Basic AG Leaders Equipping (BAGLE) Course – Leaders’ Reflections
Written by Danny Chua
In a portion of the BAGLE course reading materials, one Christian author presents what he thought was a hypothetical situation at the time of writing:
“Imagine that the pandemic swept through your part of the world, and that all public assemblies of more than three people were banned. And let’s say that, due to some catastrophic combination of local circumstances, this ban had to remain in place for 18 months. How would your congregation of 120 members continue to function—with no regular church gatherings of any kind, and no small home groups (except for groups the size of three)?” (‘The Trellis and the Vine’, Matthias Media 2013)
In a way, confronting this scenario was a little moment of painful irony or comic tragedy for the 8 AG Leaders who took part in the Nov-Dec 2021 run of BAGLE. After all, this scenario has been anything but hypothetical for us over the past two years. Time and time again, week in and out, over phase this and phase that, Zion Bishan AG Leaders have been asking themselves questions with no simple answers:
“How can we be the gathered Body of Christ in the present situation? What is the balance I should strike with a virtual and physical mode of discipleship and pastoral care? How are my AG members doing – I haven’t seen them in person for a long time! Is Jesus still keeping His promise to build His church and draw others into His family?”
These questions, along with what we aim to do in the course, pushed us back to basics. To be clear, the word ‘Basic’ in ‘Basic AG Leaders Equipping’ does not mean simple or easy. Think more along the lines of foundational, non-negotiable, and critical. We’re revisiting the very rocks on which we stand and the pillars of what Church means in all of Scripture.
In particular, we spent time exploring Paul’s letter to the Colossian church and what he says about helping each Christian take a S.T.E.P closer towards Christ-maturity: S(peaking God’s Word to each other); T(oiling in the hard work of Word and Disicpling ministry); E(veryone being a part of this work); P(raying in dependence of the Spirit’s power).
At the end of the day, we also considered the all-important question, “How can we ‘do’ Church in a ‘COVID-proof’ way that is also faithful to the New Testament model of more maturity and more multiplication?” Answer: it all boils down to individuals, brothers and sisters we know by name, personal ministry and discipleship down to each and every member. What we need across the board in every ministry, every congregation, and every AG is more not less personal relationships centered on God’s word, prayer and regular fellowship.
As you can imagine, this means incredibly hard work (and lots of discouragement at times!) for every AG leader. Yet, if we could just look very carefully, we will surely see that God has been keeping His promise to build His church in the past two years – not in spite of but especially through the pains of the pandemic.
Here are some reflections from the participants:
Lim Meng Ean (AG27, 10.30am Congregation): It was especially insightful for me to be able to discuss issues with other AG leaders and hear about the different challenges they face. It also helped to discover how different or similar we are in leading our AGs, and there draw new energy to lead my own AG. I was also reminded that I am the shepherd led by the Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. I must tend my lambs like the Good Shepherd Himself. This does not necessarily mean AG-leading is a lighter burden or greater joy; I guess that comes with experience and trust over time.
Shyen Lee (AG2, 3.00pm Congregation): Something that I was quite personally struck by was that God doesn’t need me at all to fulfill His will and for His work to be done, and I’m really not doing Him any favours by serving with a heart that isn’t joyful. The fact is that the only work that matters – that of heart change and subsequent life change – is all completely 100% the work of the Spirit, and I just have to faithfully hold out God’s Word the best I can. We also talked quite a lot about personal work, people work, as part of discipleship. This is an area I’m really lacking in, and want to make a more concerted effort to focus on in the coming year.
Jarius Goh (AG40, 5.00pm Congregation): I think it’s easy to assume that we are the shepherds guiding our AGs, but really our real role is first as mere sheep following the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus. It helps to be reminded that we are disciples ourselves and should constantly seek to find solace and joy in our own reading of the Word, not just in leading commitments. I really felt the Session on Pastoral Care helped to ground the idea that we are not here to solve our peers’ spiritual ‘shortcomings’; rather, we are to redirect and “prescribe” God’s Word to them so that they may be made aware of Jesus’s love and His healing for their current troubles.
Benjamin Ng (AG52, 5.00pm Congregation): I think it was helpful to see that other AG leaders had the same insecurities and fears as me, and that we could all learn and grow together to better lead our AGs. In particular, the idea that pastoral care is mutual was especially empowering to me – that the burden of leading and caring is meant to be shared, and that it is the Shepherd’s voice that actually leads them to Christ, not mine. Also, I am reminded that being an AG leader is a lot more than just “teaching the Bible” and it’s a lot about pastoral care. I think I can do more to meet members one to one to find out how they’re doing, so AG sessions are more than just tutorial sessions.
Action Groups (AGs)
The life of God must be experienced in the teaching, prayer and friendship of Christian community in the local church. In Zion Bishan, AGs are the spiritual families within which every member follows Jesus and lives out the Gospel with fellow brothers and sisters. If you are not presently in an AG, it is urgent and essential that you do join one. Please contact Danny Chua (firstname.lastname@example.org) or your Congregational Shepherding Team to be connected.