Imagine a visual and hearing impaired child. Do you envision remarkable and unique abilities? Or you only see specific needs and limitations? For most people, the special child compared to the typical kid, is obviously the inferior one.
Now imagine again. This time, dream of better things. Can you see lively colors dancing away in the shadows in his eyes? Can you hear laughter and music streaming in to the silent void of his mind? Can you see and hear the call for a brand new world? Jesus said, “I am making all things new”.
The challenge for fresh imaginations in the Philippine cities and villages marks JECPP’s National Church Planters Convention this June 2013. Conference speakers Rev Dale Lim, senior pastor of Evangel Family Church – Singapore and Rev Dave Gibbons, founding pastor of New Song Church in Los Angeles, courageously echoed the call of Jesus to renew His church.
This year is JECPP’s 20th in the Philippines. Many years ago, JECPP imagined to plant 100 churches before the year 2000. In December 1999, the vision was fully realized. Looking back and now realizing the fruits of its labor, this ministry has built more than 700 churches all over the nation and deployed 18 batches of bible school graduates to the field. The small team of Singaporean missionaries from Singapore has now multiplied to more than 600 JECPP pastors and volunteer church planters laboring in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Pastor Dale especially took note of all the minister’s grown children, representing the past years their parents have dedicated to the ministry. “I look at our missionaries’ beautiful sons and daughters, and I wonder what God has in store for them. Humans long for a better world. What do you imagine God can do for your children and your community?” Pastor Dale threw the question to the more than 200 JECPP ministers from Luzon, Central and Eastern Visayas, Western Visayas, and Northern and Southern Mindanao regions during the three-day convention held at Cebu Parklane International Hotel, Cebu City.
For the church to “re-imagine” means it must constantly find its relevance to the society instead of clinging to sluggish practices inside church buildings, he said. Pastor Dale pointed out that we are called to participate in God’s imagination of a new heaven and a new earth in Revelations 21:1-5. Since Genesis, we are part of God’s story in creating a new world. Just like Adam, we are also tasked to till the ground to make it fruitful. It’s not a perfect world yet, he said.
For JECPP to be able to discern the needs of the cities and small communities, Pastor Gibbons, on the other hand, emphasized the prayer of Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:16 where he asked for strength to the “inner man”. The church can become a new man of understanding and power and love to be able to experience God’s immeasurable ability to transform societies, he said.
JECPP plays a special part of God’s geographic revolution. JECPP’s churches are mainly concentrated on rural and tribal communities which are very precious to God. Jesus was a carpenter from an insignificant village. “That’s why he loves the villages”, he said.
To emphasize that “big things” can happen in small communities, Pastor Gibbons shared about a community in California called Sta. Ana. Recently, a young man with his group went out to the streets to share Jesus. He chanced upon an elderly woman who was being revived by the paramedics due to heart attack. He accompanied her in the ambulance. On the way to the hospital, however, her heart stopped. After the woman was declared dead, the young man asked the medical team if he could pray for her. Five minutes after the prayer, the dead woman sneezed and woke up. The paramedics were shocked. “Do you believe in God,” the young man asked one of them. “How could I not?” came the reply.
After the message of Pastor Gibbons, Rev. Andrew Kwong led the closing prayer. “We have to reimagine our ministries,” he continued to stress. “Our church attendance and prayer meetings are not picking up. We can’t rely on what we know and want. We’ve got to ask what the Holy Spirit wants.”
Pastor Dale also continued to challenge the pastors to imagine new places. By the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the burden for Philippines a decade ago has now expanded to new ministries in Japan, China and South Africa. He also cited examples of how church growth in EFC-Singapore is manifested on helpless communities of children. In Cape Town, South Africa, EFC-Singapore has opened a ministry for children afflicted with HIV. In Singapore, the church supports a non-government organization, called “the Lighthouse” that cares for and educates visual and hearing impaired children. Because the Lighthouse population is relatively small, it has not met the government’s
criteria for funding.
But seeing the need, EFC-Singapore donated computers and other technological facilities that would give way to the Braille Refresher, a breakthrough of the traditional Braille system. Through this technology, these special children’s learning and recreation are now enhanced.
God must have done lots of imagining when he built the heavens and the earth, but human kind is the ultimate point of God’s imagination because we are His highest creation, Pastor Dale said. He encouraged the JECPP pastors to keep on despite failures and disappointments. He said God continues our stories even though there are dead ends in our lives. “With Jesus, we can imagine again,” he added.
“We came to Lighthouse without any religious agenda. Jesus did not tell us to go there and let them say the ‘sinner’s prayer’. We went there to help. We dare to re-imagine ourselves.”