Meeting Report for NLBPC In-Conversation on 17 May 2014
By Bro. Sky Yeo and Sis Dorothy Tan
The year’s second In-conversation was held on 17 May 2014 from 4-6pm in NLPBC fellowship hall. The turnout for the event was consistent with the last In Conversation. A total of about 61 church members turned up this time: 40 from the English Congregation, 18 from Chinese and 3 from Tamil. This meeting provides the opportunity to spend more time to answer questions raised by members that were not apt for discussion at the ACM. It is hoped that the In-conversation will promote more communication and understanding of needs between the church leaders and members. (Attendance & photo – contributed by Bro. Henry Lim and Sis. Su Pei Lin)
Rev. Lim Chee Boon led the singspiration with the hymns “All that Thrills My Soul” and “Jesus is All the World to me”. After which, Rev. Gabriel Gan prayed for the meeting. Ps. Lim continued with an exhortation from Ezra 9: 1-4. He challenged New Lifers to deal with sins in our own lives even as we work to strengthen the church. He reminded us that everyone in the church is important in the building up of the church. We all need to start now. He also stressed the importance of forgiveness.
Ps. Lim precluded the start of the actual conversation session with the following ground rules:
- Consider one another (Hebrews10:24)
- Provoke one another into service- edification (Hebrews 10:24)
- Promote unity (Ephesians 4:15-16)
- Maintain orderliness (1 Corinthians 14:40)
- Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)
The actual In-Conversation was conducted in a Question and Answer (Q&A) manner with questions pre-compiled and circulated by Ps. Lim a week before, and on the actual day, new questions were added. The Q&A is summarized below:
Question 1: Can we see an improvement in the way we praise God during our worship service? I wonder if the way we are praising God is what we will see in heaven. Where is the life in our praise? New Life or no life?
Ps. Gan responded that he wished to talk to the person who raised this question to clarify on what improvement in worship he or she hoped for. He read from Revelation 4:1-11 which gives us a glimpse of how worship is like in heaven. He reiterated the 3 principles of the essence of worship:
1) True worship focuses on the RIGHT person (Trinity God).
2) True worship accomplishes the RIGHT purpose – giving God glory.
3) True worship conforms to the RIGHT pattern – we should “worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4: 22-23). Worship is about God and not about us!
Question 2: It seems that there are quite a few plans and upcoming initiatives to energize the church. But I would like to enquire if it is possible to explain the PROBLEMS that the church is facing. We need to be clear and explain the challenges New Life faces, so as to create a concerted effort to deal with our main problems.
Ps. Lim shared the needs for continuity in God’s work through our faithfulness and steadfastness. Frequently it is easy to start something but one can as easily quit the work. An example is Amazing Grace, the devotional book project, which is a good initiative. We had series 1 and 2 and our members have said that they have benefited from it, and requested for series 3. However, the initiator has left and others cannot follow through. He also stressed the importance of initiative and the willingness to give your best to the LORD. We must be united and do our part. He encouraged us to be focused on serving God and desiring His Presence.
Question 3: It would be good to provide members via Newsline with updates on pertinent things discussed during session meetings. Updates can inform members on progress in areas such as constructive developments, planning of overseas mission trips, and renovation works. It is good also to include testimonies of our members. This will foster our unity in the church.
Dn. Ivan Lim felt that the best platform to know about our church development is at the prayer meetings and he encouraged members to attend the Wed. Nights prayer meetings. Dn. Ivan also pointed out that not all information can be shared openly. Even if the knowledge is shared, will members be willing to contribute? For example, he noted that although members were informed of the dates of the Mission trips, few joined the mission teams.
Question 4: Is it possible to make known the different committees in church so that people in church know who to contact (e.g. maintenance matters)? Can such info be put in website or in more accessible media?
Ps. Lim informed us that the organizational chart – once it is ready – will be put up on the notice board. The Church, however, is careful not to disclose such info to the public on the website as it does not concern people who are not members of our church.
Question 5: Bro. Sky Yeo asked: “To the exiting session members, what are the most rewarding fruits and painful lesson that new life church and session went through and how we can learn from it and in what ways do better for The Lord with the next incoming session?” (verbatim)
Ps. Lim noted that there are no existing session members with us and therefore we are not able to answer this question. It may be more pertinent to ask new session members to share how they can contribute.
Question 6: Bro. Sky Yeo asked: “What is New Life BPC’s stand on the role of NBC according to the church session and BOE? Apparently the neighbourhood bible Communities name seems to be outdated and in dire need to have a new name and align to church them goal as well as renew way of organizing to support church convergence to do less for more. Can you elaborate on that?” (verbatim)
Eld. Sim answered this question by giving us the historical background to the neighbourhood bible communities (or NBCs). In 1992 Rev Patrick Tan started the NBC for those staying in the same neighbourhood. The objectives are: 1) to encourage members to grow spiritually 2) to provide care for members – it is like a safety net. 3) to align members with the church mission. The NBC is like a small church where the fellowship is warm. Eld. Sim felt the NBC has met its purpose even though some groups have come and gone and a few groups are struggling. Many years ago, membership roll was defined by regions/zones and the groups were distributed among the elders. But this did not take off as many elders were professionals and had to travel often and therefore were unable to meet on a regular basis.
There are now 5 NBCs: Bukit Timah, New Woodlands, Yishun, Marsiling and Northwest. Although they are similar in structure with one person as the facilitator, the programme is fine-tuned to suit its members.
Eld. Sim believes in the small group ministry – it is key to the spiritual growth in the church. The leaders should participate in NBCs so as to set the example for church members. He shared the story of a pastor who trained the leaders of each group. When the authorities arrested the pastor, the church did not collapse. Instead each small group sprouted into a new church, and thus forming many churches. There is no way a pastor can minister to all the members. In the case of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see that He focus on teaching the 12 disciples. Similarly in fellowship groups and NBCs, we should focus on discipleship.
In conclusion, Ps. Lim felt the need to allocate time to discuss the role of NBCs specifically.
Question 7: Bro. Sky Yeo asked: “I would like to know the procedure on how our new comers to new life BPC being led to spiritual follow up and tied up with ROF and ushering ministry to ensure a good follow up for our outreach. (on the side note if I am a new comer to new life. I have a feeling of not very welcome enough and lost in what to do next like where is Sunday school venue and lesson or NBC to join?” (verbatim)
Eld. Sim answered that previously, we have a Befrienders Group and the Follow-Up group. However, these groups were not sustained for long. The Church needs a group of Chua Beng Hai and Dorothy Tan! Bro. Beng Hai and Sis. Dorothy are people with the zeal and passion to reach out. We need to see how the NBC or a New Believer follow-up group can take up this role.
Question 8: Why is there no appointment of new Elders for this election?
Ps. Lim explained that our 3 deacons from English congregation were nominated and they are qualified for the appointment of elders. It was however not appropriate to have too many elders and only a few deacons. The BOE typically comprises the pastors and elders. In the present BOE, we have 2 elders and 2 pastors, (pending Ps. Gan’s election, he will be included later). If the 3 deacons are made elders, then the BOE would have 7 elders. Hence, it seemed best to keep the 3 deacons in their present roles which are important roles in our church.
Question 9: Bro. Joel Pang raised the following questions:
1) Is there a need to look into why members left the church?
Ps. Lim’s answer: There is about 10-15% of members leaving the church. Currently we have about 258 members. There are however many regular worshippers but they are not members. There were some members who left last year due to the issue over the VPI/VPP stand but the number is not significant. Ps. Lim expressed that the concern should be for those who left and don’t go to church at all. But as far as we know those who leave our church are worshipping elsewhere.
2) Recently there were a few pulpit messages where the minister mentioned erroneous teaching. Can we talk not talk about the deficiency in other churches? Instead should we be more focus on what NLBPC is doing right?
Ps. Lim answered that it is important to point out false teaching and it is the role of the local pastors to warn their members so that the members become more discerning. He affirmed that the approach is not divisive as the concern is to protect the flock from wrong teachings.
3) Should there be a platform for the new leaders to present themselves and articulate what they plan to do? In this way, members can vote for their leaders based on merit?
Pastor Lim shared that some changes are being made like the recent structural flow introduced by Bro. Ronnie Pang as the Election Co-ordinator in the recent ACM election.
Question 10: There were two matters arising from the ACM 2014:
1) Locking in the church savings for redevelopment and land lease renewal
2) Appointment of 2 new church trustees.
Why were members not informed in advance and why were these two items not included in the agenda for ACM?
Eld. Prasad explained that land prices will rise over the years. The BOE felt need to take this precautionary measure of locking in our reserves so as to benefit the future generation when the land lease for our church runs out in 30 years time.
He informed us that the Church needs at least 2 trustees. At the time just before the ACM, we must have 2 trustees: Eld. Tsao and Eld. Sim. But Eld. Tsao was to tell us whether he would remain in our church and he had not done so by the time of the ACM. It was thus felt that there was need to add two other names at that ACM. This was so as to avoid calling an ECM later.
Bro. Kok Whye raised the point that this sort of last-minute way of doing things is not fair to members especially since the Constitution requires a two-week notice for any change of trustees. It is not good to set precedence in the way these matters were handled.
Eld. Prasad agreed and in future, sufficient notice will be given. He pointed out that the fund has been put aside in an account for future lease renewal and no money has left the church. The BOE thought they could just enforce this but the auditors pointed out the need to get the members’ approval. In order to avoid delay and the need for an ECM, these two matters were put to the members at the last ACM for their approval.
Dn. Yap shared from Heb. 12:23 and exhorted us to remember that it is God who chooses the men. We are not perfect but the verse tells us of “just men made perfect” and he reminded us that Perfection is of the Spirit’s work of sanctification. Management principles may fail. But God does not fail.
Question 11: This question was sent in by Bro. Justin Gumapon. “Based on Article 19.3.2 on congregational meetings, it says: “At such Meeting the church session shall report on the spiritual and temporal condition of the congregation and announce plans of the coming year.” From the recent ACM, much focus was given to the temporal conditions of the congregation i.e. finance matters rather than the spiritual condition of the congregation. Although there were Stewardship Reports, most reported only the activities done. My question is: Are we being objective in the assessment of ourselves as a church based on Article 3, the objects of the church and the church theme of last year: “My family, My Church, Together Serving Till Jesus comes”? If we have fallen short or have not met the mark, is there not a need for us as a church to humble ourselves and confess and turn away from our wicked ways just as our theme this year requires us to do? (2nd Chron 7:14) If we are to move forward, what are the objectives we as a church have to meet this year so we can truly say we have done our best for Jesus in 2014 when we assess ourselves again as a church in 2015?” (verbatim)
As there was not enough time that day, Ps. Lim proposed having another In-conversation session to give fair treatment to this last question. Rev. Gan will follow up this matter. The next In-Conversation was tentatively fixed on 16 August (but it was noted that the AF would be having their retreat on that date and therefore it will probably be moved to 23/8).
Ps. Lim thanked the members for turning up and encouraged members to participate in the next In-Conversation.