June 5, 2014
Dear Canaan English Ministry members and friends,
Betty and I were reflecting on our early experiences with church recently. When I was in elementary, junior high, and high school, I loved going to my church in Brooklyn, NY. Even though my dad was the pastor and we were required to go to church every Sunday, I never felt pressured to go. I was eager to go. It wasn’t because the children and youth ministry were very large or entertaining. It was definitely not because of the sermons. In fact, before our youth group grew large enough to have an English worship service, we had to wear head phones and listen to poorly translated Chinese sermons.
I loved going to church because it was a joyful and fun experience. Sunday school classes were filled with games and fun interactive activities. We had bible lessons and talks, but I don’t remember any of these. Plus, they only took about 10-15 minutes before we had another round of fun things to do. I didn’t really understand my faith until later, but I felt the joy of the Lord first.
Junior high and high school were even better experiences. Our days were filled with many activities – camping trips, outings, floor hockey in the basement, baseball and softball games. No one started off as friends, but as we shared experiences together, we grew close to each other. Again, lessons about knowledge about the bible and Christian teaching were not always remembered. But as more and more of our youth turned their lives over to Christ, their desire for Scripture and Christian teaching grew.
From our little children and youth ministry, God raised up more than 20 persons who committed themselves to full time ministry.
I’m not saying that a more formal Christian education program is unimportant. But it seems to me that all our children, youth, and even adults (!) should experience church as something that is enjoyable.
Fun is fundamental! Sarah and Abraham had a funny episode in Genesis 18:11-15. When informed by angel guests that Sarah would have a child, she laughed to herself – so she thought. After all, how could an old couple like her and Abraham have a baby? Even God seemed to be in on the joke when he asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?”
Let’s encourage laughter! Yes, we should take our faith seriously. But without joy and fun, our Christian experience would feel very constricting – much like 19th century Victorian high society ladies who had to wear corsets in order to look proper. The irony is this: no one will take our faith seriously if we wear it like a corset. Corseted Christianity does not lead to deeper faith. But when people see laughter and fun on our faces, they will understand why being a disciple of Christ is so fulfilling!
Be a blessing!
Tim Tseng 曾 祥 雨 :: Ph.D. Pastor of English Ministries