Four masters at Kung Fu Inn

with ps Thomas, Tammy, Mary

Four masters at Kung Fu Inn

It was beginning to be an annual affair. Tammy Tang would treat us to lunch and we would update each other on what’s been The restauranat at Temple Streethappening in our lives. So there we were, the four of us who served and shared our lives together in WRPF church. Tammy brought us to an interesting kung fu-themed Chinese restaurant along Temple Street in Chinatown. Pardon my ignorance of  the restaurant’s signboard, so I shall just call it Kung Fu Inn. That’s because every table had a plaque on the wall with the name of an ancient kung fu sect. There’s the Shaolin, the Wudang, the beggars sect, with the famous gourd and fan hanging on the wall. We sat at the table with a sword on the wall. Without asking permission, we took the sword from off the wall and its scabbard, and posed with it for fun. It was the real thing, heavy but not sharp.

Chili fish baptized in oil, braised duck, and frog legs

Food for pugilists

Innovative bak changWe enjoyed the food (concocted to improve kung fu capacities) that Tammy ordered: braised duck cooked and stuffed with rice wine residue(for internal strength), frogs’ legs (helps us jump over walls in one leap), some wild vegetables(gives us aggression), fish slices baptized in chili oil (to help us withstand critcisms), and glutinous rice balls with meat and egg fillings (helps us to throw deadly darts accurately). Amidst light banter and ribbing we reminisced between sips of Chinese tea. After the meal, I felt I could have taken on Jet Li and Jackie Chan together, no sweat. We topped up the experience with some famous Chinatown cool-down iced desserts just a minute’s walk away.

Sword wielding modern pugilist, Tammy Tang

Tammy Tang: radio evangelistTammy Tang

Tammy Tang has been writing and telling stories on FEBA radio as a volunteer. Besides that she has been preaching in Teochew or Hokkien on radio. She enjoys what she does and I admire her command of Chinese culture and dialects. She speaks Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew, and her native dialect, Cantonese. She was a staunch Buddhist and read literally scores on religious books until she came to Christ in a life transforming way. She graduated from her theological studies and served the church for several years. The Lord has used her and is still using her in His kingdom’s work. To listen to the broadcast of this radio evangelist go HERE and click on these program dates 2012-02-06 am [ 28:11 ] and 2012-02-02 pm [ 29:53 ].

Because the pastor said so

Ben drew a deep breath and closed his bank account. All that he had saved for the past decade of working in the premier Administrative Service is now in this cheque that he would put in the offering bags on Sunday. He had been saving to invest in a private property he had been assiduously evaluating. Now he wrote the church’s name on the cheque. There was hesitation, but once he put pen to paper it was quickly over.

He was not the only one. Many in his cell group from the church had already done the same thing over the last few months. In fact he was his usual cautious reluctant self – turning things over in his head till his mind was exhausted and drew a blank. It was not just a matter of copying others in the cell group, or the many other cell groups. The whole church had been feverish about being ready for this greatly anticipated event the pastor had spoken about. Now he has decided to dive in too with the rest of his friends.

The pastor’s words had reverberated in the corridors of churches in Singapore. As the messages were being broadcasted in other countries in the region as well, there had been a groundswell of hostile reactions in Facebook. Many heads of denominations and pastors have taken to pulpits and pen to write against the pastor’s prediction. “Heresy!” they declared. “Dangerous doctrine!” they shouted.

Ben, 34, had heard from colleagues about how other churches had raised the alarm about his pastor’s prediction. This must be how the early Christians felt when opposition battered them, he thought, shaking his head. The pastor had said it, with scriptural backing, scholarly argument and numerical precision too, and that was convincing enough for him. Like him, many in the mega-church, cannot accept what the critics have said, for their lives had changed and became better and happier as a result of being part of the church.

On August 4th, he was among the first to go to the top of the Marina Bay Sands to get a better view. All the earth will see and know, the pastor had said. It would be a spectacle that cannot be ignored by the world’s media.

Ben had not married, not even fallen in love once. He had wanted to travel more, especially to visit the Holy Land, but was too busy to have done so. He hadn’t even had a chance to vote once! Though he was high up there in the civil service, he had not even attended a National Day Parade in his life. As the elevator shot up, regret bit him as he thought of all the things he wished he had done.

He also wondered, How would his meeting with the Lord be? What would he hear the Lord say? He had mixed feelings about meeting the Lord in the air, but the pastor said it would happen on 4th of August, and he had done all he could to prepare for this day.

Because the pastor had said so.

Christmas refrain: Do not be afraid

On my knees I went. Lord, I am anxious about the days ahead. I like being real with God….and getting emotional with God, as I taught the congregation yesterday. And I told him about the two assignments I had to write by Sunday, 20 November. The meetings I had. The sermon I had to prepare. The appointments I had. One assignment had been outlined but not yet written. The other had only been thought about. Such murky “thought about” is like some unseen hungry monster in some dark corner of the room, usually under the bed. If only I had an outline I would feel more at ease. As I waited in silence, his whisper gave me assurance. Trust him to work it out. Trust him to work it out.

These several weeks I have been meditating on the birth narratives of Christ. Appropriately so as the Christmas season approaches. The Incarnation stuns me afresh. God took on human flesh. He who is Spirit is now adorned with flesh, glorified, scarred flesh. He did not tear it off after his ascension like some used dirtied clothing, but left it on himself like his favourite suit. Rightly so, as He wants to be appropriately dressed since He has invited us to the Trinitarian dance.

But of more immediate usefulness are those angelic refrain, Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. To Zechariah. To Mary. To Joseph. To the shepherds. To me too. To me too. As it turned out I was able to rejoice at doing all that needed to be done, including additions like a funeral, and all with poise and a remarkable flow of energy, and ahead of schedule too.

A tale of two Preachers

preach the good newsA Preacher took the text and preached a rousing sermon on prayer one Sunday and exhorted the congregation to pray thirty minutes on waking every day that week. And some did and felt good, but most did not and felt short.

The next Sunday, he preached a tremendous sermon on being a witness and challenged his members to witness to one person in school or in the workplace that week. Some did and felt good, but most did not and felt short.

The following Sunday, the Preacher motivated his members to love their wives, and he did it with tears, and confessed his lack, for he had been too busy as a pastor, and he was sure others were the same. So he gave them seven things to do to love their wives. The women loved the sermon. Many men walked down the altar with tears and arose resolute. That week roses were bought, love letters were written, and romantic dinners were had. Some felt good, and those that were still too busy, felt short.

On the last Sunday of the month, the Preacher was convinced what the members lacked was time management. So he talked about the tyranny of the urgent, and underlined the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing. He listed five things they could do to manage their time better. The members were perked with hope that if they could do the list, the nub of many problems would be solved: they would wake up to pray; they would have time to witness, to love their wives, and be a better disciple. Some did it, and felt good. Most of them fell short.

And by the end of the second month those who felt good about waking up to pray no longer thought of themselves as good Christians, for their habit faltered. Those who witnessed did it only that one week. The flush of renewed romance of those men who loved their wives had chilled. And the weekly schedule in the diaries was blank. That Sunday the Preacher looked over the congregation and saw a jaded people. They looked like a people weary of religious must do, ought to do, and should do. The trust that began their relationship with God has given way to earnest but relentless attempts to reach and maintain the C+ of Christian behaviour. They now felt weary. After some months the Preacher left the church with his shoulders slouched, his face downcast, his eyes absent of the gleam with which he started.

After several long months, the congregation found another Preacher. On the first Sunday, he preached Christ the High Priest who sympathized with man’s weaknesses and who offered Himself for the forgiveness of sins. The congregation felt the love of God and they experienced a cleansing peace and assurance wash over them. They had a new found boldness in approaching God in prayer, and though they had not prayed every morning, no pall of guilt hung over them.

The next Sunday, the Preacher exalted Christ as the Baptizer of the Spirit. The people received a fresh infilling of the Spirit, nothing emotional, more a faith thing. Strangely at the cell group that week, there were numerous reports of how members had opportunities to share Christ and pray for the concerns of friends.

The following Sunday, the Preacher talked about the length and breadth, and height and depth of the love of Christ as pictured in the Song of Songs, and the people experienced a new sense of being the Beloved of God. That experience of being loved stayed with them and they found themselves feeling affection for their spouses and children, and being patient towards the people at school and at work.

On the last Sunday of the month, the Preacher talked about the Jesus the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23 and the people were re-assured that God was watching over their ins and outs, guiding them with His staff, protecting them from all kinds of enemies with His rod, and that they need not fear anything. The members entered that week with a restedness and confidence in the Shepherd’s care for they knew in their hearts that the steps of a good man were ordered of the Lord, and that God would work all things for good.

The Preacher kept preaching Christ, and though it seemed elementary, it was fresh as he drew from the wells of Old Testament as well as New with the heart of one who had drawn near and drank from the living waters. The infectious love he had for the Lord Jesus was being passed on to the congregation. Beyond just knowing, the members were catching it.

After four months the Preacher looked over his congregation one Sunday, and saw a sea of contented faces, oozing assurance and animated with joy. Though they may not have prayed every morning, nor witnessed every week, nor loved their wives as they should, or managed their time as they ought, they knew they were forgiven, empowered, loved and watched over and guided by a wonderful Man with scars in His hands, and love in His eyes.

Goh Ewe Kheng: servant leader

GOH EWE KHENGThe session of the Pastors’ Conference organized by Tung Ling had ended. Pastors and leaders stood up to stretch, look for the restroom, or just stand around and chat. A grey haired man went about with a carton of packet drinks to serve the pastors. He dressed simply and looked ordinary, though he was a very wealthy businessman and notable church leader. He was a great influence in the local and wider church and in the marketplace. He was one of many pioneers who unknowingly could be modelling a bi-vocational church and marketplace leadership that will increasingly needed in the decades ahead. He is Goh Ewe Kheng, one of my favourite sermon illustrations of humble and faithful servanthood. So when I read an article about him by Edmond Chua in the Christian Post, I just had to link it. He wrote:

Elder Goh Ewe Kheng is the quintessential minister in the marketplace. He started church ministries, preached, co-founded a denomination and participated in the governance and activities of over 30 committees, all while running a business. The passion of the 87-year-old Founding Elder of the 7,640-member Church of Singapore passion to serve God began at an early age.

Continue reading about the personal and family life of this inspiring marketplace and church leader HERE.

Startling, depressing statistics on U.S. pastors

These statistics have been around for some time and the research was done in the 1990’s but they do strike a chord for us even today and in Singapore. The research was finished by the Schaeffer Institute, but quoted in Thabiti Anyabwile in a post titled, “Don’t Make Your Pastor A Statistic”. In the post he quoted the research of the former and I reproduce part of it  here:

But if I am to believe some of the survey statistics published on pastors and their view towards the ministry, the vast majority of my fellow pastors do not feel this way and are not receiving proper care from their people. Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute:

Hours and Pay

90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.

50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.

Training and Preparedness

90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.

90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they

thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.

Health and Well-Being

70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if

they could, but have no other way of making a living.

Marriage and Family

80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.

80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.

Church Relationships

70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

#1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.

Longevity

50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.

4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.

These statistics are startling and sad. Dr Richard J. Krejcir commented about this epidemic:

“After over 18 years of researching pastoral trends and many of us being a pastor, we have found (this data is backed up by other studies) that pastors are in a dangerous occupation! We are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical doctors, lawyers, politicians or cat groomers (hey they have claws). We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry (I only feel that way on Mondays).”

However if you want to get further depressed, read the original article on why U.S. pastors leave their churches in Statistics on Pastors by Dr Richard J. Krejcir. Needless to say, we need to pray for all our pastors. And give them regular sabbaticals!

Why pastors resign

pastors salary

Recent spate of resignations

News of the resignation of two prominent pastors surprised me. It was announced in Riverlife Church, a megachurch in Pasir Ris, that Rev Vincent Lun, their senior pastor has resigned. Then I heard that so has Rev Melvyn Mak, the deputy senior pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church. These two in the wake of recent resignations of pastors from New Creation Church, City Harvest and Church of our Savior who have served faithfully in their respective congregations. Then there is the forthcoming retirement of many senior and experienced Anglican priests in the next few years.

Push and pull factors

It made me realize that though I have given thought to why members leave a church, little have I thought or written about why pastors resign. It was a rare thing in the many years that I have served, but recently it seemed like the drizzle of the past has turned into a tropical downpour. So why do pastors resign? Common sense, anecdotal hearsay and guesswork is all you need to draw up a list of push and pull factors. A combination of push and pull factors are usually involved in any pastor’s resignation.

resisting change

Push factors

-Frustration over resistance to positive change.

-Unhappiness with some in church board or congregation, usually precipated by conflict or disagreement.

-Pastor finds insufficient support for his vision or strategy.

-Pastor is discouraged or burnt-out and there is no provision for sabbatical or rest.comparisons and competition

-A stifling system invented out of distrust of a pastor’s consecration to God, dedication to the ministry.

-No chemistry with leadership or staff team. Personality clashes with key people.

-Disillusionment about people, leaders, and the way church is done.

-Frustration over inability to meet up to unrealistic expectations of church and self.

-Disunity and politicking in the church.

-Autocratic, unreasonable  “boss” or board.

-Poor fit of one’s gifts with the position.

-The shove of mandatory retirement age or poor health.

endless needs, needs, needs

Pull factors

-Called to another kind of ministry: whether missions, a para-church ministry or to plant a different kind of church.

-Attracted by greater freedom, flexibility and trust, or by its opposite: a clear structure and order and policy.

-Children have grown up and are independent and the need to provide financially for their education is lifted.

-Greater awareness of one’s true passion, gifts and wiring and the fit is better outside church.

Its time to move on.-Too long in a place and restlessness beckoning for a change of scenery or challenge.

-Pastor’s conviction that they have done what they could with the team and people and a change would be good for the church.

-Emigration to another country.

-Finding expression for one’s changes in convictions about doctrine, philosophy of ministry or vision, that the church cannot provide space or acceptance for.

– Better compensation and terms so that there is more than enough to meet the family’s needs, and to give to others.

-Maximizing one’s experience and insight in the senior years to focus on passing on the baton to the next generation.

And you might want to add other factors in the comment box…..