Addressing the delegates in his President’s Report at the opening session, the Rev Dr Goh Nai Lat looked back on CAC’s work in 2019 and laid out its plans for 2020.
The Rev Dr Goh touched on the benefits of Central Pooling as well as the need to nurture young pastors and leaders and to proactively seek out new roles for local preachers. He also took the opportunity to emphasise the importance of the Conference to constantly be in the modes of self-reflection and renewal. This is so that it can face the challenges of the world and remain relevant while holding fast to Christ’s teachings and correctly ascertaining the will of God.
Central Pooling: One year on and the need for new blood
A key development from the 43rd CAC Session was the decision to implement the central pooling of resources from which CAC local churches can draw to enable smoother operations of various pastoral ministries. Central Pooling came into effect on 1 Aug 2019.
“The Methodist Church is a connectional Church. Ministers are on an itinerant system and are appointed to serve in different local churches and agencies. With Central Pooling, the appointment system can be more effective in allocation and allow us to better utilise resources,” said the Rev Dr Goh.
The Rev Dr Goh went on to note that with new sub-cultures emerging every four to five years, a good way for CAC churches to renew themselves continually was through recruiting and nurturing young pastors and leaders who are able to make the gospel relevant and help the Church reach out, minister and engage the next generation, the Rev Dr Goh noted.
“Our young people grew up in a different environment. Their mindsets and working styles wholly differ from that of the older generation,” said the Rev Dr Goh. “From my observation, our Conference plays a pivotal role in developing our pastors and lay leaders, offering them opportunities to learn and exercise their spiritual gifts, and to take up leadership positions.”
The Rev Dr Goh also called for a rethink on the roles of local preachers, who currently support the itinerant ministers in their churches. However, if the local preacher is to remain one of the hallmarks of Methodism, such a role must be reviewed and updated as needed, he said. This is especially so when a church has enough itinerant ministers, which would reduce the demand for local preachers and the opportunities for them to preach.
The Rev Dr Goh offered some possibilities for the Conference to consider: “Our local preachers can be bi-vocational preachers—active in evangelistic work in their workplace, sharing God’s words, being the bridge that connects the church into various marketplaces or harvest fields. Churches can run marketplace ministry through them. If we were to redefine their roles as such, the way we recruit and train our local preachers will also need to be modified.”
“The Church, like Paul, must be—constantly racing ahead for Christ, our eyes on the prize.”
Pressing on towards the goal
In his closing sermon, the Rev Dr Goh likened the Christian journey to a race. He expounded on the Apostle Paul’s exhortation: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13–14)
The Rev Dr Goh highlighted that even though Paul often used the imagery of a runner, his epistle to the Philippians was written while in prison. His physical incarceration did not stop Paul from running the race spiritually as he still hungered for more to hear the Good News of Christ. Paul, the Rev Dr Goh said, had in him a “holy unrest”—he was fully aware that the status quo was never going to be enough.
And just as Paul was so, so must the Church be—constantly racing ahead for Christ, our eyes on the prize, the Rev Dr Goh added. “John Wesley famously said, ‘Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.’ I would also add, ‘save as many souls as you can’. This is the core business of the Church. We must never tire of winning souls for God.” It is thus the duty of every Christian to ensure that they are good witnesses for Christ so that the Gospel can be preached further, wider and deeper.
Jason Woo is Methodist Message’s Editorial Executive.
Photos courtesy of Chinese Annual Conference