Friday, 31 August 2007
It is also a historic day for me. Today marks a very significant milestone in my journey of faith. On this day, 9 years ago, I packed my bags and left Malaysia, heading towards Boston, to begin my new adventurous journey as a student in a seminary. It also marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life as I embarked on the journey of entering full-time Christian vocation.
Today I celebrate my 9th year in full-time Christian vocation. 9 years - not a very long period of time, but long enough for me to learn many important lessons of faith through the ups and downs of Christian ministry.
I can only thank God for his provision, guidance, wisdom, strength, and empowerment over the 9 years.
I also would like to thank all my mentors, prayer partners, friends, and supporters who cheer me on, speak timely words of encouragement, and constantly remember me in your prayers. I could not have come this far without all of you. Thank you for being there for me, for listening to my frustrations and discouragement, for sharing my joy and tears and for digging into your pockets to support me in many practical ways.
Finally, to all the anonymous donors out there, thank you so much for your financial contribution. There are many occasions when I received unexpected gift vouchers and cheques in the mailbox, right at the time when I needed them most. Thank you so much for being channels of blessings from the Almighty. You have taught me precious lessons of what it means to "live by faith"!
Thank you, all of you, for your partnership in the ministry of the gospel. I can only pray that God will, in his own time and ways, shower you with all the blessings you have been to me in greater portion in your life!
So, here's to many more fruitful years of Christian ministry.....
Thursday, 30 August 2007
According to the NECF Survey of Churches, Pastors and Christians that was carried out in 2001, a total of 226, 514 and 3,738 responses were received for the Survey of Churches, Survey of Pastors and Survey of Christians respectively. In this Survey, NECF makes the bold claim that "the maximum margin of error at the 95% confidence level is +/- 6 percentage points, +/- 5 percentage points and +/- 2 percentage points for the Survey of Churches, Pastors and Christians respectively." In other words, NECF confidently asserts that the results of this survey reflects a true picture of the real situation. If this is the case, we can safely assume that we could rely on the statistics of this Survey to make our judgement call.
Since this Survey was carried out in 2001, there does not seem to be any other comprehensive survey being carried out. But on the other hand, while the statistics of this survey may be slightly dated, it is doubted that there are any significant differences in the statistics between 2001 and the present day.
So, let's consider what the Basic Salary of a pastor of an NECF affiliated church looks like according to the Survey:
- 19.4% earn less than RM1,000 per month
- 45.8% earn between RM1,000-RM1,999 per month
- 22.1% earn between RM2,000-RM2,999 per month
- 8.4% earn between RM3,000-RM3,999 per month
- 2.9% earn between RM4,000-RM4,999 per month
- 1.4% earn more than RM5,000 per month
In other words, based on the above figure, approximately 87.3% of the pastors fall within the category of non-tax paying income earners according to the present tax structure.
In addition, the Survey also highlights the Other Income that a pastor might receive, include love gifts, allowances, utilities subsidies, insurances, book royalties, etc, as follow:
- 37.8% receive other income of less than RM1,000 per year
- 30.1% receive other income of RM1,000-RM2,999 per year
- 12.8% receive other income of RM3,000-RM4,999 per year
- 12.2% receive other income of RM5,000-RM9,999 per year
- 6.1% receive other income of RM10,000-RM29,999 per year
- 1.1% receive other income of more than RM30,000 per year
Now that we already have a picture of what a pastor earns, let us consider the following questions: Based on their earnings, what do the pastors think about their own salary? Is what they are earning adequate for them and to enable them to have some savings for their future and rainy days?
- 20.7% indicate that it is adequate for the present and future (including children's education)
- 53.0% indicate that it is adequate for the present only
- 19.5% indicate that it is not inadequate but not a concern
- 6.2% indicate that it is inadequate and negatively affecting family and ministry.
So what do the above statistics inform us? Does the salary that our pastor/full time worker receive according to the above figures represent fair wage based on the current level of inflation, cost and standard of living? Is it fair to say that 79.3% of the pastors feel that their present income level is inadequate or only adequate for the present? Is the church paying for their "workers" sufficiently? Would this level of income be an encouragement or hindrance for many others to enter into full-time Christian vocation? If not, what is the Church doing about it? Can the church afford to pay a little bit more? If so, what is stopping the church from paying a higher bracket of income? What is hindering the congregation to give a little bit more?
In addition, the Survey also notes that more than 17.3% of the pastors surveyed worked more than 60 hours a week. Coupled with inadequate salary, could this play a very significant role in which 61.0% of the pastors have in one time or another seriously thought of leaving their pastoral ministry? Could inadequate level of income be one of the factors of discouragement for the pastors?
I think I have more questions than answers. Any thoughts? Any comments?
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Monday, 27 August 2007
Psalm 23: A Seminary Lecturer's Version
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be angry,
He keeps me from lying down when I should be marking the exams and papers that do not make sense,
He leads me besides my colleagues and we all shake our heads about the exams and papers,
He restores my faith in the students.
He guides me in using my red pen in correcting all the mistakes made by the students in the exams and papers.
Even though I walk through the valley of receiving bad evaluation from the students,
I will not have a nervous breakdown,
For you are with me.
My fellow colleagues and predecessors,
They comfort me for they too receive bad evaluation from the students.
You prepare me with a heart of humility to teach and learn from the students,
You anoint my head with wisdom to instruct the seminarians,
And my lectures won't runneth over time.
Surely patience and generosity shall follow me all the days of my life as a lecturer in marking the students' exams and papers,
And I shall dwell in STM until the days of my retirement (or, until...as suggested by Dave and Blogpastor in the comments!)
Sunday, 26 August 2007
Saturday, 25 August 2007
"What has been happening in Afghanistan, the Middle East and elsewhere since the infamous September 11 bombing of the Twin Towers in New York seems to have hardened further the perception that whether in Christendom or in Islam, “theologians” are dangerous or irrelevant.
"In actual fact, such events could be used to demonstrate the opposite claim: the very failure to critically reflect and theologise properly, leading to the possibility of not only ultra-fundamental Islamic groups like the Talibans or Al-Qaeda, but also the ultra-right wing, Biblethumping “evangelicals” who have been nicknamed “Christian Talibans”.
"At another level, without theological reflection, we can see that if there are some Muslims who are blindly pro-Arab and all things Arab, there are also some Christians who are blindly pro-Israel and all things Jewish. While there is more unity or tolerance among churches now, as among the major seminaries, there are continuing tensions between Church and Seminary. For the Seminary to follow the dictates of the Church uncritically is to forfeit its intellectual and prophetic witness to the sanctity and unity of all truth. Yet not to relate closely to the Church makes the Seminary an irrelevant ivory tower without a pastoral base.
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
Photo: Central Market, Kota Bharu
Since I am on the road pretty much of this week, I will respond when I am back later this weekend.
Monday, 20 August 2007
Since then, I think I may have to add another word to my word study vocabulary to balance things a little bit. The latest Newsweek issue reports that the good-old rugged manly looks is making a comeback with more men seeking surgical solutions to create more hairy chests and breads, squarer chins, and more angular jaw lines. So say goodbye to "metrosexual" and hello again to "retrosexual"! So looks like I have to add another "sexual" word to my list.
One of our students, Gerrad, is quick to pick up this issue. I think he is right to say that some of those in my Exegetical Methods class who are "troubled" with the rise of metrosexuality (or my definition of metrosexual) can now breathe with relief and need not be too concerned about "men who are in touch with his feminine side," and about what's the latest in the men's cosmetic section in the stores!
Gerrad, wish you were in my class!
But on the other hand, I wonder what my colleagues would think the students would do...Let's see....let's start with....
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Saturday, 18 August 2007
Friday, 17 August 2007
We cannot do it alone, and we should never dare to do it alone.
Thursday, 16 August 2007
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
As an illustration, I gave the example of a series of compound words such as homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, and transsexual that have one thing in common - all of them clearly describe the sexual orientation of a particular individual. However, not every compound word that ends with "sexual" carries the force of describing one's sexual orientation. To emphasise this point, I highlighted that the word "metrosexual" does not really describe a person's sexual orientation.
Then I received blank looks from those in the class. One student asked, "What is metrosexual? Is this a new word? Never heard of this before."
Opps...Wrong example to use...
But being cheeky as usual, I then gave a brief definition of a metrosexual as "an urban male that is in touch with his feminine side. He is one that is conscious of the latest male fashion, pays particular attention to his appearance, allocates a large portion of his budget for cosmetics, be a part of the gym and fitness culture, goes for spa, facial, and even hair removal, whether facial or elsewhere."
Opps...Not a very "appropriate" or "spiritual" definition to be given in a class in seminary!
One has to be there to witness the response I received, and the looks in the faces of some of the students. I would not want to imagine what went through their minds or what they think of me.
Someone in the class then commented something like this (which I freely paraphrase), "I do not know there is a male cosmetic section in the department store. You mean they sell male cosmetic nowadays?"
I think I can almost hear Steven Curtis Chapman, "I am speechless...."
Postscript: I wonder as ministers and future ministers of the gospel, how can we effectively reach out to our young people if we are simply not in touch with the contemporary culture? So, is it any wonder that in some urban churches, we are fast losing our youth and young adults simply because we are no longer relevant, or perhaps, we are not interested in what they are interested in, or we are not making any serious effort in moving with the times? Something for me to ponder...
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Alex describes me "as the Batman in Infinite Crisis. A battle weary Batman, having to constantly battles in a local seminary." Hmmm....how true, especially when you have to deal with students like....opps, sorry, let's not go into details!!
Thanks, Alex. It is a great honour to be tagged by you.
Monday, 13 August 2007
My colleague in church tries to assure me that the hotline number, 1-800-FORGIVE, will not not go bust.
Well, this might be true if he could help by designing a prerecorded message for the hotline, and it can go something like this...
Thank you for calling 1-800-FORGIVE in response to Kar Yong's sermon. Please listen to the following instructions:
If you don't like Kar Yong's sermon, please press 1;
If you think Kar Yong's sermon is too short, please press 2;
If you think Kar Yong's sermon is too long, please press 3;
If you think Kar Yong's sermon is too intellectual without any practical application, please press 4;
If you think Kar Yong's sermon is too boring, please press 5;
If you think Kar Yong's sermon lacks the anointing of the Holy Spirit, please press 6;
If you wish to speak to our customer care consultants, please press 0
This is what will happen:
If anyone presses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, then this pre-recorded message will come on: "We thank you for participating in this survey. Once we have analysed the findings, we will inform Kar Yong about your response in helping him improve his sermons in the future. Thank you for calling 1-800-FORGIVE. Have a blessed day."
If anyone presses 0, they will hear this pre-recorded message: "Sorry, all our customer care consultants are busy at the moment. You call is very important to us, and please hold the line and your call will be attended to in the order that it is received. We are experiencing an unusual high volume of calls at the moment, and the estimated time for your call to be answered by our customer care consultant is 20 minutes. Please hold the line and we will attend to you as soon as the first customer care consultant is available."
Then my recorded sermon will come on for the caller to listen to while he/she holds the line.
If Ionstorm can put this in place, then I think the hotline will definitely not go bust...
Ionstorm, can you help?
Sunday, 12 August 2007
Cartoon credit: http://www.reverendfun.com/
Saturday, 11 August 2007
In conjunction with the OMSHI launch, there will be a Launch Dialogue entitled, "Was Jesus Political?"
Details of the dialogue are as follow:
- Moderator: Bishop Dr Hwa Yung
- Speakers: Dr Lim Kar Yong, Lecturer in New Testament Studies, STM; and Dr K. J. John, Executive Director, OHMSI.
- Commentators: Rev Dr Hermen Shastri, General Secretary, CCM; Goh Keat Peng, Former General Secretary, CFM; Dr Beth Baikan; and representatives of NECF and an active Christian Organization (to be confirmed at a later date).
Friday, 10 August 2007
Read about it today's The Star Online here.
Hmmm....any reason why Christianity is widely featured in the press two days in a row (see my earlier post for yesterdays' news)?
Thursday, 9 August 2007
In fact, one of the issues that surfaced in the recent Marketplace Ministry Roundtable discussion group in the NECF National Pastors-Leaders Consultation on Nation Building is the lack of understanding on the part of the clergy or pastors concerning the struggles of those in the marketplace. While to a certain extent, there may be some truth in this observation, a couple of delegates reminded the participants that this is not always the case. Many of the clergy/pastors have had many years of marketplace experience before entering "full time ministry." One even mentioned that while one of her pastors never had any marketplace experience, this pastor clearly understands the issues she faces in the marketplace and is prepared to walk alongside her.
One delegate in the rountable discussion then suggested perhaps clergy/pastors should take some time off to have some years of experience in the marketplace.
Hmmm...not a bad idea, I think, if there is anyone out there who is willing to employ pastors. Better still, perhaps we could do something like the ABC's reality show, Wife Swap. Let's call it Pastor Swap. I would be happy to return to the "secular" world, and perhaps someone would like to step into the shoes of a "full-time worker" and take over my place for a few weeks. Oh yes, don't forget, that would include swapping the salary as well!
Any takers? Hmmm...no sacred-secular divide?
p.s. - For earlier posts on this subject, see here, here, here and here.
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
To me, this was one small area I could have been a positive influence and agent of transformation in the marketplace - it is to care for and demonstrate the love of Christ to people in our workplace regardless of position and influence, status and power and other artificial boundaries that we may have drawn up intentionally and unintentionally.
More often than not, reaching to the poor and marginalised in the marketplace is void of glamour and does not have the ingredients of making it into "success" story. Neither will it earn us the reputation of being "successful" or throw us into position of limelight in the eyes of others (for my previous posts on this subject, see here, here, and here).
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
One does not need to go too far to have a taste of how far one can push the boundaries in the name of marketplace ministry and being salt and light in the marketplace. The recent dance video release by Sun Ho, former pastor of City Harvest Church in Singapore, has caused quite a fair bit of stir, as honestly assessed by Blogpastor in his post. The dance video is available in YouTube and the link is available in Alex Tang's blog.
Far too frequently, we often cite examples of success (read monetary success) as positive influence of Christians in the marketplace and as an indication of God's approval, blessings and anointing. Even in the recent NECF National Pastors-Leaders Consultation on Nation Building, the success of biblical examples of Joseph and Daniel is given prominence as examples that believers in the marketplace should emulate.
There is no denying that Joseph and Daniel are excellent biblical examples of positive influence in the marketplace. But my uneasiness in these oft quoted examples is the fact that the success side of the story has been given far too much emphasis. There is hardly any mention of the failures (as seen in the eyes of many) in the lives of these characters. There is no mention of the long process of character building and moulding that took place in the experience of being rejected by family, in betrayal, in prison, in sufferings, in the severe testing of one's faith as characterised in the lives of Joseph and Daniel. How many Christians in the marketplace would want to pay the price Joseph paid before becoming "successful'? How many would want their faith to be tested in the lion's den?
To be continued...my personal encounter and exposure to the marketplace ministry that shapes my present understanding.
Monday, 6 August 2007
Sunday, 5 August 2007
Credit: Cartoon from Cartoonchurch.com
Saturday, 4 August 2007
During one of the lectures in my Exegesis of 1 Corinthians class, I asked one of the students, let's call him S, to read a passage from 1 Corinthians. So S took out his mobile phone and read from it. But I noticed that the reading was not that particularly smooth. There were pauses and interruptions in his reading. And I also noticed that there were few students giggling away in the class. Hmmm...I wondered what was going on in the class.
Only later on did I find out that another student in the class was calling S on his mobile phone while he was reading the passage. And he kept on calling S several times. So, this explained the interruptions of the reading of the passage....and the giggles in the class.
So much for modern technology. The moral of the story is that there is still nothing like the good old NA 27 where you can be guaranteed there will not be any unnecessary interruptions such as the one described earlier. Well, reading from NA 27 might also save you from some embarrassment and, not to mention, from incurring the "wrath" of some of the lecturers as well....Think about it!! Bring your Bibles or NA 27 to class next time, lah!!!
That's it! I knew resistance was futile. So I headed to Canaanland immediately to check out for myself the goodies on sale. But I must admit, I practised a bit more "retraint" compared to Pearlie. I managed to pick up ONLY 2 books.
The first book, Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006) is one that I have trying to get hold of for sometime. Having personally met and interacted with Markus Bockmuehl, I have very high respect for him. At a time of deep disagreements about the nature and purpose of academic biblical studies, Bockmuehl advocates the recovery of a plural but common conversation on the subject of what the New Testament is about. This book begins with an assessment of current New Testament studies, identifying both persistent challenges and some promising proposals. Subsequent chapters explore two such proposals. First, ground for common conversation lies in taking seriously the readers and readings the text implies. Second, Bockmuehl explores the text’s early effective history by a study of apostolic memory in the early church. This is a very engaging and inspiring book, and I look forward to reading it with great detail later on, and I know I will definitely learn much from Bockmuehl.
The second book that I picked up is Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006) by missiologist Stanley Skreslet. In this book, Skreslet searches for new, more holistic images of mission from Scripture. Undertaking a novel exegetical study of mission in the New Testament, he highlights five actions that depict the witness of Jesus’ first followers: announcing good news, sharing Christ with friends, interpreting the gospel, shepherding, and building/planting. After carefully examining key biblical passages, Skreslet draws out the implications of these five images for the theology of mission and lets each image take shape visually through an array of Western and non-Western art, an area that I personally find intriguing. This is one of the reasons I purchased this book. Without doubt, Picturing Christian Witness will provoke readers to imagine what mission will look like when actively embodied by contemporary disciples of Jesus.
The temptation and quest of a bibliophile during the midnight sale, encouraged by partner-in-crime, left me poorer in my pocket and, hopefully, richer in my understanding of the current New Testament scholarship that may be beneficial to the students in the seminary.
Friday, 3 August 2007
After putting in some thoughts, I decided that perhaps I should try out some of the ideas, with appropriate modification for Asian contexts, found in the volume edited by Mark Roncace and Patrick Gray, Teaching the Bible: Practical Strategies for Classroom Instruction, Resources for Biblical Study 49 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature 2005).
Thursday, 2 August 2007
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
There are many interesting reviews in this issue. Notably, I wish to highlight the compilation of essays from the 2005 Limerick conference (a conference that I missed, unfortunately) edited by Thomas L. Brodie, Dennis MacDonald, and Stanley E. Porter, The Intertextuality of the Epistles: Explorations of Theory and Practice. This volume is certainly worth engaging, but the price of the book could be rather prohibitive.
Octavian D. Baban
On the Road Encounters in Luke-Acts: Hellenistic Mimesis and Luke's Theology of the Way
Reviewed by Thomas L. Brodie
Stephen Barton, ed.
The Cambridge Companion to the Gospels
Reviewed by Paul Foster
Israel's Story: Part One
Reviewed by Sven Petry
John A. Bertone
The Law of the Spirit: Experience of the Spirit and Displacement of the Law in Romans 8:1-16
Reviewed by Volker Rabens
Thomas L. Brodie, Dennis MacDonald, and Stanley E. Porter, eds.
The Intertextuality of the Epistles: Explorations of Theory and Practice
Reviewed by Korinna Zamfir
Trevor J. Burke and J. Keith Elliott, eds.
Paul and the Corinthians: Studies on a Community in Conflict. Essays in Honour of Margaret Thrall
Reviewed by Joubert Stephan
Le partage de minuit: Essai sur la Genèse
Reviewed by Hugh S. Pyper
Dorothea Erbele-Küster and Detlef Dieckmann, eds.
"Du hast mich aus meiner Mutter Leib gezogen": Beiträge zur Geburt im Alten Testament
Reviewed by Silvia Schroer
The Acts of the Apostles
Reviewed by Steve Walton
James L. Kugel, ed.
Prayers That Cite Scripture
Reviewed by Marvin A. Sweeney
Encountering Ecclesiastes: A Book for Our Time
Reviewed by David Brian Warner
The Mother of the Gods, Athens, and the Tyranny of Asia: A Study of Sovereignty in Ancient Religion
Reviewed by Gerhard van den Heever
Luke: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist
Reviewed by Robert C. Tannehill
Susanne Rudnig-ZeltHoseastudien: Redaktionskritische Untersuchungen zur Genese des Hoseabuches
Reviewed by Eberhard Bons
Vorsehung Gottes? Zur Rede von der providentia Dei in der Antike und im Neuen Testament
Reviewed by Michael Labahn
Wrestling with Textual Violence: The Jephthah Narrative in Antiquity and Modernity
Reviewed by Rüdiger Bartelmus