It seems like we have two opposing trends going on simultaneously. On one end of the curve rabid sharing is driving an attention cycle of seconds but on the other end people are reading and watching more. The social web has flattened web sites and made the home page irrelevant to many sites — simultaneously the shift to the phone/tablet and the mobile app internet is unbundling the web that we knew. The combination of these two trends is changing media and how we use and experience it.
3 years later, 2 years in
This post is a tad long, and also a long time coming.
It’s been about 3 years since I graduated from Southern Seminary with an M.Div, and 2 years into my first ministry position as English Minister /Youth Minister at Tri-Valley Chinese Bible Church.
There’s a lot that I could say about my first stint in the role as a pastor, about the struggles and difficulties, joys and accomplishments in ministry. But for this post, I want to give thanks to God for blessing me abundantly in a few specific areas.
1. A Vision for the Local Church
Before seminary, I did not know what I wanted church to look like. All I knew, was that I did not want it to look like my home church with all its aches and scars.
During seminary, I experienced a fairly ideal picture of church. While it was not perfect, it did give me an expectation of how the local church should biblically function. I am grateful for my home church (where I was converted & called to ministry) and also for my seminary church. Through my experiences at both, and as I began my first ministry position, I was confronted with the need to clear about what I wanted to see in my local congregation.
This is not to say that I had it all figured out. I don’t think any particular seminary class did it. But it really was the culmination of the theological vision I received from Southern and the Spirit of God that opened my ministry eyes to discern the direction that I wished “my” church to go in.
Before you start any pastorate, it would be really helpful to have a vision for the local church. If you don’t after a year or two in, you probably won’t find it for a while.
2. A vision for the pastorate.
This brings me to the issue of the pastorate. I was convinced from seminary and from the Scriptures that there are two offices in the church: elder and deacon. Yet I also knew from my church experiences that every local church confuses the roles and responsibilities. To this day, I still sit in on board meetings discussing toilets and termites (among other less tedious decagonal matters). While my church may not be completely working out the biblical offices, I know I am clear with my role and responsibilities as a pastor of sheep.
The pastorate should be regarded with significance by the pastor and by the deacons and the church members. At the very least, when everyone else may not think that leading, feeding and protecting the sheep is the job, I as pastor must believe that that is the very essence of the position.
3. The place of care.
As the church grows, it is impossible for the pastor to visit everybody. Even as a small congregation of some fifty people, I need to be strategic with who I “visit” and meet up with. And even my definition of what a visit is differs from other leaders.
Yet I am convinced that the care of the church members should primarily be provided in the community of our church—in the small groups of people that meet regularly. This way, everybody’s needs are cared for, and a system of small group leaders and coaches can be developed to report to the pastor.
This way, the pastor actually does know about the important needs that the church requires care for—even if he does not minister himself directly with individuals. Somebody will always be in contact with the one in need of care, and the pastor will always be informed about the general (or specific) issues facing the congregation.
Secondarily, the pastor shall make time to care for individual members on a strategic basis: especially to develop friendship with leaders, to welcome new members, to care for the special cases and love on those on the fringe.
Furthermore, churches need a regular routine of classes to care for the sheep. Some churches call these “redemption groups”; other churches give workshops on counseling one another. Whatever the case, training /seminars /workshops provided regularly will effectively care for a larger number of sheep at one time.
I am grateful for books like Community that really drive at this.
4. The gift of administration.
The Apostle Paul sys in 1 Corinthians 12:28 that “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” If somebody confronted me and asked if I was charismatic, I would say yes. And I’m convinced that I have the gift of “administrating”. Early on in ministry, there were many things I needed to do—first of which, was to figure out what I needed to do. Nobody knew what I specifically should be doing day-to-day, but everybody knew that something needed to be done about everything.
I am grateful to God that I actually don’t cringe at getting my ministry organized. I enjoy planning for the long-term growth of my church. I thrive at setting the vision and mission of my ministry. I find it a beautiful thing when I can set the big picture goals of discipleship for my congregation. Just like in every job, you have to get organized. And in my job, I was at first forced into it by necessity. And now, I readily and naturally do it—especially because it keeps me sane, and most certainly because I would freak out if I didn’t have the plan on paper.
Thank God for giving me the gift of administrating.
5. The need for Discipleship.
This is something that God developed in me through seminary, through good and bad experiences of Sunday School and Church. Discipleship needs to be transformative. It cannot only be about knowledge, nor just behavior modification. Transformation is normally only accomplished by the gospel. On the heart of a regenerate disciple. This transformation takes place when we apply the knowledge of God in life and use the truths of the gospel through life’s ups and downs.
And this transformation takes time. Lord have mercy on me when I am discouraged and don’t see the fruit. In those moments, I need to trust the Lord in a greater measure for the gospel fruit that He will bring about.
6. The priority of the Bible.
As a “Bible” church, this is a given. With a Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I lived and breathed this during my studies. And yet, to actually make it a priority requires using the Bible. In expository preaching; in Sunday School; in fellowship and Bible Study; through the worship service and during times of song.
And just because a church may be “Bible” centered does not mean that it will bring about gospel priorities. I have heard enough sermons (some even from Guest Speakers in my pulpit) that are the epitome of “moralistic therapeutic deism.” I am well are that sermons, classes and Bible studies that end up never connecting to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful to my God for convincing me of the need to always be preaching the gospel of grace in Christ. Salvation through judgment. In private and in public.
In conclusion, I don’t know where the next year(s) will lead. As long as the Lord calls me to stay here in my current church, there I will be. Wife (and soon baby!) beside me; Bible in hand, lifting high the name of Jesus. I am just grateful that God has equipped me for every good work that I could possibly do (2 Tim 3:16-17). And thank God He has carried me through these last 2 or 3 years.
Alex S. Leung, Pastor
What is TGC now; How is it “center bounded”?
The recent controversies around a ministry network that I am very fond of begs me to re-think what “The Gospel Coalition” is, and what should be the relationship of pastors like me with TGC.
For context: This past week, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s blog was forced to be moved out of thegospelcoalition.org. Further, last weekend C.J. Mahaney and Josua Harris have both resigned from the Council of TGC.
Given the seeming disunity within TGC contributors and Council members, I have to wonder — what is the “gospel coalition” now, given how differing the interpretation of how the “center” bounds us together?
I now look back and reflect on what was reiterated 3 years ago from Tim Keller and Don Carson. I invite you to join me in this reading and reflecting on who/what TGC is—especially if you’re like me: one who considers himself “part of” TGC, one who has attended a TGC conference, or have relationships with TGC contributors or Council members:
From the beginning TGC has distinguished between a boundary-bounded set and a center-bounded set. In the former, you establish boundaries to determine who is “in” and who is “outside” the set—-whether the set of true believers, or the set of faithful Presbyterians, or the set of evangelicals, or any other set. For the boundary to have any hope of doing its job, it has to be well defined. If the definitions are sloppy, the boundary keeps getting pushed farther and farther out. For example, suppose we were to say that an evangelical is someone who believes in inerrancy. That may be true, but by itself it is almost useless as a boundary-setting criterion for evangelicalism, since many other people espouse inerrancy who on other criteria are not evangelicals (e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses). Moreover, someone might point to an individual who believes that Jesus died to bear our sin and satisfy the wrath of God, that he rose from the dead, that he is coming at the end of the age to establish resurrection existence in the new heaven and the new earth, that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, who has personally placed his or her faith in the Lord Jesus, but who holds to a fairly high view of Scripture without subscribing to inerrancy: is that person an evangelical? How much deviation on any point do we allow before we insist the person is not an evangelical? Discussions of this sort lead some writers to declare that there is no widely accepted doctrinal definition of evangelical. The same exercise could be undertaken with definitions of Presbyterian, Baptist, or any number of other flags. Nevertheless in boundary-bounded sets, the attempt is made to provide a boundary that defines who is “in” and who is “out”—-and there is usually quite a bit of pressure to keep expanding that boundary, with the result that it easily becomes painfully porous, even meaningless.
Sometimes this way of thinking leads to hopelessly bad questions such as “What is the least I must believe in order to be called an evangelical?”—-the answer to which often generates reductionistic approaches to evangelism and horribly emaciated lowest-common-denominator versions of the gospel. Why not rather ask, “How can I give a theologically rich definition of evangelicalism that faithfully reflects the whole counsel of God?” Worse, inside the boundary there is so little agreed tough-minded confessionalism that love for the truth and a deep knowledge of the Bible and historical and systematic theology are rarely encouraged.
By contrast, center-bounded sets don’t worry too much about who is “in” and “out” at the periphery. Instead, there is a robust definition at the center. For TGC, the center is defined by our Confessional Statement (CS) and Theological Vision for Ministry (TVM) and sustained by the Council members. There we expect unreserved commitment to these foundation documents. As for others, we often have to explain that people cannot “join” the Coalition. Individuals and churches may choose to identify themselves with us and use the thousands of resources on our site, but Council members do not fall into paroxysms of doubt as to whether or not this individual or that church truly belongs to TGC: we are not a denomination, and we do not have the resources to engage in the kind of vetting at the periphery that a boundary-bounded set demands. At the margins there are many who love part of what we stand for and not other parts. They too are welcome to use our material. At the center, however, we expect robust allegiance.
Given that this is what TGC should be—as originally conceived by Tim Keller and D.A. Carson—what then is TGC now? How different has it become from its original vision and intentions? How are we lowly pastors to relate to such a network that has become so different than it was originally?
Source: Reflections On Confessionalism, Boundaries, And Discipline (posted Oct 11, 2011).
GOALS for 2014 and Beyond: 3. Awaken
GOALS for 2014 and Beyond: Empower, Mobilize, Awaken
Tri-Valley Chinese Bible Church | English Ministry - Specific Goals for 1. English Congregation; 2. Adults; 3. Youth:
Awaken Youth towards exercising passionate faith thru spurring each other on in following Christ tangibly at school and at home, in making Christ known in their community and beyond.
- Greater engagement of God in worship and with each other in fellowship;
- Greater responsibility in personal evangelism and gospel-fueled service & ministry.
- Mobilize Youth towards greater leadership responsibilities:
- Develop more Small Group Leaders and Praise Team members.
- Greater accountability and care for one another through gospel-centered friendship: within but never limited to home, school, and church.
For more details, see tvcbc.org/english/?q=vision