GS Letter August 2019
He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial (Life Together – The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community, p.27, Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
I began my journey as the General Secretary of FES almost a decade ago. I had many dreams and wishes then. In my inauguration service, I remember that I laid out three strategic priorities for FES ministry and community: pioneering, integration, and engagement. Since then, numerous efforts and initiatives have been carried out.
New Christian Fellowships (CF) in private campuses. Embarking on ministry among the postgraduate students and faculties. Reaching out to the rising number of international students. Promoting a mission that is integral and wholistic. Better alignment between ministry sections. Closer partnership with the Graduates’ Christian Fellowship (GCF). Exploring novel approaches to Scripture engagement. Engaging the whole campus for Christ.
There are indeed incalculable reasons for me to give praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for His providence and sustenance. And the same praise and thanksgiving I offer, with much heartfelt gratitude, to my staff team, student leaders, and volunteers who have been together working tirelessly.
At the same time, I, together with the FES council and staff team, still have plenty of exciting dreams and visions of what student ministry would look like in the future, especially having since recognized the immense and hastening shift in the profiles and needs of our students today.
Plenty has been done, and still much more needs to be carried out. We always hope that we could have executed plans sooner and get them realized quicker. Without much realization, the above drive has gradually increased my restlessness and made me lose sight on one critical aspect of the ministry.
In God’s mercy, I came across an article titled “Bonhoeffer Convinced Me to Abandon My Dream” in Christianity Todayearlier this month. It was written by Chase Replogle, the founding pastor of Bent Oak Church, USA. In the article, Replogle quoted the words of Bonhoeffer which I have put at the beginning of this letter.
This simple truth from Bonhoeffer struck me. It got me to reflect and examine myself deeply. While I attempt to execute all the necessary programs and initiatives for FES, do I still genuinely love my students and my staff team – the communities that I am in? Or do I love my dreams (or to make it more justifiable – our collective dreams) of the future FES ministry more? Do I really want God’s work to be done in FES out of love for God and His people? Or do I labour just for the sake of the work to be done and for changes to happen?
Bonhoeffer’s reprimand is apt – that even if my intent were “honest, earnest, and sacrificial” in fulfilling plans and dreams for FES, I would still be prone to destroy FES and the student community, if love for God and His people was no longer in the equation.
I am thankful to Replogle, who offers a radical answer when asked about the future of his ministry.
So, I would like to offer a dramatically reinterpreted concept of pastoral vision: True visionary leadership is being first to recognize what God has already formed. “What’s your vision for the church?” I used to try to articulate some coherent response. Now, I usually respond, “I don’t really have one.” I’m just trying to pay attention to God, pay attention to my people, and give voice to what I see.
Hence, the above has become my prayer lately: “My Lord, help me to pay more attention to what You have done in FES, pay attention to my students and staff team, and only then give voice to what I see!”
In His grace,
FES General Secretary
PS. Since end July, FES has been present at the social media. Our official account name (both at Facebook and Instagram): @fesfellowship. Feel free to follow, comment, and share!