Wilson W Chow
My sharing today is about the vision and mission of the earlier generation. I believe God is giving a greater vision to the second and third generations, at the same time renewing our original vision, so that the School will move on with the times and respond to new situations. A series of books came out in the 1970s-1980s entitled “I Believe”, such as “I Believe in the Church”, “I Believer in Evangelism”. I can best describe CGST’s vision as “I Believe in Theological Education”. Theological education is not just one among the church’s many ministries. It is the indispensable one which produces the manpower for the various ministries.
Some important beliefs of the CGST vision became fully developed when we put our mission into practice. I would like to share five aspects today:
First, CGST’s vision and mission is for theological education to serve the Church. Different from religious studies at universities, theological education aims to train leaders for the Church. Theological study is not an end in itself, nor is it a personal interest, but it is for equipping oneself for church ministries, building up God’s Church and extending His kingdom. Therefore, the success of theological education is measured by its impact and contributions to the Church. CGST was formed with the needs of China’s churches in mind, considering how they may be blessed. We began with training pastors and lay leadership and we have held on to this mission over the past 40 years, nurturing spiritual leaders for the Church.
Second, CGST’s vision and mission is to provide holistic training that integrates the academic, spiritual and practical. Four decades ago, when CGST started training university graduates, there were people who felt, and some even criticized, that since academic requirement was raised, we were ‘neglecting the spiritual’, as if the spiritual and the academic are diametrically opposite. And since Chinese churches traditionally emphasize on spirituality, this concern was understandable. Yet we believe that not only were the two not in opposition, they should be integrated into a whole. It is not a balance of equal portions, but a fully integrated reality. Dr. Philip Teng once said, “CGST is a testing ground for holistic integration. We cannot afford to fail.” Today the holistic approach is widely accepted in theological education.
Third, CGST’s vision and mission is to pursue excellence. This is a goal as well as a challenge. Excellence is not about comparing with other people or boasting to be the best seminary. That is not excellence but vanity. Excellence is about striving to do one’s best, not accepting mediocrity but offering our best to God, loving Him with all our heart, all our soul and all our strength. Excellence stems from our attitude, expressing in action. We seek to be conscientious in learning, truthful in spirituality, and faithful in ministering.
Fourth, our vision and mission needs to be both forward looking and pragmatic, fulfilling our dreams and ideals with practical involvement. CGST is a school, but it also represents a movement to advance theological training. We need to build up an institution as a visible sign of the movement, yet be alert to the ills of institutionalization, in terms of rigidity and aging. At the same time, we promote theological education beyond our own School with a wider perspective and concern, willing to learn from and work with others. Only so can we maintain our vitality. “Think global, act local” sums up our belief.
CGST has been an advocate for several movements in the past. Our very existence is a call to university graduates to dedicate themselves to God for the ministry. We began a Diploma Program for graduates and offered evening extension courses whereby theological studies are open to lay Christians. A theological training program for the grassroots called Jifu was designed and operated, with several classes of graduates, before it went independent and gave birth to another organization. Other creative ministries include theological training for homemakers, programs in Mandarin, and for those in the marketplace. Lately the Word of Life Bible Study movement encourages believers to study God’s Word and has been received with great enthusiasm. We must not be content with what we are doing. We need to be spiritually discerning to see the needs of the people and step forward as the Spirit moves and leads us.
Lastly, CGST’s vision and mission is to serve the Church in China. We are rooted in Hong Kong yet committed to serving China. The challenge is immense. We must have our own orientation and know where we stand. We are part of China but we are not in the mainland. We follow the One Country Two Systems policy. As a seminary, we wish to get in touch with our counterparts, that is, theological schools in China. Over the years, we have had opportunities to visit schools, have mutual exchange, attend conferences and have been invited to teach short term. All these help to build up friendship and trust. It is a blessing that we can share our experience and resources in theological education with the church leadership in China. It is exciting to receive qualified applications from China for our Mandarin programs, and we have accepted pastors and seminary teachers recommended by the national TSPM/CCC to come for further studies. We hope the door to serve remains open and our partnership continues.
Jesus said to His disciples, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12) May the second and third generations of teachers and students carry on our vision and continue with the mission. I also believe that you will do greater things.
(This is an excerpt of Rev. Dr. Wilson Chow’s talk at the ‘Chapel Service Celebrating CGST’s 40th Anniversary’ on September 15, 2015.)