Golden ears in grey

Posted by seanho on Sun 10 February 2008

`49° 9' 53" N by 122° 36' 14" W <>`__

The frequent, light snowfall we've been getting in recent weeks has dusted the nearby Golden Ears with a beautifully soft powder, in this photo taken last week. I had driven by this location in Fort Langley before, where the view of the Golden Ears is bold and unobstructed over open farmland. So when the skies cleared and I knew we were in for a terrific sunset, I grabbed the big 300/2.8 lens and a sandwich, headed to this spot, setup the tripod and composition, then relaxed in the car and waited about 20 minutes for the light to get good.

In this exposure, the sun is still hidden behind a scrim of altocirrus, so the lighting on the mountains is very even, almost shadowless. I also have a series of exposures taken a bit later, when the sun peeks out from beneath the clouds, right before sunset. A narrow, diffuse band of fuchsia-purple works its way from the foothills up the mountain, before the sun completely disappears beneath the horizon. But I still like this frame best: I think the pastel monochrome accentuates the textures in the forests and in the rocky peaks. It's exposed a bit dark because it was dark, and cold, and peaceful in the twilight.

In the past six months or so, I think I've been settling into a style of ministry that fits, and which matches what I had envisioned before I moved to Canada three years ago. It's a bit unconventional, and I don't claim that anyone else should follow in my footsteps, but it's really freeing -- it's a bit like living by faith. It's carrying out the call I wrote about a year ago. I simply go where I'm invited to speak or teach, in submission to God's call. It's a ministry which is simultaneously corporate and personal, community and individual, working within the churches but also deepening my own spiritual walk with Christ.

I think the churches feel safer with me because they know I have no intention of starting my own church -- that constant fear of "sheep stealing". (I just heard of yet another Chinese church English pastor who left to start his own church! I'm of two minds about this trend.) I think there is a lot that could happen if our existing churches were to wake up and be revitalized by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and I simply want to be an encouragement to them through the Word of God. Mine is a ministry in community, because the whole point is to build up the local churches, to assist and encourage the local pastors and leaders, and ultimately, to break down un-Biblical dividing walls between churches. If I serve and contribute to various different churches, I can be an ambassador from each one to the others, bringing greetings and sending blessings. As I have often said, the various churches in Christ are not competitors, but collaborators.

At the same time, because I am focusing my work on the preaching/teaching ministry of the Word of God, it's a personal journey. Moving from church to church, I confess that I sometimes forget names and past prayer requests -- I wish my memory were better; I wish I could have super-deep relationships with each one, but I am limited. I do treasure each relationship, and I'm so grateful for all my loving brothers and sisters in all the churches. As far as authenticity and transparency are concerned, I have no problem sharing my fears and struggles, in person or from the pulpit. I have nothing to hide -- as dear readers of my blog know well! :)

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!

must preach the Word of God; I am constrained to. I think our generation has despised preaching -- we don't want to listen, and we don't want to preach. I think we've already seen the results of this manifested in a lack of Biblical mentality. In nearly every church I've been, less than ten percent of the congregation has regular personal devotions, and even fewer have read the whole Bible even once! Pastors habitually abdicate their preaching responsibility because it's too hard, then wonder why the church isn't unified in its teaching! No wonder our young people are floundering in lack of discernment, and the older generation is largely impotent to teach them -- without the authority of Scripture, they can only fall back on, "well, we've always done it this way!". This was the fall of the U.S. "Bible belt" over the past 50 years, and it's reached our Chinese churches now.

Sometimes it feels as though the only constant I have from week to week is the presence of Jesus and the unchanging truth of His Word. I have so much deeper to go into the Scriptures -- I want to learn Hebrew and Greek well; I want to be doing my quiet times in the original languages; I want to be memorizing whole books. I also want to be challenged regularly to communicate that truth to the believers and to the unsaved, in a way which is both faithful to the text and engaging and practical. This is my personal journey, which may take a lifetime to walk.

It's sometimes a lonely journey. We talk a lot about mentorship, but I'm not convinced discipleship is as simple as a small-groups sign-up sheet. Discipleship is not just meeting in a coffee-shop once a month; it's living and serving together. Those who would truly follow me would need to be willing to travel with me, and that's not easy. I don't think there are many people who have a similar ministry calling. I am cheered as I go from one body of believers to another, but my own journey may be one I have to walk alone for some time yet.

yes ... I think that if I find even one person to walk this path alongside me, that will be plenty.