TEAM Community Summit 8.26.10

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various


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Every year, before all the madness begins with the start of the new year’s ministry, all the leaders of our LIFE Groups (small group ministry) and the leaders of our various ministry teams, come together to pray and prepare. I always look forward to this time because I love spending time with leaders, especially the new ones. The leaders are always the pacesetters for the church. In the words of the leadership guru, John Maxwell, “everything rises and falls with leadership.”

Therefore, when we have strong leaders, then we will have a strong church. The more equipped the leaders are, the more they will be able to equip others to do the ministry. The more that they are growing in their relationship with God, the more they will be able to help others to grow spiritually.

This is why the investment in the church’s leadership is crucial.

We are at an important juncture in our church. With all the transitions that have occurred recently and with all the new things that God is placing in our church, there is a great need to come together as the leadership of our church to pray and seek God’s face.

We are going to go back to some of the basics of leadership. We’re asking God to transform us in greater ways so that we can become the instruments to bring transformation to others. The anticipation is growing. We are waiting to see where God will take us this year and into the year 2020. The best is yet to come.

Please keep our leadership summit in your prayers for the next couple of days.

A Time to Retreat

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint


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It is hard to believe that God has given me the privilege of serving HMCC for the last 14 years. With all its ups and downs, my heart is filled with gratitude and joy as I think about the many transformations that I have been able to witness because of the power of the Gospel.

After going through seasons of tremendous church growth, I began to experience something that changed the way I view the importance of my spiritual health. Christina started to notice that during April I went through a spiritual funk that lasted for weeks. At first, we really couldn’t pinpoint the cause, but it became more evident that I was just exhausted from a whole year’s worth of intense ministry. After going 100 mph, I just ran into a wall. But I was always able to push through because during the summer, I had to prepare for the various missions trips, which I had to lead.

Everything came to a crash when August rolled around and things started to slow down. It was at this point that I felt a great hunger and a need to get away to just retreat, reflect and refresh before the start of the new school year. After talking to some people, our church was gracious enough to allow me get away to take a personal retreat. Since then, I have been trying to take a personal retreat every year to prepare for the new year of ministry.

Now, with the summer time slowly coming to a close, it is that time of the year again. As I have been trying to transition back to the swing of things after one year in Indonesia, I am feeling the need to retreat and spend some concentrated time with the Lord.

I am praying that as I take a few days to reflect and refresh that God would prepare me for what is ahead. This year will be a very important year for us as a church. Therefore, as I retreat away, I am expecting God to speak. When I get back, I can’t wait to share the revelations and insights with the rest of the HMCC churches. Please keep me in your prayers.

The International Mantle

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Vision


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Starting this Monday, we are going to kick off our International Operation Campus Reach (OCR). For those of you who are not familiar with OCR, every year, we challenge students to sacrifice several days of their summer break to come early to campus. We use the time to pray, prepare, and plan for the strategic outreaches that we will have for all the incoming students. We have one for the international students, as well as, one for the students who are from the States.

The iOCR (the international OCR) always starts first because the university allows the international students to come on campus earlier than all the other students. I am looking forward to participating in this year’s OCR for the international students. I will be sharing God’s heart with the committed international students during the first training session. It is exciting to see many of these international students who are devoting themselves to iOCR and reaching out to their peers.

As I came back to Ann Arbor, one of the things that God placed on my heart for our church was the importance of the international student population. After seeing how God used the people who studied aboard and then came back to Indonesia, I felt this tremendous burden that we needed to pray and invest in more international students for this coming year. I got a sense that God wanted to give our church an “international mantle.” Not only would we be reaching out to our Ann Arbor community, but God placed in our hearts to reach out to the 120+ nations that will come to the University of Michigan campus.

It is no coincidence that the newest state-of-the-art dormitory that was recently built (North Quad) is about 245 yards away from our church (thank you Google maps). When I found out that this dorm will be the central focal point for all the international and intercultural programming at the university, it just confirmed what God has spoken to us about the “international mantle.” God definitely has a clear purpose for us to reach out to the international community.

With the television production studio, high-tech media equipment for network and communication technologies, and collaborative work spaces with video-teleconferencing, the possibilities are endless in connecting to the global community. Especially, as I think about our international churches in Jakarta and Singapore, I know that God has great things planned for us.

Whenever God opens these kinds of opportunities, we must never forget that “with great privileges comes great responsibility.” We want to keep on praying for the international community, as well as being faithful in reaching out to the nations with the Gospel. This is what an international mantle is all about. We are humbled and thrilled for the next stage of our church. The ripples will continue to reverberate to the ends of the earth.

The Cruelty of God, the Father?

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint


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Following Christ is sometimes a difficult thing, especially when we are challenged to trust wholeheartedly in the midst of confusion and uncertainty. This fact is never more tested than when we go through pain and anguish.

It is in those moments we wonder to ourselves if God really cares or if He really does have our best interest in mind. Sometimes what we see (and feel) does not match up with what we believe and “know.”

One good example of a person who probably had some questions for God is Mary, the mother of Jesus. When we think about the story of Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ, it is a bit startling to think about all that God was requiring from this young teenage girl.

How in the world can we consider God, the Father, to be a loving and caring God when He was asking Mary to do the unthinkable? In essence, God was requiring Mary to do a task that would destroy her future, decimate her reputation, disrupt her plans, and demolish any hopes of living a “normal” life.

Would a loving God truly allow a person to endure such agony and pain?

This is when we can get a good gauge of our perception of God. When we go through difficulties, most of us react with anger or withdrawal as we conclude that God has let us down. Things get worst when we begin to compare ourselves with other people whose lives are filled with blessings. We wonder why God isn’t pulling through for us as He is doing for others. As the feelings of disappointment and bitterness begin to mount, it erodes at our faith. Then years go by and we find ourselves in a place where we doubt if God even exists.

It is like the boat without an anchor. Without the moorings, it will slowly drift out to sea ever so slowly. We need these moorings in our lives. Sometimes it might have to come in a form that goes beyond our reason and human understanding. One thing is for sure. There are things in life that can be understood by reason and there are other things that simply cannot be explained fully by reason alone.

So, is God a cruel Father?

I usually tell people that I will give them an answer when God is finished writing the story of our lives. One of the things that God does so well is authoring the story of redemption in people’s lives. Numerous examples pervade all throughout the Bible. It permeates through people’s testimonies even today.

In fact, things become clearer as we look at the cross. What seemed like a display of God’s cruelty was quickly transformed into a demonstration of God’s love and grace. May we learn this lesson from the cross of Christ.

Raising Up an Army

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint


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For some reason I have been researching on the difference between the U.S. armed services’ system of conscription and recruitment. Don’t ask me why. I think maybe in light of what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I think it is out of pure curiosity and my desire to “just to know.”

Simply, in the United States, recruitment is when the military tries to enlist people to voluntarily serve in the armed services. Conscription or better known as “the draft” is a compulsory method of forcing people to serve in the armed services. Throughout the history of the United States, we have seen voluntary enlistment in various periods; and we have also seen various times of the enactment of the draft.

In fact, I have been inspired by the numerous stories of people who voluntarily enlisted after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States. It was out of their free choice to sign up for the military to serve their country.

As I was thinking about this, it dawn upon me regarding God’s mission and the need for people who are willing to serve in His army.

There is something beautiful about people who willingly volunteer to serve God out of indebtedness to the Gospel. The worst kinds of servants are the ones that are “forced” to serve out of pure obligation. I was just thinking which group of people God would prefer – people who grudgingly serve because they are forced to or people who are voluntarily willing to lay down their lives for His mission?

I realized that there is always a price to pay.

To those who are willing to make the sacrifice, the price is never an issue. They commit to the mission because they believe in it with all their heart. But to those who are “drafted” against their wills will always think about the price and what they will lose or what they will miss out on.

If I were to lead a platoon out on the spiritual battle field, I would want Christ-followers who enlisted in God’s army willingly because of their gratitude for the cross, than to lead cultural and comfortable Christians who really don’t want to be there, but who feel like they have to because of obligation.

Battles are won or lost depending on what type of people are on your platoon.

Ashamed of the Gospel?

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint


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It was interesting to read what Barna Group recently discovered regarding teenagers (ages 13-17) and evangelism. Not only is the “spirituality” of teenagers slowly waning, but they are less likely to share Christ in their conversations. You can read the whole article here.

In Barna’s survey, they specifically asked the teenager, “During the past 12 months, did you explain your religious beliefs to someone else who had different beliefs, in the hope that they might accept Jesus Christ as their savior?” Guess what? Compared to about a decade ago, the percentage dropped considerably (from 63% in 1997 to 45% in 2009).

David Kinnaman, the president of Barna Group said, “Christian teenagers are taking cues from a culture that has made it unpopular to make bold assertions about faith or be too aggressively evangelistic. Some of the Barna Group’s other research shows that the vast majority of these students agree with the statement it is ‘cool to be a Christian.’ Yet fewer young Christians apparently believe it is worthwhile to talk about their faith in Jesus with others.”

Can something be that “cool” but yet, something not worthwhile to share with others, especially to those who are important to you?

This is a problem in the American Church today.

We have made following Christ a “cool” thing through all the culturally-relevant youth programs, but we have failed miserably in “making disciples.”

How can anyone not talk about someone that is so important to you?

Sometimes the problem is started from the front-end. We have been content with just presenting the Gospel and then have the person say a simple “sinner’s prayer.” It is easy to think that our job is done after the person says, “Amen.” To our demise, we make our goal to see how many converts we can get. Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus command us to “make converts” but rather to “make disciples” (Mt 28:19).

Disciple making is hard work. In fact, it requires a lot of time, energy, effort and prayer.

I will never forget one of the discipleship sessions I had with Dr. Robert E. Coleman. As he was talking about the importance of evangelism and discipleship, he said, “We have not done evangelism, until the person who has come to Christ is able to bring someone else into a relationship with Christ.” At first, I really didn’t know what he was trying to get at, but after giving it some thought, I realized that he was emphasizing the importance of discipleship. A person will not be able to bring someone else into a relationship with Christ if they are not discipled to share their faith.

If we are serious about seeing a cultural shift in our generation, then we have to put a lot of attention on making disciples. No more lukewarm Christianity. No more easy Christianity. We need to raise the bar and challenge Christ-followers to share their faith.

A person who has genuinely experienced Christ in a powerful way would want to share the greatest discovery with everyone. No apologies. No excuses. No hesitation. There is just no way around it.

Beauty Will Rise

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various


On May 21st, 2008, Steven Curtis Chapman’s five-year-old daughter, Maria Sue Chapman, was killed in an accident. The hardest thing about this accident was that Maria was accidentally killed by her older brother, as he was driving into the driveway of their home.

I can’t even imagine the devastation and the pain that the whole family must have gone through. Not only were they grieving over the loss of their daughter, but they had to comfort their oldest son of the guilt and remorse.

After the accident, it left Steven Curtis Chapman asking a lot of questions. Sometimes those “why” questions can really haunt us. But by God’s grace, he was able to trust in God’s Sovereignty, even though at times it does not make any sense. It reinforced the importance of having faith and hope in his life.

Out of this tragedy, Chapman wrote a song that was deeply personal and powerful. It just reminded me of how God is in the business of redemption and turning things around. I really don’t know how the world can live without this kind of perspective due to all the pain and suffering in this world. If this is the “opiate of the masses” then please give me some more because I rather die with hope rather than in despair.

Beauty Will Rise
by Steven Curtis Chapman

It was the day the world went wrong
I screamed til my voice was gone
And watched through the tears
as everything came crashing down
Slowly panic turns to pain
As we awake to what remains
and sift through the ashes that are left behind

But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams
we have this hope:

Out of these ashes, beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes, beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning
in the morning, beauty will rise

So take another breath for now,
and let the tears come washing down,
and if you can’t believe I will believe
for you.

‘Cuz I have seen
the signs of spring!
Just watch and see:

Out of these ashes, beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes, beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning
in the morning

I can hear it in the distance
and it’s not too far away.
It’s the music and the laughter
of a wedding and a feast.
I can almost feel the hand of God
reaching for my face
to wipe the tears away, and say,
“It’s time to make everything new.”

“Make it all new”

This is our hope.
This is the promise.
This is our hope.
This is the promise.
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that’s been made
out of the ashes
out of the ashes
That it would take our breath away
to see the beauty that He’s made
out of the ashes
out of the ashes

Out of these ashes, beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of this darkness, new life will shine
and we’ll know the joy is coming in the morning
in the morning, beauty will rise!

Oh, Beauty will rise
Oh, Beauty will rise
Oh, oh, oh, Beauty will rise
Oh, oh, oh, Beauty will rise
Oh, oh, oh, Beauty will rise

Here is a news report of the memorial service.

Reminders from Weddings

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Viewpoint


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As a pastor, I have done my fair share of performing wedding ceremonies for couples. I have also attended many weddings just as a guest. In many ways, weddings are pretty similar and standard. Lighting of candles by mothers, the processional, cute kids, the bride, songs, prayer, message, vows, rings, prayer, unity candle (as the special praise is playing), giving roses to parents, pronouncement, benediction, announcement, and the recessional.

Of course the order might be slightly different from one wedding to the next, but in general most of these elements are there.

So the question is: What gives one wedding a different “feel” compared to another?

In light of several weddings that I performed more recently, I began to think about this a little bit more. Let me start off by giving some HUGE disclaimers. The things that I am about to write about do not discredit any of the weddings that some of the readers of my blog might have had in the past. Also, I am not putting down any weddings in the past, whether performed by me or someone else. Hmm… let’s see… are there any other disclaimers?

Bottom line is that I am just making my personal observations from the perspective of a pastor who has performed weddings.

I think, from a pastor’s perspective who is performing the wedding, there is a different feel when these things are evident:

1) When the pastor performing the ceremony has a strong relationship with the couple. There is a difference in the feel of the overall flow of the ceremony when the pastor knows the couple well. Not only can the pastor be light-hearted and joke around with the couple, but he can speak into their lives through the message. I don’t know about you, but I have heard many wedding sermons that were very impersonal.

2) When the relationship of the couple was brought into the light within the biblical community from the beginning stages (a.k.a. no shady stuff). I think it is obvious when people know (or sense) that it was God who brought the couple together. It gives off a different feel because people know the testimony of God’s faithfulness in the couple’s relationship from the beginning. The bottom line is that the relationship was brought under spiritual guidance.

3) When the whole church community is invited to be a part of the celebration. This element is a sticky one and it will be like walking through a landmine; therefore, I will tread very carefully as I try to explain. I fully understand about budget constraints and limitations in space and so forth, therefore when a wedding is opened for only a select few, it makes a lot of sense. In some ways, it is definitely more personal and it has an intimate feel to it. But when the whole church community is invited then there are a few unique benefits to it. First, it can become an avenue of discipleship. As the church community sees the significance of a Christ-centered wedding and a God-centered relationship, it will put a desire in the singles who witness the wedding to pray for the same thing in their lives. Secondly, there are many people in the church community that are constantly “left out” of things or are simply ignored and neglected. What a great way to minister to these people by having them be a part of the celebration. It is simply “making room” for people who feel like there is no room for them. I know, I know… I’m being idealistic. If the church community was under 100, then things would be so easy. But I am just saying.

4) When the whole ceremony is not about the couple but all about Jesus. Too often weddings can be so focused on the couple, which by the way is not wrong. But the weddings where the couple have specifically told me that they want Christ to be exalted, the Gospel preached and Christ to be the center of attention (because they have friends and family members, who are pre-Christians or have fallen away) just have a different feel. Whenever we become less and give room for Christ to become more, then you just feel a different anointing in the ceremony.

The Struggle of the Pastor

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Viewpoint


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One of my members forwarded me a New York Times Op-Ed piece that talked about the American clergy, as well as the situation with the churches today. I was encouraged because this is what I have been harping on in our church for awhile now.

In fact, due to my bluntness on particular matters, we have lost some people. I guess when the truth is spoken some people cannot handle the truth (I am hearing Jack Nicholson’s voice from the movie, “A Few Good Men” right now).

The Church culture today is drifting further away from the standard that we see in the Bible. People are being coddled rather than being convicted. People are too comfortable rather than being challenged. People are choosing convenience rather than commitment. People are acting like chumps rather than champions. This is weakening the church’s witness as a community of transformed people who desire to transform the world.

So often, pastors are too afraid to speak boldly on various issues that are hurting the Church. Some pastors do not want to “rock the boat.” But the problem with this is that the boat is sinking, so it might be better to rock it back afloat!

The pastors today have a choice – either settle for the status quo, which is killing the church or step out in faith and stick up for what is right. I am praying for the latter.

I decided to post parts of the Op-Ed written by G. Jeffrey MacDonald. You can read the article titled, “Congregations Gone Wild” directly from The New York Times here.

“The American clergy is suffering from burnout, several new studies show. And part of the problem, as researchers have observed, is that pastors work too much. Many of them need vacations, it’s true. But there’s a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve: congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.

The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.

As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.

The trend toward consumer-driven religion has been gaining momentum for half a century. Americans now sample, dabble and move on when a religious leader fails to satisfy for any reason.

In this transformation, clergy have seen their job descriptions rewritten. They’re no longer expected to offer moral counsel in pastoral care sessions or to deliver sermons that make the comfortable uneasy. Church leaders who continue such ministerial traditions pay dearly.

I have faced similar pressures myself. In the early 2000s, the advisory committee of my small congregation in Massachusetts told me to keep my sermons to 10 minutes, tell funny stories and leave people feeling great about themselves. The unspoken message in such instructions is clear: give us the comforting, amusing fare we want or we’ll get our spiritual leadership from someone else.

Congregations that make such demands seem not to realize that most clergy don’t sign up to be soothsayers or entertainers. Pastors believe they’re called to shape lives for the better, and that involves helping people learn to do what’s right in life, even when what’s right is also difficult. When they’re being true to their calling, pastors urge Christians to do the hard work of reconciliation with one another before receiving communion. They lead people to share in the suffering of others, including people they would rather ignore, by experiencing tough circumstances — say, in a shelter, a prison or a nursing home — and seeking relief together with those in need. At their courageous best, clergy lead where people aren’t asking to go, because that’s how the range of issues that concern them expands, and how a holy community gets formed.

Ministry is a profession in which the greatest rewards include meaningfulness and integrity. When those fade under pressure from churchgoers who don’t want to be challenged or edified, pastors become candidates for stress and depression.

Clergy need parishioners who understand that the church exists, as it always has, to save souls by elevating people’s values and desires. They need churchgoers to ask for personal challenges, in areas like daily devotions and outreach ministries.

When such an ethic takes root, as it has in generations past, then pastors will cease to feel like the spiritual equivalents of concierges. They’ll again know joy in ministering among people who share their sense of purpose. They might even be on fire again for their calling, rather than on a path to premature burnout.”

Construction and Change

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint


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As soon as we arrived to Ann Arbor, my family and I realized that there was a lot of road construction going on in this city. When the boys and I went out on an errand, one of them asked about the increase in construction on the streets.

This was one of those great teaching moments that I did not want to miss.

I started out with a series of questions:

1) Do you guys like bumpy roads?
2) Do cars get damaged if they drive on bad roads?
3) Is it easy to go through construction?

We concluded that bumpy roads stink and are bad for cars. We also concluded that it is frustrating to go through construction because everything gets delayed. But the ultimate conclusion was that construction, while it is frustrating for the moment, has a lot of great benefits at the end.

I really didn’t have to make the connection about the road construction and the change that God puts us through in life. They made the connection pretty quickly as we had to wait for the traffic to move.

As I mentioned in my sermon two weeks ago, “pain always precedes change.” Without some pain, discomfort, stretching, and frustration, we will not experience the change that God wants to bring into our lives.

So next time when there is construction in your city, remember that the construction in our lives will pay off. You will definitely notice the difference and so will other people!