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The Full View of God's Church

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When I was in seminary, a professor challenged us future pastors to view the church as a hospital rather than a museum.  Too often, he was seeing churches as a place where people go to look and see all the “good” the church had done in the past.  But in a museum, you aren’t allowed to touch anything.  He wanted to challenge his students and future church leaders to view the church more like a hospital - a place where broken sinners need to come to find healing.
 
Through my time in ministry, I’ve appreciated this constant reminder to focus on the lost as Jesus came to seek and save.  However, the teaching needs to expand beyond this: the church can’t just act as a hospital because once someone is healed from their brokenness, their transformed being in Christ needs to know and understand what comes next.  The church needs to embrace its function as a MUSEUM (acknowledged history), HOSPITAL (healing), SCHOOL (teaching, learning, mentoring), and SENDING AGENCY (equipping and sending people).
 
MUSEUM – I just celebrated the 40th anniversary of Wheaton Chinese Alliance Church where I had the privilege to serve while I was in Chicago.  St Louis Chinese Gospel Church, where I served prior to coming to Central, recently celebrated 90 years of God’s faithfulness.  Now, I come to Central Presbyterian Church, going strong with 174 years of history.  In church membership class, the material had this quote, “the more we know about who we were, the better we can understand who we are and where we are going”.  Although it is important to know our past, it is even more significant to commemorate how God is always present, no matter the circumstance.  We honor and cherish God’s consistent faithfulness to us and therefore, can hold secure knowing He will continue to be there through all circumstances.  As in times of crisis, we also remember the many blessings that God has given us.  It is not to say hardships are lessened, ignored or forgotten, but rather how they have built us up and challenged us to seek, to change what is not working. God never changes but how can we make sure we are faithful and also communicate God’s constancy in ways the changing world can understand and know.
 
HOSPITAL – Churches need to be seriously challenged with the ability to love people and help them find healing and new life in Christ’s sacrifice.  I have been in beautiful churches, but it becomes all too easy to prioritize “prettiness.”  God reminds us that it is not the building but His people that make the church.  And to also remember, as Ravi Zaccharias shares, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but dead people alive.”  The church needs to help the lost and broken realize the spiritual death that is in their lives, through practical needs then spiritual ones.

SCHOOL – When I say school, I know people have different reactions.  I hope what comes to mind is a place for intentional teaching, learning, and mentoring. In this, there is an emphasis of practical application and fully internalizing God’s Word where it is lived out in our lives.  It also has to be a place where there is true mentorship where we walk along with the next generation to help them grow and learn from life experience but also realize how much we, ourselves, can learn from them.
 
SENDING AGENCY – I remember preaching a series on the Great Commission and by the exit doors it said, “You are now entering into the Mission Field”.  The church needs to see itself as sending God’s people into the world to share the Gospel through word and deed.  I recall hearing of churches that would commission all professions to go from the church and be God’s light as teachers, lawyers, doctors, and stay at home moms.  Can we continue to be a church that sends people well, not just missionaries to many parts of the lost world abroad, but also right here in our community?
 
One last important thing: there will be different seasons in the church when each of these things are emphasized more than others.  However for the church to be healthy, we must never neglect being the HOSPITAL.  The church needs to be a place for the broken to find healing in God.  When people are hurting, people need to know that the church is a place where they can come and find healing … A sanctuary, where we dispel “prayer gossip”, self-righteousness and judgement. A place people wantto come because they know they will be loved and cared for. May God continue to humble us and guide us.

Posted by Ben Tzeng

Belonging & Believing

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I hope to document my journey of integrating at Central Presbyterian Church as a way to see how God is helping me as the Pastor of Evangelism and Community. It will be a way that I can listen and experience more of what God wants in leading the church to be one that continues to encourage people to come BELONG to his family and church. The church tag line is Know, Be Known and Make Known.  I am called to this church to make sure that we strive for people to come and be known. You have an important part to play in God’s family and church here at Central. The way God has made you and shaped you brings so much to his Kingdom and church. I hope you will be encouraged by my story, and join me in celebrating how God weaves together all of our stories into the deep history of Central. With a strong sense of togetherness and calling from God, I believe God will lead us to go and make known who he is to the community around us.  It will be a challenge to share the good news of Christ to those that we come in contact with, whether in or outside of the church.  I will strive to help us learn what it looks like to trust God in helping people go on that journey to BELIEF.

First Entry – 2/12/18

From 3 to 35 | My First Staff Meeting at Central 

At my last two churches, all-staff meetings were typically 3 or 4 people gathering together. On my first day at Central, this was clearly not the case. No longer a small meeting of a few, but a really big meeting of 30-plus. Was this something completely new and different? Yes. Was it strange to be in a room of people that I just met and learned their names? Definitely. Did I feel uncomfortable in this brand new environment? No, absolutely not!

Personally, I have always wanted staff meetings to be a time for the staff to share and be open with what is going on in our lives and ministries. It is a time to share, pray, and talk. Although the organizational parts of staff meetings will always be important, I have always felt that the most important thing is connecting with each other and knowing each other as we do ministry together.

Entering into my first all-staff meeting with the rest of the Central staff, I felt extremely comfortable where God has placed me. We enjoyed worship and praise together, and Pastor Clay led devotional that was clearly encouraging transparency and openness of what we each were dealing with in ministry. This led to staff members sharing what was sincerely on their hearts, both the positives and challenges in their ministries. This environment is what I was truly hoping for to be able to build relationships with ministry partners, working together as one, to impact the Kingdom.

I’ve been impacted deeply by God’s calling to be here at Central. It isn’t something that was quick, painless, or easy. In fact, it was quite the opposite, seeming more like a long journey that at times was excruciatingly painful (hard saying goodbye to close friends, church members, a context that we were so familiar with). But one thing was for sure, we knew God had called, so we had to trust God by faith and obey and “go," leaving behind our comfort zones. But how reassuring that God has given us a place where we find comfort with Him and God’s people to do His work going forward.

Posted by Ben Tzeng

Loving & Seeking the Lost

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You may notice two lovable-yet-mischievous guests in the backyard of the missions house. Those are our dogs, Tory and Reggie. If you are a dog lover, you know they become part of your family once they enter your home, and these particular two hold a special place in our hearts. Whether they are on their best behavior or getting into mischief, our love for them runs deep and is unconditional. Mostly.

Reggie is a Brittany Spaniel and our resident “Houdini,” seemingly able to find his way into or out of just about anywhere. Monday evening he somehow managed to push and climb his way out of the backyard and disappeared into the Davis Place neighborhood. Our family began a desperate search, but after several hours and no Reggie, we gave up for the night, but continued to pray the Lord would bring him back to his family. Was he ok? Will we ever see him again? Our hearts were broken, and it was a difficult night.

It occurs to me that this is a powerful picture of how our heavenly Father feels when we go astray. We are precious to him, dear members of his  family. When we run away it breaks his heart, but he will not stop his relentless pursuit to bring us back home. He is the faithful Shepherd.

This week I begin serving as your Senior Pastor, and we’re beginning a study of  Isaiah. Isaiah offers a snapshot of God’s never-ending pursuit of us as our Father and our Shepherd. Time and again, the people of Israel turned their backs against the Lord, but time and again, the Lord pursued them and called them to relationship. We may climb our way out of God’s proverbial yard, and think we have found the good life in our new found “freedom.” But in reality, we put ourselves in grave danger when we do so.

Isaiah also boldly reminds us that the Lord calls us back for a purpose. God wants to save and protect us, but he also calls us to be part of his mission to rescue a lost world. He invites us to sense the burden he feels for a world that is full of pain and in rebellion against him, as we once were. This is God’s mission, and I wonder what role that he has for Central to play in it in the years ahead? As we begin this new chapter of ministry together, I am overjoyed and full of anticipation as to what God has in store for us.

It is a great relief to share with you that a “good shepherd” found Reggie and brought him to a local shelter, safe and sound. He is home again, and we could not be happier. The Lord God Almighty rejoices over us, and we can only imagine his great joy when we return to him. May that joy be our strength as we join him in the mission that he has for us in the years ahead.

With humble gratitude for each of you,

Pastor Clay

Posted by Clay Smith

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