A Yokefellow’s Chronicle: Leaders who Understood the Times
(Updated December 11 2017)
On the first leg of my visit to the Northeastern part of the US this past week, I visited Chinese Baptist churches in Connecticut. Driving up to New Haven on my way to Hartford, I visited the church at New Haven and met some leaders of the church there. Calvary Baptist Church started off as a Bible Study group in the 1800’s for Chinese scholars at Yale University and it eventually grew to become a church.
At West Hartford, I visited and preached at the Cantonese congregation of Chinese Baptist Church of Greater Hartford. I had a great time of fellowship renewing my acquaintance with some of the church members and leaders there. It was such a joy to see many of those that I had ministered to and with some 20 years ago are still actively involved in ministry at the church. I had served at the church while I was on sabbatical and studying Islam at Hartford Seminary 1993-1995. The church has bought a former Jewish Synagogue in Bloomfield (Beth Hillel) for a steal and converted it into a church building. They will be holding their first Combined Worship in their new building on Christmas Eve, December 24 2017. They had met at the First Baptist Church in West Hartford for the past 40 years. What a way to celebrate the Gift of God for them
Much has changed at the church reflecting the migration trend of Chinese into the area. With the migration of Cantonese speaking Chinese from Hong Kong and Mandarin speaking Chinese from Taiwan slowing to a trickle, and the gush of Chinese from Mainland China, the Mandarin speaking congregation has really taken off in comparison to the Cantonese speaking congregation. The dynamics of the membership and leadership have changed as well.
Change is the new normal for the church in North America today. Churches must manage change or they will be managed by change itself. In order to do the former, we need people in the church who “understood the times and knew what…” they are to do. (I Chronicles 12:32) We need pastors and leaders who can work together to discern the times and to take appropriate actions to manage change while they still can. This is true not only for the churches in Connecticut but for churches all over North America as well.
Pray that you can be one of those who understood the times and to be wise and bold to make the changes necessary to make your church relevant and vibrant in times like these for the glory of God.
過去這個星期，我探訪了美國東北部幾間教會。第一站是康州(Connecticut) 的華人浸信會。之後，我駕車去哈城(Hartford)途中，經過新港(New Haven)，探望了當市的華人教會，並在那裡會與一些教會領袖見面。十九世紀時，「耶魯大學」有一個查經班，特別服侍來自中國的學者，從那時的查經班開始，一直發展，直至今天成為「加略山華人浸信會」（Calvary Baptist Church）。
在西哈市(West Hartford)，我拜訪了「哈城華人浸信會」(Chinese Baptist Church of Greater Hartford)，並在他們的廣東話崇拜中証道。在那裡，我重見一些昔日熟識的教會會友和領袖。久別重聚，我們有一個十分美好交通的時刻。當年(1993-1995)，我正值安息年，在「哈城神學院」(Hartford Seminary)修讀伊斯蘭教，我就在這教會事奉。事隔二十多年，看到許多我曾服侍過的肢體，仍然積極參與教會的事工，我心中實在充滿了喜樂。過去40年以來，他們一直使用在西哈城的「第一浸信會」聚會。如今，他們將有自己的地方崇拜聚會了。因為，教會已經在Bloomfield以一個非常底廉的價錢購買到一座前猶太教的會堂（Beth Hillel），他們將它改建為教會。 今年，2017年12月24日聖誕節前夕，他們將在這新堂址舉行首次聯合崇拜。何等特別的日子! 他們慶祝上帝的恩賜!
近年，華人教會中的組合發生了很大的變化。它也反映了華人移民進入該地區的趨勢。昔日，教會主要的華人是來自操廣東話的香港和來自操國語的台灣; 今天，隨著大量中國大陸的華人湧入，教會現今的華人絕大部份是來自操普通話的中國大陸。相對之下，說廣東話的華人會眾是少數的了。 會友間和領導間的互動也發生了變化。
今天，北美的教會，變化是新常態。 因此，教會必須掌舵著時代的變革，否則便被變革牽著走。 為了做前者，我們需要教會裡的人曉得 “洞悉時代，並知道如何處理”。正如在歷代志上12章32節說: 「以薩迦支派， 有二百族長都通達時務，知 道以色列人所當行的；他們族弟兄都聽從他們的命令。」我們需要牧者和教會領袖一同審視，辨別時代，並採取適當的行動來掌舵變化。 我相信不單只康州的教會如是，北美各地的教會也一樣。