Contributed by Preacher Timothy Ho (BBPC) and Kenneth Goh (ARPC) This year’s English Presbytery retreat was a unique one, as it was held virtually over a Zoom video call on two consecutive evenings (14 & 15 Sept 2020) due to the Covid-19 situation. The highlight was the two talks given by Rev. Dr. Wayne Johnson, who is Provost of Trinity International College, and also an Associate Professor of Biblical and Pastoral Theology. It was a pleasant surprise to find out he previously lived in Singapore for some time, lecturing at Singapore Bible College, and thus is familiar with Singapore culture. The theme of the retreat was “Ministry in Light of the Coming Kingdom”, and it was a timely topic given the global pandemic we’re in.
Dr. Johnson’s talks were very aligned with his areas of expertise in biblical and pastoral theology, combining the two to give us theological and practical perspectives. His first talk was titled “Come Lord Jesus!: Deepening Our Desire for the Coming Kingdom”. Dr. Johnson started with the Bible’s storyline as the foundation, with the return of Jesus as the motivation for Christian faithfulness and ministry. He then laid out the challenges on why Christians are indifferent to Jesus’ second coming, such as misconceptions about heaven, worldly pursuits, and the lack of lament for the broken world we’re in.
Emphasis was laid on living with tension between our lament of the broken world we live in and our hope for the renewed creation to come upon Christ’s return. Keeping in view the New Creation, where there is a renewed physical world (a la the garden of Eden) and our bodies being glorified, should give us motivation for how we live and minister to others now.
Additionally, we live with all of life’s challenges and injustices knowing that Christ will return to judge the world, make things right, and fully defeat Satan and the enemies of God. Vindication belongs to Him - the faithful, meek and poor will share in the glory of the King.
There was a Q&A session after the talk in which Dr. Johnson fielded some pastoral and eschatological questions, ending with a response for us to be faithful, to be ready for Christ’s return to overcome the mindset that Christ will likely not return in our lifetime.
On the second day of the retreat, Dr. Johnson focused on the topic of ministry. He explained how understanding the Kingdom of God will dramatically affect the way we serve. There is a longing to make right the brokenness that we experience every day. And the power and hope of the gospel of the Kingdom of God will be the key to this brokenness. Dr. Johnson focused on five categories of ministry which is shared in summary.
To those who are grieving over the death and loss of their loved ones, the “already but not yet” Kingdom of God offers them hope and comfort. Death has lost its sting. There is life eternal and the trust in the promise of Christ’s return brings comfort because of the resurrection and hope of reunion of loved ones in Jesus.
To those who are physically suffering, there is hope in the glory of God. Sickness and diseases are to be expected in this broken physical world. People will continue to experience physical suffering. We enter into their lament and pray for their healing. Yet at the same time, we do not condemn them when they are not healed as if they do not have enough faith. They are a solemn reminder that the Kingdom of God is not fully here yet. When Christ comes, He will make all things whole and perfect and the promise of the glory of God will not be worth comparing with the present sufferings.
To the persecuted, we share in their sufferings and lament with them. Their work and service for Christ ought to be praised and rewarded, not opposed and persecuted. But the world is against Christ and His servants. Persecution ought to be expected because the world is still not yet the Kingdom God. But one day it will be. And so, for the persecuted we are called to love our enemies and trusting in God’s justice instead.
To the lost, the wicked and the backslidden, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not only good news of deliverance and salvation, it is also a grave warning for them to repent. We ought to lament that there are still people who have not heard the gospel. Many have not yet bowed their knees in worship and given faith in Jesus Christ. These remind us of the urgency of the work that Christ has left us to do before He returns.
To those who are discouraged in ministry and serving the Lord, we are encouraged to know that our reward is great in heaven. When Christ returns, He will commend and reward His servants. Our labor is not in vain. It will one day come as we wait patiently and serve faithfully. Our reward will be more than what we have sacrificed and lost. We ought to be motivated by the promised reward that Christ Jesus will give when He returns.
From this brief summary, we can see how rich the Kingdom of God is and at the same time how impactful and transformative it has on ministry. This ought to encourage us to further study and dive deep into this teaching and theology of the Kingdom of God and allow it to inform and guide us when we serve in ministry.