I am very grateful for those who wrote in to tell me I am not delusional. There seems to be a general consensus that the updated mission of Grace@Work—“Transforming Lives through Friendship and Scripture”— is a viable ministry.
However, it is also obvious that there are still many who are not sure what Grace@Work does.
“I visited your website and still am not quite sure what you do exactly.”
Exactly, Grace@Work seeks to carry out her mission through writing, teaching, and spiritual friendship. In other words, we are committed to carrying out our mission through:
1. The Written Word 2. The Spoken Word 3. The Relational Word
1. The Written Word
“…I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” Jude v3b HCSB
Many are familiar with the ministry of Grace@Work because they are on our mailing list and receive the weekly ecommentaries. The ecommentaries attempt to make sense of the struggles of life from a biblical perspective.
There are now about 1,600 on the official Grace@Work Yahoo mailing list. I know that many people forward the ecommentaries to their friends. So we are looking at 16,000? who read the ecommentaries weekly worldwide. And since things on the net have a long life span, the ecommentaries continue to make their rounds in cyberspace.
The earlier ecommentaries have also been compiled into a book, ‘Making Sense’. A new compilation should be out later this year. In hard copy, the ecommentaries touch the lives of those who are not online.
A few “proper” books have also been planned, touching on topics that I have struggled with, topics like leadership, life management, preaching in a post modern world, and spiritual disciplines.
In addition I also write for/to newspapers and magazines, both secular and Christian. This usually takes the form of letters to the editor and short articles.
We are living in a visual world, but there is still power in the written word. A quick survey of history will reveal that major movements and revolutions have resulted from books and tracts. Note for example, the Reformation, the Communist Revolution, the rise of Nazism, just to name a few. And of course Christianity itself is based on God?s written Word, the Bible.
Writing in a computer age means that our use of language must communicate to the modern reader. Shorter paragraphs, more evocative language, the proper use of humour, more autobiographical sharing, help us to connect.
The truths of God never change but each generation must struggle afresh as how to help the contemporary reader/hearer see/hear.
2. The Spoken Word
“Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2
I also do a fair amount of preaching and teaching. Most Sundays find me in a pulpit, either in my own church or in other churches.
I think that deep down I am a preacher at heart. Preaching takes so much out of me. Yet it is the ministry that gives me the greatest joy.
Somehow, I feel the joy of the Lord upon me when I stand up before a group and preach the Word. I preach the Word with passion. That is how I am hot-wired. I also happen to believe passionately in the things I preach about.
I understand Frederick Buechner when he says:
“If preachers make no attempt to flesh out these words (biblical truths) in terms of everyday human experience (maybe even their own) but simply repeat with variations the same old formula week after week, then the congregation might as well spend Sunday morning at home with the funnies.”
I guess I was always a decent preacher. But I believe that what I have gone through in the past ten years have made me a more compassionate one.
I am grateful for this because a preacher must not only know the Word. He must also know a little about the complexities of life if he or she is going to be any kind of bridge between the Word and the lives of real people.
Apart from church services I also speak at camps, retreats, seminars, and conferences. Increasingly I find myself appreciating the power of small groups.
Speaking at small groups where there are opportunities for questions and responses seem to me to be a better learning experience, for hearer and speaker alike.
3. The Relational Word
“…we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother nurtures her own children. We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7b-8
In recent years I have realized that lives are changed most powerfully in the context of relationships. Of course I have only rediscovered what was always staring us in the face in the Scriptures, and what many have known all along.
Jesus did many things but He poured His life into a group of twelve who He called to be with Him. His disciples. His friends.
Perhaps my fresh appreciation of changing lives through spiritual friendship came as I found myself taking on the role of a single parent, nurturing my two boys.
I confess that the parenting role did not come easy to me. But God cornered me into it. After all there was no mum to pass the boys to.
My own journey in single parenting moved from fear, to acceptance, to joy. It paralleled my growing conviction that lives are best changed in the context of ongoing intentional spiritual friendships.
When I use the term “spiritual friendship” it does not mean a friendship that is apart from the realities of daily life. Indeed all ministries must want to see our lives in Christ lived out in the arena of daily life.
The term spiritual friendship is a reminder that the friendship is built around Christ and His agenda, and not around, for example, a common love for the Arsenal Football Club.
I often use the term spiritual friendship interchangeably with terms like discipling, mentoring, and spiritual mentoring. Of course these terms all have different origins and different nuances in meaning. But they all have one feature in common — a commitment to see lives change through intentional relationships.
Indeed it is only in the context of relationships that truth and life are seen together. Paul reminds Timothy of what he has learnt and also who he learnt it from (2 Timothy 3:14). Paul himself points Timothy to his teaching and his life (2 Timothy 3:10-11).
Someone could be a great preacher, or an exciting writer, but may not be living out what they preach or write. But when we get close to someone, we see if they are actually living out what they teach/write.
Therefore spiritual friendship requires a high degree of transparency. When you allow people to get close to you, they will see your real self, warts and all. They will see that we are all under the judgement of the Word. They will see that we are all still journeying, and that none of us have arrived.
I suspect this is why few are open to the ministry of spiritual friendship. They prefer to minister from a distance, where they can continue to project an image of strength.
I have come to believe however, that it is in the embrace of our common brokenness that real relationships are formed. It is in the embrace of our common need for grace that forms the basis for us to help one another follow the real Discipler/Mentor, Jesus.
I therefore run a number of NextUp groups. These are small groups that are targeted at helping their group members get a clearer picture of their vocational calling.
In addition I have a lot of ad hoc spiritual-friendship contacts. I just commit myself to be a listening ear to these dear folks, to help them discern what the Lord may be doing in their lives, and to encourage them.
So, what exactly does Grace@Work do? We carry out our mission through Writing, Speaking, and Spiritual Friendship.
Therefore, the ministry of Grace@Work can be summarized thus:
Our Mission: Transforming Lives through Friendship and Scripture
Our Strategies: Writing, Teaching, and Spiritual Friendship
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan