Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Understanding Pastor Mark

Overnight, Pastor Mark has now become famous (or infamous) in Singapore but I'm sure many outside NCC (and those who just joined NCC) don't know his background and thus are likely to misunderstand his intentions in preaching his sermon. Please allow me to put Pastor Mark's sermon in perspective.

Pastor Mark was a staunch follower of Taoist beliefs and practices for years, and after he has become a Christian, the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to view those practices he followed with a different perspective from before. Pastor Mark was just sharing his personal experience through his new perspective with the congregation, and when he cracked those politically incorrect jokes, he was also laughing at himself.

Pastor Mark usually preaches in Mandarin and Hokkien in the Chinese ministry. He has only preached a few times in the English service, when appointed by the senior pastor to do so, and I remembered Ps Prince once saying that he wanted Pastor Mark to share his personal experience with us because of his background in idol worship which many of us in Singapore share, whether we were formerly idol worshipers too or come from a idol-worshiping family.

Pastor Mark's English sermon is actually a repeat of what he shared with his Chinese ministry congregation. He talks about his idol-worship days with his Chinese ministry congregation because there are many old folks in the congregation who have switched from decades of idol-worship to worshiping God. Pastor Mark takes pains to explain to them how worshiping God is different from the way they worshiped idols, and in the process also showed them the inconsistencies of their previous practices. I have heard Pastor Mark tell his Chinese ministry congregation many times "你们要了解" ie. "You all must understand". He wants them to understand the significance of what they are doing in the Christian faith, eg. prayer, tithing, offering, the Holy Communion, and not just blindly follow, otherwise they are just continuing their idol-worshiping ways but in a Christian setting.

It must be noted that something politically incorrect does not mean that it is incorrect. Most, if not all religions claim to be THE true way and by extension, all others are not. Therefore, while it is ok for a person to proclaim his religion is THE true way, it is politically incorrect for him to show that other religions are not.

I am not saying that it is ok for Pastor Mark to say things offensive to other religions because especially in multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore, we have to be sensitive to the feelings of others in order to maintain racial and religious harmony. However, I must confess that it did not cross my mind at that time that those jokes were offensive to other religions because I was not thinking about other religions while sitting in a church service, I was filtering what the pastor said only from a Christian point of view.

Most if not all of our pastors' preaching on Sundays in NCC is about Christ and his finished work. Ps Mark's sermon is a unique case because of his concern for the older folks in his Chinese ministry congregation. NCC and Pastor Mark have sincerely apologized and I'm sure all of us will learn from this lesson to be more politically savvy and not be so naive about the things we say here in multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore.

THE Christian pastor whose mocking remarks about Taoism were posted online last week issued a personal apology yesterday after calls from the Taoist Federation for him to show more contrition.
Last night, New Creation Church pastor Mark Ng, 48, issued a statement to The Straits Times for what he described as a 'serious indiscretion'.
He said: 'In my zeal to explain the various aspects of Chinese culture and traditions in the context of teachings in the Bible, I failed to observe the basic tenet of Christianity, which is founded on love for one and all.
'I have been reprimanded and counselled by my church leaders and would like to give everyone my full assurance that this will not happen again.
'I humbly appeal to those whom I've offended to forgive me for this serious indiscretion.'
His remarks came after Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye said that an apology posted on the New Creation church's website on Mr Ng's behalf on Sunday was not good enough.

17 June - Straits Times Breaking News:

'Now we are friends.'

New Creation pastor Mark Ng (left) hugging Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye yesterday. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

NOTHING beats a good hug when it comes to making up.
Taoist Federation chairman Tan Thiam Lye and New Creation pastor Mark Ng demonstrated this when Mr Ng showed up at the federation to apologise yesterday.
'With this, everything is yi bi gou xiao,' said Mr Tan, meaning Mr Ng's personal visit had wiped the slate clean between the two parties.
'It's good that we had a chance to talk face-to-face. Now we are friends.'
Mr Ng said: 'A wrong is a wrong. I have to take responsibility.'
The one-hour, private meeting held yesterday afternoon at the federation office in Bedok was initiated by New Creation. The request came after Mr Tan said on Tuesday that Mr Ng could do more to express contrition over remarks he made in 2008 that belittled Taoist beliefs.


Anonymous said...

stanley, i agree with you on this point. people who know Ps Mark will know where he is coming from. it's a tricky situation since there are visitors including nonbelievers attending church services. i wonder what would jesus do in such a setting. how wld he teach God's truth in a multi religious and multi racial country w/o causing racial tensions yet at the same time uphold the truth?

Chloe Ask said...

Oh no! Couple of Sundays ago, my pastor was making a joke about how he could not understand why some people spend more time and money with their dogs than their own children. He said, "The only good dog is a hot dog!" Will he be called up by the ISD?

Stanley Wong said...

Hi Chloe,
I think maybe the SPCA will call him up ;-)

Samuel said...

Hi Stanley, I like to share my perspective. I believe Pastor Mark and all of us (Christians) who laughed along overlooked the essence of The Gospel. It does not matter whether the sermon was preached in a church service or anywhere else, regardless of whether there is any Religious Act/Law or in any culture. Our conduct and words do not line up with The Gospel.

The Gospel is The Good News of the our Lord Jesus. We do not need to put down (not to mention make fun of) other forms of religion and practices in our sharing of The Gospel.

As Pastor Mark has spoken and was quoted in ST, "A wrong is a wrong.", let's not try to explain or "justify" the wrong. Let's also not try to "lessen" the wrong.

By The Grace of our Lord Jesus and His Wisdom, NCC leadership, including Pastor Mark, has responded, confessed and apologized. I believe we have all learnt and grown through this matter.

Best Regards,
Samuel Tay

Wendy Lam said...

I have been a Christian all my life as parents sent me to a Christian kindergarten.

So I laugh at the Tao-ist, Buddhist, Muslim etc jokes and get really offended when I hear some anti-Christ or Jesus jokes which were lewd and disgusting.

My mom recently converted to Christianity - Praise God - and she told me she was a little offended by Mark's jokes those years ago.

I remembered St Paul says that when he is with the gentiles, he behaves like the gentiles and when he is with the Jews, he behaves like the Jews so as not to stumble.

I suppose in multi religious Singapore, we should follow Paul's example and really be sensitive so we don't stumble,

I think Pastor Mark's reconciliation is a superb piece of Wisdom that can only be SPIRIT led. The matter blew over because he had the sincerity and the love to embrace the right thing to do and do it. When we have Jesus, we really have Wisdom.

Unknown said...

Ps Mark's sermon has no Biblical context at all, not to mention abt exposition & exegesis ch by ch, verse by verse & word by word.