Pastoral Epistles is my last required module for my Master of Ministerial Studies program. This is one reason this module has a special place in my heart. I also enjoy this course because of the learning I received through it. Allow me to share five of the learning points through this blog entry.
Firstly, I made a discovery that structural diagramming is doable. I was so glad that I had another opportunity to learn and practice structural diagramming through the course. I have grown to appreciate the value of diagramming even though I still find it a little too technical at times. It seems that practice is the only way we can become more proficient in the skill of diagramming. This is why it truly helps that I could practice the skill twice this year, during the Corinthians course and during the Pastoral Epistles course. But after this, it would be up to my own initiative if I will continue practicing to retain and sharpen the skill Brother Casey and Sister Davina have been painstakingly trying to impart to us.
Secondly, I was reminded about the importance of discipleship. This reminder came to me as I reflected about individuals who had influenced me spiritually. Though there were many individuals who had influenced me spiritually I reflected upon three individuals.
The first person was my ex-mentor who mentored me when I was a University student in Melbourne. He imparted to me the lesson of living a simple life but to give my very best to those under my care. The second person was a highly intelligent and effective Christian leader. He set for me a wonderful example of humility and servanthood. The third person was none other than my own father. He modelled for me what it meant to be totally devoted to God and His work.
What is interesting is that these individuals didn’t know that they impacted my life significantly. I did tell my ex-mentor many years later but I am not sure if he truly realised the kind of impact he had on my life. This is perhaps the deal of discipleship. There are times we would intentionally try to disciple people. But there are times we simply live a godly life consistently and our lives would somehow impact others without we even knowing it.
Thirdly, I was reminded that we should not expect an easy life in ministry. This came about as I was looking at the context of Titus, looking for comparable particulars in Singapore to Titus’ context.
I made a discovery that just as people in Crete went through different challenges in their different life stages, people in Singapore would also go through different challenges in their different life stages. Indeed, as long as we are still living in an imperfect world we will still face challenges in any life stage we are in.
This has implications for church leaders today. Firstly, we need to strive to be a good model as we go through various life stages so that we would have credibility when we minister to people. Secondly, we should not expect an easy life in ministry. We need to be prepared to deal with issues at different life stages. I remember Frank Damazio sharing with a group of church leaders in Singapore that ministry in the 21st century world in complex. It was complex in Titus’ time and it is likely to be even more complex today even as we are living during the last of the last days. This is not to adopt a mindset of defeat. This is to inject realism as we do the work of ministry. We must expect God’s power and victories in our ministry but we must also be prepared to work hard to deal with difficult issues various groups of people are facing in their respective life stages.
Fourthly, I made a discovery on the strategies to combat false teaching. As I was reading and pondering on Titus 2:1-10 including their context it came to me that Paul was giving Titus some strategies to combat false teachers. The two key strategies found in the passage are to teach and model. Titus needs to teach what is sound and to model that sound teaching.
It is disheartening at times to see a teaching which is imbalance or false gaining so much popularity. It is disheartening at times to see Christians making compromises and try to justify their choices by exalting certain teachers or teachings.
Thankfully, Paul has taught us the strategies to turn the situation around. We simply need to teach and model what we teach. We need to teach what is sound and model that sound teaching. The strategies sound simple but they are not easy to live out. There is no guarantee that the strategies would work for the mass but it would surely work for some individuals.
Fifthly, I just found hospitality to be a fascinating topic. This is as I am a big believer in the importance of being hospitable to people. I believe that hospitality is a huge evidence of our Christian love towards people. This applies to people we know and people we do not know.
I found the four practices of New Testament hospitality to be practical and helpful. They are the warm reception of guests, the washing of the guests’ feet, the provision of food and shelter and the sending on of guests.
It is interesting exercise to try to contextualise these practices into our modern context. For example, the warm reception of our guests may include welcoming our guests in the airport in our modern context.
The washing of guests’ feet is particularly fascinating to me. Washing people feet is an ancient practice. What would be the equivalent practices in our modern context? I believe that big idea is to adopt the attitude of a servant to serve others well. In our modern context this may include of doing a laundry for our guests, shopping for items that would please our guests and perhaps giving them a good shoulder message.
The provision of food and shelter in our modern context may include opening up our house for people to stay. Many modern people are not comfortable with this practice as they would need to sacrifice their privacy. The sending on of guests in our modern context may include sending our guests off at the airport even if their flights are midnight flights.
I want to conclude my blog reflection by sincerely thanking Brother Casey and Sister Davina for being wonderful role models in many ways. Thank you for believing in us and for giving your all to prepare and equip us for the work of ministry. I pray that God will continue to strengthen and anoint both of you to raise many more workers for the harvest field. Amen!