Global Access Retreat 2011

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Visits

 

 
 
 
Back in August 2010 (before this school year got started), God gave us vision. As we were in prayer, God made it clear to us that this coming year, one of the things that He wanted us to focus on was the international community. A phrase that came forth was, the “international mantle.” At first, we were not sure what that meant or what it entailed, but all we knew was that God wanted us to focus on the international community.

It was quite humbling because right after that revelation, God started opening doors for our church to connect with the international community on the University of Michigan campus. Not only did we see an increase of international students coming out to our church, but we started to witness God’s work in the hearts of these international students.

Then, God gave us the 2020 Vision which involves planting ten churches by the year 2020. Now, we are not sure where those churches will be planted, but one thing is clear – God is raising up the international students to go back to their country with a passion and love for the local church, and a vision for reaching their nation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is why I wanted to be a part of this retreat. We are making history by having the international students of HMCC of Chicago join us at this retreat. Not only is this our largest attendance since we started this Global Access retreat, but we have about 14 nations represented. It is quite amazing and humbling at the same time.

I am praying that seeds will be planted in the hearts of these international students – the seeds of God’s Kingdom, church planting, and transformation. We are off to a great start; and we believe that God has greater things in store for us.
 
 

The Purpose of the U.N.?

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo on flags.net
 
 
 
I recently tweeted, “Just curious what the U.N. is doing about all the killings in the Middle East. Another reminder how useless the U.N. is as an organization.” And my goodness, did it start up a firestorm. I had people direct message me and express some of their sentiments about what I mentioned. I didn’t know I would touch a nerve.

Therefore, let me explain where I am coming from and also give us a perspective on this. There are some lessons, not only related to the United Nations (U.N.) but also about organizations in general.

It is imperative that we first try to understand the purpose and the history of the U.N. Basically, the U.N. started in 1945 after World War II as a global organization to find common ground so that future wars can be avoided and peace can be promoted. Since then, it has branched out to address various other issues such as human rights, economic development, international law and security. Currently there are 192 member states that make up the U.N.

In theory and on paper, the purpose behind the U.N. sounds good. But the issues and sometimes the ineffectiveness of the organization come at several levels. First of all, in order for certain resolutions to be enacted, there has to be unanimous approval of the five permanent members of the U.N’s Security Council (China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States). Now, tell me how easy it is to get these five countries to agree on anything. I believe in check and balances, as well as dialoguing on varying opinions, but unless there is a universal standard in which nations are willing to agree on, then things will get very political. In the history of the U.N., we have seen many times when the member states have been unwilling to achieve or enforce different Security Council resolutions.

Secondly, by the time there is unanimous support, it is too late in stopping wars and even some of the atrocities from occurring. This has led to various “failures” in fulfilling its own mission and purpose for existence. For example there is the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the situation in Somalia in 1993-1994, the Second Congo War from 1998-2002, the situation in Darfur which started in 2003 and is still going on, the war in Iraq in 2003, the Israel-Lebanon conflict in 2006, the conflict in Kosovo in 2007, the North Korea situation, and the list continues on.

In their stated objectives, it is noted that peacekeeping, security, and human rights are just a few of the things that the U.N. is purposed to do. But without the unity of the Security Council and the differing political stances of the permanent state members, they are falling short of their original purpose and mission.

Please don’t get me wrong. There some things that the U.N. has done well and made some contributions to the improvement of society through agencies such as the World health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

But the main point is to remember why this organization was founded back in 1945 and to ask if they are fulfilling its purpose now. If the U.N. is supposed to be a international organization that is “committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights” (from the U.N.’s website), then they should be doing something in the situation in the Middle East.

There are reports coming out that the Libyan leader, Colonel Moammar Qaddafi is killing his own people who are protesting against his government and even killing soldiers who refuse to carry out his orders on the basis of conscience. Already there are 70 human rights groups (yes, 70) who are calling for the U.N. Security Council and the Human Rights Council to convene in order to protect Libyan citizens. There is even a video, which is about a minute long that reportedly shows badly burned bodies of Libyan soldiers.

Even as facts are rapidly coming out, if the U.N. is either slow in taking decisive actions or fails in doing something, then I will continue to stick to my original tweet claiming that the U.N. is useless. Or if I have to rephrase it (a.k.a “be politically correct” and nice about it), I would say that “it has terribly lost its sense of purpose and mission;” therefore they will have to re-examine their reason for existence. If they are an organization that is supposed to promote peace, security and human rights, then the situation in the Middle East is a perfect platform to do something about it.

As I have been reflecting on the whole U.N.’s role in the Middle East, I was reminded about the purpose and mission of the church. It is easy for the church to fall into the same trap as the U.N. Often times, the church can lose it sense of purpose and mission because of distractions, disagreements, and disregard. Then the church will become an irrelevant, impotent and institutionalized organization that will not bring about the transformation that it is called to bring to the nations.

May the heartbeat of Christ, who started the Church beat passionately within us.

This is why we do what we do!

The Freshmen Class

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint, Vision

 

Photo by Washington School Inn
 
 
 
I realized that serving as a pastor on a college campus is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, there is a great sense of joy because I am able to meet a new batch of freshmen every year, as they start their college years. Then on the other hand, there is a great sense of sadness because you have to say bye to some of them after building a strong relationship for four years. It is truly bittersweet.

It definitely takes a certain type of personality to do this year after year. I am truly thankful for the privilege and the opportunity that God has given to me to influence and impact college students.

Over time, it has been good to see many of our students being placed all over the world and hearing about the difference they are making in their specific fields or vocations. Now, we are slowly seeing churches being started by our members; and we will see even more in the future, as we are pressing forward with the 2020 Vision.

This is why I was thrilled to meet up with our freshmen class yesterday. In God’s sovereignty, this is the largest freshmen class we have had in the history of our church. In fact, this class even doubles in size (and even possibly triples in size) of other previous freshmen classes. The freshmen class represents the poster child of the Generation Y. William Strauss and Neil Howe are social historians who have use 1982 and 2001 as the start and end years of the Generation Y. Therefore the freshmen and sophomore class are pretty representative of this generation.

We have a tradition in our church of having each freshmen class give themselves a name by the Undergraduate Retreat in October. This year’s freshmen class decided to call themselves as “Catalyst.”

In the Cambridge Dictionary, it simply defines “catalyst” as, “a condition, event, or person that is the cause of an important change.” If our name is supposed to be our destiny, then how exciting it would be to see how God will use this class to be the “cause of an important change” in our generation, throughout all the nations.

After introducing myself to this class, we talked about a lot of things ranging from how I proposed to Christina to other church related things. I encouraged and exhorted them to use their time in college to gain God’s heart by getting discipled, making good decisions, and committing to the local church. Then, as time passes by, they will be able to “connect the dots” and see how God is powerfully working in their lives.

I can’t wait to see all that God has in store for them.

One thing unique about this class is that they will be the only class who will have the most amount of years to fulfill the 2020 Vision. This is a great privilege. But with great privilege comes great responsibility. If the Catalyst class are united and are committed to the spreading of God’s Kingdom throughout the nations, then they can be the “world shakers and history makers” in their generation, just like many other generations who have gone before them.

Pursuing Singleness

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 

Photo by Courtney McLeod
 
 
 
This time of the year is always hard for many people. With all the bombardment of love-oriented messages, it can be a difficult time for a person who is single. Who doesn’t want to have a life-long partner with whom they can trust and depend on through the thick and thin of life? In fact, this is one desire that many people long for because we are created as relational beings.

While many people are called to be married, it is interesting how the Church does not talk much about people, who are called to be single. Without being too overt, it is clear that whenever we meet people who are single, we automatically assume that something is wrong with them. This attitude only intensifies as the single person increases in age.

But what if that single person is called to be single?

I think in the Church today, we have created a culture where singleness is a weird or abnormal thing. Now, I understand that if a person is not called to celibacy or if they are purposefully delaying the “next stage” of life due to their immaturity and fears, then it is definitely a problem. But I am referring to people who are feeling the call to celibacy and are choosing to be single so that they can pursue Christ more wholeheartedly.

I think we need to definitely make more room for these types of brothers and sisters in the Church. Throughout history, there are some incredible examples of servants of Christ who were single and served God with great passion and purpose (i.e. Mother Teresa, Amy Carmichael, Helen Roseveare, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, John Stott, and Søren Kierkegaard). If the Church didn’t make room for them, then where would we be?

Stacey Margarita Johnson in her article called, “Pursuing Singleness” gives us some personal perspective on singleness, which I think is very helpful. She writes,

Until I quit dating and decided to pursue celibacy, I’d never actually met a single Christian who was not interested in finding a mate. Have you ever met someone who has chosen singleness? I am not talking about being single as an inevitable state before getting married. Being not-yet-married is not the same as making a conscious decision to forsake the possibility of love and marriage in order to pursue the Lord’s work wholeheartedly. I am referring to singleness or celibacy as an act of sacrificial worship, offering one’s body as a living sacrifice to God.

More than five years ago, as a twentysomething, career-oriented woman, I decided to pursue celibacy. My decision was not well thought-out; on the heels of a breakup, I decided to drop out of the dating-and-romance race for one year. As I came to depend more on prayer, Scripture and meditation to exert control over my mind and body, I not only persevered through my new austere life style, but found it to be a profound learning experience. I realized I came to see men as more complex people when there was no possibility that romance could develop. I found I had much more time to devote to my Lord’s service without all the excitement of meeting guys, dating them and eventually moving on. Now, not quite six years down this road, I love celibacy. It has been a profound experience of growth and worship. I would be honored if God saw fit to keep me single. On the other hand, I have taken no vow; I am not a nun. If it becomes clear than marriage is right for me, I can live with that too. No matter which path I follow, I will always be an advocate for singleness because I deeply believe that it is part of God’s plan.

So, why choose singleness?

There are a couple of direct New Testament references to singleness. Our Lord said: “For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Matthew 19:12).

While Jesus gave validity to the single life in this passage from Matthew, it was the apostle Paul who explained in detail why singleness can be such a productive lifestyle choice for those who serve God.

“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (I Corinthians 7: 32-35).

So, are singles part of God’s plan? Jesus indicates they are. Why is singleness useful in the Kingdom? Paul explains that following God with reckless abandon requires people to leave behind all earthly attachments that distract them from the Lord’s affairs.

These two passages really cut to the heart of me. I do want to offer my whole life to my God’s service. I long for my heart to be aligned with His. If remaining single will make me more available for His service, then I can think of no better use of my life.

In the last few years that I have been pursuing celibacy, I have been shocked to hear some of the assumptions people make about single Christian women. No, I don’t feel like God owes me a husband and I don’t feel disappointed that one has not appeared. No, I don’t have trouble getting dates. In fact, I have become an expert at avoiding and/or turning down potential suitors. No, my father wasn’t absent or abusive or bad to my mother. He is a good Christian man who has been a faithful, loving husband and father for more than 30 years. And no, I am not angry at men, hiding from men, gay or sexually confused.

Yet I do understand why so many folks need to “explain” my choice. Our culture, both the larger culture and our Western, protestant, church culture, has no place for single women. There are no official channels for women who wish to dedicate their lives to the Lord’s service. If a woman chooses to give up the possibility of being a wife and giving birth to children, then that woman must be damaged in some way, right? Truth be told, I do not believe anyone consciously thinks I am damaged. But I do suspect, based on the concerned looks and pitiful glances of the church folk, many of my brothers and sisters think I am settling for a lesser version of God’s will, a sadder, lonelier life than what God intended for me. In fact, I am wholeheartedly engaging life, serving my God with loyalties undivided. I feel nothing less than blessed.

Although I love my life, I am making a sacrifice. The idea of spending the rest of my life without sex… well, that is a hard reality to bear. Also, I admit that, in fits of girlishness, I have indulged in imagining who my perfect match would be – what that big, strong, humble, God-fearing man would be like. I have the occasional weak moment, moments of doubt or frustration.

Neither the pitiful glances nor the moments of doubt have led me to question my decision. Somehow Jesus makes celibacy seem like such a good deal. ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life’ (Luke 18:29-30). In this life, I choose Jesus and gladly follow His lead wherever we may go. I believe that whatever I give up will be restored to me in ways I cannot possibly fathom. For now, I will continue to pursue celibacy as a spiritual discipline and an act of sacrificial worship, giving cheerfully from what I have to a God who has given me everything.”

 
 
Now, if we had more of these types of people, with this kind of perspective, I think the church will be benefited and will be more blessed. It is definitely better than having people who are single and are complaining and comparing with others about their situation. There is a lot of beauty when it comes to a single-minded devotion to Jesus.

God is Mapping Detroit

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Vision

 
I was able to catch part of the Super Bowl in Austin, TX. The leadership team and my crew went out to eat and then headed back to Pastor Ben’s place to catch the 2nd half of the Super Bowl game.

We were all trying to be polite to one another as we were rooting for our team. By default, I was rooting for the Steelers, since the Packers defeated my beloved Bears. Then something happened in the 3rd quarter, which had nothing to do with the game.

As we were watching the commercials ($3 million for a 30 second spot), we were shocked to see the one by Chrysler, which highlighted Detroit. For the whole 2 minutes (the whole commercial intermission), there was a sense of nostalgia, awe, pride and hope that filled the room. As I looked around, I realized that 90% of the people in the room had some connection with Michigan – whether they went to school there, lived there or is living there now.

The conclusion was unanimous. The commercial was pretty incredible.

For me, I couldn’t help but to think about some of the things that God has been speaking to me about regarding the city of Detroit. The timing of everything is pretty humbling and awe-inspiring. God is somehow orchestrating things, even through the secular media to put Detroit on the map. There seems to be a resurgence of energy for the things that are happening in the Big-D, as well as an awakening of hope for greater things to come.

What an awesome testimony it would be if God, in His Sovereignty would take a city that is on the bottom of the list in the United States and then turn it around for His glory, especially as the Church of Jesus is praying and wanting to become a “city on a hill”?

I don’t know if I can shake off this feeling that God is doing something (way bigger than us) and that He might be opening up a door for our church to do something in the future.

No matter where I go or where I turn to, I am constantly confronted with this strange conviction that Detroit will be the next city where God wants to do some great things. As we were flying back from Austin to Detroit, I picked up the Sky Delta Magazine. There is a whole section on Detroit titled, “Motor City Momentum.” There is definitely momentum that is building. Now, the Church needs to be discerning and respond in faith.

“This is the Motor City and this is what we do” [Eminem]
 
 

HMCC of Austin Retreat Reflections 2011

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Various, Victories, Viewpoint, Visits

 
I love the local church. They come in all different sizes, styles and shapes. We should never relegate the church to a building or even to a “place” where we go, but instead, we have to constantly remind ourselves that it is made up of people – people that Christ loves and gave Himself in sacrificial obedience to the Father.

This is why it was such a privilege to go to HMCC of Austin for their congregational retreat.

I was able to bring along with me a handful of people who are actively serving in our HMCC of Ann Arbor. There are always teaching moments during these types of trips; therefore my heart’s desire was for my crew to experience God’s heart for the local church. Sometimes when we are placed in a different context, we are able to learn new lessons and reinforce old lessons that are relevant to the things that we are pursuing for God’s glory.

It was a powerful retreat – definitely one of the more powerful ones that we have experienced in Austin. We are praying that God will continue on with the momentum, so that we can see more salvations and more people getting trained to be Kingdom workers. Every time I visit Austin, I am more convinced that there was a clear purpose for the planting of this church. We want to stay focused on the mission.

Thanks for all your prayers during the retreat. Let’s continue to keep HMCC of Austin in our prayers. God is doing some great things down in Austin and we are anticipating greater things to come in the near future.

Here are some reflections from the crew:
 
 

Cultivating Creativity in the Church

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values, Various, Viewpoint

 
I recently heard about how the Assemblies of God denomination is committed to raising up the youth to use their God-given talents in the area of the fine arts. Every year, they have the festival in a different major city in the United States. In August 2010, they had their national Fine Arts Festival in Detroit.

The festival’s mission is to “help students discover, develop and deploy their ministry gifts.” Each year, there are close to 70,000 junior and senior high school students who submit their entries. It is an incredible display of talents and creativity. There are 8 major sections in this festival. They cover the topics of: Drama, Dance, Art, Instrumental, Communication, Writing, Vocal, and Exhibition. Under those major sections there are about 58 different categories to specialize in.

In fact, it is quite breath-taking to see all the talents and gifts displayed in one place.

I am wondering how many churches really value cultivating creativity. How many young people are released to use their talent for God’s glory in the church? I know that in our church we can definitely improve in this area. But I have been encouraged to see more of the young people in our church really have a passion to use their gifts and talents for evangelism and for His glory.

It is in the church where we should see some of the most creative people. If God is the ultimate Creative Creator, then His children, who are made in His image, should be creating some beautiful things.

As I was reflecting on my life, I realized that I am definitely a “closet artist” (a.k.a. I love the arts but I’m trying really hard to keep my cool gangster image). I remember how I have enjoyed making things with my hands (model airplanes… yes, even sewing a soccer ball pillow from scratch for home economics in 8th grade). I think about the one-person drama that I did in the 1980’s with Carmen’s song, The Champion (painted my face half white and half red to represent God and Satan). I remember how my small group in college did a drama during Praise Night that went through the Gospel message from creation to the cross, through the use of a puppet imagery with strings (since then this skit has been redone in many different ways).

In this generation, where people are more artist than ever before, I am thinking that it would be awesome to cultivate more of the creativity in the Body of Christ. As Chuck Colson once said, “The next Billy Graham in our generation will be an artist,” I am praying that God will raise up people who will use their artistic skills to share the Gospel message to the people and nations in our generation.

This is why, when I saw this drama presentation from the National Fine Arts Festival which was held in Detroit this past year, it moved me and stirred up my passion for the arts. This drama raised the bar for drama presentations to a whole new level.

Check it out: