fair-weather and happy fan! 🙂

Mt Kinabalu Youth Adventure 1

Eighteen (youngest 11, oldest 50)

It was after much thought and prayer that I decided to organize and lead a church-based expedition – Mt Kinabalu Youth Adventure 1, in March 2005. The idea was to use a physical challenge that was demanding but doable, to imprint confident life attitudes that will be useful for young and old to learn. A large part of EQ has to do with the setting of a goal; preparing and sacrificing in order to seek it (even postponing the gratification of desires); being able to relate with others and work as a team; and, persevering and never giving up despite obstacles. The preparation and the expedition itself brings these qualities to the fore: and the youths will learn from the experience.

It was a memorable trip with about eighteen young and middle aged adults. The youngest was eleven and the oldest was 50. Some were parents and their children, but most were youths. It was a joy to have my daughter Elaine with me on this adventure.

Elaine and me

March was a dry period and the weather was good. A simple slide was put on YouTube (the post is reloaded but the slides are new) so that you can see what the terrain was like, the clothing and equipment needed, and any other information you may observe.