Friday, 17 August 2007

No Sacred-Secular Divide...Really? Part 6 - Finale

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on a series of posts on "No Sacred-Secular Divide...Really?" (for previous posts, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5). In the final post in this series, I would like to pick up my earlier comments on the survey of Viewpoints carried out by NECF during the National Pastors-Leaders Consultation on Nation Building that I participated in recently.

In this survey, delegates were asked to indicate whether they strongly disagree, partially disagree, partially agree, strongly agree, or being indifferent or having no opinion concerning a total of 28 Viewpoints touching on various issues confronting the church in Malaysia. These Viewpoints are designed to be open ended statements.

What intrigues me is that, out of the total 28 viewpoints, 10 of these are directly or indirectly related to the marketplace ministry which NECF identifies as one of the recent movements that deserves our attention. In other words, approximately 36% of the Viewpoints being surveyed is related to marketplace ministry itself. This figure represents an exceptionally high percentage focusing on merely one particular aspect of the Christian ministry. This strongly suggests that marketplace ministry is gaining "popularity" within the Church, or at least in the circles of people designing the questionnaire. It may also indicate NECF's wish in wanting to appraise, with some level of certainty, the stand of the pastors and leaders of its affiliated churches on this particular issue.

The viewpoints related to marketplace ministry are reproduced below (all emphasis original):

#4: When the world is transformed for Christ, it would be because we have more laypeople who have been transformed and are now transforming their workplaces and society.

#5: The church worship and programmes are primarily designed for SUNDAYS. It is time to make every day a worship service - whether in the marketplace or at home. Both the secular and the ministry are worship to the Lord.

#6: Today, churches measure success by the number of people within the four walls. The kingdom of God measures success through the transformation happening at home, at work, at play and in the society.

#8: It is the transformed life of the Christian disciples that changes society.

#10: Evangelism should first flow out of the Christians' lifestyle in the marketplace.

#11: It is time for the church to influence and penetrate every level of the society through its laypeople.

#12: God is transforming lives outside the church's structure, e.g. home-schooling, house-churches, marketplace ministries and Christian creative arts activities.

#13: Although professing to believe in Christian principles, many Christians today live in a way that is not much different from their non-Christian peers in the marketplace.

#19: Transformed Christians have begun to recognise that local church is not - and need not be - the centre of their spiritual adventure.

#20: Experience, maturity and character are more important than formal education. The congregation now takes the place of the seminaries in developing church leaders.

I am curious to know what would be the outcome of the survey, and I do hope NECF publishes the results of the survey soon.

While waiting eagerly for NECF to publish the results, my curiosity leads me to wonder what would be the possible response of the delegates to these viewpoints. Alternatively, I would also be curios to know if the readers of this blogs are asked to participate in this survey, what would the response be like? Which statements would you agree, disagree and why?

I must confess I am not sure what is the ultimate objective of this survey, apart from my conjecture above. But if I were to base my judgement call (which could be very wrong) on the way the statements are designed in order to solicit one's position, it naturally raises the red flag if a high percentage of the respondents partially agree or strongly agree with most the above Viewpoints.

If the Viewpoints are any indication of the direction of the marketplace ministry movement is going, it seems to me that the role and function of the Church has been largely removed from the equation. I may be very wrong here, but it seems to me that marketplace ministry and the Church appears to be two mutually exclusive expressions of the kingdom of God, if one were to agree to the Viewpoints. It seems to indicate that if there is any transformation of the society (just count how many times the word "transformation" and its cognates appear in the Viewpoints above), it is done primarily, if not, entirely through the laity or marketplace ministry at the price of excluding the church

I do believe in the priesthood of all believers. But my understanding of ecclesiology also informs me that any effective transformation of the society is not carried out merely through any individuals or "laypeople who has been transformed for Christ" but also the church, the body of Christ, and together in partnership with the "clergy" and "full time workers." And I do believe that God does call people into various vocations - be it the "sacred" and "secular" vocations. As such, any biblical transformation that we are talking about has to include the entire body of Christ, and not only a particular segment within the body of Christ. The local church is and should continue to be our centre of spiritual adventure (contra Viewpoint # 19).

The idea of Pastor Swap that I suggested in one of my earlier posts is to remind us that God calls us to different and diverse ministry, whether in the marketplace or in the church. The conversation between the church and the society, those involved in the "sacred" and "secular" employment must continue to engage each other in order for us to have meaningful and effective ministry for the sake of the kingdom. If the marketplace ministry movement believes that it is able to impact and transform the society to the exclusion of the church and the rest of the body of Christ, then I am concerned of the direction it is heading.

Perhaps it is time that both the "sacred" and "secular" recognise each other's calling and vocation, work together in conservation and dialogue, and partner with each other in impacting and transforming the society so that we could, collectively, be the salt and light of the world. Both "clergy" and "laity" need each other. Both the "congregations" and "seminaries" need to work closely together too (contra Viewpoint #20).

We cannot do it alone, and we should never dare to do it alone.


SP Lim said...

I'm not sure how successful this trend on 'marketplace ministry' is going to be in producing disciples. Having been in the 'marketplace' for the last 14 years, it is sad to note that those who wear their 'badge' as a Christian most prominently were those who behaved the worst at times. I always think that if my faith depends on how other Christians in the marketplace behave, I would have given up my faith long time ago. It is not a case of seeing the speck in my brother's eye and not the log in mine. I'm well aware of the log in mine! But when one shout to the whole world that one is a Christian and the next moment do some of the most unethical thing and condemned by even non Christians, talk about transforming society is cheap.
We need to be transformed first before we can even talk about transforming society. One doesn't get transformed but responding to an altar call, saying a sinner's prayer, then go to church every Sunday, jumping up and down to some upbeat music, listening to 15 minutes of motivating or therapeutic sermons.
In our obsession with new words or terms we forget certain words which may be more useful e.g. 'sanctification'. Or is it they sound too theological and so should be dropped in favour of more contemporary words.
I hope I've not sidetracked from the sacred secular divide discussion. Each of us have our own role to play. We need theologians to point out to us sound doctrines. Sound practices follow sound doctrines. We need pastors who are faithful to the biblical text when preaching. More of the text and less of their experiences or other people experiences. We need lay people who are faithful to their calling as disciple of Christ, the salt and light of the world.

Kar Yong said...

Dear SP,

Thank you for your thoughts and comments, and for contributing to the discussion.

I think my concern for the current trend of marketplace ministry is the promotion of "laity" in fulfilling the Great Commission, tranforming the society (and whatever else you can think of) to the exclusion of the "clergy" (including pastors, theologians, biblical scholars, full time workers).

Your comment that we need each other, both the "clergy" and "laity", beautifully captures the essence of what I have been trying to say.

Thanks again for dropping by.

Lee Chee Keat said...

aisei, so fast finale!! Tot there are more to come. Anyway, it is definitely a concern if it's only laity is the only way to transform the way. It also means that how we clergy should be creatively involve in reaching out to the non Christian world. I realised most of my pastors were only involved in the church world and hardly invovle in reaching out to the non Christian world. That's why some how, laity is frustrated when the pastors not sharing and touching the issues that pertaining to their working place issues. I do admire ARPC pastors Singapore who were also involved in boys brigade and lunch time talk where they are connecting with non Christians. Seminary should also think how pastors can involved creatively in a non Christian world where they were supposed to equip the laity to touch the non Christian world. If pastors are not setting an eg, what do you expect from the laity to do the work of reaching out ? Perhaps that's why there's this laity reaction on clergy by NECF. I could be wrong !! Overall, I think it's unhelpful to use the term "clergy-laity" term which is heavily emphasised by the denominational church. It's time to use RP Stevens described as the laos of people ...the people of GOd...the leaders among the people of God. I think this is better perspective and it means clergy-laity being the leaders of the church equipping the church members to transform the non Christian world. So, bye2 to division of clergy-laity and problem solved and finale;p

Alex Tang said...

hello Kar Yong,

I hear sp lim and I hear lee chee keat. The marketplace ministry will be likely to be laity based while the clergy will be church based. Basically, it depends on who pays your salary. If a church pays a pastor a salary, normally the church expect the pastor to serve the church and the church only. So it is impossible to do away with the clergy-secular divide unless all clergy become bivocational and hold a 'secular' job.

I hear sp lim in that the laity need to be theologically trained and I might add to be theologically reflective in their daily jobs and this is where we need the theologians to guide and teach the way.

Paul Stevens has suggested some ideas but he has not fully grasped the implication of the laos in the marketplace. His ideas sounds good theoretically but difficult to implement in the workplace.

Kar Yong said...

Hi Chee Keat,

A finale does not mean there won't be "Sacred-Secular Divide Returns" series in the future. I will continue to post further reflections on this, but perhaps at a later date.

I think you brought up a good point, and I think much more reflection is required if we wish to meaningfully equip and empower the laity (oh, BTW, there are disputes as to how one is to take the function of 3 prepositional phrases in Eph 4:11-12, and as such R. Paul Stevens's argument based on this text is not beyond doubt. This is another topic for another day, and I might post this later on).

Kar Yong said...

Hi Alex,

I am in agreement with you that "laity" should not only be theologically trained but theologically reflective as well.

Not every one that is theologically train is theologically reflective! And this is my biggest challenge in the seminary!!

Lee Chee Keat said...

Hmm...wonder what would the apostle Paul, Peter, James and others would think on ur view that they should stay away from marketplace ministry since they were being paid to work for their church. Not sure I agree with that!! My understanding is that the church is paying the clergy to carry out their gospel ministry through equipping the people of God. So, pastors should be competent to be able to teach the saints how to work out their faith in the marketplace unless they have church leaders partners - the laity who were as competent as the pastors. If not, pastors got to do something about it or laity should be encouraged to consider theological education.

Kar Yong,

Looking forward for more to come...HOoray!:)

Alex Tang said...

hi chee keat,

wonder what would the apostle Paul, Peter, James and others would think on ur view that they should stay away from marketplace ministry since they were being paid to work for their church.

Actually I do not think that Paul, Peter, Tames and others are paid by the church. Neither do they have the view that they should stay away from the marketplace. Paul, as a tentmaker is in the marketplace everyday.

My understanding is that the church is paying the clergy to carry out their gospel ministry through equipping the people of God.

I agree with you completely with this. But in real life, I know of pastors who have been dismissed for doing too much evangelism and not spend enough time in the church building. Some pastors have to clock in like office workers. So whosoever holds the purse strings holds the power.

So, pastors should be competent to be able to teach the saints how to work out their faith in the marketplace unless they have church leaders partners - the laity who were as competent as the pastors. If not, pastors got to do something about it or laity should be encouraged to consider theological education.

Again I wonder how many pastors are able to help their members to work out their faith in the workplace when many of them do not have workplace experiences.

And how many pastors are threatened by their members who are spiritually more maturity than them and in some cases, have more theological training.

In the Kingdom, there is no clergy-laity divide, no pastors, no laity. Unfortunately at this moment, I do not see this happening.

Lee Chee Keat said...


THanks for your sharing. I wonder what about Bethren churches (Full Gospel church)...I think they somehow got it right in terms of clergy and laity working together at the same level. U r right, somehow, I also don't see it in my mainline denominational church. I guess it's a challenge for me and the rest of the younger generation to make it right. Juz wonder will we make it right ??? Will c...

Kar Yong said...

Alex and Chee Keat,

Thanks for reminding me about Paul the tentmaker. I am currently working on a paper reexamining Paul as a tentmaker. I think the "tentmaking" issue is overblown by missiologists. I have other thoughts about his "tentmaking" activities. Will probably share it once I have something more concrete to work on.

I think the clergy-laity divide issue needs much more work on it. Like Alex, I personally don't see this division go away soon.

So Chee Keat, we are placing our hopes on you!!