Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It's time to move on...

Deut 1:6-8 The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, "You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers — to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — and to their descendants after them." 


I started running Alpha in 1995 as vicar/priest of Anglican parish. Since then, I think I have sat in on more than 70+ Alpha Courses--in local churches, prisons, and workplaces. I joined Alpha Singapore as a part-time staff in 2002, while I was still pastoring a small church fellowship. In 2003, I decided to join Alpha Singapore as their fulltime "ministry" staff - to conduct Alpha training workshops. Since that time, I have done Alpha training workshops in  Malaysia (East & West), Brunei, Indonesia (from Sumatra on the West to Sulawesi on the East), Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, including trainers' training in India & China. In these ten years, I've had opportunities to interact with countless ordinary church members, marketplace leaders, church deacons and elders, denominational heads, bishops and archbishops. 


In that time, I've seen Alpha brought many new believers into God's Kingdom. But I realize that Alpha is just one aspect of a local church life -- the outreach arm. Once the Alpha guests become graduates, the issue of integration brings up various issues that many churches are not prepared to address: changes in church systems and cultures. It's easy to train the Alpha teams the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to become seeker-friendly to run Alpha successfully. But it's not so easy to change the church to become seeker-friendly because it involves changes in leadership structures, ministry systems and church culture.

Many churches are still locked in the members-only leadership structures, systems and culture. It's a classic case of old wineskin trying to hold the new wine. In many instances, the old wineskin triumphs over the new wine - resulting in spillage and lost of new Alpha converts.

Having seen this, I believe that there is a need for a more holistic approach to evangelism - namely, becoming a missional church. A missional church is not one with mission & evangelism programs. Rather, it's a church with an outwardly-focused mindset that sees its primary ministry as towards the non-members (lost), not the membership. The truth is, typically, up to 80% of church funds are spent inwardly for ministries to church members. The mindset of many church leadership is still very much inwardly focused and the structures and systems, including the culture, reinforce this inward focus.

So, I hope that by going half-time with Alpha with effect from this month, I can free myself up to focus on helping churches become missional, i.e. doing more things outside the walls of the church. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and the lost are usually not found inside the walls of the church. The church is not a holding room for people waiting for rapture, but a training camp to send out teams into the lost world to demonstrate the Good News of the Kingdom by blessing them and sharing the Father's love with them in real ways through holistic programs.  While I've tried to share the missional church concept under the Alpha banner, unfortunately, these attitudes and skills are often confined to the Alpha teams and Alpha courses but have not infiltrated the congregation at large.

Honestly, I haven't got a clue as to how the Lord will lead me from Alpha to missional training. I'm taking one step at a time. But going half-time also means half-pay. So, I'm now concentrating on generating the additional incomes to support this ministry. Currently, I'm doing a bit of part-time lecturing in a private business school (HRM, marketing & organizational behaviour). However, I want to move into life coaching-training work/ministry to develop every individual's potential to its fullest. The tool I'm using is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a personality type inventory, for which I have been certified as a trainer. I hope to use the MBTI tool as the bridge to reach out to Christians & non-Christians alike through individual coaching and group workshops in the churches, schools & marketplace. The MBTI tool coaching can be extended to vocational coaching, pre-marital preparation, marriage enrichment, parenting skills, communication strategies (for teachers, speakers & preachers), leadership styles and team-building. [If you know of anyone who may benefit from such one-on-one coaching, please contact me at 96707359 or email me at cmthen@gmail.com. The first session on MBTI profiling is free. It can be done face-to-face or online through Skype.].

Happy New Year and may you all have a great year ahead of you!

Chee Min
4 Jan 2012

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