A Season of Testing
Written by Ps Dev Menon
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial…
Back in 2012, Zion Bishan faced its last church-wide test. In order to move forward to the next stage of growth, we had to relocate to Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary School for what we thought was a short time. However, within a few months, we realised we had no other option but to shift all our services to a single timeslot at 3pm for around 2 years. It was a difficult trial, and despite our best efforts, we estimate about >10% of our regular attendees did not return. Some went to sister BP churches and grew spiritually there (praise God!), but others left for good. For the rest of us who remained, it was a long season, but many stepped up to serve, others grew spiritually, and even more came to the Lord!
Now in 2020, we face another church-wide test. As we all know, Covid will be with us for a long time. The health minister has estimated that Phase 3 restrictions will be around for at least a year or longer (until the whole world stabilizes). That means is that our Sunday worship services will be capped at an absolute maximum of 200 (pending MCCY approval) as long as social distancing remains, and our small groups at 8-10 persons physically. We will not be able to go back to our old timings, and the four English timeslots of 10.30am, 1pm, 3pm and 5pm must continue for the longer term in order that everyone can come back every week.
As rotating services is unsustainable long-term, this means every AG will have to think about which timeslot they could attend and serve at. Conversations are now ongoing between the AG leaders and their Cluster Elders to work things through. While it would be great for everyone to have their first choice, the reality is that some will have to have their 2nd choice. Our preference as leaders of course is that people will sacrifice voluntarily rather than shifting people around. We believe that it is God who will move hearts and minds.
This process is slow and time-consuming, but hopefully will bear much fruit. We have already been surprised by the generosity that 5-6 AGs have shown, willing to take the ‘less popular’ afternoon services on a weekly basis. Not to mention the dozen or so members who have stepped up to serve in unfamiliar ministries at unfamiliar timeslots! We are praying that many others will follow in their footsteps. This is not just a logistics exercise of course, creation of smaller services with more intentional AG-Cluster groupings will open the door for better discipleship, pastoral care and accountability down to each individual. God’s tests are never just arbitrary, they are His discipline to move us forward in faith and maturity. This exercise is of course not unique to Zion Bishan, many of our sister BP churches and other pastors are also having to go through the same process. No church is spared this season of testing! I suspect the Singapore church, or even the global church as a whole, will look very different in 3-5 years once Covid is behind us. Hopefully, just like our last 2012-2015 test, the majority of Zion Bishan members will emerge stronger. Laying down our lives for each other’s sake will no longer be just religious theory, but a living reality.
Friends will you pray with us?