Let’s be honest, how hard is it to maintain a monthly newsletter? You just need to type up a summary of your month, give a bit of commentary on the things that you were up to, and lo-and-behold, a monthly newsletter. Well, at least that is what I thought when I first began my internship.
In my February post, I wrote enthusiastically about all the things that I was engaged in and was looking forward to consistently keeping all my supporters updated. So when the 1st of April came and it was my time to write a post on March, I found myself unable to. And when as days went by, I kept trying to make time to sit down to put pen to paper (or finger on keyboard) yet for one reason or another, it just did not happen. I’ve realised that this is a manifestation of two problems: firstly, so much has happened through March and April. Secondly (and closely related to my previous point), I haven’t taken the adequate amount of time to process everything. I trust that this is all part of my learning process, because I’m well aware that there is not one day in a pastor’s life where there is ‘nothing’ going on.
Because there is so much to cover, I have my activities from March – April in point form, and if you’re particularly interested in something, you can find more information by scrolling down to read from the subheading.
- My 23rd Birthday
- Preaching from Exodus
- Richard Johnson Lecture
- ‘Heavenly Song’ – 天歌
- City to City Pastors and Church Planters Conference
- Citizens Conference + Reason for God
- RICE Easter Event
- Wollongong Mission
- Weddings (Matt + Shiqi, Jono + Mel)
- Preaching – ‘The Difference Jesus Brings to Gen Y’
- SSEC (Society for the Study of Early Christianity) Conference
- SALT (Sunday Afternoon Leaders Training)
If at this point you think ‘great, good to know what Elliot has been up to’ but you don’t want to read anymore, please know that I really appreciate your support. It has been a fantastic two months. God has given me amazing opportunities to serve in different platforms, and it is so important for me to tell you that your support is so vital, and what I do is made possible by your prayer and financial partnership. Thank you so much.
On the 9th of March, I preached from Exodus 5-6. By contrasting Pharaoh and God, I attempted to show how Jesus is not merely unlike an oppressive tyrant like Pharaoh, but he also gives us freedom from sin through His death and resurrection.
On the 27th of April, I preached a topical sermon as part of our ‘Jesus Brings’ evangelistic campaign. I used Hebrews 2:14-15 as a launching pad to speak about ‘The Difference Jesus Brings to Gen-Y.’ After an analysis of Gen-Y, I attempted to show how the gospel can change the way Gen-Ys live. I showed how the mottos ‘YOLO’ and ‘FOMO’ were fundamentally about a fear of death, and of course, Jesus’ victory over death gives us freedom to live for meaning beyond self-satisfaction. This sermon was particularly challenging not just because it required a lot more cultural analysis, but also because I had to preach the same sermon at both the Mandarin and English service. Although I didn’t have to preach in Mandarin (our Mandarin pastor translated for me), I had to change my tone because of the more mature congregants.
Both sermons are accessible through our church website at http://www.southwestccc.org/acts11/
Conferences and Events
March and April were two big months of conferences and events. There was the Richard Johnson Lecture where Professor Miroslav Volf spoke on the importance of bringing the Christian Faith into public discourse.
The second was the series of what I call ‘Keller-Kons’. Sydney was privileged to have Dr Tim Keller to speak at a pastors and church planters conference, young adults conference, and evangelistic event. I’ve been following Keller’s stuff for awhile now and to be honest, nothing he taught at the conferences was anything new. But to hear him live and see how he does what he does was amazing.
Next is the RICE Easter Event that me and my friend (Dom Cheung) helped organize (I say help because there were so many more people involved in the process, like Ruth Lee and Steve Chong). While St Andrew’s Cathedral hosted the Royal Family, RICE hosted a different royal family: Peter, Michael, and Dave Jensen. They were a phenomenal combo. Each of them brought something different to the stage, ranging from the incredible scholarly apologetic defence by Michael, an engaging sermon by Peter, and a convicting testimony by Dave. Speaking to people after the event, I found out that everyone had a ‘favourite’ speaker, that is, one of the Jensens particularly spoke to them. Many people came to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour at the end of the night, and that is always something to rejoice about. Praise God!
Last of the conferences in March-April is the annual SSEC conference, and this year’s theme was ‘Christ or Caesar: Render unto Caesar’? This was my first academic conferences, and I was pretty nervous leading up to it because I was afraid that I wouldn’t understand most of the presentations. That was in fact the case, and I’m still processing a lot of what was said on the day. However, out of the 8 presentations, one in particular stood out for me. Incidentally, it was the by the keynote speaker Professor Brigitte Kahl from Union Theological Seminary with the presentation titled ‘Reclaiming What is Not Caesar’s: Paul’s Theology of Cross and Justification Through the Lens of Roman Trophies’. You may not be very interested about it based on the title, but I trust that your mind will be as equally blown as mine if you were there for it. I won’t pretend like I understood everything she said, but she drew amazing parallels between the cross and Roman Trophies, and showed how Paul effectively subverted images of superficial victory (Roman Trophies) to ultimate victory found in the cross of Christ. I look forward to reading her book from which a lot of the presentation is based on…sometime…In case you’re interested, it is titled ‘Galatians Re-imagined (Paul in Critical Contexts)‘.
On the Thursday before Good Friday, a group of us went along to the University of Wollongong to join the FOCUS ministry to do some pamphlet distribution to invite students to come along to their special service. The turn out on the evening was great (see photo), and Richard Chin gave an amazing gospel presentation, drawing on a lot of his personal experiences, which really caused people to envy the hope he has in Christ.
A few key things are coming up, and I’d especially appreciate prayer for the following:
- This coming 2 months is assignment period so there are a stack of essays waiting for my attention. So please pray that I will be able to complete those diligently
- I’ve been given the opportunity to teach simple self defence to our church’s ‘Young at Heart’ group. That will be incredibly interesting, so pray that it will be fun and beneficial for the group. For those interested, I will be teaching them the suplex and breaking bricks with our foreheads.
- Continual meet ups with guys – discipleship meet ups these past few months have been a little challenging with so many activities throwing the calendar out the window. So please pray that momentum will be regained in this next month.
- I’ve also been given the opportunity to interpret at Sydney Mandarin Christian Church’s Combined Service where Rev Dr Peter Wongso will be preaching. It’s an incredible honour to share the platform with such a legend, so please pray that I will be able to interpret his sermon accurately (he doesn’t have a script – so please pray that…I’ll be able to wing it with him)
- I’ll be preaching on the 8th of June from Matthew 19. My parents will be there for this one, so there is a lot of added pressure especially having my dad in the audience. Tough to preach in front of a guy who teaches preaching at seminary – I vividly remember we were visiting a church once and as the pastor was preaching on stage, my dad pulled a pen and paper to scribble notes. At the end of the 40 minute sermon, I realized that my dad had written his own sermon based on the same passage with even clearer points. I hope he doesn’t do that for mine.
Once again, thank you all very much for your support. And that’s all for now. Until next time!