Pastoral Perspectives

Now That We Have Silver & Gold

While the apostle Peter declared to the lame man that he and John have no silver and gold (Acts 3:6), Christians these days can hardly say the same thing. Judging from our splendid church buildings, ownership of sky-high priced HDB flats and the perennial parking problems on Sundays, it would appear that contemporary Christianity has taken on a different socio-economic status. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with material wealth, we need to discern the implications if we are to be faithful in our Christian witness in society.

In a recent survey of Protestant church-goers in Singapore conducted by Terence Chong & Hui Yew-Foong (two senior research fellows at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies), their research shows that while a large proportion of the Christian community is middle-class, its characteristics are neither unitary or static.

One of the their observations is that broadly speaking, when it comes to the issue of money and finance, it was found that megachurch Christians were more likely to see a stronger relationship between the material and the spiritual. Unlike mainline Christians, congregational and financial growth were seen by megachurch Christians as signs of divine blessing and personal faithfulness.

Here, the researchers argue that the reason why there is such a strong relationship between the material and the spiritual among megachurch Christians is because their churches’ “inclination to express Christianity in the language of market ethos and logic converges and appeals to the economic aspirations and consumer habits of many young upwardly mobile Singaporeans”. To put it simply, what these churches preach and teach regularly over their pulpits tend to draw a particular group of Singaporeans because this is precisely the kind of spirituality they are drawn to. While some will disagree with the findings, there is no doubt that many who attend megachurches would have benefitted from this extra spiritual push as they seek to overcome obstacles and work towards achieving their life goals.

For us at True Way, we must also humbly evaluate our motivations for coming to worship on Sundays. Hopefully, our reasons will go beyond how we prefer a certain style of music, how the preaching suits our ears or how we are comfortable with familiar people, etc. After all, we would be no different from the rest if our reasons are mainly man-centred and taken with reference from self and have very little to do with what pleases God and glorifies His name.

A pertinent question to ask is whether all that True Way is teaching and doing is true to God’s Word and helping Christians to be like the disciples who faithfully proclaimed the Gospel and lived out Christ-centered lives. While most of us may not be able to say “I have no silver and gold” but can we gladly say that “what I do have I give to you”? Will we and our children display sincere generosity or are we tight-fisted, penny wise and pound foolish? It would be most ironic if we frown on those drawn to the health-wealth Gospel while we ourselves are clutching on to earthly goods and finding it a drudgery to live simpler lives for the sake of the Gospel.

More importantly, can we demonstrate that we have Christ in our lives just like the disciples? A good indication that we are maturing spiritually is when Christ is increasingly being treasured by us above all else, including the blessings that God has graciously poured into our lives. We should also consider whether the joy of our salvation is evident in the way we respond to adversities in life. Are we willing to trust in the utter sufficiency of Christ or do we have a nagging suspicion that we are missing out something and that we will possess greater blessings if only we learn to claim them by faith in the name of Jesus?

This common saying is true – we cannot give what we do not have. Indeed, it would be a tragedy if what we have is but an appearance of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim 3:5). However, this is not to be confused with speaking in tongues or replicating the miracles performed by the apostles. Instead, may we arise and walk in the light of this tremendous mystery and awesome privilege, that if Christ is in us (Jn 14:19-20, Gal 2:20,Col 1:27), we truly have everything.

Pastor Edwin Wong

January 20, 2013