5 Shifts To Make: The Philippine Church Gearing Towards Life and Ministry Post-Pandemic Webinar – A Reaction

I had the privilege to share the stage with Dr. Anthony dela Fuente, who blogs over at Upgazer/The Dawn Treader, the other day. He had been invited by the Theological Commission of the Philippine Council for Evangelical Churches to present a paper at their TheoExpo 2021. His paper was entitled 5 Shifts To Make: The Philippine Church Gearing Towards Life and Ministry Post-Pandemic. I was asked to be the reactor to the paper. The session was livestreamed on Facebook and can be viewed in its entirety here. Please take a look and tell me what you think. 

Do I pastor a church or a community?

Photo by Mauro Mora on Unsplash.

Several diverse ideas helped shape the approach I take to pastoring.

A key Bible story for me is the story of the Father and his two sons (often called the Prodigal son) that is found in Luke 15:11-32. One of the key parts of the story for me is the fact that there are only three characters, which for me means that in God’s perspective all people are a part of his family. Some — like the prodigal — leave the family and then return, while others — like the older brother — appear to initially have everything together but then end up outside at the end of the story. Note that the father extends every effort to welcome both sons back home. This has shaped how I feel God views everyone in the world — they are all his children who he wants to return home.

Dwayne Harms was a friend I had growing up who ended up being a pastor at Midale Baptist Church in Saskatchewan, Canada. I had a chance to visit him after he had been there for a few years and he said something that has stuck with me since then. He talked about how being the Baptist pastor in a small town meant that he was more than just the Baptist pastor, he was the town’s pastor. This has also helped shape my philosophy of the church and it’s connection with the community.

David Fitch a few years ago said, “There is no dividing line between the church and the world. The church may precede the world today, yet it is only living today what the world itself is ultimately called to in the future. The church in essence bleeds into the world ever calling it to its true destiny. As a foretaste of the renewal of all creation, the church cannot be discontinuous with creation. It cannot be discontinuous with the world because the church is in the process of becoming that very world renewed in Christ. Neither can it merely blend into the world for then all Mission and renewal is lost. Its presence will be in, among and for the world even as it will be distinct from the world. This is what it means to take on the incarnational nature of Christ. It is this very incarnational nature that requires the church to be a discerning community which at times both refuses conformity with the world while at other times joining in (with what God is already at work doing).”

All of this helped me when my wife and I moved to Pingkian (a small community in Metro Manila). I must admit that it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t simply a pastor with Metro Manila Bible Community or Pingkian Family Worship but that I was in fact the pastor of Pingkian! It has certainly shaped the way that I interact with the people who live around me.

If it’s true that we pastor communities like we pastor churches, what does that look like?

Is it beast or animal? Is there a difference?

https://unsplash.com/@moino007

I have been prepping for a sermon on the church post-Easter celebration. Some have been asking questions like, “What is God doing during the pandemic? Why isn’t he answering our prayers?” and saying things like, “I am sharing this fake news because I want people to have hope that there is life post-COVID.” These are certainly important and serious issues. Since some of the comments talked about government and its role in the pandemic, my study (naturally) brought me to the word “beast” as used in the Bible.

Theology is sometimes based on archaic words and untranslated words. The problem with both is that it is possible to give them meanings that are different from what they really mean.

Transliterations are the words in the Bible that aren’t translated. Rather the Greek letters are switched into english letters and that new word is put into the Bible. I can think of two examples, angel and baptism.

Angel is a word that really means messenger but because it is not translated we have come up with a white-robed, halo-wearing, person with wings that has no connection to reality.

Baptism is a word that really means immersed or submerged but because it is merely transliterated we can take it to mean anything we want, whether that is sprinkling, pouring, or dunking. Of course what really messes us up is when this word is connected to the Holy Spirit 😉

Translations are words where the same meaning from the original language is found in another language. I think it was Andrew Walls who said, “All translation is betrayal.” This is partly because concepts between languages often don’t precisely overlap. It is also partly because often translations don’t change as quickly as language itself changes.

For example, the Tagalog word ulam is often translated as viand in English. Put up your hand if you know what viand means 🙂 It may be an accurate translation but it isn’t a very helpful one. (Having said that, what is a modern English word for viand I wonder?)

There are also biblical examples of the same thing.

Tongues. This is a old way of saying “languages.” Speaking in languages. The gift of languages.

Beast. This word can also mean animal, which is the most common way this word is said in today’s usage. But see what happens when we use it instead of beast? Mark of the animal. The Animals of Revelation.

Can you think of any other biblical words that could be replaced by more normal words?

My most memorable preaching experience was a dialogue.

https://unsplash.com/@mlightbody

Just reading Carey Nieuwhof’s blog on The Future of Preaching and Reaching the Unchurched.

One point brought me back to the most memorable preaching experience I ever had.

3. Limited format. A sermon is a monologue and rarely more.”

I was visiting a small church in Northwestern Ontario (I think it was Upper Falls Baptist in Vermillion Bay). I was basically on a tour of BGC Canada churches across Canada, which meant this was not the first time I had preached this particular sermon. I got started into the message and asked my first (rhetorical) question, prepared to answer it myself and then continue. To my surprise a woman in the congregation spoke up with her answer! I was taken aback at first but then I realised that it was ok to do things differently. We continued the sermon in dialogue format with the various members of the congregation engaging with what I was saying. It was great!

Which brings us to another point Nieuwhof makes,

“Without intentionally doing this, most of us who preach self-censor what we say and do on Sundays. There is a silent but prevalent belief that certain things are ‘acceptable’ for a Sunday morning format and some things are not.”

Not every congregation appreciates the give and take nature of a dialogic sermon — for some it appears disrespectful. I wonder if it’s time to change this attitude?

What was your most memorable preaching experience? Have you even tried preaching in dialogue form rather than monologue?