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Long to Encounter God

Long to Encounter God

By Rev Philip Chow 

January 29, 2023

Today is one of the Sundays in January 2023. The alarm clock rang on time at 7am in the morning.

I woke up, freshened myself up, got changed, ate breakfast and went out so I could get to the Main Church before 8:30am. When I arrived, the choir was already in the worship hall warming up their voices and preparing to offer their praises at the worship service. Those in other serving roles of the worship service were also getting ready the things and information they needed. Soon afterwards, brothers and sisters gradually arrived, and the worship service began. I did not feel anything special in my heart.

The congregational song today is one of my favorites – with a powerful melody coupled with uplifting lyrics. Even though I was still standing at the front door to welcome brothers and sisters who were slightly late, the melody echoed in my heart when I heard the congregational singing in the worship hall. After the corporate prayer, I went to the reserved seat to continue to worship. I did not feel anything special in my heart.

Everything seems “automatic.” From waking up to traveling to church to the end of the worship service, I do the same thing every Sunday. I did not feel anything special in my heart.

Would that also be your “itinerary” to attend worship service at church every week?

The worship service is the most widely attended meeting at church every week. Brothers and sisters from various fellowships and of different ages gather together, longing for their encounter with the LORD at this time. Although the worship order is almost the same every week, we return to the sanctuary to worship the LORD with reverence and fear after a week of living. We thank the Heavenly Father for His presence and for walking with us. We also long to receive the holy word from Him during the worship service that will encourage us to stand firm in the truth and live out a good testimony. And even though we may not feel differently than the other days, the Heavenly Father’s work and guidance is full of His grace. If we look at all His work attentively, that can surely help spur us on to more active participation in the worship service.

The worship service is not a weekly “routine” – like going to church every week without any special feeling, doing it as a believer’s “duty,” or completing an assignment from the Heavenly Father and forgetting the sermon when the worship service is over.

The worship service is also not for making oneself feel good, choosing only the messages one “likes.” Rather, we need to make an effort. Just thinking about the Heavenly Father’s presence and guidance should be sufficient for encouraging us to praise Jesus Christ who grants redemption and who has victory over the power of death. It should make us humble ourselves to receive the word of God and to better lead a Christ-centered life.

What do you long for in the worship service – a time to encounter God – in worshiping Him, receiving His word, committing yourself to Him, and obeying and living out His truth?

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Blessed are Those Whose Help is the God of Jacob

Blessed are Those Whose Help is the God of Jacob

By Rev Arnold Chow 

January 22, 2023

Psalm 146
Hallelujah.
   Praise the LORD, my soul.
2  I will praise the LORD all my life;
       I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
       in human beings, who cannot save.
4  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
       on that very day their plans come to nothing.
5  Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
       whose hope is in the LORD their God.
6  He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
       the sea, and everything in them—
       he remains faithful forever.
7  He upholds the cause of the oppressed
       and gives food to the hungry.
    The LORD sets prisoners free,
8  the LORD gives sight to the blind,
       the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
       the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the foreigner
       and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
       but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
10 The LORD reigns forever,
       your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Hallelujah.

    In the Chinese bulletin, you will see that this year, I attempted a translation of the whole psalm into Chinese. In the English translation, I have used the familiar “Hallelujah” (哈利路亞 in Chinese) in place of the line “Praise the LORD” at the beginning and the end of the psalm. “Hallelujah” means “Praise the LORD.” The word “Hallelujah” first appears in the Old Testament in Psalm 104. The psalmists of both psalms call their own souls to praise God.
    Why do they call their own souls to “praise”? To “praise” means to recognize, commend, honor and exalt. However, it can also be superficial lip service. One Bible commentator has rightly said that whoever people “praise,” those are often the ones they want to rely on. There are those who often “praise” the people in power in the hope of winning their approval. Other than the LORD, no powers on earth can really “save” or “help” people because man is, after all, finite (v.4). But the psalmist’s trust is in “the God of Jacob” (v.5). Before man “praises” God, He is determined to save and help. That is why the psalmist responds by “praising” the LORD with his soul and life (v.2).
    This being the Year of the Rabbit, I was trying to find four-word proverbs in Chinese with the word “rabbit” to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Nevertheless, what I found were stories of rabbits having bad endings. Yet, when we think of Jacob, he is unlike a good student who receives rabbit stamps from the teacher. His life was more like “a cunning rabbit with three burrows” (狡兔三窟) who “flees like a rabbit set free” (動若脫兔). Nevertheless, earthly cleverness and shrewdness could not really “help” him.
    When Jacob thought maybe fleeing to Laban could “help” him, he was deceived to work. And when he did cleverly get back his wages and was planning to go home, he was met by Esau, coming with his large group of men. When Jacob thought he could rely on his wives, they vied with the concubines. When he thought about counting on his sons when old, they struggled among themselves. When Jacob thought he could rely on his possession of herds and flocks, there came a great drought. In the end, what he thought he could rely on all his life were no match for the LORD who appeared to him at Bethel back in the early days.
    Before Jacob was aware, the LORD had saved his beloved son who was sold to Egypt, accomplishing the redemption plan to “help” his entire family to survive the famine. The God of Jacob is not One who wants human “praises” in exchange for “help.”
   “Those whose help is the God of Jacob” are “blessed,” aren’t they? Now, “the God of Jacob” also treat you and me in the same way. “Hallelujah”!

 

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Be Not Discouraged but Boldy Move Forward with Perseverance

Be Not Discouraged but Boldy Move Forward with Perseverance

By Rev Gordon Siu

January 15, 2023

    I heard many valuable testimonies from brothers and sisters at the 2022 Year-end Thanksgiving Meeting. These words sounded in my heart: Yes, do not be discouraged but keep following the Lord closely!

   One sister has a child with special needs. The child has learning difficulties. For many years, they had been in and out of the hospital. The sister was worried about the child all through the years, and despite frequent prayers, there was no improvement… To everyone’s great surprise, the child had been admitted to university and his mental state miraculously improved. This mother had waited more than 20 years. God answered her prayers when His time came. Another sister said she had been praying for one thing for years. There is still no solution in sight but seeing a ray of hope, she would continue to persist in facing it and to wait for the Lord to accomplish it in His time.

   Jesus told a parable about a widow with a plea. The judge ignored her for a long time but she did not give up. She kept “bothering” the judge for help. The Lord said: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly…” (Luke 18:7-8).

   Will God “keep putting them off”? God has His perfect plan. He may not answer our prayer right away but when His time comes, He will not delay and will very quickly give us what we pray for! The key thing, though, is whether the one who prays is still waiting with perseverance by then or has already given up faith.

   The Book of Hebrews mentions many spiritual role models who never gave up hope. They had not necessarily received the things promised during their lifetime and yet they still held fast to the Lord all their lives. It is because they prayed, above all, for a heavenly reward, a better home that God promises. Their faith is reflected in their insistence to do good, to be patient in adversity, and in not giving up earnestly following the Lord. These people were not discouraged nor did they regress when what they hoped for had not been realized, for they never lost faith in God! Theirs is the kind of “faith” the Lord will find when He comes.

   Sometimes, we are discouraged because we are disappointed in ourselves – we are not as good as we used to; our love for God has turned cold; we have lost the motivation to connect with brothers and sisters and to worship God… When we tend to “look to the self,” we become depressed and weak. We will also be tempted by our pride, which says: My past good performance was due to my strength and wisdom, but now I am powerless and can no longer do anything. This temptation is saying: All my past achievements and ferventness came from my abilities! When we think that our future hinges on our present abilities, our pride will make us discouraged and frustrated.

   A father asked Jesus to heal his boy who had been possessed by demons since childhood. Then the father said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Now this father was aware of his own inadequacy and he did not think it all depended on himself. He “looked to the Lord,” trusting that He can help with his inadequacy!  Brothers and sisters, whenever we feel weak, we only need to turn our thoughts to the Lord’s grace and faithfulness, focus on trusting in Him, and we will be able to move forward boldly. We will be able to “smile at” our weaknesses “so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

 

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Discerning God’s Works in Your Daily Life

Discerning God’s Works in Your Daily Life

By Rev Arnold Chow 

January 8, 2023

     This year, the direction of spiritual growth for the NPAC family is this:

     Discerning God’s works in your daily life and share the stories…

    Having experienced God’s guidance, grace and love in our daily life, will we give thanks to God?

    After giving thanks, we also need to properly “file” the experience. The best way to “file” this would be to share it with others. Have you ever had the experience that every time you are to give a testimony, you could only recall your conversion testimony years ago but not how you have experienced God recently? It is quite likely that it is not because you do not have recent experiences. It is just that you have not “filed” them properly. Unrecounted experiences fade as time goes by. It would also not be easy for you to remember how God has walked with you as He always does.

   In life’s stormy seasons, God certainly has His will and works. If we can clearly discern God’s guidance and how He steps into our situations, it will help us face what is before us. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” We need to discern the guidance and works of God and “file” them – to share His grace and love with others more.

   We “discern” so we know we are experiencing God’s works. Of course, we cannot be too far-fetched and attribute all our experiences to the works of God. To “discern” means to distinguish with wisdom which are the works of God’s hands. What are the instances in which God is revealing His will? One yardstick for “discernment” is to ask: What did God say? Fundamentally, we need to know God’s character and standards through His revelation of Himself and the early commandments He proclaimed. After the Israelites were rescued from Egypt and had experienced God’s mighty deeds, God proclaimed the Ten Commandments to them at Mount Sinai. Through the commandments, the people of God were able to know God, how to fear Him and get wisdom for daily life.

   Talking about the “Ten Commandments,” people usually think of a series of “you shall not do this; you shall not do that” kind of prohibitions.

   The literal translation of the “Ten Commandments” from the original language is really “Ten Words.” These ten words or statements are filled with the will of God and represent the wisdom that the people of God need in life and in their daily encounters. It is like parents saying to a child: “Do not go into the kitchen.” Is this a harsh prohibition that restricts the child’s freedom of exploration? Certainly not! It is love. In the parents’ hearts, they do not want the child to trespass and get an accident. It is because a serious injury will affect the child’s freedom in life and activity in the rest of his life.

   Proverbs says: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (9:10). In this first quarter, we will review these “Ten Words,” to know the commands from God Himself and discern His guidance for us in our daily life. This will help us further understand His heart and experience His enduring grace and love.

 

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Devotional is Christian Lifestyle

Devotional is Christian Lifestyle

By Rev Patrick Wong

January 1, 2023

The NPAC family designates the first or last Saturday and Sunday of each year as Devotional Sunday. This is to encourage brothers and sisters to attach importance to and practice devotional on a regular basis.

Our difficulties: We all know the importance of devotional. We probably have tried hard to establish and keep the habit of devotional. But as Jesus said: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). Fatigue surely affects our devotional. Busy work and responding to family needs are often the main reasons that wear us out. Keeping watch, praying and quiet time – these we all know, but they are not easy to carry out or to do so regularly. What can we do if we do not wish to give up so readily?

Jesus’ devotional life: Since we believe in and follow Jesus, let us look at His example. Jesus was really busy when he was preaching. As portrayed by Mark, His itinerary for one of the days in Capernaum included the following: The Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue to teach and drove away an impure spirit. As soon as He left the synagogue, He went to His disciples’ home and healed Simon’s mother-in-law. In the evening, “…the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed” (Mark 1:32). Jesus healed many and drove out many demons. A day passed. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). And when the disciples found Jesus, He led them to other villages to preach.

On another occasion, after Jesus had finished discipling, He intended to send the disciples off to take some rest in a quiet place when He was caught up by thousands who were waiting for them. Not only did Jesus continue teaching but He also performed the miracle of five loaves and two fish. He then asked His disciples and the crowd to leave and He alone went up on a mountainside to pray (Mark 6:30-46).

Work (ministry), prayer and communication with the Father (devotional) – these formed the daily life of Jesus.

Lifestyle of choice: A spiritual mentor has shared: People will find time to do what they deem important. If we attach importance to physical health, we will squeeze time from our busy schedule to go jogging or go to the gym. If we want or need coffee, we will find time to go to a favorite coffee shop to grab a cup to go or even sit down and enjoy one. In the midst of the fatigue and tight schedule of life, we somehow have time to check the mobile phone, leave messages on the social media and watch YouTube. Do we also value greatly devotional, Bible reading and prayer as part of our daily life? Are these our Christian lifestyle?

Devotional is a life offering: Devotion or devotional means pious worship and dedication to the Lord. At the start of the new year, let us choose devotional as our lifestyle and continually offer ourselves “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).

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Online, Offline, Connected, Disconnected

Online, Offline, Connected, Disconnected

By Rev Andrew Tsang

December 18, 2022

In the midst of the pandemic, getting involved in the online world becomes inevitable to us – students need to take classes online; seniors have to learn to use smartphones in order to go to places conveniently and to stay connected with family and friends who are far away; in quarantine facilities, video calls are the only means to see the family; believers can attend worship services, fellowship meetings and Bible talks online… Now, pandemic prevention measures have been relaxed but we still see many empty seats in the worship halls each week. We also think of brothers and sisters whom we have not seen for a long time. That we care very much.

Man cannot see the most holy and glorious LORD with our eyes. That was why in Old Testament times, God gathered the Israelites for sacred meetings at the tabernacle and temple (1 Chronicles 28:2; Hebrews 9:1-5) to let man understand that God dwelled and walked with them through the tough time from Egypt to Canaan. In New Testament times, God has believers unite with Christ through the church, to remember the Lord through various liturgy in worship services and experience the presence of the real albeit unseen Lord. The Bible says: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing [i.e. their custom], but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). The Scripture contrasts “giving up meeting” against “encouraging one another.” This reminds believers that amid today’s busy, intense schedules and a lifestyle with no rest throughout the week, we still need to gather before the Lord in corporate worship and, from there, encourage one another so we can face the temptations and challenges of the last days and proclaim to the world in worship that we are a consecrated community. But how can we experience this in front of the TV monitor? It is true that it is more difficult to engage believers in active participation in online worship services, let alone feeling the presence of the LORD as well as the companionship, mutual love and encouragement of brothers and sisters.

In the past when I pastored college students and working young adults, someone shared with me the opinion that young people are only interested in the online world. But I found that they are very eager to really experience life and build up real relationships. The last few years have even seen college students fed up with online tuition. Virtual reality and the metaverse may seem attractive but they are by no means comparable to the experience of connection in real life and relationship building. Though my two sons enjoy driving the Mario Cart (a TV car race game), they fell in love with the real sense of freedom and speed once they have learned to ride a bicycle. In quarantine, it is undoubtedly precious that one can see one’s family on the iPad. But this can never compare with holding the hands of the beloved and talking with them face to face.

The “online world” has both advantages and disadvantages. It can help those separated to remain connected to a certain extent and draw attention to the messages shared. If the church uses this medium well, it can certainly help fish for man online effectively and reach those who are otherwise difficult to reach. However, if used inappropriately, it can affect the connection between believers and God as well as others, even leading to deviations in faith. Therefore, unless you are staying online solely for health reasons, I sincerely invite you to come back in person and experience once again the reality of the LORD together with us!

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After the Worship Service…

After the Worship Service…

By Rev Eva Lok

December 11, 2022

(One day after worship service in front of Room 7, Main Church…)

Mom:     What did they teach in Sunday School today, Ming?
Ming:    (Silent)
Dad:       Ming, do you know the name of your Sunday School teacher?
Ming:     No idea.

Any similarities of the above episode to actual individuals or events are coincidental. Christian families are accustomed to worshiping together on Sunday morning. They take a rest or review school work in the afternoon, sleep well at night, and another five-day routine cycle begins: the parent(s) go to work, and the kids go to school. Worshiping at church has become the routine for many, so they seldom reflect on what the worship service has to do with everyday life. Adults, not to mention kids, can hardly remember anything from the worship service.

Connect with God in prayer after the worship service: The faith of our children starts with what they see about their parents’ spiritual life. Do we often pray in our daily life besides praying at church? Simple things like saying grace before meals reflect our dependance on and gratefulness to the LORD. Having food to eat and the ability to eat it should not be taken for granted. Parents need to set a spiritual example. Their prayer must not be merely habitual. They should lead their children to seriously thank God for all that have been bestowed upon them. Parents should let their children see that their prayer is neither perfunctory nor empty but rather prayers to ask God to hear their needs. In doing so, the children will also see God’s different responses. From parents, the children will learn to be grateful for what God gives upon asking, and be obedient and trust in the Lord for what He does not give.

Practice God’s teachings after the worship service: Parents need to foster at home an Atmosphere of always discussing the teachings of God so their children get used to having the Bible as the content of their casual conversations. Many parents are good at telling their children Bible stories vividly. This helps the children grasp the content of the stories quickly. Other than the factual questions of when, where, who, etc., parents can add deeper questions, such as “why.” Why did the Lord Jesus stay with Zacchaeus the evil man? That is because He wanted to express God’s unconditional love for man. Now, “how” did the Israelites cross the Red Sea? God separated the water to let them cross. The Red Sea episode was to let the weak Israelites see the mighty power of God so they can trust Him firmly. The story is to let children understand that not all things can be explained. The emphasis is on the mighty power of God and His love for Israel. This enables the children to know from young that the Bible is not meant to satisfy our curiosity but to help us know God and trust and obey Him. Parents should not evade the children’s questions. They should reply if they know the answer, and say they don’t know when they really do not know. Of course, they can go back to church to consult the pastors.

Worship God in life after the worship service: At home, parents can play Christian music so the kids learn to sing the songs from young. I once heard a kid of two and a half years old sing “70+”, our 70th anniversary song – and did so beautifully. Our worship of God is not restricted to our song leading. We need to often sing worship songs with our children. Children’s songs are also rich in spiritual content.

After the worship service is when the life of faith really begins…

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What Does the Church Have to Do with “Company”?

What Does the Church Have to Do with “Company”?

By Rev Arnold Chow

December 4, 2022

As members of NPAC, I believe you and me in the past have had no need for a long time to handle any statutory matters of the church. Other than getting an annual receipt for our tithe and offering from the church to claim tax exemption, our church life seems to have nothing to do with a limited company.

As a matter of fact, Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) Hong Kong has, for a long time, been operating as a limited company and charitable organization with the aim of advancing evangelism, mercy ministries and social services locally, as well as overseas mission work.

During the 1950s, mainland missionaries moved to Hong Kong and so C&MA started to develop in a number of areas here. NPAC was one of the churches established at that time. At the end of the 1950s, as led by the Alliance Mission, a number of churches set up the Church Union. In order to localize, the Church Union registered with the government as a limited company in 1968. All properties of the member churches were then transferred to the Church Union.

So “corporatization” is nothing new. It is only that in the past, the Church Union has been taking up legal matters at the limited company level, including opening bank accounts and purchasing church premises so that member churches can focus on pastoring and evangelism.

This structure has been used by God to facilitate the steady growth of C&MA in the early days. In 1983, the number of member churches has grown to more than 40. The Church Union’s Executive Committee Chairman then, Rev Philip Teng, laid down a 10-year church-planting plan for C&MA Hong Kong (which was later updated with growth targets were extended). On the eve of year 2000, the number of member churches already grew to 93, and it reached 120 in 2021. Besides, under C&MA is various organizations such as a publishing house, a mission agency, a social services centre, etc. It has also founded 10 kindergartens, three primary schools and one secondary school.

Just by looking at the number of member churches and organizations under the Church Union’s purview, we will understand its heavy workload involved operating as a single limited company as it also has to coordinate the administration, accounting and property management work, etc., of member churches and organizations. In compiling the annual consolidated financial report, for example, the Church Union has to collect and integrate data and information from more than 100 autonomous churches and organizations. It is no easy task.

Meanwhile, since all member churches come under the same limited company, it is possible that any member church can get legal liability for litigation arising from other member churches, with the risk of having its premise properties seized by claim. It can be seen that the centralization of all resources under one limited company has both advantages and disadvantages.

As the social environment becomes increasingly complicated, the Church Union decided last year to have structural reorganization within the denomination. At the same time, it encourages member churches to corporatize. Simply speaking, the move will see the restructuring of a single registered limited company comprising over a hundred member churches and organizations as more individually registered limited companies.

Thanks be to God, the company registration application of NPAC has been approved. We have also obtained charitable organization status recently. Later, I will share with you the transitional arrangements and progress.

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Advent: Preparation in Hope

Advent: Preparation in Hope

By Rev Doh Chuan Ning

November 27, 2022

Year after year, many churches plan worship services, personal devotionals and Bible reading according to the Church Year and the deeds of Jesus Christ on earth to help believers remember and relive the experience of the saving grace of Jesus Christ and “connect with the Lord” more deeply in daily life. Advent (meaning “coming”) is the first festival of the church year. It is a “preparation period” to prepare hearts in anticipation of the birth of the Lord Jesus (First Advent). It is also a “waiting period” as we look forward to His second coming (Second Advent). Therefore, in addition to remembering the birth of Jesus, Advent also reminds us to prepare ourselves to meet the Lord.

Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. During Advent, some churches put up an “Advent Wreath” in accordance with tradition to guide believers. The wreath has three purple candles, one pink candle and one white candle. The church would light one candle each Sunday (the purple candles would be lit on the first, second and fourth Sundays and the pink candle on the third Sunday). This is to signify that the return of Christ is getting closer and closer. On Christmas Eve, the church would light the big white candle in the middle of the wreath, signifying that Jesus (the light of the world) has come to us. The light of the candle symbolizes the light of Christ. The light comes to the world, dispels darkness and shines on “those living in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79).

Traditionally, the church designates four themes for the four Sundays in Advent (which vary slightly among different traditions) to guide believers to prepare themselves. The theme for the first Sunday is “Awakening.” This is because nobody knows when Christ will return. We must always be prepared, reflect on our lives and deeds to see if we have done anything wrong or trespassed against God. The second Sunday would be themed “Repentance.” When we understand our trespasses, we should sincerely repent to God and rectify the wrong, actively improve ourselves and regulate the part of our life that is off-track. The third Sunday is “Joy.” We rejoice not just because we have experienced the birth of Christ for our sake so we are freed from sin, but also because we are living with the good news that “the Lord is near” and so we should await His return with hearts of joy and eager expectation. The fourth Sunday is “Love and Light.” We welcome the birth of Jesus Christ with joy and delight. He has brought us love and light. We should also give thoughts to practicing the will of the LORD in our daily lives, to bring love and light to the world.

Advent says a lot about the meaning of faith as well as tradition and culture. It also prepares our spiritual lives. Through reflection on our lives, believers engage in purification of the self and wait devoutly for the return of Christ. Advent also helps us focus on the work of salvation of Christ’s coming, so we can once again receive and take part in the Savior’s redemption work to bring faith, hope and lovingkindness to this era when truth is distorted and black and white is confused. May this Advent be a time you will encounter the gracious Lord, connect with Him more deeply and renew your commitment to Him.

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Theological Education: A Collaborative Effort among Churches and Seminaries

Theological Education: A Collaborative Effort among Churches and Seminaries

By Rev Wayne Cheung

November 20, 2022

The Theological Education Sunday every two years at NPAC is aimed at encouraging brothers and sisters to seek God’s will on whether he/she is called to serve as full-time ministers and to get equipped in seminaries. Meanwhile, the church also wishes to take the opportunity to promote theological education. We encourage brothers and sisters to take appropriate Bible or theology courses to know God more fully and for serving Him. This is to “equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12).

Small as it is, Hong Kong nevertheless provides many seminaries and Christian training institutions. Since the middle of the last century, various kinds of theological training have been flourishing, grooming large numbers of local pastors and missionaries. They also train up full-time and tentmaking Kingdom workers who suit the needs of the times for local and overseas Chinese populations. The seminaries and institutions also train up church leaders and lay believers. They become a blessing for our churches, the workplace and Christian organizations, and have advanced the development of theological education.

You may ask: Isn’t the church done with its mission just by sending appropriate believers to seminaries to be trained as future pastors and church leaders? Now theological education is not installation work as in factories. We should not think that we only need to send people to be “processed” and then we can produce some sort of workers suited to the needs of the market. On the contrary, theological education should be training on both life and skills. It should also address the complexity and drastic changes of the era.

This is why we need even closer collaboration between churches and seminaries so that future pastors and church leaders can respond more effectively to contemporary pastoring ecology and needs upon completion of equipment and training. To achieve this goal, churches have five practical tasks:

First, churches should make a greater effort to encourage believers to serve, use their gifts and, in the process, learn to work with God. This will help them discern God’s calling in the course of their lives.

Secondly, pastors and church leaders need to walk with those who serve, providing timely spiritual, emotional and practical support as well as prayers so that they will realize the importance of “close pastoring” as well as teaching by example. When these committed believers serve regularly, pastors should suggest appropriate training or theology courses for them to attend so that they can reflect on and more fully integrate their ministry experience, life of faith and their biblical and theological knowledge.

Thirdly, for those committed to nurturing others’ lives, pastors can help them with spiritual direction and discernment. On the one hand, pastors can continue to support them, walk with them and watch over them. On the other hand, pastors can recommend them to join the church’s Dedication Group where they can more concretely discern whether God calls them to serve as pastors.

Fourthly, pastors can help believers who are prepared to receive full-time training to know various seminaries and Christian training institutions more. This will help them make a choice after God’s heart when responding to His call.

Finally, for seminarians, pastors should continue to watch over them while at the same time encourage them to share their personal experiences with those after them. That way, they would contribute to the efforts in passing on the legacy regarding equipping for faith as well as theological education to build up the body of Christ together.