On Saturday Vivian and I joined the Asian AIM at the Burwood Chinese Presbyterian Church. There were significantly less people comparing to the last time, partly because many female Christians have gong to the WKC on the same day. Also the SCEA day was on the previous weekend. But nevertheless, it was an enjoyable and fulfilling event, and I had some good chat with fellow workers in Christ from other Chinese churches around Sydney.
Dudley Foord gave two one hour talk in the morning, titled "Optimism Through Ministry Hardship". After the lunch, we had another workshop/seminar, separating the elders/deacons, male MTS workers and female MTS workers. Joshua puts me into the "elders/deacons" workshop, looking at how to set up MTS in local churches. I don't think I quite fit the category, but nor am I an MTS worker. So our group in the afternoon ended with five people - Luke from CCC, CH from AABC, Josh, Jack and I from FOCUS. We spent most our time "helping" Josh to construct and fix up his presentations, when he is touring around the Sydney Chinese churches in the next few months trying to persuade them to set up MTS.
I pretty much grew up as a Christian in a westernised clergymen-led Anglican'ish Asian church/fellowship, i.e. FOCUS. It is very different from many laymen-led Chinese churches out there that elders and deacons are the boss. So convincing a church to fork out some resources to train the new generation does not stop at the pastor - in fact pastor has relatively little power - but the stumbling block is usually on the board of elders, who might not have the same kind of vision as its pastor. As I said before that layman-led church was something foreign to me, and having Luke there showing all the do's and dont's was really eye-opening to me.
Now back to Dudley's talks. The point is how to be optimistic in ministry. Optimism is not an attitude, but it can be trained through ministry hardship. Here's the notes I've taken.
Optimism Through Ministry Hardship
Dudley Foord - Asian AIM - 12 September 2003
God's will for us is to grow like Jesus everyday and do Jesus' will with optimism . Hardship is inescapable for us, and sometimes we do not know how to handle it - how to handle it in godly way. Hardship is part of a Christian Ministry (inevitable inescapable).
- Look at Christ the suffering servant.
- Mark 8:31, Mark 9:12, Mark 10:32-34, Mark 10:45
- Romans 8:17 - Christ suffered before entering into his glory, and so should we.
- Look at Paul, who faces suffering constant.
- Hardships. 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. 2 Timothy 1:8. 2 Timothy 2:12. 2 Timothy 2:8-10. 2 Timothy 3:10. 2 Timothy is written with one thing in mind - ministry involves hardship. Paul is saying, join with me in the hardship of ministry.
- 2 Timothy 2 - ministry equation:
M + H = C + CG
Ministry + Hardship = Conversion + Church Growth.
4 Biblical pictures of the sovereign God at work in our lives through hardships.
- God = the potter moulding the clay (us) to His design. Jeremiah 18. His design not mine. See the potter at work.
- God = Refining Fire burning out the impurities in the gold 1 Peter 1:6-7. God has a magnificent purpose for us, by refining the purifies into gold. All the metal has to be subjected to very high temperature. Gold has impurities and needs to be refined.
- God = Training us in His Gym Training/discipline to produce godly lives. Hebrews 12:5-11. God discipline us in his gymnasium.
- God = The Craftsman - shaping and crafting to produce perfection. James 1:2-4. God is crafting us and shaping us so we can to be mature and complete not lacking anything.
Beneficent Consequences in our Lives
- Romans 5:1-5, Romans 8:17, Romans 3:39
8 Benefits of Hardship Trails Suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 - Hard-pressed but not crushed. It is not about why it happens to us, but how we can react and handle it. There are a number of responses.
- Sometimes we just failed to see that it is God's love for us.
- We might continue on in ministry, but we are discouraged and have bitter and anger within. It is like cancer within the soul.
- We might face hardship experience, and then fall back and has easier time. Then we become those comfortable ministers that come back off. We have lost our edge.
We must choose to handle it godly way, not like those in this world. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, comfort has been mentioned 10 times. But suffering has been mentioned 16-17 times! Handling hardship and trial is the theme in this passage. Here are the 8 benefits.
- v3-4a We experience the comfort (encouragement) of God. God is the source of all comfort and encouragement. He came as loving Father and said "I love you". He gives comfort and strength - not like something sweet, but strength and courage when we face hardship. "Comfort" as an old English word actually means to add strength, but not to hold back. There are 2 ways of comfort.
- In his word. He is the source of all comfort.
- Through other Christians to us. 2 Corinthians 7:5 - have you ever been in that situation? but in 2 Corinthians 7:8 God is there comforting Paul by giving others around Paul. Titus and other friendship is something that lifted Paul in his down and out. Be willing to open up to friendship.
- v4b, 6a We are enabled to comfort others. So that we can comfort others by the comfort we have received from God. We are enriched in our Christian life. So we can comfort those who are in trouble. God is so kind an generous to us, which enriches me and provides us a way to comfort the others. Because we have walked through the same hardship so that we can help others in the same way.
- v5 We share in Christ's sufferings. In union with Christ we entered this relationship. "Why are you persecuting me" in Acts 11 - people are actually persecuting Christ. As we grow in godliness, we can understand the rejection of Christ that he has felt. We are entering into the suffering of Christ.
- v6b-7 Others are stirred to endurance. Paul is facing the same suffering you suffer. When we see a godly example facing hardship, somehow it puts strength into us. When he is not caving in, his action encourages us. Furnace does stiffen us and makes us endure.
- v8-9 We are driven back to rely on God to deliver us. The pressure is so great and he felt the sentence to death, but he still endure. Paul is really under pressure, but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves. This terrible experience drives him back to God. The technology tends to blind us. Never ministry from the position of strength and over confidence. God's strength in my weakness. God's power in my weakness - We need to know how fragile we are, and without Jesus we can do nothing. Paul is exhausted, but he puts his reliance on God.
- v9c-10 We have a new confidence in God to deliver us. God has delivered us, he will deliver us, and he will continue to deliver us. Paul was in utterly helplessness, but he understood that God could raise the very dead so God could bring him out from all these hardship. We can by God's grace have optimism. We have to cling to God in the dark.
- v11 We grasp afresh the power of prayer. Paul is talking about the prayer that is indispensable. There's close connection between power of God and necessity of prayer. Secular tools has put prayer off the agenda today. But through the prayer of others, God has delivered Paul and colleagues.
- v3,11b We learn to give praise and thanks to God in everything. God allows burden, and he allows us to grow.
Hardship brings growth, and we need to thank God for them.
This world is about minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure. But for Christians, it is not to minimize pain but to engage it. When something nasty walking into our lives, we don't look at them as intruders, but look at them as friends. Bible says, he who is causing these things are conforming us to grow more like Christ.
Relationship with people leads to hardship. Most of these hardship raises from inter-personal relationship problems. When the lion roars, don't walk away, but walk inside and had a good look around. When we have a hardship, stop, don't argue back. Don't defend yourself, but listen to what the people say. Try to figure out what is happening.
In 2 Corinthians 4:1-10, Paul did not lose heart. There's optimism in hardship.
- v1-6 Be excited about the ministry God has given you. We can still be excited by the ministry God has put into our hands.
- It is God's ministry but not Paul's. It is not our ministry, but it is God's.
- Content of his ministry. One message - to all ages.
- Context of his ministry. The spiritual warfare, as people are taken away by Satan. Ministry tools. Proclaiming God's word.
- Central focus - Christ. Not shred of self pity. Not shred of cynicism. For every look at self, take 10 look at Christ. Self pity. Be in touch with ourselves, but make sure we look at Christ.
- Abounding confidence in the gospel. God can break the hardest heart by his gospel. Keep proclaiming God's word. In here Paul draws parallel in the creation. When we tell the gospel, it is God's power in salvation. Don't let anyone intimidate you.
- v7 Be honest about our weaknesses. Clay pot is cheap and cracked. Just think about weakness and failures.
- Our relationship with people. We need to pay attention to that, and know how to handle those relationships. It is difficult, but we need to be like Christ. Then be very careful when we deal with people. People want to be understood, and when we are facing difficult people, don't oppose them straight away.
- Cover up of the mistakes. We need to be honest, and we need to say that we are wrong and we are sorry. Know to ask forgiveness.
- self absolved. Trust the heavenly father will supply us. We trust the heavenly father that will never let us down. Sometimes after church people asked whether we are "comfortable" about sermon - we can become subjective about things. We should not be self absolved.
- v8-9 Don't cave in under pressure, as we will be tempted. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed. Notice the 4 'but not' - he has not...
Dealing with the conflicts...
- Look at the Lord immediately.
- Ask Him to change your attitude to the person. Be willing to face the fact that you may be wrong. Ask the Lord to help to grow as a person. Put the problem under the lord first!
- Focus on the problem NOT the person.
- Your aim is NOT to win the argument, but to win the person and restore genuine harmony and love (ie be a reconciler)
Knowledge is gained by study, but wisdom and compassion is gained by handling the hardship in a godly way. While we do not belittle the teaching, but we also need to focus on the hardship in a godly way.
The Cost of Training Others in Ministry
Principle - every church a training & equipping centre. This is missing in many churches - this causes spiritual weakness and makes a church spiritually unhealthy.
- Every Christian is gifted by God for ministry.
- Every Christian needs to be trained for ministry.
- Every Christian needs to be allocated to a ministry. Every professing Christian must be a minister.
- Pastor/leaders are to undertake training and equipping the whole congregation.
Costs for training others:
- Time. Are we too busy? We need to drop something out from our schedule to train others. We need to drop out something in order to gain more time. Time should never be our problem.
- Energy - physical and emotional. But God provides what we needed in our weakness.
- Money - just plain dollars. Just go for it. The state is eternal.
- Patience. Some people don't want to listen, and some people are slow. We need patience to deal with people.
- Disappointment. We might spend a lot of time with someone, and then that person suddenly pulls out. We should never give up, and continue to maintain good relationships with the people we might be disappointing with.
We need to get ourselves equipped. Get on top to be able to train and equip other people. It takes a long time to train up a person. It takes long time to grow a baby, and we need to do the same with training someone.
Care and pray with selection of people. We need to select FAT people. Faithful, Available, Teachable. Make sure we take time to care and pray with these people.