I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. – I Cor 3:6-7 (NIV)
Apr 23, 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
Apologies for this late update. I encourage you to respond to the poll on holding an off-site all English ministry retreat later this year. So far, 60% want an off-site retreat (75% want a retreat) and only 15% are not ready for a retreat.
In this update, I’d like to reflect a little bit more on last Sunday’s message about renewal and restoration in John 21. Renewal is not something that happens as a result of our efforts. We can try all kinds of techniques to feel more intimate with Jesus, but none of these will renew us. Before Jesus commanded Simon Peter to feed his sheep, Peter and the other disciples had to first receive and eat with the risen Lord. We are renewed only when we allow Jesus into our pain and spiritual lows first.
Knowing this will help us avoid blaming external situations when we feel that we are not growing spiritually. One of the reasons many Asian Americans leave “ethnic” churches is because they do not feel “fed,” yet are obliged to serve children and youth. I’m sure there are many good reasons to leave an immigrant Asian American church. But blaming a church for not feeding him or her adequately is not a good one. We only grow spiritually when we allow Jesus to meet and confront us, not when a church offers great bible studies or inspiring messages (this doesn’t mean that a church should not try to offer solid spiritual nourishment). But it is far better to be honest about our motives and attitudes than to blame others (e.g., I’m looking for a spouse or a good youth program for my kids; I believe Asian American churches are inferior to multi-ethnic or mega-churches). When we allow the Lord to question our inner motives and attitudes (“do you love me more than these?”) – and when we respond honestly – real spiritual growth can occur.
Only then can we realize a second truth about spiritual growth: “we grow as we serve.” Who would you trust more? A surgeon who received straight “A’s” in medical school but has no surgical experience? Or one who has done many procedures successfully? When Jesus commissioned Peter to feed his sheep (i.e., nourish, serve, and cultivate their faith), he was inviting Peter to a journey of growth and maturation. Indeed, if you are are bible study or a community group leader, if you teach in children’s or youth ministry, if you lead worship or are serving others, you have put yourself in the best possible position to grow spiritually. In these situations we are challenged to depend more fully on God for wisdom, strength, and courage than on our own abilities.
Perhaps a good way to think about this is that we serve, not out of obligation, but because we are intensely interested in discovering the kind of growth God will give us. Perhaps we can see ourselves as artists, architects, or engineers – eager to create something that gives glory to God and grows us at the same time! Perhaps we can see ourselves as farmers who work tirelessly to cultivate our field in anticipation of good crop.
Two concluding examples…
This past week, my youngest son Benji stayed three hours after school each day to participate in improv club. Tonight he and his team put on a hilarious performance [for more information about improv, see Comedy Sportz, San Jose at http://comedysportzsanjose.com/]. It was hard work. But he was genuinely delighted to participate. He enjoyed improving his performance skills and plans to attend a week long improv camp in Southern California this summer.
There is a Maker Faire in San Mateo this weekend [see http://www.makerfaire.com/]. I like Maker Faire’s celebration of the “Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset.” This event is “for creative, resourceful people of all ages and backgrounds who like to tinker and love to make things.” The Maker Faire “culture” counters the prevailing consumer-mindedness that is so pervasive today. I’d like to see it cultivated in our church!
In the end, genuine spiritual growth comes when we see ourselves as producers rather than consumers, makers rather than takers. in other words, we do acts of service not merely to win souls to Christ or to build up the church, but because our activities help us grow and create something new in this world.
I’m grateful that Canaan’s leaders understand this. We work hard and sacrificially. But I hope that we also learn to wait upon the Lord more and serve with the same sheer pleasure that artists experience when they create their handiwork. I also pray that young believers or those who are new to Canaan will also respond to the Lord’s initiative and seek to serve him with all their hearts and efforts. Please let me or anyone on the ELT know if you are interested in renewal through welcoming the risen Lord and serving his body! I’d love to chat with you further!
See you Sunday!
Pastor Tim Tseng 曾 祥 雨