As the rousing outro of “Give Us a Vision” faded away, which signalled the start of the 46th Session of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) held at Hakka Methodist Church from 15 to 18 Nov 2021. 2021 also marked the start of Rev Dr Gregory Goh’s second term as the CAC President. His inaugural term in the last quadrennium saw significant progress for CAC, especially in sharing resources and increasing cooperation amongst its local churches with the implementation of Central Pooling.
Giving an account of 2021 along with a forecast of what is to be done in 2022 and beyond in his President’s Address, Rev Dr Goh quickly made it clear that the focus for CAC would be disciple-making. He quoted John Wesley, who said, “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore, spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those that want you, but to those that want you most.”
Rev Dr Goh started off with an introspective question on the role of the Church after two years of a pandemic that has necessitated changes in how people gather to worship God. He asked the delegates present to think about how the changes thus far have impacted the ways ministries are run and if the Church will emerge stronger from the pandemic.
“When many ministries and activities that we used to hold in church cannot be carried out as planned, we start to question how we can continue to live out our faith. How can we be His disciples? Have I done what Jesus has commanded? Am I a disciple of Jesus Christ?” challenged Rev Dr Goh.
Using those questions as a springboard, Rev Dr Goh reiterated that even amidst such a disruptive global situation, the Church is about being Christ’s disciples. “Our identity is not our church membership, not about our serving in church ministries such as Sunday School teachers, cell group leaders, LCEC members, lay leaders or clergy. Who are we? We are disciples of Jesus Christ. That is our identity when we stand before our Lord Jesus Christ,” reminded Rev Dr Goh.
A disciple-making Conference
With that point made, Rev Dr Goh announced that a Disciple Making Conference Task Force (DMCTF) had been established in October 2021 with the goal to focus on and consolidate the various disciple-making models of the local churches so that a consistent disciple-making pathway can be created for all CAC churches to take reference from and follow. Rev Dr Goh stressed that this is especially crucial in the itinerant appointment and connectional system that is the bedrock of the Methodist Church.
Rev Dr Goh further elaborated that the DMCTF is made up of two working teams each looking into a specific area namely: Disciple Making Pathway (DMP) and Disciple Making Pastors and Leaders (DMP/L). These teams will be led by Dr Stephen Yeo and Khoo Hock Yun respectively. The DMCTF is scheduled to meet quarterly beginning in 2022, whilst the two work groups will meet separately and report to the DMCTF on a regular basis.
Localising the Sunday School curriculum
Rev Dr Goh also raised the pressing need to localise the current Sunday School materials, which are produced in Hong Kong or Taiwan, where Chinese is the primary language and the different local contexts influence the curriculum development.
He highlighted a recent forum that was initiated by Four Denominations Council of Chinese Churches, where it was identified that suitable Sunday School materials need to be developed for children for whom Mandarin is a second language. Rev Dr Goh sounded a call to action for CAC churches to collaborate and mobilise efforts to kick off the Explore the Bible in Chinese (EBIC) project.
“This is a ground-breaking initiative aimed to support Chinese churches and congregations to develop Sunday School materials in Chinese as a second language. This project is headed by Rev Dr Lim Teck Peng from Trinity Theological College. The project has started and will cover the curriculum for pre-school to Secondary 4,” announced Rev Dr Goh. “There are plans to launch the Kindergarten 1, Primary 3 and Secondary 1 teaching materials in the second half of 2022.” To assist churches with forward planning, the EBIC team has organised an online introductory session on 30 Oct last year.
“Let us pray for the teams as they look into the pedagogy, design, contents, editorial, training and many more aspects of this project. May God use this project to bless our future generations.”
Be ashamed of nothing but sin
In his sermon during the Closing and Ordination Service, Rev Dr Goh spoke on the Biblical call for humility, which he felt is not often preached about in churches.
“Many a times in our service and work…we may encounter times when we feel ashamed to do something, or feel that we are of too high of a status to do them,” observed Rev Dr Goh. “We often emphasise our individual worth, or the potential to live out our dreams. In this society, we put too much weight on individualistic achievements and self-actualisation.”
Sharing his honest self-reflection, Rev Dr Goh described his personal journey in humility since serving as CAC President for several years. “As I come to experience more, lead more meetings, manage more matters, I’m finding myself less and less humble. If humility is a measure of the progress of my spiritual life, then I have made no progress,” admitted Rev Dr Goh.
Rev Dr Goh emphasised that only by having Christ-like humility can the Church enjoy true unity, for Christ came not only to redeem humankind but also to restore the God-like humility lost when sin entered the world.
“Christ’s humility in His service to man and also before the Father is frequently displayed to us in the Scriptures. Multiple times in the holy Scriptures, Jesus shares that He did not come to earth to accomplish His will, but the will of the Father who sent Him. In humility, He would always give all glory to His Father in Heaven.
“Indeed, we require more of God’s help and grace in the school of humility,” said Rev Dr Goh who reminded the congregation, especially the new elders and deacons about to be ordained, that John Wesley once said that he would gladly have 100 preachers who feared nothing but sin and desired nothing but God while also exemplifying Christ-like humility.
“Do not misunderstand humility for weakness. People with true humility are courageous people. A person who is truly humble before God fears only sin and nothing else. Such a person would be willing to do anything for God,” elaborated Rev Dr Goh.
“I want to encourage you who have just stepped into the school of humility. Be ashamed of nothing but sin. Be afraid of nothing but sin. Desire nothing but God.”
Jason Woo is Communications Executive at MCS Comms. / Photos courtesy of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC)