Thursday, September 17, 2009

The BGR reviewed

I was really interested to read about our Hope BGR policies in the the comments section and thought I should share something on my perspective.

I suppose every organisation will have their policies and guideline as to how christian should court each other. Unfortunately, though many Churches have attempted to set guidelines and steps on how to have the ideal courtship, the world is a less than ideal place and to try and put human guidelines of dos and dont's we sometimes add more burden on every courting couples.

On hindsight, we can see the wisdom of God, God did not set any binding methods or his ideal courtship program in the bible . God spoke alot on many other issues but apparently dating or courtship is not in the top most important priority. You must wonder why... maybe God realise that it is almost impossible to have a perfect step or ideal courtship.

I think we should take a leaf out of the bible and provide principles instead of methods to dating. Songs of Solomon actually have great insights on how to find your true love.

So what is most church doing wrong ? Well, we often try to give many do's and donts like I know in Hope we should be chaperon on our first date. Or we should try to go out in group dates rather than single dates, we have to be home by 10pm and please call your shepherd when you are home. Now I have been in Hope 17 years and more .. and have seen countless people leave because people are so disillusioned.

The BGR method in the shepherding structure in reality often do not work. Out of every 100, my estimate is only 1 or 2 couple ever gone through the full courtship process. Now let me share some problems which i have faced and maybe we can identify why this system is not ideal

1. How often if you share who you have an interest in, that your shepherd may also be interested in ? The worst to find out is the person you like, your shepherd is also interested... so what should a shepherd do ??? ... I have seen this episode.. and wont elaborate.. but i am sure we can all imagine...

2. How often this happens - you share your interest with your shepherd and in the end ... almost the whole leadership knows who you like.. and when you sit close to "the" person the whole leadership starts to look over you.

3. You share your interest and your leader prematurely let the cat out of the bag... and the other person know. and things becomes awkward.... and wierd....

4. You share with your shepherd your interest and your leader ask you to pray and tells you he is not the one for you.. granted that some cases the person is a new christian but.... seriously... isn't shepherd row just to guide.. and not to play God ? Even i don't know what is going to happen 1 second from now...

5. How often have you attended a BGR seminar and the summary is what you should "not do" and that we all need to keep waiting. You keep getting examples of people who is willing to wait... often times.. somone in their late 30s.... will come up and share the joy of singlehood...seriously.. i dont if i should be happy for them or feel pity for them...

I am sure many people will have faced similar issues, i have seen it, heard about it and experience it. And all i can say from experience is, we should start to teach people how to find the perfect partner and what to look out for in a good partner.

No relationship will be perfect on the first go, I must admit there is always issues we need to deal, and not every one is mature, but we MUST learn to trust people and not have the "they will sin" attitude... towards every relationship. We need to learn to bless to encourage, in Hope i don't know if it is just me but when i first came to Hope i though relationship is a sin.... only later when i grew up, i learnt that it is not true....

We do need to start trusting people, encourage Godly relationship through reinforcing the positives and also allow relationship to develop naturally... We are not God and therefore should not do "arrange marriage". And tell our sheep who they should and should not see.

Hopefully things in the BGR area will change soon


John said...

Hi Eagle_Eye,

Some of the points you posted are hilarious.

On the serious note, yes, I completely agree with you. Hope BGR method is too controlling. In fact, it should not be at all. A sheep need not ask his/her shepherd who they can date. A sheep should not tell his/her shepherd when they come back from a date.

The shepherd is not the sheeps' parents. Even parents are not that strict and controlling. This is like saying to the sheep who you can and cannot marry. In fact, this is what happens. If a top leader loves somebody who is just a low level leader, they can be told not to marry because of leadership level incompatibility. I have seen this happen. I have also seen couples being discouraged from going together because they are different race. This is so ridiculous! No wonder people outside who hear these things conclude that Hope is a cult.

I think principles are what needs to be taught like -
1. Christian need to marry a Christian.
2. Sex is for after marriage.

Some guidelines also need to be taught eg.
1. Compatibility of personality.
2. Money issues.
3. Communication issues.
4. Cultural differences.
5. Respecting the other person that you date.
6. Getting to know the other person as a friend first.
7. Thinking with the head as well as the heart.

These principles and guidelines need to be taught in the form of preaching or seminar not by the shepherd and it should be taught by a matured person who has been through these issues before, not by someone inexperienced.

If the couple wishes, they can go to the pastor or district pastor for counselling - not the shepherd!!!

I believe parents play a role too. In Hope, they seem to forget that all these young people have parents who love and are interested in the welfare of their kids. Hope seems to try to put the kids parents out of the picture. True, if the parents are not Christians, then it is harder but they will still have moral values and the parents should be respected as well.

If the parents are Christians, then it is even more important that parents have an input into their children's "love life".

I have spoken to all my kids regarding this area. What I do is take them out when they are about 14-15 years old just them and me, one on one and speak to them of the "birds and the bees". I share with them the principles from God's word. I don't say who they can date and not date. I don't force them or coerce them. If I as the parent don't do that, how can the church presume to do that?!?

If it doesn't work out, I am always there for them to help them through the rough patches.

Yes, I hope too that HOPE/HIM will change in this area as well.

Watcher said...

Hi Eagle Eye,

I agree with your assessment on BGR and the need to change it. Of the points you mentioned, there is one in which that caught my attention:

4. You share with your shepherd your interest and your leader ask you to pray and tells you he is not the one for you.. granted that some cases the person is a new christian but.... seriously... isn't shepherd row just to guide.. and not to play God ? Even i don't know what is going to happen 1 second from now...

I am very concerned about the issues raised in the fourth point. Even if the Christian is a new Christian, how would the shepherd be able to know he isn't the one for you? I have heard of stories (outside of Hope) in which a sister in a university outreached to a newly matriculated guy (not a christian yet). The guy was later converted and both of them later became a couple.Simply put, it is too early to tell at times whether a new christian is the one for you. Of course, i am not advocating rushing into relations but we must never jump to conclusions.

In addition, on what basis does the shepherd say that particular so and so is not the one for you? Such a statement is like a command. How do we know it is from God? Is it biblical? Suppose another wise mature christian say,"I believe that person is the one for you", whom shall we trust? Is the shepherd's word infallible? Just because that person is a "shepherd", it does not automatically means he/she speaks the word of God. He/she would be acting like a little pope enforcing his/she 'ex cathedra'. If we are not careful, we play the role of God, adding burdens of "do's" and "don't", binding the conscience of Christians when only Scripture have the right to do to so. I would straight away ask that shepherd why that person is not the one for me? If he/she can make a sound reasoning based on the bible and good experience on his/her part, then I will seriously consider his/her advice. Notice that I say 'advice'. For what happens if he/she is wrong?

About John's comment that

"If a top leader loves somebody who is just a low level leader, they can be told not to marry because of leadership level incompatibility."

I am also very concerned with this statement. I have heard similar phrases. As I have argued in other posts, this is not supported by Scripture. Again, I would ask those shepherds and leader who made the above assertion, "Does Scripture supports your assertion?" So many Christians these days make so much assertions without reflecting whether their statements are true or not. It is so sad.

I hope that those who are seeking to find their life partner would not be enslaved by the bondage of unbiblical human-control.


ex-hope said...

I’m glad that Hope Singapore, according to one of the bloggers is becoming more liberal to the idea of Christian relationship and dating in a church. It is a positive step forward and must be applauded. I’m not from Hope Sg but I’ve attended a couple of Hope SG services, one of which actually asked people to go date or meet people (or something along those lines). I was quite surprised as at that time as I was trying to start a relationship with someone in another Hope church (Oceania). I knew the hope that I attended had an unspoken anti-relationship atmosphere. It is clear for all to see.

I have personally started, and ended a relationship while I was serving in Hope. It was honestly one of the most horrid periods of my life. I will narrate my story as vaguely as I can yet detailed enough to draw out key points so as to respect the privacy of the people involved. I’m not out to sling you guys. I just want to build the church.

Story 1: What I did was told the girl that I’m interested in her BEFORE I told any leader or shepherd. I did tell my close Christian buddies (mature people who sound me out without biasness and want the best for me) and my parents. The response from the leaders were jaw dropping-ly shocking! The girl’s shepherd came and spoke to me about it. This was what he said. “As her leader, I would have appreciated if you’d come to speak to me about it first before telling her. . .” I explained to him why I felt that there wasn’t a need to, but he insisted. To think that he is one of the respected leaders of the church is truly shocking. That same night, I went out for supper with one of the sub-d leaders. I wanted to be opened about it, so I told her that I told a girl that I’m interested in her. She was like “what?!”, not in a joyful way, but in a shocked and disappointed way. We chatted over supper and debated. She kept saying that I shouldn’t have done that and told me why. To summarise it, it’s more about protecting the parties involved, to ‘make sure’ (never agreed with that). I gave my point of views as well, but she was having none of it. She said, “When you go back to _______, don’t do ANYTHING, come back and we’ll talk about it again”. I was so appalled that she said that! I thought to myself... “am I in a cult or something?”

ex-hope said...

Point 1: It was that very night that I realised how dodgy this organization has become. My eyes were opened now. What my pastors and friends pre-warned me about is coming into light. Can you imagine, starting off with the leaders already bearing down your neck on what you did ‘wrong’, what you should have done, etc? It definitely does not build an encouraging atmosphere for relationships and dating eh? I’m sure I don’t have to point out that those statements made by those leaders are both unbiblical and cultish. At NO POINT, unless it is clearly written in the Bible, should a leader order or demand someone to do anything. Like what the others have shared. There isn’t a biblical rule about dating. There’s no “step 1: tell you shepherd, step 2: let them pray and discuss with the other party’s shepherd, step 3: wait, step 4: wait some more (lol – very common)”. There isn’t anywhere that says you have to tell your shepherd or the other party’s leader before you want to date her. I’m all for accountability. But I won’t stand for people playing God. Like I said before, good intention with the wrong action is STILL wrong. I believe there is NO fixed way of how a couple should start a relationship or handle a relationship. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I heard that Ps Kong from City Harvest Church proposed to his wife without even first telling her that he likes her. He skipped the whole dating/courtship part. I know of others who are now happily married who started off as non Christians but are now serving God in church. I know of couples who got married in 1 year and those that waited for 10 years before getting married. I know of couples who are both from different ethnic groups yet they are happily married. I don’t think God made ‘love’ to be a script. So the leaders should not treat relationships like a script. There isn’t one best way. We will never be able to comprehend how God works. For example, will a leader encourage a guy age 30 to go after a girl age 39? Our human mind immediately point to the fact that the age gap is huge yea? But God had a plan for this couple. They are now happily married and serving God actively in church together. Don’t limit God just because you have low expectations.

ex-hope said...

Story 2: My ex and I differ greatly in one area. She’s a people pleaser while I am not. I do not live my life based on other people’s approval. This aspect really took a huge toll on our relationship as the leader and her friends (who are under the same leader) were ‘against’ the relationship. Statements like “don’t forget who your friends are”, “you belong to ______” plagued my ex. The leader said this, “I will support you guys but I cannot give you my blessing because I don’t agree”. All these weigh heavily on my ex which in turned placed heaps of pressure on our relationship. We broke up after a short period of time. There were other factors involved, but this was a big one.

Point 2: A church should be a place that encourages and supports one another. The way we do things might differ, but that difference within the boundaries of the bible shouldn’t disqualify anybody from encouragements, help, etc. We should not behave and live our lives expecting everyone to be like us. We don’t want robots in church. We should welcome diversity and differences. It makes a church current.

“No relationship will be perfect on the first go, I must admit there is always issues we need to deal, and not every one is mature, but we MUST learn to trust people and not have the "they will sin" attitude... towards every relationship. We need to learn to bless to encourage”

“We do need to start trusting people, encourage Godly relationship through reinforcing the positives and also allow relationship to develop naturally... We are not God and therefore should not do "arrange marriage". And tell our sheep who they should and should not see.”

Totally agree with you there eagle eye.

ex-hope said...

Eagle Eye

Point 1: Have heard of a story like that in my ex hope church.

Point 2: LOL, have not personally experienced it.

Point 3: That’s sad

Point 4: This is something that I will not stand for. I once asked a question in a BGR seminar in Hope to address that exact same thing. I asked something like this. “I have a home church. I’m surrounded with leader and pastor friends. I have Godly parents as well. What will happen if Hope leaders ‘prayed’ and say no, while people like my parents and home pastors ‘prayed’ and say yes? Who should I listen to? Can we conclude that someone is lying or have some hidden agenda?” They were stumped! Prayer IS important I must highlight. And God does speak to people. But to really make life altering statements like “he is not the one for you” should be left to prophets. As leaders, we can pray, and we can give logical advice but we should not use logic to make decisions for someone else. God sometimes work outside of logic. My answer to the question is simple. We should make the decision ourselves! We should be open for inputs, but at the end of the day, you must make the decision, and live with the consequence of that decision. Your parents, pastor, leader, shepherd, friends will not bear that for you. We can make big decisions because we can put our faith and hope in God, that He will turn it to good.

Point 5: YES! It’s the same every where hey? I’ve got a friend who attended the BGR seminar with our lg and refused to go for the 2nd session because he felt that what was shared was too cultish and too controlling. He has since left to join another church. They kept sharing things about accountability and shepherds. What to do and what not to do. I was so fed up with what was being shared that I threw them a comment. I said, I think you shouldn’t be telling us what not to do or to do but the principles of heart issues. Stop being legalistic! They said things like “don’t be in the same room alone with another person of the opposite gender”, “don’t stay out till late (is it 11pm? Can someone clarify? I’ve heard that leaders are not supposed to do that in Hope, but I can’t really remember) with someone of the opposite gender”. On the surface it sounds good and logical, but its just legalism. They should have instead talked about the heart issues like lust and temptation. A place or a time doesn’t make people do wrong or sin. I’ve got no problems being out with a girl till 3am, having a good chat over coffee. I’ve been alone in a hotel room with a girl, practicing music, and that’s all we did! Hope leaders claim that they are out to protect their flock, but to me, they are too near sighted. They are crippling them for life.

ex-hope said...

“You are not ready” is something that I always hear in hope. My question is when are we ever ready? Till all our time is spent in church activities? Till the shepherd say you are? I think people in hope equate the level of readiness to the amount of time spent waiting. I think there is only that much one can do to prepare him/herself for a relationship. You’ll never be ready if you never try. I’m all for someone wanting their first bf/gf to be their married partner. It can happen. I’ve seen it happen. But it’s a rarity. I’m not encouraging people to go out and ‘play’ around. No. I’m encouraging people to go out and date responsibly. Date the person only IF you truly have an interest. A successful courtship is one where you find out for sure if the person is suitable for you or not. What do you all think?

I also realise that there is a tendency for married/attached/single leaders to advise based on how their courtship started. Like say if one leader waited 2 years for a particular person, there is a tendency that the leader will ask the member to wait seeing how it brought him/her success. They always bring in leader couples to share their experiences with the group but never those outside leadership which makes the whole thing lopsided. I don’t know, but as I type, I just find that the leaders are very self focused. They want members to follow their mould of how they start a relationship. Again, this isn’t a script! Hello! Some single leaders who don’t have any relationship experience shouldn’t be giving advice in my opinion.

Also I know that couples who are in ‘agreement’ with the hope leadership get treated differently from couples who are not. I know of a leader who was pushed up to chair a service just because he feels insecure as his gf chairs on a regular basis he doesn’t. They want them to work out, so they did everything in their power to help. It brings me to question how hope appoints their leaders or duties. Giving the guy chairing duties isn’t a solution for his insecurity! The root cause is not being dealt with. It’s so warped seriously.

Anonymous said...

The root of the issue is that BGR and other hope rules are entirely based on the idea of maximized expansion at all costs. Hope believes everyone has the capacity to eventually become a CGL and ideally become a pastor to plant a church. So, to maximize efficiency, people are expected to marry others that have exact same hope mindset. Anything less than that is a "threat" because you become inefficient (one person slows down the other and thus slow down the growth of the church). All this logic came from the founder.

Change must come from the top. Unless significant changes occur in vision and in top leaders, HIM is doomed to continue in similar path as Hope. After months of observing, very little has changed.

Anonymous said...

The only way out from such an environment is to get out of Hope church. Pointless to be debating with a group of people who are engaged in group-think.