* * * Breaking news! * * *
1. There will be no Young Adults Fellowship meeting tonight!
2. Tomorrow is the “early bird” deadline to register for the CMC West Coast (Dec. 27-30, San Diego). Pastor Tim will lead two workshops. Sign up at cmc-westcoast.org
3. Scripture readers are needed! Please sign up at http://www.signupgenius.com/go/english9
* * * * * *
September 8, 2011
Dear Canaan EMers and friends,
When are you most uncomfortable? Speaking or playing a violin in front of an audience? Socializing in a room full of strangers? As a natural introvert, I’m least comfortable when I have to hob nob with people I don’t know very well. I’m most comfortable doing activities by myself (such as studying, reading, and writing). In fact, I’m more in my element at scholarly meetings such as the American Academy of Religion (http://www.aarweb.org/) or the Society of Biblical Literature (http://www.sbl-site.org/) than preaching and worship!
The one thing that I’ve learned from Scripture this past year is that a healthy Christian community and spiritual maturity is built on discomfort. This seems counter-intuitive, but I believe that a spiritual principle is at work here. We begin to die when comfort (or convenience and consumer values) becomes our central goal in life. We grow and become healthier only when we embrace discomfort. For example, without repentance, we cannot hope to become disciples of Christ. But true repentance only happens when we are made uncomfortable about ourselves and our spiritual status before God. Similarly, true Christian community only happens when we learn to accept the discomfort of different personalities, generations, languages, economic status, and cultures within our church.
I learned this from preaching at Canaan this year. At the beginning of the year, my sermons were based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. There, we learned that Jesus’ values often conflict with those of Pharisees and the surrounding society. In the Spring, we discovered that the spiritual power of the first Christians in Acts came from a commitment to share with and sacrifice for one another. Over the summer, Paul taught us in Ephesians that the new humanity in Christ (i.e., the Church into which Jews and Gentiles are grafted) proclaims Jesus’ new regime by the way we mutually submit to one another and “walk in the light” (i.e., moral and ethical integrity). In all these cases, Christians are called to enter into uncomfortable situations and relationships. We are called to create something wonderful out of our differences so that the world can see that, in Christ, our church makes a real difference.
The whispers among church leaders today is that younger Asian American Christians from middle class backgrounds are the least willing to embrace discomfort. At the Bay Area Chinese Pastoral Prayer fellowship last month where I gave a presentation on Asian American ministry, this was much more than a whisper. Pastors and layleaders complained loudly about the lack of commitment among model minority Asian American Christians. Perhaps this is why there are so few successful and healthy Asian American churches. Perhaps that is why more Asian Americans go to large mega-churches where they are not asked to do much than to immigrant churches where they are called upon to serve children and youth.
I believe that, at Canaan, we can prove the experts and naysayers wrong. I believe that we can break free from our cliques to reach out to the lonely and lost. I believe that we can teach and guide children and youth who are not our own. I believe that we can feel the same way about Canaan as many consumers feel about Apple products – what is more, I believe we are willing to do what it takes to build a community that has just as strong a reputation as Apple! I believe we can be a people whose vision is so kingdom-oriented that we fearlessly embrace discomfort. Indeed, the overused adage, “no pain, no gain,” is remarkably biblical! (Perhaps the tenth anniversary of 9/11 will remind us of the reality that suffering can be redemptive).
During the next few months, Chris and I will preach through Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. We will learn from the people of Israel how to become a healthier Asian American church. Hopefully, all of us will realize that our real happiness and joy in life derives largely from being rooted in and shaped by a healthy and mature Christian community. Let us pray that Canaan will be healthy and mature!
Let me know what you think!
Tim Tseng, Ph.D.曾 祥 雨
Pastor of English Ministries