It was my pleasure to have attended a training course for leaders that has had a significant impact on my own life. I participated in this study at a time when I was still trying to get my feet on the ground at the beginning of pastoral ministry. Admittedly, at that time I had not thought this course for leaders would be personally relevant so early-on in my ministry. However, to my increasing surprise, this time of study has been of great importance and enormous assistance.
Humility: The quote the leaders used, "Our vision is to bring your vision to fruition," intuitively expresses that their primary intention was to "minister." Despite their outstanding human resources (lecturers and speakers), there was never a hint of arrogance or superiority toward the participants; rather, they humbly shared with us what the Lord had laid upon their hearts. Their self-abasement disarmed our own pride and encouraged us to receive from God with humility.
Servanthood: The ministry of the leaders, along with all the other participants, was significantly important. Their humility and maturity permitted us to feel accepted and intimate. Their important role was largely to act as a bridge, allowing us to learn firsthand that apart from the provision of resources, successfully achieving results in mission is hugely dependent upon the communicator. In fulfilling this role, they demonstrated themselves to be such a resource.
Context: At great cost, they provided a very helpful and relaxed environment for living and study. Such a context certainly contributed towards the success of the course. Given that stress already defines our day-to-day lives, very little could have been achieved in the way of relaxation or information absorbed had we been simply crowded into unpleasant facilities. Rather, within the tranquil environment that was provided us, we were able to thoroughly relax, spiritually recharge and physically regenerateinadvertently making it difficult to leave! We echoed the words of Peter: "O it is good that we are here(that is, to remain on this spiritual "mountain-top"). Oh, if only all church workers could have such opportunities!
Content: Inspiring. Despite some reoccurring themes, the content exhibited great depth and strength. Each lesson topic was very down-to-earth, meeting issues of concern to all pastors. I received much insight. For example, prior to attendance, I had always avoided admitting I was a leader because in China such a word carries much cultural baggage. Yet, the very first lesson dealt a severe blow to my hollow humility. I came to realize that I had refused to admit my position because, in reality, I feared taking any responsibility. In fact, I should not refuse to admit I am a leader. Rather, I should take up the responsibility charged unto me and work with greater diligence.
Form: Given that class participants had all had some previous theological training, possessed rich ministry experience and were currently pastoring busy churches, it was wise not to arrange mass lectures but to institute a seminar approach to learning. Such a class format more successfully encouraged participation and aroused interest while at the same time reducing anxiety in the learner. The small group discussions, which increased interaction, additionally acted to assist us in absorbing taught materials, broadening perspectives, as well as cementing greater camaraderie among participants.
Life: Every lecturer was outstanding. They were not only specialists in their areas, but their lives exuberated excellence as they acted as our role models of abundant living and sagacity. They left me with memorable impressions of their love and humility.
The Fruit (Significance)
Their perseverance for the Lord has yielded abundant fruit as they have worked significantly and meaningfully to mature China's urban church and pastoral laborers.
Platform: By means of their service, a valuable networking platform was erected. Previously, I had little interaction with other brothers, yet after this opportunity our interconnectedness is now much stronger. As a group we discussed together the various ministry issues and difficulties we have each encountered with the result that we gained from one another's shared experiences many practical pastoral insights. We were mutually inspired and, despite my own shortcomings, I was greatly encouraged. This platform established for us a solid foundation for future interaction and communicationeven to this day we continue to fellowship periodically. I believe that this unity will have significant impact upon the future of the church.
Booster and Incubator: Not only was our faith encouraged, but more importantly there was an increasing and maturing church macro-perspective. For example, our understanding of church-societal relations, church-state relations, maintaining an amicable predisposition towards contact with government officials and establishing a healthy pastoral image within the Mainland Chinese church was expanded. Such perspectives strengthen the maturing of the urban church and enable it to advance.
Overall, my heart is filled with gratitude unto God. To have been a part of this training, even though I am the least of all, was a valuable encouragement. This training has broadened my perspective as well as stimulated both my view of pastoral ministry and my thoughts toward personal spiritual growth. I have been deeply encouraged by this "great cloud of witnesses" and will press on in faith endeavoring to continue following and serving the Lord.
Thanks be unto the Lord who loves us so greatly! Thank you also to those brothers and sisters who have served. May the Lord remember your labor in Him!
Image credit: Tian Tang Zai, Anhui Province by Oscar Shen, on Flickr