An Emergence Conference was held by Theos Leadership Network this past week at Eaglepoint Church Puchong. This particular conference was put together to talk about “What’s Next” for the Church in the 21st Century.
For those who do not know, the heart of Theos Leadership Network (TLN) is to encourage Churches to engage in an emerging culture by developing relationships and resources. Their desire is to create environments where church pastors, teachers, preachers, and theologians can come together for a conversational process which collaborates on resources and experiences for the broader faith of the community. The ultimate goal is to make connections in order to create a better world.
At the beginning of the conference, Rev. Dr. Solomon Rajah was invited to give the keynote address to summarize the core message of the event. During the delivery of his message, there were a number of key points that he touched on.
Christian Diversity and the Unity of Purpose
“Churches of Malaysia” is very often too large a category for Malaysian Christians. We have various umbrella bodies representing us, and this represents about 50% of the Christian population of Malaysia. Then there are a whole lot of “Free Churches” operating on their own that represents the other half. He said, “Although we all worship Jesus Christ, and have mutual respect for our denominational distinctiveness, I still believe this question is relevant: “What are the bonds that bind us?” There should be a greater awareness and commitment to the unity of purpose that proclaim Christ.
Thirty years ago he said, “Race still created boundaries between denominations.” In the present, generation, race consciousness does exist but the different Christian communities are talking to each other and inter-racial marriages have now become more acceptable. In addition to that, the idea of multiple congregations under one roof has now become acceptable.
“These days Pastors are not satisfied in working in one denomination and rarely refuse the opportunity to serve in other denominations.” he said. This shows the healthy bonds of friendship and appreciation of many traditions.
In addition to that he said that, “The unity of purpose must be self-consciously built.” Seminaries should continue to be invested in and interests continued to be protected because what happens here directly affects the Church. We should move into the 21st century with these realities clearly in our minds and proceed to cultivate a greater vitality in our seminaries, developing strong grassroots for institutions, because without them he said, “We are just a collection of Churches having an accidental unity of purpose.”
His keynote also touched on the issues of the “family”. He said, “The Biblical norm is “household” and not the modern nuclear family. We have neglected the values that comprise of the Biblical norm and are intolerant of the values that differ.” In this case, social norms associated with the ideals of the nuclear family will be challenged when children opt to co-habit rather than go through the formality of marriage. “In Biblical days, the head of the household kept the family “up and down” under his authority but in modern times, the clan and the tribe is no more.” The Church has come to represent an important voice of public opinion on these differing norms.
The new century will make these issues open! He said, “We might not know how to accommodate them but, we must accommodate them without stigmatizing or being judgmental for the love of God does not exclude them!
Gender Orientation Issues
Gender orientation issues have become universal toward the end of last century and are issues that the Church must face. He said, “On one hand, anything other than heterosexuality is condemned with very strong words; yet at the same time, we are to exhibit God’s love.” People may label these issues as a disgrace or sin but the question is does it help us to deal with the person before us?
He said, “Now that they are not hiding and being open and honest, are we being kinder? Or are we punishing them for their openness? They would then think twice if it is better for them to live a secret sin or to have an open struggle. In short, he said, “We should find ways to help all live in the love of God, but then again accommodating people with different gender orientation is one thing while accommodating such people in positions in the Church and family leadership is another!
He also talked about privacy issues facing our socially open world today in terms of the internet. In short everything is out there nowadays for the younger generation to see. “It is going to be difficult to talk to children about issues such as sexuality in marriage, sexual preferences, pornography, rape, sexual abuse of children and the crucial role of sex in the grand scheme of God’s creation, but we can no longer hide from these issues.”
Women in Ministry
He then also addressed the issues related to women in ministry and how it challenges the traditional sexual attitude. “When it comes to women, there are ample examples in the Bible about women in leadership positions of influence. Keep in mind that the modern woman’s freedom and equality is built upon economic prosperity and technology – two aspects that are not historic constants.” Approximately 50% of Christians are women so a classless society like the Church should expect to have 50% of women Pastors and Ministers.
In conclusion, he talks about many mental barriers and several issues that we should overcome this 21st century, and these are only a number of the topics he touched on but nevertheless all significant issues. With that Rev. Solomon then ended his keynote asking all to prayerfully contemplate the mentioned issues above and more.
To be continued with Speakers of The New Reformers for New Age…..
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