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Church news, Tim Tseng update

The Grumbling Flock

Weekend Planner
Tonight! Thursday, Nov 4: Young Adults Fellowship meeting at Jonathan Weng’s home. Matthew 3-4 (7:30 PM).
Friday, Nov 5: Everglow Youth Fellowship (7:30 PM Youth Room 160) Moses: Man of Willingness.
Sunday, Nov 7 (30th Anniversary Celebration):
– Light Breakfast (9:30 AM, Fellowship Hall)
– Joint worship service (10:30 AM, Worship Hall 1)
– Canaan Cup Table Tennis Tournament (1:30 PM)
– Agape Family Group meeting (4 PM Fellowship Hall): John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, Chapter 4

Nov. 4, 2010

Dear Canaan EMers,

By now most of you know that I like to talk about sports in my sermons. But I’m not a sports fanatic. My sons would be more interested in sports if I were. I’m really more interested in ethnic studies, history, politics, and – oh yeah – theology and biblical studies. To me, sports – especially team sports – is a good metaphor for Christian community. Passion, unity, teamwork, goal-setting, discipline, failure and celebration all describe what it is like to be part of a sports team as well as a church. It is challenging, at times, but it is also filled with excitement and fun. Plus, the experience makes a person feel like he or she really belongs!

Because our faith emphasizes community, the pastor plays a role more similar to that of a coach or baseball manager. Some people think pastors just preach sermons. Others want pastors to be hand-holders and listeners. Yet others want pastors to help them achieve their personal goals. And some see pastors as authority figures who must be obeyed, if not feared. But a pastor doesn’t just help individuals find satisfaction in life. A pastor is also called to lead the congregation on a journey towards the Kingdom of God. As Moses led Israel to the Promised Land of Canaan, a shepherd must lead the flock to “green pastures” and “still waters.”

A pastor’s primary responsible, therefore, is to guide a people, not just individuals. A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about the “bad” shepherd in order to highlight what to expect of a good pastor. Today I’ll focus on the “grumbling flock” in order to highlight what constitutes a healthy faith community.

If you’ve been keeping up with our 40 days of prayer and fasting, you’ll know that we have been reading Exodus. You saw how the children of Israel decided to make a golden calf idol shortly after God liberated them (Ex. 32:1-6). At first glance, this looked like something that any community would do. Moses, their leader, had been in conference with God at Mount Sinai for a long time and the people were becoming restless. To help maintain morale they asked Aaron to lead. And he decided that a visible symbol was needed for the sake of morale and unity, I suspect. By offering their gold rings, the people gave sacrificially to create a symbol of hope. Then they organized a festival to celebrate. Are these not marks of a healthy community?

Unfortunately, these activities were completely misguided. Instead of patiently waiting for Moses to return with God’s covenant, the Israelites resorted to worshiping the symbol of their enslavement (assuming that the golden calf was an Egyptian deity). And this was just the first of many acts of disobedience in the wilderness. Later, the Israelites grumbled in spite of God’s provision. Despite God’s protection, they continued to act out of selfishness and fear. God repeatedly called them a “stiff-necked people” and was so frustrated that he would have abandoned them save for Moses’ intercession (Ex. 32:7-14). Throughout the Hebrew Scripture, Israel displayed a remarkable ability to fall short of God’s expectations. Yet, God remained faithful to them and promised a new covenant with the coming of Messiah (Jer. 31:31-34).

As beneficiaries of the new covenant in Christ, we have a taste of what a healthy faith community could look like in Acts 2:42-47. We also have Jesus’ teachings, especially his Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). Unfortunately, we are often more like the “stiff-necked” Israelites than the ideal Christian community. This is why the New Testament epistles so often stress the importance of developing healthy Christian attitudes and behavior.
As Canaan looks to the future, our pastoral team would like us to adopt “Becoming a Healthy Church” as the theme for 2011. We would like Canaan to become a healthier Christian community than it has been. This is the first step towards becoming missional. If we are not healthy, how can we make a positive impact on our community and world? We must learn how to build trust and love across our differences. We must drop our suspicions, self-righteousness, and rumor-mongering. We must learn how to speak the truth with love and humility. When it becomes necessary to correct one another, we must learn how to offer criticism constructively and with deep affection. In the end, we can become a healthier church when we put God’s purpose for Canaan above our own interests and when we cheerfully participate in the journey to the Kingdom of God together.

As we celebrate Canaan’s 30th anniversary this Sunday, I encourage you to participate more fully in our “team” next year. Help us become healthier. In the end, I can guarantee that you’ll feel more like you belong to a great community. I can also guarantee that you’ll gain greater clarity about your purpose in life and identity in Christ!

See you at our 30th Anniversary service this Sunday!

Blessings,
Tim, Interim English Pastor

The journey by which we discover God is also the journey by which we discover, or uncover, our true self hidden in God. It is a journey that we all have to make. – Esther de Waal from Living with Contradiction

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About Tim Tseng

I'm Pastor of English Ministry at Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church (San Jose, CA), independent scholar and theological educator.

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