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Carmel@50: Applying Paintwork to Baseline Sketches

Carmel@50: Applying Paintwork to Baseline Sketches

In my last editorial I have likened Carmel@50 to a picture we are trying to paint on canvass. What we now have on the canvass are the general baseline sketches which provide a frame-work for the whole picture to emerge. But the finer touches and delicate paintwork needed to transform baseline sketches into a masterpiece are still undone, as of now.

This is where you are invited to lend your assistance. We want you to help us complete the painting by giving your feedback and suggestions about Carmel@50. I’m glad to say that many have done just that. By giving valuable feedback during our visits to your CGs, you have started to apply paintwork to our baseline sketches, even though the complete picture (of what Carmel could be by 2017) is still far from complete. Let me now highlight some of the main points raised and shared during our CG visits thus far.

# 1: Most of the 30 CGs we have visited signaled their support for this initiative. Many were glad for the opportunity to have a dialogue with the visiting pastor or elder. However, I have also been asked this question: “Pastor, how sure are you that this is not just a lukewarm support? The contents of the document are written in such a way that few can disagree. But how sure are you that their support is solid and real?”

My thoughts: I agree that the level of commitment is not easy to gauge. It is not possible to look at someone in the face and read how solid is his support for Carmel@50. It is therefore vital for members to be honest so that we don’t end up wasting precious time and resources. I believe our members can be candid. If they don’t intend to support this initiative, they’ll be frank enough to say so. We prefer members to be honest so that we can abort this initiative if it is true that there is very little support. But until and unless members signal that, we’ll take them at face value.

Therefore, if many CGs indicate that they support Carmel@50, we’ll take them at their word and trust that they will also do their part for Carmnel@50.

# 2: A second feedback is we should not be fixated with numerical growth and must also focus on growing members spiritually. This is a reminder we fully concur with. Looking back, I have at different times cited church attendances to point out how we are stagnating and why we need Carmel@50. We need actual figures to discuss things in a factual manner. The downside is that it gives rise to the perception that we are too fixated with numbers.

My thoughts: Let me clarify that this is not what we intended to convey. Carmel@50 is also about qualitative growth. We want to help members grow deeper in their walk with God, to love God more zealously, to embrace a more intentional discipleship, to nurture deeper passion for prayer and evangelism, to be open to the inner workings of the Spirit in our personal life, etc. Clearly, all these have to do with our personal walk with God. Bear in mind that while we may need to talk about numbers from time to time, we can never determine numerical growth. Paul can plant and Apollos can water, but only God can give the increase (1 Cor 3.6). So let us collectively do our best to ensure qualitative and personal growth, and let God take care of the numbers.

# 3: Views were also shared about how we should be moving forward as one. Latching on to our CG ministry as a main platform for growth, some want to see a ‘total conformity’ approach (if we are serious about Carmel@50, then everyone must join a CG; all CGs must commit to meet every week; all CGs must use the same material for bible study, such as discussing the week’s sermon, etc.)

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My thoughts: While the above is desirable to some and has advantages, we need to be careful of enforcing top-down conformity. Other CG groups who are in different stages of life have said that they cannot meet every week (especially those with young children). Their current frequency (meeting fortnightly) works very well for them, so why must they be forced to change just to be in tandem with others who are in different stages in life?

We also need to ask: what is our ultimate objective? Is it to have total conformity of all CGs, or enhanced quality in each CG? If it is the latter, we should focus on improving the quality of teaching in our CGs, cultivating deeper bonds, facilitating greater accountability, encouraging CG members to be prayer-partners for Carmel@50, etc. Pastoral visitations to CGs should also increase, with more offerings of pastor-led modules.

So the better way forward is to have a multi-layered approach to cater to diverse groups. This means that the CGs that are passionate about meeting weekly and having more intensive bible studies should be encouraged to do so without requiring all to do the same. But the bottom line is that we must seek to enhance the CG experience for all members.

Elder Ho Peng Kee, as Chairman of BOE, has been fully engaged in Carmel@50. He has visited many CGs and read all the other reports. The following are his impressions:

  1. There are no objections from members in having this document at this time. The consensus is that members are happy to have such a document to help bring us to the next level. Thechallenge is to implement it well so that members feel energized and many will be on board.
  2. We must not just focus on numerical growth. Some saw the document as primarily targeting numerical growth. This is not true and will be made clearer as we tweak the paper.
  3. It is important to help members grow “internally” too. This was emphasized by use of phrases like “quality of the heart matters” and seeking “depth of spiritual life.” Church growth is not just about getting the framework and structures right. The church leadership can’t agree more. This is what we are also aiming for. That is why we have the “discipleship” track.
  4. There is a need to help members navigate the transitions of life better, especially our youths through NS (for the boys). We also need to keep strong ties with those going overseas for studies and help them re-integrate back into church upon graduation. Other than our youths, other key transitions are getting married, having children and handling job transitions and, later in life, retirement from full-time work. A better transition in each of these will minimize the loss of members.
  5. A range of views was expressed on the two key areas of worship and CGs. Useful suggestions were given on how to further improve these areas, which will be further studied. Good suggestions were also made in other areas such as having quarterly prayer-and- praise time to promote corporate prayer; equipping every member to be a host for newcomers; projecting a more youthful welcome team; mentoring of younger men and women with greater deliberation etc. All these ideas will be studied.

Finally, our appeal to all members and worshippers: Let us unite as one church and remain prayerful in pursuit of Carmel@50!

Jointly written by Pastor Daniel Chua and Elder Ho Peng Kee

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