We have attended all three Camps. We managed to get to know some members better. We have met some amazing people and got a glimpse into their spiritual journey. Each camp was a different experience, reflecting the riches and depth of our community. I have also had deep conversations about ministry issues and discerning together what the Lord is doing in this new season.
At the last one this week in Batam, we were blessed by the ministry of my retired colleague, Revd George Tay and his wife, Eunice. George has always struck me as someone who cared more for his relationship with God than accomplishing things in the church. A couple marked by love and discipline, in this season, they are pouring their lives to the ministry of discipleship in Sarawak. Eunice is also a member of SAC.
Two things stood out for me in this Camp in Batam. First, I am reminded of the importance of community. It is a word that is bandied around but really, what does that word mean? Some see community as a means to other more important ends. What if to love another is to love Christ? Just love. Period, without any qualifications. As I meet a very diverse membership in SAC, I am reminded that you don’t choose the people you want to like, love or think well of. I encounter Christ in the other, sometimes an unfamiliar experience, and that becomes an opportunity to grow.
Am I a community builder? Do I bring people together? Or do I cause people to be suspicious of one another and erect barriers? To love is to accept and welcome another. “Accept one another as Christ has accepted you (Romans 15:7).” To accept another is not secondary to Christian love. It is at the heart of it. We see that happening all the time in Jesus’ ministry, even to his dying breath (the criminal on the cross).
We are to create a space where the other feels a sense of welcome and room to be himself or herself. We incarcerate the other when we force him/her to conform to our expectations.
Secondly, Geroge shared a story of a pastor who towards the end of his life realized that he has been doing ministry for himself. “You did it for yourself.” That was the startling revelation. I am strongly reminded again, am I doing what I do for the Lord or for myself? Before I give the politically correct answer, I really need to pause and reflect deeply. For our motives are so terribly mixed. As prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all else.”
And as Paul exemplified for us, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Ephesians 1:21) We may well be saying the opposite, “For me to live is to gain for myself, and to die, a great loss to humanity.” I would like to challenge every one of my staff and lay leaders in the Cathedral to ponder prayerfully on this question. If we are doing it only for ourselves, no matter how fruitful the ministry outwardly seems to be - and in Singapore riches with resources and possibilities the wheels keep turning - it will not bring glory to the Lord nor will it be pleasing to Him. It will be wood, hay and stubble, unable to stand the test of time, especially when we face setbacks or during leaner periods. Unless we are able to be in this together for the long haul, with shared values in Christ buried deep in our hearts, it can only in the end hurt the community.
Live for others. Live for Him. That sums up the greatest commandment, doesn’t it? SAC can be much for the Lord when we serve selflessly. And while at it, a happier and loving community, and a lasting legacy that we will leave behind for future generations.