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.