From the Pastor’s Desk – Rev. Dr. Simon Lee
Dear brothers and sisters of RCAC,
Daily I sit in front of my computer and pray that God will show me afresh how to be a pastor during the current pandemic. I also shared with our team that I have run out of things to say for “From the Pastor’s Desk.” I am “Zoomed out” already in Zoom meetings too many that I can count, they include worship services, board meetings, staff meetings, committee meetings, Bible studies, lectures and talks… Yes, Lydia and I do what we can helping some people with counseling over the phone, grocery shopping or moving. But the nagging question on my mind is always “what else can I do?” All through my many years of ministries, I have never felt so handicapped and so helpless, not even during SARS when I was serving as a professor at Alliance Bible Seminary in Hong Kong. It has been a humbling experience but a valuable one where I am learning truly to serve God not by my knowledge or experience, but by His power and wisdom. As in the days of old, the words to me from the Lord Almighty are “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit’. (Zech. 4:6)
Although I am not like Solomon who said …he was but “a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in,” (I Kg 3:7) I too feel like a child not knowing what to do, and therefore daily ask the Lord for wisdom. His prayer is therefore mine today: “And now, O Lord my God, … I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (I Kings 3:7-9). Indeed, at such times as these, we all need to have the true wisdom from God.
Pastors without borders
Recently I have been reminded of the good work of Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian group dedicated to providing medical care to people in distress, including victims of political violence and natural disasters. They do not work in the well-equipped hospitals and comfortable clinics in their own peaceful country, but rather go out to the war-torn frontiers of conflicts around the world. They improvised when they do not have their sophisticated equipments and facilities. They do what they can without complaining.
Shouldn’t pastors be like that, as we all remind ourselves constantly, going out to rescue those in need or are perishing, like the good shepherd who goes out for the one lost sheep while keeping the 99 other sheep in safety? We pastors are so used to serving big groups and congregations; but now we need to do the same thing, one person at a time. Indeed, in modern day concept, it is inefficient and very time-consuming, but Jesus would do no less. We need to be “pastors without border”!
Church Without Walls
Many of our members are attending online classrooms (Schools) without walls, taking all sorts of courses and lectures. This is indeed a good sign, members eager to use the extra time they have in learning more about the Bible and theology. Indeed we are discovering or rediscovering that we can carry on all these learning without attending physically the schools and classes, especially during the shutdowns in the pandemic. Modern technology has made all these good information more readily accessible. I myself have participated in some of these ministries with thousands of people worldwide signing on. My only hope is that we will not be top-heavy, flooded only with head knowledge, and that we will put into practice all the things we have learned. We should take advantage of the classes without walls and schools without walls. Our Church should also move further in the direction of a Church without walls. Indeed much of our ministries have already moved online.
It is also heartening and exciting that our members who are away in the States, Hong Kong or Singapore… are joining in our prayer meetings, Praise Dance and fellowship meetings, by Zoom. I joke that our ministries have become international! But seriously, should we really think about how in the new normal, we should “do church” differently. Right now we are reaching more people online as seen in the increased number of people connecting with their devices. We should not wait for people to come to us in the Church building, rather we should go to them online and by other means. Indeed, the church should be “the called out ones” (ekklesia) to be set apart from the world for God, as the holy ones (saints). But we are not called just for the purpose of physically attending services, meetings, and activities, rather to be equipped as “ambassadors for Christ.” We are to go into the world again to be “disciples” and “witnesses” of Christ in the community and to the ends of the world (physically and virtually). We need to be “Church without walls!”
For this reason, as I had shared earlier, after much thought and prayers I believe we need some fundamental changes in three directions:
- Transform and buildup the Church with more cell groups (「化整為零」：轉化教會建立小組)
- Transform and equip members to be “ambassadors of Christ” (「基督使者」：轉化信徒人人皆兵)
- Transform our Church community to a “Community Church” (「社區教會」：轉化群體深入社區)
In the coming weeks, we shall think through these three directions in the new normal. We will not be able to go back to our old normal, but moving onto a better normal. Starting August 1, RCAC will start the slow process or “reopening,” first to meet with all preventive measures in small groups while maintaining physical distancing. Please refer to RTC: Return to Church Guidebooks for the protocols and follow the detailed guidelines. We shall wait longer to begin larger group activities such as fellowships, and even wait longer for return to worships at the Church. Be kind, be calm, and be safe. Be patient. God’s timing is the best.
Your pastor in Christ,