I am at a 24-hour cafe inside Changi airport in Singapore. It is definitely one of the busiest airports in Asia. Instead of trying to go to sleep, I have decided to stay awake so that I can get back on U.S. time quicker. This trip out to Singapore and Jakarta was just awesome. I am thankful for all the things that God has allowed me to witness. In fact, on this trip, God did a few things: 1) Reaffirmed and solidified a lot of the convictions that I had about church and missions; 2) Rattled my paradigm of what it means to be the church and do church.
There is a lot to share, so I will wait until I get back. I’m looking forward to engaging in what God has called me to do. We are definitely living in exciting times, as it is a “kairos” moment in history. I always get humbled to think that our God has given me the privilege of, not only witnessing these things firsthand, but to actually have the opportunity to participate in it. All I can say is, “wow!”
The last 3.5 days here in Indonesia has been a blessing. I have been overjoyed to see all the familiar faces, as well as meeting some new people here at HMCC-JKT. The church is growing and God’s faithfulness and power are evident as people are experiencing transformation. It really is an excited time and I am thankful that I had the privilege of witnessing it with my own eyes.
I decided to do an interview with the Juns and ask them 2 questions: 1) What they enjoyed about being in Indonesia, and 2) what they missed from the States. Oh yeah… Emanuel wanted to get in the interview therefore I had to ask him some questions as well. Enjoy!
I arrived safely to Jakarta late last night. My time in Singapore was a blessing as I was able to strengthen the believers in HMCC-SGP. Today, the one year anniversary celebration for HMCC-JKT went well. We were reminded that God blesses us so that we can be blessing. The next three days will be filled with meetings and I am thankful for the privilege of reconnecting with people. I am humbled and honored to be a part of what God is doing. Here is a video blog update.
It is always interesting to have conversations with people who are struggling to make sense of this world. Usually some pain or heartache fills their hearts, which makes it difficult to believe that God is a loving God, who cares for them and has a purpose for their lives.
I always to have to remind them (and myself) that there will always be pain and suffering in this world due to sin. We cannot avoid it. We will always live in a world with pain and suffering, until Jesus Christ comes back or we are taken up to heaven to meet Him face-to-face. This is why it makes us long for heaven more.
Therefore, I find great comfort in the words of John, the apostle, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’” (Rev 21:4-5).
But until that day comes, we have to trust and believe that God is Sovereign.
It is often times in the midst of pain when our theology of God comes into play. Isn’t it interesting that it is during the darkest moments when what we profess to believe is really tested?
Due to our finite minds, we will never fully understand everything, nor will we comprehend all of God’s perfect ways (Isa 55:9). This is where our faith and trust come into the picture.
Do we really believe that God is greater, bigger, and stronger than what we are going through? Sometimes it is hard to believe it. But this is when we need some reminders.
I first heard this song in passing, but the words of the chorus reverberated in my mind (and heart). It says: “There is nothing above you. There is nothing beyond you. There is nothing that you can’t do. There is no one beside you. There is no one that’s like you. There is nothing that you can’t do. Whatever will come, we’ll rise above. You fail us not, You fail us not. No matter the war, our hope is secure. You fail us not, You fail us not.”
In essence, I was reminded that God is GREATER, BIGGER,and STRONGER.
It been great spending time with Jackson and Rachel. I am so proud of them as they are heading up HMCC-SGP. I have been also meeting up with some alumni and new members of this church. God is at work and we want to continue to participate in what He is doing here in Singapore. Here is a brief interview with them.
I have decided to change things up and instead of writing in my blog, I will do a video blog. I will try to write from time to time, but I am going to give this a try throughout my trip to Asia. One thing I love about being out here, in these global cities is that you are constantly connected through wifi.
It will be great having you journey with me on this trip as I will be tweeting and putting things on my blog. Please keep my trip in prayer. Thanks for the partnership in the Gospel. I am expecting God to do great things.
Some people would ask me why I encourage newcomers to check out other churches. It just seems so counter-intuitive. They say, “Pastor, aren’t you suppose to grow the church instead of shrinking it by asking people to check out other churches?” I have my reasons and I am going to try to numerate them in this blog entry.
Usually in the month of September, IT IS THE MONTH to reach out to all the newcomers to the university and the Ann Arbor area. There are many who will come through the doors of our church to check things out. In fact, we usually have some of the highest attendance records during this month. This month is a HUGE window of opportunity.
As many people come to “check out” our church, one of the first things I say (after publicly welcoming them) is to encourage them to visit other churches.
Here are my reasons:
1) Our church is not for everybody and we would be very proud to think otherwise. I am fully aware that some people are “used to” a certain way of experiencing God, whether they come from a certain tradition or they are looking for a specific thing in church (or how they understand church to be). Therefore, we want to give people an opportunity to find a church that will match what they are looking for. It is always a win-win for everyone.
2) Our goal is not to build the largest church in Michigan (even though we wouldn’t mind growing some more). So often we measure success by the numbers – and please don’t get me wrong because I think numbers are somewhat important, especially as we see that word appear many times in the Book of Acts. God’s Spirit worked powerfully and as it transformed lives, people were “added to their number daily” (Ac 2:47). But we are so consumed and committed to our mission of seeing God “transform lost people into Christ’s disciples who will then transform the world” that we filter everything we do with this lens. To be frank, in the past, we have lost some people who did not or could not agree with how we went about accomplishing our mission, therefore they moved on and it’s ok because it is a win-win for everyone.
3) Our heart is for people to grow in their relationship with God. No matter how much you try to adjust things (without compromising on the vision and mission), there will always be some people who will not excel or prosper in your ministry. Maybe the best way I can present this concept is through the example of coaching. There are some players who excel and do well under a certain type of leadership or culture of an organization, while there are others who fail miserably and never reach their full potential. We want everyone to succeed in their relationship with God, therefore our church will not fit everyone and we need to release people to other churches that might suit them better. It is a win-win for everyone.
4) There are some awesome Christ-centered and Bible teaching churches in the area. Since, I know a lot of the pastors in the area and I can confidently say that the newcomers will be in good hands if they decide to choose one of their churches. People have choices and options, which is not always a bad thing. But the most important thing is to find a church that you feel like God is calling you to and then COMMIT to it. The big problem I have with some people is that they are church consumers. They bring this consumer mindset into the church and when things don’t go their way, then they leave and go to another church. As I have said many times before, “if you find a perfect church, then don’t join it because you will ruin it.”
I know there will be several results that occur after I tell people to check out other churches: 1) They decide on another church, therefore if I don’t see them in this lifetime, then I will see them in heaven; 2) After 3 or 4 weeks, I will see them again, which indicates that they checked out other churches and they have decided on ours; 3) Sometimes I just end up seeing some people week after week because they have come to the conclusion that they don’t need to check out another church because they know that this is where God wants them to be.
The bottom line is that God will grow His Church. Of course we will need to do our part in terms of human responsibility, but ultimately it is God who works in the hearts of people. As pastors and leaders, we need to let go of our insecurities and trust that God will bring the right people to your church. This has been our church’s testimony and I don’t think we will do it any other way. God is truly faithful to build up His Church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Mt 16:18).
In the early years of our church, we spent a lot of money on advertisement to introduce and promote our church and our activities. For some reason, we thought this was the best way to get the word out about this new church plant. I think all the church planting gurus and manuals have somehow convinced us that this is the way to go.
But at the end of the year, as we looked over the church surveys (we try to make everyone fill one out), we found a shocking discovery. In the first 3 years of our church, only a handful of people (literally, I can count them on my hand) came to find our church through a flyer or an ad we put out.
We quickly started to ask the all important question – “Is it worth spending all these resources on advertisement if the net result is to small?” Well, maybe for that one person who came to know Christ. But in the bigger picture of things, we came to the conclusion that we can channel God’s resources in a better way.
So what is the best advertisement for our church?
First of all, a lot of things have changed since the late 90’s, therefore I believe there are some good ways (cheap and free) to get the word out (thank you social media). Secondly, if some churches choose to advertise, then that is great. I am not being a hater, nor do I think it is wrong to advertise. Our church tries to get the word out through various free modes of communication.
But for us, we have concluded that the best form of advertisement comes in 2 forms:
1) Through a transformed life.How can anyone argue with a life that has been transformed? In fact, it makes people that much more curious to know who this Jesus Christ is and what He represents. If we get busy, focusing on the Gospel and how it can transform a person’s life, then maybe more people will come and check out the church. We live in a generation, where we want quick and instant results; hence we think to ourselves, if people see our advertisement and come to our church then our church can grow. But sadly to say, it doesn’t always work out that way. Just ask yourself, “How many people have come and gone?”
2) Through relational networks. It is incredible how the best marketers are people that we trust and know. I don’t know how many times I tried out a restaurant or a new place just because someone I knew well told me about it. Then once I am convinced, I become that restaurant’s evangelist and I tell everyone that I know; and the ripple goes on and on. Don’t underestimate the relationships that people have with others to be one of the main avenues for advertisement. Whenever September rolls around and I meet the new students, I always ask, “How did you find out about our church?” and almost 100% of the times, they say, “I heard from so-and-so to come and check out this church.”
Therefore, this year we will once again we are going to focus on the Gospel to transform lives and trusting that people will share the Good News to others. Can you imagine what the early disciples could have done if they had Facebook, Twitter and blogs? Hmm… but even without it, they flipped the world upside down. Lord Jesus, please teach us.
There is something delightful about being a beneficiary of having your expectations blown away. In fact, it produces instant gratification and a sense of gratitude in your heart. I always experience this when I receive extraordinary customer service or when I am pleasantly surprised by someone. Whenever someone goes the “extra mile,” it always brings a smile to my face.
Expectations are a strange thing. When we have high expectations, it is easy to get disappointed and disillusioned. But if we have too little, then life gets too predictable, boring and uneventful. We need a good balance.
The great thing about expectations and our relationship with God is that we can always anticipate great things. But how is this so?
It is rooted in the nature of God. The Bible tells us that God, in His nature, cannot lie (Nu 23:19; 1 Sa 15:29; Heb 6:18-19; Titus 1:2). Therefore, if God promises us something in His Word, then He will fulfill it – no matter what! This is why we can be certain that our expectations will be met if our expectations are rooted in Scripture.
In the last 3 weeks God has been going beyond our expectation as a church. As we have been praying corporately, we got a sense that God wanted to do some great things in coming year. We knew the importance of this year, especially as we were going through a lot of transitions. But I don’t think we fully knew all that God was going to do.
It has been pretty humbling to see all the people that we have been able to reach out to even through it is the first week of school. There is a collective sense that the best is yet to come.
In light of God going beyond our expectations, I had some time to reflect and I was reminded of these important lessons:
1) Be reminded that it is not about us, but everything about His glory and fame.
2) Be humble because God’s favor is something that cannot be earned.
3) Be prepared for spiritual warfare because Satan is a “roaring lion.”
4) Be faithful in stewarding what God has given you, no matter what the cost.
5) Be focused in the mission because it is easy to be derailed by distractions.
6) Be prayerful because strength will be needed as we serve and give sacrificially.
7) Be thankful because God didn’t have to give us this privilege.
I am trying to get back to the basic principles of discipleship. This year, as a church, we are trying to focus (or refocus) on the importance of Jesus’ call to discipleship. Throughout the years, the focus of our church has always been on “transformation.” We will never see transformation in our families, church, society and the nations if our lives are not first transformed with the Gospel message. But as we experience more of God’s work of transformation in our lives, then we will be able to be the agents of transformation.
Looking back to my journey in discipleship, I am thankful for all the different people that God has placed in my life to help me grow as a Christ-follower. One particular person that had a huge impact in the way I see and do discipleship is Dr. Robert E. Coleman. I still remember the early morning discipleship meetings on Tuesdays. There were many cold Chicago winter mornings, where I did not want to get out of my warm toasty bed to go to the discipleship gathering. But something kept on compelling me to go.
I still remember the many talks with him where he shared his heart and wisdom. I still remember going over to his house and getting to know him more in his natural environment. I still remember the various road trips out to Wheaton where I saw his passion for missions and evangelism as he did ministry. I still remember the gatherings, where he just landed at the airport from a missions trip and then met with us to share his experiences with us. All these things are still fresh in my mind.
As I have watched him and many others over the years, I have learned many principles about discipleship. One common thread that runs throughout my experiences is the importance of the relationship. No amount of classes or head knowledge on discipleship can trump the importance of doing discipleship via life-on-life.
One big part of discipleship is learning how to develop a heart for Christ and His Kingdom. A good way to learn it is by “doing” ministry together. This is why I have taken the age old principle – “I do, you watch; I do, you help; you do, I help; you do, I watch; now teach it to someone else” – and tried to simplify it for our members.
I am calling it the “WHAT” principle.
Simply, it is “Watch, Help, Assist, Teach.” A lot of things are learned by just watching and observing, but that is not enough. As we begin to watch, we need some “on-the-job” training. This requires a person to have different opportunities to help out and implement the things that they are learning. Sometimes we learn best by trying, failing, and then trying again. From here, we need to do things on our own by using the principles that we have learned. But we are not totally alone. The discipler or the mentor should be present to assist along the way. It is a good avenue for us to get evaluated and make improvements. This is an important step of growing and maturing as a disciple. Then eventually, we want to teach these principles to someone else; hence the discipleship cycle continues.
This is what we are going to focus on this coming year, as we are going through a major ministry shift with new leaders and members. I am thrilled to see what God has in store for us as we continue to make disciples who will transform the world… one life at a time.