- Category: Pastor Letters
- Published: Tuesday, 04 December 2018 00:00
真沒有想到，這一期就是本年度最後一期的禱告信了！年紀越長，就越感覺時間也過得越來越快！保羅提醒我們：「要愛惜光陰，因為現今的世代邪惡」（弗 5:16）。人生最重要的不是活得夠不夠長 ?乃是在乎活得夠不夠美？，能否在這越來越邪惡的世界，為主作美好的見證，留下人生的光輝！
真沒有想到，這一期就是本年度最後一期的禱告信了！年紀越長，就越感覺時間也過得越來越快！保羅提醒我們：「要愛惜光陰，因為現今的世代邪惡」（弗 5:16）。人生最重要的不是活得夠不夠長 ?乃是在乎活得夠不夠美？，能否在這越來越邪惡的世界，為主作美好的見證，留下人生的光輝！
最近在美中有幾個大城市的華人教會與校園教會都在討論建堂的事，有些時候他們討論得興高彩烈，但我卻為他們憂心，因為有三件事常使教會分裂：1. 靈恩問題，2. 找到錯誤的牧者，3. 建堂。往往一進入建堂的階段，教會很容易就以分裂為結束，常常堂建好了，人就不見了，教會就分裂了！建堂若不能同時建立人，非常容易導致教會的分裂，因此在建堂前，必須先操練信心與合一，好讓建立教堂與信徒同時併行。
哥城華人教會（Columbia, MO）在1996年購置了自己的教堂之前，都是借用美國教會的場地：1983-1996年週五聚會都在第一聯合衛理公會（First United Methodist Church）. 1989-1994年主日學在恩典聖經教會；1992-1994年主日崇拜是在懷恩浸信會；1992-1994年主日學與主日崇拜在恩典聖經教會活動中心（Grace Bible Church Activity Center）。我們借別人的場地也常遇到不便，在1996年之前也經常為建堂禱告，但最終決定: 建堂不是因為弟兄姊妹的需要，而是看到神的帶領。在那之前好幾年，筆者和教會另外一位負責的弟兄都經常為這事禱告，看到好的地方也會去看看，一同討論，每次他覺得好的場地，我都覺得不好，而我覺得可以的場地，有時他也覺得不妥。於是我們決定: 必須要我們雙方都認同的場地，才告訴弟兄姊妹們，讓大家一起尋求神的旨意，否則如果帶領的同工們都不能同心，其他的弟兄姊妹就更不知如何決定了。我們為建堂的事禱告多年後 ，神終於為我們預備同工們也都覺得好的場地，我們就用十五萬元將一所教堂買了下來。雖然教會的成員大部分都是學生，但我們倚靠主，等候主，最後也無需向銀行貸款，儘管這場地當時大家也知道太小，但卻明白這是照著當時的財力最合適的場地了。在用了這個場地十年以後，弟兄姊妹還是同心合意地依照不借錢的原則，完全用弟兄姊妹奉獻中所存的錢（三十多萬）擴建了教堂，整體建築加大到原來的兩倍。
- 美中冬令會 － 今年還是會在十二月廿一晚上至廿五日中午在Kansas City, MO 的Sheraton Hotel in Crown Center舉行。現在網上報名已經開始了，請至中心網站（www.cwcnet.org）上報名。冬令會的主要目標就是推動美中各地華人教會、校園團契和查經班，從各地一同來追求主，一起扎根生長，也一起向福音朋友傳福音。感謝主！祂差遣祂的僕人：許道良牧師、 黃子嘉牧師、 莊祖鯤牧師、 梁燕城博士、 李道宏牧師、 林心昂牧師及徐肇基牧師等。冬令會的英文部也經常有超過250位初中、高中與說英文的年輕人 (講英語的大學生與工作者）來參加，我們將按著不同的需要分三大組，去幫助不同年紀說英語的弟兄姊妹（母語為中文的弟兄姊妹，請參加中文部），求主藉著 Dr. Jim Anderson、Dr. Clark、and Pastor Steve Tan 等去幫助這些弟兄姊妹靈命得以更新，能為主作更大的工作。孩童們也有由受過訓練的老師來教導，嬰孩也有專人照顧，讓他們從小就能認識主的愛，願意一生跟從主。感謝主！往年也有許多青少年與兒童歸主，願主今年作更大的工作。請特別留意：報名嚴格截止時間為十二月十六日(主日)下午四時（中部時間）。
- 十二月門徒與同工訓練營 － 冬令會結束後，弟兄姊妹得快速收拾所有的器材與食物等，好馬上回中心，訓練營就在當日週三（二十五日）晚上開始，至二十九日(週六)中午結束。每年十二月門徒訓練約有兩百多人來參加，因為訓練營比冬令會能更扎實的造就弟兄姊妹，使人的生命被建立起來，更忠心的跟隨主，更有效的事奉祂，因為營會的宗旨是：建立門徒作同工，在校園或職場作主的工，在各地興旺主的國度。這次的講員有莊祖鯤牧師、梁燕城博士等，求主恩膏他們，使更多人能被主改變、得著與被建立，回去之後在各地教會與校園，或分散美國或回國，都能同心合意為主作見證。 感謝主！現在已有一百多位弟兄姐妹，看到裝備自己作神國精兵的重要，已報名參加這次的訓練營。請把握報名機會，因為報名嚴格截止時間亦為十二月十六日。 但若場地已爆滿，我們可能會像過去的十二月門徒訓練，提早截止報名，請為聚會代禱，也邀請其他的基督徒同來參加。
- 讀經營 － 門徒訓練營之後，還有一些弟兄姊妹繼續留下來參加讀經營，他們一連參加三個營會，更有些在冬令會前，提早一週來作準備的工作，將近一個月都在中心裡追求與事奉主，特別為他們感謝主！願主使他們一生都能成為主的精兵。讀經營報名已截止，共有一百多位弟兄姐妹報名參加，現正在做最後一階段的功課，寫他們的報告，並在十二月第二週前請指導老師閱讀指導，感謝主！大家都非常用心的學習與研讀神的話。讀經營的目標是： 挑旺弟兄姊妹饑渴慕義的靈，幫助他們能用喜樂的心研讀神的話語，又能在校園與教會中成為神話語的好管家，能按時分糧，能帶查經與分享神的話。 請為讀經營代禱。
- 為冬令會籌備工作代禱 – 一年一度的大會，不能僅靠中心同工來作，背後有不少的弟兄姊妹同心合意，共同擺上事奉的結果。求主興起弟兄姊妹在這事工上，一同為主的名打那美好的勝仗，使美中各地福音朋友得新生命，弟兄姊妹從神的話與聖靈的教導，能被挑旺起來，願主藉這聚會得著更多靈魂。
- 為十二月門徒及同工訓練營代禱 –雖然大部份的學生都愛在假期回國探親，或在各地遊山玩水，求主保守弟兄姊妹能以天上的事為念，放下地上的玩樂，以得著耶穌為至寶。求主在營會中得著與改變他們，好叫他們能回去忠心地作個得人漁夫。
Dear brothers and sisters, peace be with you in the Lord!
Time goes so quickly. This is already the last pastoral letter of the year! It appears to me that the longer I live, the faster time goes by. Apostle Paul reminds us, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16). What really matters most in our lives is not how long nor how well we live, but instead whether we can bear witness for the Lord in this increasingly evil world and leave behind worthy impact.
In Faith and Unity to Build the Church and Build the People
Recently, Chinese churches and campus churches at several major Midwest cities are discussing whether to build or buy a church building. While they are understandably excited in their discussions, I am rather worried. There are three things that easily cause a church split: charismatic issues, finding wrong pastors, and constructing or purchasing church buildings. Too often when the church goes into building, it ends with splitting. Time after time congregations evaporate when the church building is completed. If we fail to build up brothers and sisters while obtaining the church building, the churches are more likely to face quarreling and splitting. It is critical to foster faith and unity before obtaining church buildings, to grow the congregation and its meeting place simultaneously.
Building a church facility is a very difficult thing and is full of challenge. Chinese campus churches rarely have their own buildings. It is very common for them to use the facilities of one or more American churches. Using a facility for Friday night meetings is normally not an issue, as few American churches meet on Fridays. Using a facility for Sunday services is much more difficult. Normally American churches will put their needs as their first priority. When the American churches have their special meetings that conflict with the guest church meetings, guest congregations often must reschedule or cancel their meetings. Because of this, brothers and sisters in many Chinese churches desire to have their own church building. However, this is financially hard for campus churches. It is best not to get a loan from the bank or from the brothers or sisters. This is not like a personal house loan, in which you can get a tax benefit. For the church loans the interest rate is often higher, making the monthly mortgage payment a huge burden to the church. To make it worse, campus churches experience high turnover rate of brothers and sisters. Changes in policies within the US government and universities have had huge impact on the number of students and faculty. No one can predict the size of the congregation in years to come. Should there be a reduction in congregation size, how is the church going to pay off its mortgage every month? This causes quite a headache. It is also not fair to leave a burden of debt to future congregations. Brothers and sisters should look onto the Lord’s provision in faith. When the Lord provides enough funds, then we can build the facility. Otherwise we just wait and pray patiently.
Columbia Chinese Christian Church (Columbia, MO) used the facilities from American churches until it purchased its church building in 1996. Between 1983-1996, Friday meetings took place at First United Methodist Church. Sunday schools were held at Grace Bible Church between 1989 and 1994. Sunday Schools and Services were held at Grace Bible Church Activity Center in between 1992 to 1994. Study groups and prayer groups met in yet other churches and homes. We faced inconveniences throughout all these years, praying often to have our own church home. However, we finally decided that acquiring a church building must not be to meet brothers and sisters’ conveniences but rather must be a response to the Lord’s leading. Before 1996, a brother and I had been praying constantly for this thing. We would check out venues that were made available and discuss them. Often when he thought it was a good place, I did not agree—and vice versa. We decided that we would not recommend a venue to brothers and sisters until both of us came to agreement. Then we could encourage the whole congregation to seek God’s will. If we lacked unity among the leadership, how could we expect our brothers and sisters to come to unity in making a decision? After years of prayers, God finally provided a space accepted by all the coworkers. We spent one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and purchased a church building. Even though the majority of the church members were students, we did not take a loan from the bank. We just waited on the Lord and leaned on His provision. Even at that time we all knew that this church building was smaller than ideal, yet we understood that it was the best we could afford. After using this building for ten years, brothers and sisters still follow the principles in unity not to get a loan. We used our savings from the offerings of the brothers and sisters, around three hundred thousand dollars, to expand the church building. The building doubled in size.
Here are the lessons we learned from the process of church building: (1) Do not begin to build when brothers and sisters’ spiritual lives are not mature. (2) Constructing or purchasing church buildings should follow the Lord’s leading. Act quickly if He wills to do so. And firstly, build up brothers and sisters who are after God’s heart and know His will. Help the congregation revere God’s sovereignty. (3) Constructing or purchasing church buildings needs continuous and earnest prayers. It is a great opportunity for training up prayer warriors. (4) Unity is crucial. Without unity people would disappear even as the church is built. People are more important than a building. We don’t have to have a church building, but we must build up saints. (5) Wait and pray if there should be disagreement among brothers and sisters. Foster a culture of humility and gentleness. (6) Conflicts among coworkers and brothers and sisters are common during the process of building a church. Learn to accept and appreciate one another. Maintain a gentle and loving atmosphere. Cultivate people’s inner virtue during the process. (7) Building a church that brothers and sisters can afford. Don’t overspend and leave behind a burdensome debt to the future congregation. Foster a heart of willing offering among brothers and sisters. (8) It is better not to get a loan. Pray to the Lord with faith and look upon Him. Help brothers and sisters learn to trust God. Let our faith grow as we wait on the Lord. (9) Be mindful of establishing the brothers and sisters’ spiritual lives in the process of building a church. (10) Never be prideful for the new church building. Have a humble and grateful heart.
- Winter Conference will still be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Crown Center, Kansas City, MO, from evening of December 21st to noon of December 25th this year. The online registration has begun. You may register at the CWC website (www.cwcnet.org). The main purpose of the Winter Conference is to encourage local Chinese churches, campus fellowships, and Bible study groups in the Midwest to seek the Lord together as well as share the Gospel with unbelievers. God has sent His servants: Pastor John Hsu, Pastor Caleb Huang, Pastor Tsu-Kung Chuang, Dr. Thomas Leung, Pastor Jeff Lee, Pastor Andrew Lin, Pastor George Hsu, etc. Over 250 middle school and high school students as well as English speaking young adults (college students and professionals) usually attend the English program in the Winter Conference. They will be divided into three groups according to their needs and age (Chinese speaking brothers and sisters please attend the Chinese program). May the Lord use Dr. Jim Anderson, Dr. Clark, and Pastor Steve Tan to help these brothers and sisters to refresh their spiritual lives and undertake bigger missions for the Lord in the future. Children will be taught by trained and experienced teachers. Infants will also receive quality care from specialized coworkers. We pray that the children will experience God’s love since youth and be willing to follow the Lord all their lives! Praise the Lord! Many youths and children accepted Christ in the past conferences. May the Lord did greater works this year! Please pay special attention to the strictly observed deadline, 4:00pm, December 16th.
- December Disciple and Coworker Training Camp － After the Winter Conference, brothers and sisters must quickly pack and load all the equipment and food and immediately head back to the CWC campground. The Discipleship Training Camp starts the same evening, December 25th, and concludes at noon, December 29th. Usually over 200 people attend the discipleship training. This meeting can more solidly and effectively equip brothers and sisters than the Winter Conference and build up their spiritual lives. As a result they will follow the Lord more faithfully and serve Him more effectively. The purpose of the discipleship training is to build up disciples to be coworkers, serve the Lord on campus or at work, and revive God’s Kingdom locally. Speakers for this camp are Pastor Tsu-Kung Chuang, Dr. Thomas Leung, and others. May the Lord anoint them to change lives and equip workers for the Lord! After the camp participants will be able to witness for the Lord with one heart on local campuses or churches, in the States or back to their home countries. Praise the Lord! There are over 100 brothers and sisters who understand the importance of being equipped to be Christian soldiers and have registered for this training camp. The strictly observed registration deadline is December 16th. Please apply early because we must cut off registration earlier if the lodging space fills, as happened in the past few years. Please pray for this camp and invite other Christians to come with you.
- Bible Camp － After the Disciple Training camp, some brothers and sisters will stay for the Bible camp. They are attending three camps in a row! A few of them even came one week before the Winter Conference to help with preparation and thus spend almost a month to seek and serve the Lord. We give special thanks to the Lord for them! May the Lord make them Christian soldiers all their lives. The registration for the Bible camp is already ended. More than 100 brothers and sisters have registered and are currently finishing up their last assignment – to write a report and have their advisors read and comment on their reports. Praise the Lord! Everyone is joyfully and diligently studying the Word of God. The purpose of the Bible Camp is to increase brothers and sisters’ thirsts for righteousness and help them to study the Word of God with joy so that they will become good shepherds of God’s Word on campus and in their churches, and can lead Bible studies and share the Word of God. Please pray for the Bible camp.
- Please pray for the preparation for the Winter Conference. This annual conference not only needs hard work from the CWC coworkers, it also needs work from many brothers and sisters with one heart behind the scenes. May the Lord bring up brothers and sisters to serve this ministry and fight the good fight for the Lord’s name. We pray that nonbelievers in the Midwest will receive new lives, and brothers and sisters will be revived through the teaching of God’s Word by the Holy Spirit. May the Lord win over more souls through this meeting.
- Every year the Winter Conference needs at least more than one hundred volunteers and short-term mission team members. May the Lord encourage more churches to send short-term mission teams to serve with us. May the Lord give to them a joyful heart and able hands as Martha, as well as the powerful words and ability of John the Baptist to counsel people to repentance. Please pray for the health, spiritual power, and effectiveness of short-term mission teams and volunteers.
- Please pray for speakers’ messages. May the Lord’s Spirit anoint them! May their words be full of power from above and urge people to be faithful to the Lord and to win more souls for Christ in the States or back in their home countries.
- Please pray for unbelievers. May the Lord help them come with thirst for the truth, be attentive during the meetings, and humbly accept Christ as their Savior.
- Please pray for local churches and Bible study groups. Pray that they will still faithfully pray for others even near the end of the semester and invite people to the meetings. Pray that brothers and sisters love the Lord and seek Him. Please also pray for all the transportation arrangement of local churches as well as fair weather and road conditions during the conference.
- Please pray for the December Coworker and Disciple Training Camp. Although most students love to go back to their home countries or vacation elsewhere during the holiday break, may the Lord guard the hearts of brothers and sisters so that they will set their minds on things above over earthly pleasures and gain the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. May the Lord win and transform them during the camp and send them back as faithful fishers of men.
- May the Lord bring more families to the meetings so that they will be equipped during the meetings and become bi-vocational little shepherds back home. Pray that they will bring more students to Christ and revive campus ministries and local churches.
- Please pray for funds needed for CWC. May the Lord manifest His abundance! Please also pray that the Lord will raise up new CWC coworkers!
- Please pray for the expansion of our American coworker’s family bedroom. May the Lord give smooth progress and provide necessary funds so that they will be able to move in before the Winter Conference.
- Please pray for Mrs. Ko’s medical treatment. Thank God! With earnest prayers of brothers and sisters, the chemotherapy of almost two months was very successful. May the Lord continue to bless the radiotherapy of the next five weeks.
- Praise the Lord for the successful conclusion of the East Coast Disciple and Coworker Training Camp during Thanksgiving. More people came than last year with more fervent hearts to seek the Lord. Brother Bellman Lin’s teaching inspired brothers and sisters to equip themselves with heavenly power to witness for Christ and lead others.
- These two months are the busiest season for CWC. Please pray for Sister Cindy Chiang’s ministries for the next few weeks. It is not easy to organize three year-end meetings. May the Lord remember and bestow strength, peace, health, and power from above.
May the Lord bless you and your whole family!
Pastor Billy Ko