• Thursday, Dec 2 (7:30 PM): Young Adults Fellowship
• Friday, Dec 3 (7:30 PM): Everglow Youth Fellowship
• Saturday, Dec 4 (10 AM – 4 PM): 2011 Ministry Orientation and Equipping Consistory Gathering
• Sunday, Dec 5: — Youth Sunday School (9:30 AM, Fellowship Hall) Study of Galatians
— Sunday REFRESH! (9:45, Conference Room).
— English Worship (11:00 AM, Second Floor). Tim Tseng will speak on “Jesse’s Stump” (Isa 11:1-10). Youth will have their own message.
— Prayer Fellowship (1:30 PM, Main Lobby).
— Agape Family Group meeting (4-7 PM, Fellowship Hall).
Dec. 2, 2010
Dear Canaan EM sisters and brothers,
I spent part of my morning and lunch time with a fellowship of twenty or more English speaking Asian American pastors. More than half of them are either searching for a new pastoral position or are in struggling congregations or are in the middle of difficult church conflicts. Yet, they continue to hang on to their belief that God called them to testify to the hope and light for the world in Jesus Christ. They remain deeply committed to helping Asian American churches proclaim salvation despite the pain and the wounds.
The lives of these pastors, my brothers and sisters in Christ, make Advent Season more real. When we talk about anticipation and preparation for the hope and healing that Christ brings, it is nothing more than rhetoric unless we also can feel the hurts and hopelessness that so many in our world experience. Only when we walk through the valley of disappointment, disillusion, and death do we fully understand the deep and true meaning of Christmas. Only when we have tasted bitterness can we appreciate the sweetness of God’s grace.
The reputation of many Asian immigrant churches is that they are graceless machines that operate on the basis of obligation and duty. Everything is measured by outward behavior. The metrics of spiritual growth is determined by how much time people give to prayer meetings or how well they obey the bible. Well, I don’t believe that this legalistic or Pharisaic behavior is exclusive to Asian immigrants. But I do think that many Christians are so used to serving out of obligation and duty that they’ve lost sight of the meaning of Christ’s incarnation.
You see, a life of obligation and duty is an unexamined life. Those who live this way usually do not understand what it means to fall and fail. They are usually unable to comfort the downtrodden because they’ve never been beat down or humiliated. When we lose touch with pain and suffering, we are unable to tolerate even the slightest discontent.
This is unfortunate because all adults, beginning in their mid-thirties, realize that they are mortal and that life has bumps. The temptation is to flee discontent rather than to embrace it as a meaningful lesson from God. Christian spirituality calls this the “Dark Night of the Soul” – that moment when we feel the depths of our desolation without Christ. No call to duty can lift us out of the miry clay. We can only wait for Christ to appear and lift us up.
This is why Advent is so important to me and my pastoral colleagues. We can truly understand Christ, not by being pressed into duties such as prayer meetings and increased bible knowledge, but by first experiencing for ourselves the damage that sin does to us and our world. Only then can we appreciate the significance of incarnation and grace.
This is why transforming Canaan’s EM leadership culture is the first step towards becoming a healthy church. At Sunday REFRESH!, I want us to realize the impossibility of experiencing joy in Christ in a duty-bound culture. I also want us to recognize that we reach our fullest potential only when we allow Christ to challenge and transform us. But this can only happen when we are self-aware and are in a transparent, safe, trustful, and accountable community of believers such as Sunday REFRESH!
Though Sunday REFRESH! is primarily for current leaders and co-workers, I encourage new believers and anyone who is interested in volunteering to join us (at least for the first few sessions). We meet at 9:45 AM in the Conference Room each Sunday.
I’ve also posted last Sunday’s slides and Paul Tokunaga’s handouts in PDF here:
– Becoming a Level 5 AA Leader.Canaan Taiwanese.SJ.outline
Have a great weekend! See you Sunday!