One MCS - Annual Conference Highlights

‘Come prepared and be focused at meetings’

May 2010    

CHURCHES SOMETIMES FIND DIFFICULTIES in getting members to serve as ministry heads or as members of the Local Church Executive Committee (LCEC).

One of the reasons is probably their aversion to attending the numerous meetings which are often unavoidable. Meetings are necessary in the consultative and decision-making process of Methodist churches, but they do not have to be frequent and protracted.

I observed in recent times that many brought along to meetings their laptops, notebooks and smart phones. My initial assumption was that these members had come prepared to participate seriously and fully in the discussions. I was to discover later that many were in fact multi-tasking during these meetings. Some were accessing their email or FaceBook, and even playing electronic games. There were others who had several tasks on hand and deadlines to meet, and had to seize every opportunity to complete their assignments, even during meetings.

These multi-tasking attendees could not be fully focused on the proceedings thus affecting the progress and perhaps even the quality of the discussions. Such meetings could be arduous.

Meetings are called for the purpose of discussing and making decisions on matters on the agenda. They are not gatherings for devotion, reflection, prayer and meditation. If these were to precede a meeting then they should be made known clearly and kept separate from the meeting proper. Attendees should also be given prior notice of this arrangement.

All who attend meetings need to come with a clear mind, be focused on the issues and discussions, and make decisions based on sound Biblical principles and guidelines provided by the Methodist Discipline.

I have also observed that some attendees at important meetings were there on behalf of church lay leaders who could not be present. As the former often would not have in-depth understanding of issues involved, much time was spent repeating, explaining and clarifying. However, despite all this, these representatives would hesitate in taking a stand on the issues, either out of a fear of having to bear the responsibility, or simply because they were still not sure what to do. As a result, the meetings were a waste of time as resolutions could not be adopted, and decisions made might not be implemented. Such meetings were ineffective.

Church meetings are a means for us to discuss matters of our Lord’s heavenly kingdom on earth. As His servants it is our responsibility to come prepared and committed to working for positive outcomes at these meetings.

The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung is the President of the Chinese Annual Conference.

WHAT SPIRITUALITY MEANS TO ME

My journey in the ministry of spiritual direction

I HAD MY FIRST SILENT RETREAT in 1994 when I was privileged to have Joyce Huggett, a Christian author and retreat leader, as my retreat director. It was a challenging and frightening experience when I came to realise that I did not really know how to be still to wait upon the Lord.

For three days, she wanted me to simply listen to her cassette tape entitled “Teach Us to Pray” and follow the instructions of the tape over and over again until I was saturated by the scripture text and filled with the presence of God. She then recommended two books, Coming to God in the Stillness (Jim Borst) and Listening to God (Joyce Hugget), for me to continue in my pursuit of this discipline after the retreat.

The more I put into practice what I learnt from these two enlightening books, the more I felt drawn into contemplative prayer. I began to apply some of the suggested ways of prayer into my pastoral ministry and was very encouraged by the ways the people responded to it.

As I progressed, the desire of accompanying others along this path became stronger and stronger. I am convinced that, eventually, what really matters is our deep relationship with God, not so much on what we have achieved for God. All other ministries must ultimately point back to a centre, which is a personal, intimate relationship with God. The sense of calling to the ministry of spiritual direction has, thus, become stronger and clearer over the years.

Spiritual direction has since been a means of grace for me. As I look back, I am grateful that God has helped me grow through this ministry in the following areas:

• Getting in touch with my inner world, and teaching me, a “thinker” and basically task-oriented, to becoming more people-oriented and an attained “feeler”.

• Becoming more and more at ease in engaging others in depth and facing my true self. It is not just about head-to-head talk, but also heart-to-heart talk, although this takes intentional effort.

• Being active as well as contemplative is very helpful as I have moved from a ministry staff worker-cum-trainer role into ordained ministry.

• Heightening my awareness and sensitivity to the needs of the parishioners whom God has entrusted to me.

Spiritual direction, to me, therefore, means a progressive growth under God’s guidance through the means of spiritual directors, from the basic disciplines of the spiritual life to the height of Christian perfection, from finding the balance between task and people, head and heart.

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