As someone who has been in between places, countries and ministries, I’ve come to truly appreciate the local church as well as the local community. With the likelihood that I might remain in separate countries (due to the fact that my boyfriend is Singaporean) and the reminder that Chinese New Year is arriving soon (and the advent of a future in which I need to go to and fro countries to celebrate the event), I realized what a blessing it is for those who have their lives within one place.
Truly happiness indeed. Of the things I failed to appreciate then:-
1) The ability to serve and give your best in ministry
This is truly debatable as this statement stereotypes a certain manner of giving your best etc. But my point is, the ability to commit to your ministry is realistically greater when you remain in one local church. I was between states and countries at the same time and it was bad. I wanted to serve but sometimes, something would crop up that would prevent me from going back constantly (which would then disrupt the smooth flow of the projects I was involved in). I believe that faithfulness, responsibility and accountability are important Christlike characters that one should practice when given opportunities to serve. But the situations I was in were not the best thing that God could have and that the projects I was involved in should be handed over to others who could be more consistent than me. I really tried my best, but what my project people got from me and the results in the end was not the best I could have done if I only had the opportunity.
2) Growing by being part of a stable constant ministry
Ask a social butterfly, who flits between groups and barely touching the hearts of the people she talks to, if she has a friend she can count on, and the answer is probably an awkward yes and a painful conviction of “no” in her heart. It was really hard, trying to grow and be discipled when I couldn’t attend the bible events in one place, cos I was in another country during weekdays or that I could not attend my discipleship lessons consistently when I was sometimes there for each weekend in a month and sometimes not at all for two months. Being unable to join in my Singapore church’s weekly service every week meant tha I was inconstant yet constant. I was between that liminap space where people couldn’t tell if I was new or old. They were naturally kind and nice to me at first (as all usual evangelical christians are) but when they realized I was new but old and old but new, they kind of left me alone like furniture. I don’t blame them. They didn’t know how to serve and minister to someone whose existence was like vapour to them. There were some pretty awesome people I knew though (2 wonderful girls) and a family and some older uncles and aunties, but beyond that, I was still outcasted from the wonderful fellowship a church could have provided for me and the guiding hand of a loyal sheperd/mentor
3) The ability to connect with another
In my between place moments, I flitted to and fro people. I connected in brief moments and thanked God that there were some who were encouraged even thought I wasn’t constantly there. But seriously, guys. Who would want a friend who is there only when she can be there? There not in every moment, but there in the briefest moment without the consistency that a truly heartwarming fellowship (that spans over time) has? Honestly, I’m disappointed. I felt that I failed those of whom I was encouraging or helping. Cos as much as I tried to whatsapp verses etc, I couldn’t do it better than if I was present actively in their lives. Maybe it’s the way I perceive my own “best way to serve others” that is by being present physically. Regardless, I felt that I was inept. Plus, working together and encouraging one another as Christ calls us to (Hebrews 10:25) was much more valid if I could constantly be at one place. As much as some might argue that Paul was in different places etc etc and sent letters etc etc, allow me to point out your own hi and bye friends. Why do they remain acquaintances? Relationships, as with many things, require time and investment. You can’t expect a person who appears and disappears to gain great friends. Honestly, it’s by God’s grace that He sent me those rare bunch of people (and partly it’s cos they go beyond the call of duty to find me and are terribly terribly understanding).
4) The opportunity of Evangelism
If anything, one of the most wasted opportunities that I realized throughout this time was the fact that I met so many people who needed a church or people who I was sharing the gospel with but who would not consider joining the church alone. It’s like a person walks up to me and asks for directions in a complicated maze. As much as I try and direct the person by words, it would be pretty tough for the person to see that huge labyrinth, already daunted before asking and now less encouraged to go. Just by showing or helping the person and guiding them along the way as I was on my way, would have been more useful and helpful. I knew people who would have thrived if I had a local church to bring them to and if I was there to ease them into it.
Now– DISCLAIMER: what I’m pointing out here are the pros of being a part of the local ministry. In all my struggles, there are and were opportunities in which I could circumvent my issues and that we must remember that God circumvents through the things we find impossible and/or challenging. However, what this post aimed to do was to remind those who ARE in the local ministry to appreciate and USE this blessing that God has given you. What a blessing! Honestly, I am where I am because I believe that God has placed me here and I’m sure that God is training me for what he needs me to be through the challenges I went. So this experience has truly allowed me to see the beauty and joys of the local ministry when you’re in it!
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thess 5:11 (ESV)