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Envy_ Loneliness and Collegiality


									                                   NA Chinese Bi-cultural and Pastoral Ministries Program

Spring 2008

THEME ARTICLE                         Envy, Loneliness and Collegiality
P. 1    Envy, Loneliness and                 Among English-Speaking Asian Pastors
        Collegiality Among
        English-Speaking Asian
        — John Ng                                                                           John L. Ng


P. 5    An Eighteen-Year                    Some time ago, within a span of a few months, several English
        Promise                     speaking Asian pastors resigned from their pastorates. No doubt each
        — Shanon Lee                had personal reasons for leaving. But as I explored the decision-mak-
                                    ing process with some of them, I realized that what they commonly
P. 7    Some Reflections on...
        — Xian Tien Zhong
                                    went through was both harmful and hurtful. Most of them made that
                                    life changing decision alone. They hardly spoke with anyone about
                                    their struggles. At the monthly pastors’ fellowship we received the
ALUMNI COLUMN                       news with shock and incredulity. It reminded me of a guest lecturer
P. 9    Theological Training and
                                    who told my class what he had discovered in pastoral work that he had
        Full-time Ministry          not know in earlier years. He said “I didn’t realize how lonely being a
        — Yu Lin Liu                pastor can be. I have many pastor-friends, but we are not close. We are
                                    too competitive to be close friends.”
                                            My colleagues apparently made their decision in isolation be-
P. 11                               cause we are competing with one another in ministry. As ludicrous as it
                                    sounds, many of us suffer loneliness because we feel like competitors
                                    in the ministry of the gospel. Some competition is in the guise of jeal-
                                    ousy. Jealousy is that unspoken fear of losing what we think we have
                                    to others. A pastor I know would not allow his predecessor to preach in
                                    his church. Apparently his predecessor has nurtured some wonderful
                                    relationships in that church and is still well loved and respected. This
                                    pastor’s jealousy for his congregants’ admiration will not permit him
                                    to share his pulpit with someone who is more admired than he. When
asked why their former pastor has                Then again, our other form     joke or two with one another, and
not been invited to preach, my col-     envy is not so healthful. When his      be with one another. These consci-
league manages a halting excuse.        name comes up in our conversa-          entious pastors make it a priority in
But most people know the true rea-      tions, some of us swell up in an-       their schedule to show up.
son is jealousy.                        guish and turn resentful. We won-
                                        der quietly why God seemingly is                There is a second group of
        Jealousy erects walls around    unfair. Why should he be so suc-        pastors who come irregularly. At
our ministry to preserve what we        cessful when we think we are just       times they promise to attend but
have worked for. These walls may        as good or better than he. Some of      never show; other times they show
keep what we want to protect in-        us like to make fun of how nerdy he     up when they say they are not com-
side, but they also keep those we       dresses or how out of shape he is. A    ing. Some come late and leave
are jealous of outside. In public,      few blame him for their low church      early; some come early and leave
we exchange pleasantries cordially,     attendance. One angrily concludes       before the meeting begins. Some
but we secretly want nothing to do      that what this pastor has done to the   come just to grab a plate of food
with one other. Jealousy insulates      Asian churches is “reprehensible.”      then leave; some come but keep to
fellow ministers from one other.                                                themselves. Although many in this
                                                Our envy is not only re-        group agree that the fellowship has
        Then there is envy. We pas-     served for clerics of notoriety.        been personally helpful, they show
tors feel lonely and are isolated be-   Many are envious of one another.        no strain to support it.
cause we are envious of one other.      When I came back to New York
When we are envious, we desire to       City in the early 1990’s, I joined               The majority of Asian pas-
have what others have. A promi-         a monthly pastors’ fellowship. On       tors in New York do not attend any
nent non-Asian pastor in New York       a typical weeknight meeting, we         pastors’ fellowship. Most are from
has attracted many Asians to his        gather in some church basement.         smaller churches; a few are from
church. His postmodern-sensitive        Over dinner we shop chitchat. Eve-      established churches. All are on our
preaching has resulted in many          ry once in a while, someone may         announcement e-mail list. Yet they
Asian pastors losing their members,     dish out a discussion on a minis-       have no real urge to attend. Rea-
some key leaders, to him. Many of       try related topic. Whatever we are      sons are many and vary. Not all is
us talk unashamedly about how en-       doing, our intention is to create an    prompted by envy. Some pastors do
vious we are of him.                    inviting environment for full-time      not come because they have young
                                        ministry workers to find encour-        families. They want to keep their
         One form of envy is admi-      agement in collegiality.                free evenings from church free for
ration. We genuinely admire this                                                their family. Some pastors cannot
pastor’s success among Asians. If               Our monthly pastors’ fel-       come because there is too much to
they do not attend his church, they     lowship has stayed relatively small     do and not enough day hours to do
may not go to church at all. It is      as a pattern emerges. There are         it so they steal from their evenings.
obvious that God has touched his        three types of participants. There      They would rather do work in their
ministry marvelously. When he is        are a handful of pastors who come       study than attend fellowship with
speaking somewhere on church is-        consistently. They see that our fel-    other pastors. Some pastors do not
sues, if it is convenient, we want to   lowship scratches a certain itch        come because they are loners and
go and listen to what he has to say.    among pastors. As colleagues, we        keep to themselves. Their parish is
A colleague of mine frankly admits      gather to encourage one another,        their whole world, and they seldom
that this pastor is his “hero” and      compare notes with one another,         want to leave it.
wants to emulate him.                   pick one another’s brain, share a

         Of all the reasons why most    try.                                   one to touch us.
Asian pastors do not attend our
fellowship, the most pervasive is               Yet this envious malaise is    Two, there is imbalance in our
probably professional envy. I think     real among pastors. It has made us     social life. Enough of us do not
most pastors do not mingle with one     more insulated in who we are and       have a life apart from church
another because they envy others.       what we have been called by God        life. We seldom see fellow pas-
They sincerely believe that other       to do. Why are pastors so competi-     tors and their spouses socially.
ministers are rivals. If their rivals   tive with one another? After much      A friend complains that he has
have better preaching ministry,         struggle with this question, I have    tried every way to reach out to
they feel dumb. If their rivals have    some tentative observations:           his colleagues in ministry. When
larger churches, they feel small. If                                           they come to his home for din-
their rivals have more spectacular         One, there is a link between emo-   ner, they often arrive and leave
ministries, they feel inept. If their      tional health and true spiritual-   promptly. The worst part is that
rivals have a greater reputation,          ity. Enough of us are educated      his dinner invitations are never
they feel ordinary. Few prominent          beyond our spirituality. Who we     reciprocated. After awhile, he
pastors, in a strange reversal of          are and what we do, feel and be-    stops trying. Social isolation
envy, do not come because they             lieve do not match our theologi-    feeds envy, and envy feeds social
feel that they are above the fray. In      cal knowledge. Pastors maybe        isolation. I do not know which
their busyness, they have no time          hold positions of church leader-    comes first. But I do know that
for us. We are not mean spirited;          ship but may not be emotionally     both are harmful. The more we
most of us are well meaning. We            mature enough to handle its de-     do not know one another so-
do want to work in a concerted ef-         mands. In some sense pastoral       cially, the more we struggle with
fort for the Gospel of our Lord Je-        work is a lose/lose proposition.    envy; the more we struggle with
sus Christ. But our unguarded envy         If we do well, congregants give     envy, the less we want to be with
gets in the way.                           God the glory; if we do badly,      one another socially.
                                           they blame us. Whether we do
        Of all the professions, I          well or badly in pastoral work,     Three, few pastors have few
would have never suspected this            we do not get any credit. No        meaningful friendships. Most
deadly sin of envy among profes-           wonder pastors are less than        pastors I know are Asian men.
sional pastors. I mean, if you crave       healthy emotionally in ministry     They are notorious for being
power, fame and wealth, the pas-           (read The Emotionally Healthy       mono-relational. It seems we
torate is not the vocation to get          Church by Peter Scazzero). Suf-     do not know how to nurture in-
into. The April 26, 2004 issue of          fering this emotional malady,       timate relationships with other
Time magazine lists the 100 most           we touch no one and allow no        men. A colleague has worked
powerful and influential people in                                             with his senior pastor for more
the world. With the exception of                                               than five years. They meet week-
the Catholic Pope, no other profes-            To seek mean-                   ly at the church office. Apart
sional cleric is mentioned. Awhile             ingful fellowship               from that, they have never seen
back, a pastor friend griped about             with other pas-                 each other outside the church.
his meager paycheck that had                   tors, we have to                At their office meeting, neither
stayed with the same amount for                make peace with                 shares any thing personal. My
four years. Without his wife’s sup-            envy and compet-                friend groans, “I don’t know this
plement salary, he would not be                itiveness.                      guy, how do you expect me to
able to afford professional minis-                                             trust him.” Lack of meaningful

  friendships makes us distrust-                                              city has to offer can enrich our
  ful of one another. Without real       We will always feel                  lives and our relationships with
  friendships, we see others as a        lonely and inept                     one another. The God who has
  threat to our true self.               when we touch no                     called us to church work is also
                                         one and allow no                     inviting us to enjoy the place in
  Four, enough of us also scuffle        one to touch us.                     which we do church work.
  with this overwhelming sense of
  ineptitude in pastoral work. Its                                                  Three, we should make it a
  demands are always more than                                                priority to cultivate meaningful
  the tools we possess. Not want-       ence. Life is tough and ministry      friendships with one or two pas-
  ing others to see our inadequacy,     is tougher. This sensation of in-     tors. Only another pastor can
  we would rather not see them at       eptitude is real. Without the wise    understand what a pastor stum-
  all. Some time ago, I spoke at a      guidance of a finger-pointing         bles through in church. When I
  men’s conference on the subject       mentor, it would be nearly im-        was twenty-something, in the
  of failure. In the talk, I recalled   possible to find our way home         morning light of ministry, noth-
  samples of failure in my minis-       in ministry. At the moment, I         ing looked too difficult. In the
  try. Afterwards, a long time ac-      am grateful that I enjoy several      bright light of morning, I felt
  quaintance stopped me and said,       mentoring relationships with          invincible and needed no one.
  “I can’t believe you. You always      pastors. Two are mentoring me,        Now that I am pushing sixty, in
  looked so competent.” From a          and I am mentoring others. All        the twilight of ministry, I see a
  distance, we all look better than     these fellow ministers help me        very vulnerable reality. As that
  we really are. But the closer we      learn, grow and gain wholeness        Beatles song goes, I get by with
  get, the more glaring our true        in pastoral work. Some meet           a little help from my friends.
  deficient self becomes. So we do      with me once a month; others          What few pastor-friends I have
  not allow proximity with those        more often. I always walk away        are invaluable. I crawl to them
  who do what we do. We really          from our encounters feeling           every chance I get – when I am
  do not want people to see how         good being in my own skin and         upset or confused, defeated or
  inept we really are.                  better in my pastoral task.           lost, when I read a good book or
                                                                              get a good student evaluation.
        These reasons for envy                Two, New York City is prob-     Without these few good friends,
contrive a vicious cycle. We are        ably the best place to live and       I probably would have left the
forever socially isolated and feel-     do pastoral work. The Big Ap-         pastorate long ago.
ing professionally inept without the    ple is a world-class city. It has
fellowship of other ministers. We       more than 400 neighborhoods,               Four, there is something
will always feel lonely and inept       150 museums, 400 art galleries,       to be said about being with
when we touch no one and allow          and scores of concert halls and       other pastors. Since we are in
no one to touch us. Here are a few      theaters. It is the home of the       the same boat, there is safety
simple solutions that are obvious to    Metropolitan Museum of Art, the       in numbers. Our circumstances
many of us:                             Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the        may stay the same, but I always
                                        Bronx Zoo, Lincoln Center and         go home from fellowship feeling
       One, we all need to cul-         more than 500 parks, including        better about myself and others.
  tivate mentoring relationships        Central Park. The New York win-       To seek meaningful fellowship
  with more mature pastors who          ter is not fun. But the rest of the   with other pastors, we have to
  can touch us with their experi-       year is almost heaven. What the       make peace with envy and com-

petitiveness. Go get some coun-
                                       STUDENT COLUMN
seling if we must. Do what we
need to do to get over this rival-
ry. Be sensible enough to admit
that there will always be others
who are better or worse than
                                            An Eighteen-Year Promise
we are in ministry. Once we get                                                                    Shanon Lee
past that pathology, I think we                                                            Third Year Student
will see others not as competi-
tors but as companions in a long
journey of the same direction.

                                             It was May 1985 when             ing in the student fellowship and
                                     I graduated from college. I was          the church. As a result, I decided
                                     about to land a position with an in-     to do something to tell God that it
                                     ternational accounting firm when         was a BIG mistake to keep me in
                                     the job market took a sudden down-       the church. I wanted Him to know
                                     turn. Accordingly, the firm decided      that if He did not provide me a job,
                                     to defer my job offer for one year,      I would not serve Him anymore in
                                     and I was left without a job. As a       any way. With my mind made up,
                                     foreign student who wanted to stay       I began to take a very uncoopera-
Dr. John Ng is Associate Pro-        in U.S., my other option was to at-      tive attitude in church. Against my
fessor of Pastoral Studies at        tend graduate school.                    usual practices, I did not reach out
Alliance Theological Seminary.                                                to new students, I did not take part
Besides teaching, he also serves
                                              I hated the idea of staying     in church activities, and I even did
as the English pastor at New
York Chinese Baptist Church.         in the same college for another two      not spend time with God. I thought,
Dr. Ng has been actively in-         years for the masters program be-        by doing all these things, I could
volved in mentoring and nur-         cause most of the brothers and sis-      force God to do things my way.
turing future Asian leaders for      ters in the church knew that I would
God's service.
                                     be leaving the city and moving on                Interestingly, when I kept
                                     with a job. Staying on reflected         myself away from God, I found
                                     my failure in the job search, and I      God being very distant from me. I
                                     could not stand that feeling. Even       thought that God would care how
                                     if I could not find a job, I wanted to   I acted and would do something to
                                     go to somewhere else so that I did       make me feel better. At least, He
                                     not have to face all these people in     should give me a reason why He did
                                     church. However, my best option          not provide me a job and comfort
                                     turned out to be staying at the same     me. But, He did not do anything.
                                     college and I, reluctantly, met my       He just let me lay low and run my
                                     destiny there.                           course of spiritual downtime. At
                                              At that time, I strongly be-    that time, I felt that I could under-
                                     lieved that God intentionally put        stand Elijah’s feeling in 1 Kings
                                     a road block in my job search as         chapter 19 when God seemed no-
                                     He wanted me to continue serv-           where to be found in his life.

        A semester passed without       we would not stay in Hong Kong        boat, he would have never walked
leaving any traces in my life. As       forever; even though, we did not      on the water. Similarly, if I would
usual, the student fellowships of       know how, when, and where we          not leave my safety zone, I would
the universities in the southwestern    would come back to the States.        never know God’s plan in my life.
states organized a winter evangeli-     The work in Hong Kong was both        By then, the decision was an easy
cal camp. I was not excited in join-    challenging and rewarding. How-       one, as I knew my promise to God
ing this camp because I was still       ever, such opportunities drove me     was overdue by almost two years
upset with God, and the two main        farther away from my commit-          and I had no affection for the job
speakers of the camp were not my        ment to God. During those years,      in New York. In addition, my wife
favorite preachers. However, our        even though God had spoken to me      was very supportive toward my
God is a humorous God. While I          several times through His words, I    decision to quit my work and at-
did not expect anything from this       was not ready to leave my comfort     tend seminary on a full time basis.
camp, God used this camp to revive      zone and cruise into an unchartered   She had only one condition, i.e. to
my spiritual life. Through the vari-    course in God’s deep sea of faith     obtain medical insurance for the
ous messages and personal interac-      and mercy.                            family, and God had provided us
tions with one of the preachers, God                                          with affordable insurance through
showed me how self-centered and                 In early 2003, our family     a state program. I thank God for
foolish I was, and I had no choice      started praying about moving back     giving me this second chance to
but to kneel down and pray for His      to the States because my wife and     serve Him and experience Him.
forgiveness. Until then, I was once     I wanted our children to be educat-
again reconciled with God. God          ed here. I also started praying for            Time really flies as I have
continued to work in my heart and       God’s will on my life, as I remem-    already attended ATS for almost
even called me to full time ministry    bered my “Eighteen-Year Promise”      one year. It is quite difficult for
on the last day of the camp.            was coming up. After praying for      me, as a middle age man, to pick
                                        a year and nine months, God pre-      up studying again. If I had known
        To me, serving God on a         pared a job for me in New York.       that it would be so hard, I probably
full-time basis is not an easy road.    Moving away from Hong Kong            would have started seminary earli-
There are many temptations along        was a significant step for me be-     er. But in any event, God’s grace is
the way. In the following year, I       cause it basically represented the    sufficient, and I thank Him for pre-
passed the certified public account-    end of my career. However, it did     paring a suitable seminary for me.
ant examination and landed a job        not bother me much at that time       I have two more years to go in my
with another international account-     as our desire to move back to the     seminary training, but I enjoy this
ing firm in San Francisco. Not will-    States was stronger. As a result,     time, as I can see God is preparing
ing to let go of the earthly achieve-   my family moved to New York in        me for my future service.
ments, I asked God to give me 18        early 2005.
years to pursue my own goals and
career before I gave my life to full            We led a simple life in New
time ministry.                          York until late October of 2005
                                        when God once again called me to
      During this period, God           full time ministry. Through Mat-
gave me a lot of blessings in my        thew 14:28 – 29, God challenged
work. In 1998, God gave me a            me to follow Peter’s example in ex-
job opportunity in Hong Kong.           periencing His truth and power. If    The happy family of Shanon Lee: his
                                                                              wife, Jade, along with their son, Jonath-
Both my wife and I believed that        Peter had never stepped out of the    an and their daughter, Jessica.


                               Some Reflections on...
                                                                                                Xian Tien Zhong
                                                                                            Second Year Student

 "One must study for serving"           and listen to his messages for          rience.
                                        hours. I can still remember many
        I’m grateful to God for giv-    of his messages and testimonies. I           Faithful in Small Things
ing me the privilege to serve him       was so touched by his sermons that
for a few years at the pastorate        I made a secret wish that I want to             In a small church where our
and later on leading me to study at     emulate him, to become a preacher       brothers and sisters are busy with
the seminary to prepare me for the      like him.                               their jobs and family life, I am usu-
Kingdom’s work in the future.                                                   ally the one that opens and closes
                                                 That dream from childhood      the door at the church. I also clean
 Childhood Dream Came True              had long been forgotten, but God        up after service. Most of the time,
                                        doesn’t forget. He led me to real-      I am the first one to arrive and the
        My parents were Christian,      ize my dream! I have been in full-      last one to leave.
so I knew Jesus' name since child-      time ministry for six years. As I        The congregants move in and out of
hood. I could sing many hymns           reflect on what has happened in the     the neighborhood often, so saying
and recite the Lord’s Prayer. From      past and examine God’s hand on          hello and bidding goodbye is my
my parents’ examples, I became a        me presently, countless thought of      common practice. I am often called
Christian. It was like the lyric of     gratefulness come flushing into my      to offer carpools or help people re-
a hymn that says : “I don’t know        mind. Praise God for his wondrous       locate. I joke to myself that I am
why God’s wondrous grace and            grace. I have nothing to boast of.      the worker and driver of a “moving
His salvation made known to me,                                                 company”; however, I look at them
but I know whom I have believed,             Lesson From Ministry               as opportunities to build muscles.
and I believe that he is able to keep                                           In serving the senior members, I
me until that day!” During the                  In the past six years of pas-
                                                                                am also their driver and tour guide.
rough years of the Chinese Cul-         toring, God has transformed me
                                                                                Every Friday during the fellowship
tural Revolution, there were no         from a servant without theological
                                                                                time, I play the role of chef for the
churches open for worship. Only a       training into a senior pastor in a
                                                                                love feast. Each time when we sit
few brothers and sisters, ten at the    small church. I compare myself to a
                                                                                down to enjoy the food and I hear
most, worshipped secretly at some-      bare-footed doctor during the Chi-
                                                                                people commenting “Our pastor’s
one’s home. One volunteer preach-       nese Cultural Revolution who did
                                                                                cooking skill has improved,” my
er greatly influenced me. Every         everything from scratch. However,
                                                                                heart brims with joy!
time he visited us, we would sing       I learned and benefited a lot from
and pray from morning till evening      these numerous roles I played. To
                                                                                          So the church ministry nur-
                                        sum up, it was a bitter- sweet expe-

tures my physical health and en-         years of ministry that I needed        joining the gospel team. During
hances my ministerial skills. After      professional training to serve the     the prayer meeting I learn to pray,
a while, the brothers and sisters        Lord more effectively. I’m grate-      share, encourage and share each
volunteered to cook, because they        ful to God for the experiences in      other’s burden. The prayer meet-
said among themselves that they          the ministry that had filled me with   ing also widens the horizon of my
shouldn’t have let their pastor be-      surprises, hardship, tears, and yet    prayer. We pray for the churches
come a cook. They initiated to           these are all tremendous blessings.    we serve and for the Kingdom’s
share my loads. This kind of true        Whenever I feel low and hit by         ministries. In the past few years,
love can only be found in the body       frustrated feelings, God always en-    the gospel team has helped the
of Christ.                               courages me with Psalm 126 verse       Chinese Christians in Norwich,
                                         5: "Those who sow in tears will reap   Connecticut, first to form a fellow-
Devotion and Servitude of Love           with songs of joy." Praise the Lord    ship, then to establish a church. I
                                         for his goodness and faithfulness.     have also taught and preached in
         In serving the Lord, we         He never forsakes me even when         the fledgling church. The young
should devote all our heart, mind        I disobey his will, or am indiffer-    church has not only helped the lo-
and strength. In serving men, we         ent to his warning. He preserves       cal members, I personally have
should share one another’s burden        my soul and “He crowns the years       accumulated experiences in being
and take actions. I apply these two      with bounty, and your carts over-      involved in their ministry. I’m glad
principles in my daily encounter         flow with abundance…they shout         that my own church is willing to
with the parish. As our church is        for joy and sing.” (Ps. 65:11, 13).    support me to teach and preach in
composed of many young cou-                                                     the Norwich church. As Jesus has
ples, almost every year there will       Seminary Training                      said, it is more blessed to give than
be newborn members added to the                                                 be given.
church family. I work alongside my               In God’s time, he brought
co-workers to pray and care for the      me to study at ATS. Studying                    In the past few years, I see
pregnant sisters or those that just      and serving at the same time has       God’s grace and abundant blessing
gave birth. I really enjoy the privi-    broadened my view on ministry          to the church I’ve been serving,
lege of delivering nutritious soups      because I can practice what I learn    and so far there have been more
to them in the hospital. I do hospi-     at the seminary. To do theology is     than 100 people that have accepted
tal visitation on occasions like this.   to study God, so studying in the       Christ. Some of them, after leader-
Sometimes after evening fellow-          seminary helps me to grow profes-      ship training, have played key roles
ship or prayer meeting, when the         sional and spiritually. By entering    in the church ministry. Some have
need arises, I stay to counsel cou-      seminary, I’ve become more aware       moved away to pursue their study
ples who suffer in their relationship    of my future direction, and my de-     or to live closer to their new-found
or encounter job-related issues. I       sire to serve the Lord has grown       job, but they eventually all become
then play the role of an encourager      stronger. I believe that the purpose   blessings to other churches.
and counselor. At times, the coun-       of studying theology is not just to
sel prolongs till midnight. I hold on    increase my knowledge about God,               I still have a long way to
to the Lord’s given strength to pray     but to be near God.                    go as far as the pilgrimage is con-
with them, even cry with them. The                                              cerned. But I will continually rely
Lord never fails in comforting each              At ATS I learn inside and      on God's grace. My desire is that
one of us.                               outside the classroom. My walk         one day when I’m face to face with
                                         with the Lord becomes closer by        the Lord, he will compliment me,
        It dawned on me after many       attending the prayer meeting and       saying “my good and faithful serv-

ant, come enjoy the feast with me.”      ALUMNI COLUMN
I anticipate that indescribable joy!

                                              Theological Training and
                                              Full-Time Ministry
                                                                                                     YuLin Liu
                                                                                                     Class 2005

 Xian Tien Zhong is already
                                                 The Church in our age          uncertain future, I went to church
 pastoring full-time at New Haven
 Chinese Alliance Church while         generally agrees that pastors need       frequently to pray and seek the
 he is receiving his theological       to have theological training to meet     Lord’s comfort. As I prayed per-
 education at ATS.                     pastorate demands and that the           sistently for four months, I became
                                       Master of Divinity degree is good        more and more clear that God want-
                                       enough for them. In the past, some       ed me to serve Him in the church,
                                       churches would oppose their pastors      and in the long run, He would lead
                                       having formal theological training,      me into full-time ministry. Since
                                       assuming that the training provides      then I began to ponder the neces-
                                       them with mental knowledge, but          sity of theological training. In the
                                       that in shaping the spiritual matu-      following two years, I had read
                                       rity, it is not profitable. They said    many Christian books in preparing
                                       that the theological training and        sermons for a mainland Chinese
                                       spiritual growth run on two differ-      church. In my busy professional
                                       ent tracks. But from what I observe,     life, I managed to find time to read
                                       the ones that oppose the theologi-       a book about church history and I
                                       cal education normally have not          had also familiarized myself with a
                                       had seminary training themselves.        couple of books written by Watch-
                                       They still carry the baggage from        man Nee. I thought by accumu-
                                       the lay leaders in their church who      lating the experiences in preach-
                                       taught them on the outset of their       ing and teaching, I could further
                                       faith that the theological training is   evaluate the possibility of serving
                                       useless.                                 God full-time. In Singapore there
                                                                                are several seminaries and I met
                                               In 2001 when I was work-         a friend who was studying in one
                                       ing for IT Corporation in Singa-         of them. She explained to me the
                                       pore, their financial forecast was       good things about studying theol-
                                       gloomy. It was estimated that a          ogy. The conversation with her had
                                       big portion of the employees at IT       paved the way for me in making
                                       would be laid off, so everyone was       the decision to enter a seminary.
                                       fidgety. At that time I had been a       However, many congregants in
                                       Christian for four years. Facing the     our church voiced their opposition

forward my getting the theological     ing, I emphatically pursued the         relating to others, we would expose
education. They feared that I might    transformation of my inner spir-        our struggle, and this state of mind
compromise my faith if I did enter     itual life, but I didn’t make much      has a link to our cultural heritage.
a seminary. I encountered one trial    progress. It was like I was crossing    We practice conquering the flesh,
after another while waiting for the    the river by grabbing the stones on     and by doing so we are like ancient
enrollment paperwork. In the end,      the riverbed. I was not able to dis-    Buddhist monks that think they’re
all trials were used by God to test    cern spiritually what kind of Chris-    superior to others because they’re
my determination in serving Him.       tian books could help me grow. I        at the top of the ladder versus oth-
These trials were tools to help me     envied the spiritual insights the au-   ers at the bottom of the ladder. We
make certain God had indeed called     thors described in their books, and I   hide the pride deep in our heart and
me. Praise the Lord for His sustain-   strived to obtain similar miraculous    entertain ourselves with it. I notice
ing. After the test I was reassured    spiritual experiences they had. My      many other Christian workers have
of God’s call and His faithfulness     desire at that stage was to search      the same spiritual defect without
to lead me through.                    for a way to transform my spiritual     being aware. Some may realize
                                       life. I even faithfully followed the    the defect, yet they have no power
        I have been studying theol-    spiritual disciplines the book writ-    within themselves to change. They
ogy for nearly six years. From my      ers described in their books to “find   work hard for the break-through. I
personal experience, I notice we       God.” I did get some insight from       believe this cause has made some
seminarians are trained to think       each book; yet my heart was still       churches to choose the “patriar-
logically in doing hermeneutics        heavily burdened by the frustrated      chal” leadership, which is unfortu-
and are under pressure to meet the     feeling in my heart that I couldn’t     nately dictatorial in disguise.
deadline. Very often we read the       reach a new spiritual horizon I en-
Bible for the sake of writing a pa-    vied. Later on, I realized the cause            I believe that not every lay
per instead of meeting and knowing     of my devastation was my partial        believer needs formal theological
God. We miss the given privilege       understanding of God’s Word, and        training, but pastors and ministers
of allowing God’s Word to cleanse      without recognizing it, I was ac-       do need seminary training. We are
the darkness in our heart. We side-    tually interpreting the Bible with      so blessed with many options of
track God’s Word to do academic        my own cultural upbringing. I fell      seminaries from which to choose.
research and hinder its renewing       into prey of fighting with the flesh    Some seminaries emphasize the
our spiritual life.                    with my own might, not leaning on       academic and professional skills,
                                       God’s mercy and grace. I had be-        some spiritual formation, and still
         On the other hand, theolog-   come a legalist without knowing it.     others pastoral care and disciple-
ical training does provide students    I did not know that God had given       ship. However, if a seminarian
a platform to learn how the power      me within my heart a new spirit         wants to study theology for pas-
of God’s Word and His Spirit es-       and a new life in Christ.               toring, he should look for a semi-
tablished the Church in history;                                               nary that focuses on evangelism,
how the heretics came about and                 It dawned on me one day,       counseling and pastoral care. To
the Church defended the truth; how     when I was sharing my frustration       obtain a Master of Divinity degree,
Christian doctrines were formed;       with some pastors in China who          it normally would take three years
and how believers in our present       told me their similar frustration,      to acquire the credits required. But
time can learn from mistakes of the    that I had emphasized so much how       some seminaries have condensed
past.                                  to conquer the flesh that I had actu-   their courses so intensely that their
                                       ally isolated myself from others. I     students might not be able to digest
       Prior to my seminary train-     and my peer pastors feared that by      what they learn in three years. Take

Greek and Hebrew courses as ex-         this year has equipped me to face        A seminarian should hold on to his
amples. It takes the students one       challenges in my future ministry.        calling and allow God to break him
and a half years to complete each                                                and mold him toward becoming
course. I often hear seminarians                 It is crucial for seminarians   spiritually mature. May each one
mention that in order to graduate       to serve in their churches. Before       of the seminarians receive God’s
in three years, they need to take as    I started to study in the seminary,      blessings abundantly, mature in the
many credits as they can afford, but    I had already served in the church       walk, and receive spiritual insights
the heavy work load hinders them        full-time for two years. I continued     from the years of training. May the
from absorbing and practicing           my involvement at the church even        glory of God dwell in each one of
what they learn. Some even admit        after I entered the seminary. I went     you. Amen!
that that they lack time to pray and    to various churches to intern and
spend time with the Lord. On their      to learn from others. I was given
commencement, they have a “hat”         the opportunity to practice what I
to crown their head, but their foun-    learned. If the elders and pastors
dation of faith still remains shal-     of the church are willing to take
low. So I would advise the Chris-       seminarians as Joshua and Timothy
tians that are thinking of studying     were to Moses and Paul, and dem-
in a seminary to watch out for the      onstrate their pastoral skills, the
slip that in meeting the academic       students will learn tremendously.
demands, they might sacrifice           The best benefit is that they could       Yu Lin Liu came from Mainland
their relationship with the Lord.       avoid the mistakes a novice nor-          China. He graduated from Alliance
                                                                                  Theological Seminary in 2005. He
Our source of strength comes from       mally makes, shortening their tran-
                                                                                  is now pursuing his Ph.D. degree
spending time with the Lord. It’s       sition from graduation to becoming        at Trinity Evangelical Divinity
better to take Greek and Hebrew         an experienced minister. In this          School.
courses slowly and soundly even         manner they are better prepared
if it takes longer than three years.    to face challenges in the pastorate.
The most important part of theo-        To have a mentor to guide them
logical training is spiritual growth,   through the struggles of pastoring
healing from the Lord, and being        is indeed a blessing.
set free from the inner bondage.
The reward of studying theology                 Last but not least, it is bet-
is to know oneself, know others         ter for prospective seminarians to
and know God. Besides using the         research the seminaries available
theological study to renew faith        to them and evaluate one by one to
in the Lord, seminarians should         decide which one can equip them
also intern in different churches to    better to fulfill God’s call on their
practice what they learn from the       life. A famous seminary is not al-
classroom. I thank God for giv-         ways the best choice if it cannot
ing me the privilege of finish my       offer the training needed to serve
last year of M.Div. degree at the       God effectively in the particular
Alliance Theological Seminary in        call received from God. The semi-
Nyack, New York, where I learned        nary study itself is already a proc-
how to nurture a mission mind and       ess of self-growth, but it sometimes
spiritual growth. What I learned in     could be a wilderness experience.


                   Alumni Update

 Sam Lau (May 2003)'s ordination was held on September 31 of 2007 at Greater Boston Chinese Alliance
                 Church. He has been serving at this church for two years.
 Tak Tong Lee (Dec 2002)'s inauguration was held on September of 2007 at Oversea Chinese Mission Canaan
                 Church of Princeton. Tak has served in Paris, France for several years after graduating
                 from seminary.
 Jun Ren (May 2007) and his wife Jane Yu Chen Cheng joined the staff of Living Stone Christian Church
                 at the end of last year.
 Adam Chu (May 2007) and his wife moved to the west coast at the beginning of the year. Adam is now
                 serving at Tri-Valley Chinese Bible Church in Pleasanton, CA.
 David Lo (May 2006), after completing his externship at Rutgers Community Christian Church is now
                 serving full-time at Chinese Evangel Mission in New Jersey.

                                 Courses Offered in Summer 2008
 Rockland Campus

 Development of the Chinese Church in 20th Century
 Instructor: Dr. Peter Au
 Date and Time: May 27 - 31, Tuesday to Saturday, 8:30am - 4:30pm

                                         Courses Offered in Fall 2008
 Rockland Campus

 Leadership and Pastoral Ministry for the Chinese Church
 Instructor: Dr. John Ng
 Date and Time: September to December 2008

For information, please contact:
Chinese Studies Program at Alliance Theological Seminary
350 North Highland Ave., Nyack, NY 10960 Tel: (845) 770-5723 or (845)353-2020


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