Our bi-annual church camp was held during the June holidays at Sands and Sandals, Desaru. This year, we had a record high of 260 participants which was a great encouragement to me. We had quite a number of first time campers who were new to the church; there were also those who joined us only for the second time, the first being as long as 18 years ago. During the orientation session, we were required to share why we had chosen to come for the camp. Many said that they wanted to get to know more people and surely that is one of the purposes of every church camp where the participants have the opportunity to catch up with old timers as well as to get to know the newer ones who have joined the community. It is my prayer that the relationships forged at the camp will continue to develop even as we see each other on Sundays.
The theme of the camp was ‘Building a household of faith’. This is in line with our church’s focus on ‘Building community within and engaging community without’. Rev Dr Graham Ng, the founding pastor of our church, preached 3 sermons. The first message is entitled ‘Blueprint’ since in the construction of every building, a blueprint is needed. We are of course aware that we are not referring to the construction of a church building because church is never about the building but the people – those who have put their faith in Jesus. Becoming a Christian, we automatically become part of the spiritual house that God is building. Where the blueprint is concerned, Jesus is the cornerstone. A cornerstone forms the starting point of a building at the base of its corner joining two walls. The rest of the building takes its orientation from the cornerstone. Jesus being the foundation of our faith is rightly the cornerstone and we are the living stones (1 Peter 2:5) that God is using to build his household of faith, i.e. his church. The purpose of each local church is to glorify God. The church glorifies God when the people within are able to edify each other, helping to nurture each other’s faith. The church glorifies God when the people within testify of God’s love to the people outside the church. So for easy memory, we have glorify, edify and testify.
The second message is entitled ‘Building blocks and barriers’. According to the blueprint, we are the building blocks because we are the living stones. Living stones are meant to grow and Bill Hybels, pastor of a mega church in America said: “spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, Bible reading and relationships. And ironically these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.” Where relationships are concerned, Ps Graham highlighted from 1 Peter the following: love each other deeply, live with each other harmoniously, serve each other compassionately, shepherd each other diligently, and remind each other joyously of the hope of Christ’s return. These are important building blocks of the spiritual house that God is constructing.
The third and final message is entitled ‘Building bridges’. We were challenged to share the good news and to show the good works so that more and more people can be snatched from the kingdom of darkness and delivered to the kingdom of light. If we do not tell, how are the lost going to hear? If they do not hear, how can faith result? Ps Graham reminded us that “Evangelism is sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.” If we remember this, we just need to equip ourselves to share as best as we can and then we rest in God for the results. Contagious Christian, the upcoming course that the church is conducting in July, is an attempt on our part to equip each one of you to share the good news in a natural way.
Doing good works in serving the community is another way we can build bridges, paving the way for us to share the good news of Jesus. This is what True Way has been emphasising on the last two years and we will continue to step up our efforts in community engagement as we partner Presbyterian Community Service in ministering to the elderly in Esther Senior Activity Center located at Strathmore Green. The tracting that we are embarking on today also serves to help us build bridges with our neighbours as we publicise events which may be of interests to them.
At the church camp, besides the teaching of God’s Word, there were also group discussions and people shared freely in response to what they had heard. I noticed that because of the group discussions, many took down notes while listening to the messages. Perhaps we can create a culture where people will remain behind after Sunday service to discuss the sermon, sharing how God has spoken to them. This can be part of what edifying each other involves. If we know that we are going to continue fellowshipping with each other around the Word after the worship service, we will definitely be more attentive during the service and possibly make more efforts in jotting down notes along the way.
Building a household of faith, like in any construction project, requires commitment for it to succeed. On one of the nights, we held a very interactive dialogue session on the importance of church membership where we considered its biblical and theological basis. We challenged those who have yet to be baptised not to tarry any longer unless they are still not sure whether Jesus is their Saviour and Lord. We also encouraged the regular worshippers to transfer their membership. This is not about showing off the numerical size of the church. We see the commitment we make to Christ being expressed through the commitment we make to his body, the local church. That is why baptism (commitment to Christ) and church membership (commitment to his body) go hand in hand. By being a formal member of the church, we are making the commitment to come under the leadership and discipline of the pastors, elders and deacons whom we as church members have elected into office. We are also making the commitment to join hands with our leaders to pursue the mission and focus of the church under the ambit of the Great Commission. That night’s dialogue session was only the beginning of our efforts in educating the church on this important matter. In the second half of the year, before we start the preaching series on Ephesians, we will revisit this issue on a Sunday morning and subsequently look at that letter which Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus to understand what it means to live out our faith in the life of the local church.
On a lighter note, there were loads of fun and laughter throughout the camp as we competed in group games, enjoyed the conversations over meals, sweated out in the sun playing beach volleyball, lazed around in the pool, outwitted each other playing board games, and of course rolling in laughter during the fun night where we played even more games while reminiscing the fun nights of past camps through the creativity of the camp committee of whom I must say a big thank you to for the great efforts in putting the whole camp together. It was an exemplary act of service on their part to build up the household of faith. I must also commend the campers for playing hard, putting their utmost efforts to win the games yet showing much grace and mercy to fellow ‘competitors’. I must confess that we are an intense lot and when it comes to letting our hair down, we are of good sport and never fearful of embarrassment.
Before we broke camp, we were reminded by Dn Charles that we had had our mountain top experiences during the camp and rightly so because we were able to appropriate the means of grace with great intensity as we had the teaching of God’s Word daily coupled with corporate worship and small group discussions and great fellowship all packed into that few days. Now that we are leaving our mountain top and going back into the valleys of our family and work routines, these same means of grace are equally available for us to appropriate – the preaching of God’s Word and corporate worship every Sunday, DG meetings and service, fellowship and caring for each other. Only if we would do our part to appropriate these resources that God in his grace has extended to us by participating in them actively with great joy and listening intently to the Spirit and to each other, those mountain top experiences can also become valley experiences too.
To God be the glory!
Rev Lee Kien Seng
July 1, 2018