Gleanings from my Sabbatical

We welcome Pastor Ollie back to GBC after a six-month sabbatical. He shares with us how God has refreshed him during this period of rest and what he has learnt from other churches that he visited.

I was warmly greeted by many church members this past week: “Welcome back to Grace Baptist Church!” “How was your sabbatical?” “What did you learn visiting other churches?” I’m really glad to be back! I’m also grateful to God for the sabbatical leave and thankful to the church for the love shown to my family and me in giving this time off. The past six months was a good time of rest and refreshing in Christ, but it was also a good time of learning from other churches. 

In the last six months I visited six churches but spent extended time with three. I am thankful to these churches for their warm welcome and hospitality. Besides Sunday worship and activities on Sunday, I had the privilege of spending an additional 2-3 days a week with the pastors and elders in their meetings and training sessions. We had good conversations and discussions, and I trust that we deepened our friendships. Beyond that, my experience and observation of their respective church ministry and practice has deepened my own convictions. So what did I learn visiting other churches?  

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)

Patient kindness

I learnt the virtue of patient kindness. One church I visited has a longer history than GBC. They had faced challenges through the years and had, understandably, some baggage from the past. They desire gospel goals and recognised that change is needed. Yet, as they press on towards these goals, they do so with patience and kindness. They persist in teaching and leading in the direction of the goals, but always with sincere kindness to those who disagree or who are slower to change. I saw this in their pastoral discussions. They remain convicted of their goals but the change is done with patient kindness, trusting that Christ will grow his church, as the Word is preached. 

Unwavering focus

I learnt the value of unwavering focus. Another church I visited taught me the value of unwavering focus on the preaching and teaching of the Word. This church plant was almost 'ruthless' in the way they prioritised Word Ministry. They deliberately kept doing what helped. They placed a high value on faithful expository preaching and teaching when they gathered as a church or as a community group. They emphasised one-on-one Bible reading relationships where in twos or threes they studied the Bible together. And they focused on training and equipping lay leaders and potential full-time ministry workers for ministry of the Word. They intentionally not do what hindered. They made the decision not to look for new office space for the past few years, so that the savings can be channelled to training potential full time workers. It was only now when the lack of bigger space is hindering ministry that they are looker for bigger and newer space. 

Application to community

I saw the power of application of the gospel to community. One church not only faithfully preached and taught the gospel, but they were also concerned that the applications of the gospel be lived out in the church community as well. Members were looking out for one another and shepherding each other’s hearts for Jesus. If one member was struggling, often others will compassionately come alongside. They had foster parents struggling with their foster child in their midst, and members came alongside to pray and encourage the parents and even to extend help in caring for the child. If one member was sinning, often their pastors and elders and other leaders courageously sought the person out. They sought to confront his or her sin and exhort them to repent and pursue godliness. The members were not afraid of the messiness of involvement, for they were convicted that holiness would be true joy. They were convicted that a church growing in godliness will best picture the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The gospel

Through my time spent with these churches, I am encouraged that at the root of all they do is the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are seeking to keep the main thing the main thing in their ministry practices and life of the church. I am again personally convicted and amazed at the power of the gospel. It is indeed the power of God for salvation, for the transformation of hearts and lives and for giving hope to mankind.  

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

Romans 1:16 (NIV)

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The month of May is our Great Commission Month. The blue bags will be passed around this Sunday to collect our Missions Offering. Do prayerfully consider supporting the cause of the gospel through your giving.

Our congratulations go out to Samuel Tan who graduated from Singapore Bible College with a Masters in Biblical Studies this past Saturday, 5 May 2018. We give thanks to God for Samuel’s successful completion of his studies!

The Baptist Theological Seminary will be holding their 27th Commencement Service on 19 May 2018 (Sat). Pastor James Lee (CC) will be conferred his Doctor of Ministry. Do congratulate our brother if you meet him; and please pray that God will continue to give fruit in his ministry.