A Perspective of the Mission Ministry at ACEM

By Rev. Simon Wong

 

Under the guidance of God, Rev. John Kao accepted a call from CNEC to serve as a missionary and plant new churches in Toronto. His pioneering work in January 1975 led to the establishment of Toronto Chinese Community Churches (TCCC). Rev. Kao has great passion for missions. He set up a missions offering in the first year. Four years later, the first Annual Missions Conference was held. The congregation was encouraged to be involved in global evangelization and gave to the missions fund. Young people joined short term missions. Some became missionaries; others dedicated their lives to God and became pastors of local churches, with missions as important and integral parts of their ministry.

As the number of Chinese Community Churches grows, so does the need to organize, resulting in the Association of Chinese Evangelical Ministries (ACEM). In 2011, twelve ACEM churches sent representatives to be part of the ACEM Missions Department. The main objectives are setting missions philosophy, objectives, strategies, targets, plans and budgets.  The Missions Department also allocates funding distribution, promotes missions education, coordinates cooperation among churches, and supports missions projects and workers in different people groups and locations.

 

Trials and Setbacks

As a non-denominational organization, ACEM has no traditions of its own. It has to develop its ministries from scratch. Christians in our 12 churches come from different backgrounds, countries of origin and cultures. Even our pastors may come from other denominations with different traditions. In addition, different languages – English, Cantonese, Mandarin - often lead to very different perspectives. For example, each may have its own definition to the question “What is Mission?” In the past, it may refer to cross cultural evangelism in distant, untouched places, with the church supporting overseas missionaries and their work. Nowadays many different ethnic groups live in our communities and become our neighbours. What is local mission? Missionaries now would not need to go overseas in order to do cross cultural evangelism. Will ACEM support such a ministry? According to tradition, this does not meet the criteria of being a missionary. Financial support would be minimal, if any. It is even harder to fundraise for local coworkers who provide administrative support for overseas missionaries.

Occasionally a certain special need of a church may lower the priority of missions there. In recent years, many believers shift the emphasis to the needs of the society, and to the issue of social justice. Not only do they address these issues in their local communities, but also in missions fields to spread the gospel and care for the needy at the same time.  However these are different points of view on a variety of fields. Holding to extremes will easily create friction and disharmony.

Traditional overseas missionaries serve cross culturally. They have to adapt to a new culture, language and living environment. When a country refuses the entry of missionaries, then sending missionaries as tentmakers would become an alternative. Furthermore, the issue of sending missionaries by a professional agency or non-professional ones is real. It is common practice for a church to send their missionaries through an established missions organization because of the existence of a mature structure for training, counseling, support and administration. Nowadays, many Chinese churches eagerly participate in missions. The need of establishing a Chinese Missions Organization is mentioned frequently. In what role should ACEM play?  Though we have tried, the road ahead is difficult due to our inexperience and limited resources.

Within ACEM, there are English only, Mandarin only, and tri-lingual churches. Each has its unique characteristics but all must deal with the cultural and language differences between immigrant and local-born coworkers. Their diverse backgrounds may lead to different priorities in their ministries. If handled well, they will complement one another. If not, the result can be disastrous to all.

 

Challenges and Harmony

For more than 30 years, Rev. Kao has emphasized greatly that senior pastors of ACEM churches must be advocates of missions. They must set a good example and follow the teaching of “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. Rev. Kao has a very clear vision and an almost unstoppable passion for missions. He has set a wonderful example for us to follow. “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing…pass it on”. Our leaders and co-workers have followed this conviction for missions for many years. If this vision and teaching are embedded into the ACEM church growth genetic codes (DNA), surely the new churches will also emphasize on missions and giving.

In addition, it is very important for church leaders to broaden their views on global evangelism. This is instrumental to avoid closing ourselves up. ACEM encourages church pastors and leaders to participate in different world evangelical conventions by providing funding and support to attend these meetings. In 2006 more than 50 delegates attended the 7th Chinese Congress on World Evangelism in Macao.

The Missions Department of ACEM is composed of teams of delegates from all the ACEM churches. They set up policies and guidelines, such as, a newly appointed pastor has to serve in a short term missions trip for one month in the first year, and pastors are encouraged to lead short term teams periodically. Meanwhile our missions philosophy emphasizes participation. Each individual church may choose its own missions project and fields. For example, the Toronto Christian Community Church has sent their mission teams to Panama for many years. They worked together with the local church visiting small towns and leading many people to Christ. In 2011, they helped established a new church in Panama. The North York Chinese Community Church put their focus on the First Nation people in Quebec. Each summer they send young people to help organize and lead Summer Camps there.

In order to raise the interest of and promote further education in missions ministry, ACEM has financially supported brothers and sisters in ACEM churches to join in long term or short term missions trips regardless of the contribution of resources and funding from their home churches.

Every year ACEM organizes an annual missions conference. The pastors and delegates from different ACEM churches participate in planning and executing this conference. Our continuous cooperation not only brings out the joy of serving in missions, it also fosters our love and unity. ACEM also conducts a bi-monthly pastoral fellowship, an annual retreat and regularly scheduled lunches with our pastors. Through different communication platforms, ACEM works to build better relationships among church congregations. Weekly news and our publication, “ACEM Monthly” are distributed to all the churches to enhance communication. There is also an ACEM Conference, which is held twice a year for delegates representing each of our churches, to decide on important matters related to ACEM. Through God’s grace, our churches continue to grow and new ones are planted. The number of believers grow steadily bringing excitement and encouragement to all.  It is an honour to be a part of ACEM.


Making Breakthroughs, Advancing Further

ACEM has no interest to dominate over individual churches. Our role is to establish a long term relationship, provide direction and support. Hence we must look at the big picture, be generous and flexible, not petty on little things. ACEM recognizes that for our churches to be connected, we must build a firm foundation based on mutual trust and love. The degeneration of our foundation is usually not due to huge difficulties or enemies; rather it is the silent erosion of Satan such as loss of faith in ACEM leadership, questioning on the direction of ACEM or the loss of love among the churches. We need wisdom and discernment in working with each other.

As for the future, ACEM must continue to seek breakthroughs in order to make advancement. If circumstances prevail, it may be necessary to make some minor changes in our missions policy every three or five years, and major changes in 10 years or so. Recently we have reviewed the framework of our Missions policy. The first step of restructuring has been approved. The next step will include the assisting of member churches to actively participate in missions in the next 2-3 years. In order to gain ACEM’s support, missions project will require the sponsorship of at least one member church. Financial contribution alone is not sufficient.

The missions ministry at ACEM continues to move in the direction of the “P.E.A.C.E.” plan, working to attain a healthy balance of spreading the gospel and caring for the need of people in our missions fields. Richmond Hill Christian Community Church is in the process of transforming and establishing a systematic missions training institute. In the past two years, 40 people have completed training as lay missions leaders.  At present an additional 30 people are in training. In time, the result will be even more encouraging.

(The Author is ACEM General Director)

•    Translated by Anthony Pang

Last modified on Monday, 05 June 2017 09:11

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