01 Jan GS Letter December 2018
I will complete my second term as General Secretary of FES this month. In all these eight years, I can testify that God has been sustaining me through the many ups and downs of the work. One key question that has often kept me awake at night is whether the FES student ministry is still relevant, and thus effective to reach out to and transform the lives of students.
In an effort to answer the above question I discussed it extensively with my staff team, church pastors, and our graduates. I also read relevant books and articles, especially on the latest trend and development among the youth and how we can attempt to meet their needs. A few days ago, I came across my own writing – the GS Desk I penned in December 2011, in which I wrote my reflection on a book by Os Guinness entitled, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance.
Seven years ago, I wrote that Guinness’ book reminded me of the potential danger of a ministry culture that continuously cries out that we need to be “relevant,” when more often than not, “relevant” is not defined. I then quoted an interesting paragraph from the book, which I think it is worth repeating here.
By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant… Thus, for followers of Jesus Christ at this extraordinary moment in history, it is time to challenge the idol of relevance, to work out what it means to be faithful as well as relevant, and so to become truly relevant without ever ending up as trendy, trivial, and unfaithful. (bold is mine)
That is why sometimes I feel encouraged to see that some traditions of the “old days” continue till now. One of them is the Bible Camp, which has been held yearly in the larger CFs since many decades ago. I just came back from conducting a workshop at the NTU CF Bible Camp held from 8–12 December.
Then, on 16–18 December, the Chinese Work, together with the Four-Denomination Chinese Churches, will hold their Youth Theological Camp for youths from the various Chinese churches. Finally, before the year ends, we are expecting more than 150 students at the VCF Annual Teach-In Camp (AnnTIC). Pray that the above camps, will not only speak relevantly and effectively to the students, but also provide the gravitas of what being faithful means to many generations to come.
Last, but not least, in this Christmas season and as we prepare for the coming New Year 2019, let us remain faithful as well as relevant by, again as Guinness’ book says, not “ignoring the importance of the past, exaggerating our knowledge of the present, and presuming to speak accurately of the future when quite simply we can’t.”
In His grace,
FES General Secretary