Double-edged 真理報雙語版

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A bilingual and bicultural Christian young adults blog //////////////// 青年華裔基督徒的博客

Not for the Faint-hearted

Linda

Want a job that’s multi-faceted and has variety and challenges? Check out this description of a week below.

Tuesday. Office: email and phone correspondence, follow up on prayer request items and questions, mentor session with an intern, begin preparing material for the week–sermon, small group study, meeting agenda, Sunday bulletin article, Sunday school lessons, etc. Night: attend meetings because most people are not available during the day, make house calls.

Wednesday. Office: staff meetings, mentorship session with an intern, work on weekly materials, work on long-range projects–church-wide events, planning, etc, finalize Sunday materials and sermon PowerPoint slideshow. Night: lead a Bible study class.

Thursday. Office: recheck Sunday materials for publication, send materials to secretary for publication tomorrow, correspondence. Night: attend meetings, counselling sessions: pre-marital and marital counselling, occasionally dealing with crisis situations (e.g. death in a family, losing one’s job, discovery of serious health condition).

Friday. A day much like the day before. Check over finished bulletin as it comes in. More email and phone correspondence. Deal with things as they come up.

Saturday. Meetings galore! Leadership team meeting can last 3 hours. Attend fellowship group, or share at a small group when invited. Night: reserved for reflection on the Sunday message.

Sunday. Busiest day of the week is spent at church. Preach sermon during service. Teach Sunday school. Lunch gathering with some members. Sometimes meetings in the afternoon. Preach occasionally at a Mandarin language service in the evening.

Monday. Finally, Sabbath Day. A day of spiritual renewal and physical rest. Try not to attend to church-related activities unless it is an emergency. Time of prayer, reflection, connecting with family, and often the only time of the week to get groceries!

The above description is gleaned from a church minister’s own description of his week. As you can tell, this is not your typical nine-to-fiver, not your “sit-in-the-office-all-day-and-forget-about-it-when-you-leave” kind of job. This one job encompasses so many aspects, as you have seen in the above description — preaching, teaching, mentoring, counselling, administration — just to name a few. For this entry, I interviewed Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Sharp, who is the lead pastor for the English-speaking congregation of Vancouver Chinese Baptist Church.

It turns out that he actually wanted to teach English Literature in university. His undergraduate degree was in sociology and psychology, but he also wanted to be a missionary teacher. When he felt a calling and gifting for work in the church, he was able to do both — he has taught graduate school and seminary while staying involved in church ministry. His education in social sciences, combined with natural gifts, experience, reading widely, and being married to a psychologist has helped with his current work with people, especially in family, pre-marital, and marital counselling.

A brief introduction to Pastor Jeff’s career history. He graduated from a seminary in Kentucky and worked in Hong Kong for twelve years — where he learned to speak Cantonese fluently. Then he went to San Francisco to lead a Chinese church for five years. After that, he returned to Hong Kong for another five years. Then he was based in the States for four years as a global missionary, travelling to other countries to train Christian leaders. He has spent 2-7 weeks in Serbia, Bosnia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Republic of Georgia, Germany, Armenia, Italy, India, Assam, China, and Macau. Then he came to Vancouver.

Pastoring, especially preaching and teaching, gives him a chance to see people grow, discover more about faith and Scripture, be challenged, and broaden their horizons and perspectives. Pastor Jeff enjoys being of help and likes “fixing things.” However there are also aspects that he does not quite enjoy as much. Administration is one of them.

Early in his career, Pastor Jeff faced the challenge of balancing schedules: work, school, and family. It was his first pastorship working in an inner-city black mission in Tampa Bay, Florida. At the same time, he was in seminary, he was married, he had children, and finances were tight. This is a struggle that would continue — proper boundaries needed to be set. He also gave up closeness with his extended family, and as a result, his children have less emotional attachment to their grandparents. Some privacy is sacrificed since what a pastor does has implications beyond what he can see and are held to a higher standard. Financial sacrifice is certain. (It’s definitely not what I’d recommend for a get-rich-quick scheme). He also faces the challenge of communicating his vision for the church to others, pursuing that vision, and dealing with obstacles that rise up.

Aside from an obvious focus on Christian faith and living, a pastorship is comparable to other caring professions, such as doctors, nurses, etc. Pastors are working 24/7, even on their days off. For example, when someone experiences a death in the family, you can’t just ignore them because it’s your day off. Pastors deal with real people whose lives are raw, and with the added compassion, they experience the pain and suffer with them. They are involved in every stage of life as well as working with death, and in the process, develop relationships with people that are deep and strong. You wouldn’t necessarily have that in other professions.

There is an old joke about pastors: they are “invisible for six days of the week and incomprehensible on the seventh.” Most people don’t really know what a pastor does, even on Sunday when they actually see him or her. There are some big misconceptions about a pastor, from within and without the church. For example, some people think that pastors have lots of free time, are at the beck and call of each member, should never say ‘no’ because saying ‘no’ shows that they are selfish, and since they are servants of God, they should not be paid very much. These things have happened to Pastor Jeff, and so he says to those serving in any kind of non-profit organization, faith-based or not, to take care of themselves and learn to say ‘no’ (and communicate why — your priorities and vision) because you are no good to anyone or to God if you burn out.

Being a leader often means that you are alone. People may think you are moving too fast forward while others think you are moving too slow, and you get attacked from all sides. One needs to strive for spiritual maturity; they are not God and cannot do everything or please everyone — even God does things that do not please everyone. One also needs to be prepared for very emotionally draining issues — the terminally ill, those experiencing family problems, parents concerned about their children, etc. Pastor Jeff’s life journey, wise advice, and work ethic have shown me that it is not easy being a spiritual leader and that it takes a lot of patience to work with people.

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Welcome

"Double-edged"is bilingual blog in affiliation with Truth Monthly, a Chinese Christian monthly print publication based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

This blog features mostly original writings as well as comics, poetry, and other works of art by local Christian young adults.

For more information or to submit your own writing, please email tm.double.edged@gmail.com

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