Monthly Archives: October 2011
reflections on leadership.
Here’s a little of what I gleaned at the first session of the conference, as well as a few of my own thoughts…
If leaders perceive themselves to be indispensable, people will develop a learned helplessness. This leads to inevitable exhaustion due to the eventual unsustainability of the task. As a result, abdication takes place.
My leaders know that I think delegation is a dirty word; it’s an expression I loathe. Instead, I prefer to use empowerment. Delegation denotes giving someone responsibility without authority while empowerment is about giving someone authority first. I believe that once a leader’s authority is established, he will naturally assume responsibility.
The focus of ministry is ministering to people not managing them. It’s never about the process, but the people. A pastor’s job is to pastor his flock, not pressure them to perform!
A good leader has a holy dissatisfaction about the status quo and a clear sense of hope for the future.
A leader’s primary job is to teach his people the way they are to walk and the work they are to do; if others learn to do what they ought to do, then you can focus on what God has called you to do.
No matter how gifted you are, you must still build a team around you and always prioritise in mentoring people; don’t let your responsibilities distract you from your priorities; it is unhealthy to lead without mentoring others.
The five cries of the local church: there are too many programmes; there are too few workers; people are not spiritually fed or discipled; the vision is not clear; the leaders are not united.
The most crucial call of leadership is that leaders must learn to reconnect themselves back to God, and to cultivate spiritual friendships with others (instead of leading alone).
A leader’s greatest responsibility is for God’s agenda in his calling. Obedience to God, to do what He desires us to do, is truly the ultimate expression of stewarding what God has given to us to use.
have we forgotten how to wait?
We spend our entire lives waiting; waiting to grow up, waiting to finish school, waiting for our first paycheck, waiting to marry our soul mate, waiting for our next vacation, waiting for traffic lights to turn green, waiting for the summer blockbuster, waiting nine months for our baby to arrive, waiting for our kids to grow up, waiting to grow old, and ultimately, waiting to die.
And something we do everyday is to wait for public buses to arrive. In Singapore, IRIS (timing prediction technology) informs us of the time we would have to wait before the next bus arrives. If I could take you back to just a little over a decade ago, where none of these prediction technologies existed, you would have to wait patiently for your bus to arrive.
Naturally, we would have no idea if that wait would be three or 30 minutes long. In my childhood days, there weren’t as many bus shelters; I remember standing in the sun, squinting my eyes to look into the horizon, waiting patiently for my bus to arrive. It was uncomfortable to either read a book standing up because there were no seats in the bus shelter, or the sun would be blazing directly above you. Either way, you wouldn’t want to miss your bus because you weren’t paying attention.
In those days, only the more popular routes had double-decker air-conditioned buses (known then as a “Super Bus”) plying it. The service I took frequently was a Super Bus and it was easy to recognise one from a distance away. I’d spend the entire waiting duration anticipating a glimpse of a Super Bus. It would fill me with glee if that Super Bus was my Super Bus.
And despite the unpredictability and uncertainty of the bus arrivals, I’d still wait because the bus had ALWAYS shown up; I know it was not going to play me out suddenly or randomly. Even if the waiting time was longer than usual, I’d still wait because I know it will show up, just like it has the many previous times. And when the bus eventually shows up, it’ll make the wait worth the wait.
Today, fortunately (or unfortunately), we know exactly when our buses would arrive. Some apps can even trace the location of the oncoming bus! So we’d pop out our smartphones, books and magazines to kill the waiting time by reading an article, surfing the net or playing a game. In this age of multi-tasking, nobody likes to stand around, do nothing and just wait.
With all these seemingly helpful distractions around to occupy our time, it’s no wonder we have forgotten how to wait! Maybe that’s why we cannot relate to what Isaiah said:
But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. — Isaiah 40:31
It was a question I asked God to answer when I first stumbled upon this verse… And here’s the paradign shift – waiting for the Lord renews our strength because the Lord WILL show up. We wait for the Lord because He is certainly consistent and consistently certain. For when we are waiting, we are reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives as well as in His Word.
This is the reason why we must not give up waiting – it takes our eyes off ourselves and fixes our eyes on God; we are freed from our anxieties when we focus our attention on Him. When we wait, we ought to recall the many times that the Lord has delivered in our lives.
So the next time you need to wait for a bus to arrive, an event to pass, a promise to be fulfilled, or for the Lord to show up, know that the wait in itself is part of the process; waiting isn’t just passivity but an intentional and purposeful decision. And the Lord WILL show up in your life. No wonder our strength would be renewed, we’d mount up with wings like eagles, run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint!
Wait for it with conviction… Wait for it with confidence!
picture perfect Perth promotes pauses.
Quote of the day:
“Plan like Jesus is never coming back, but live like He’s returning tomorrow” — Aw Chin Seng
Question of the day:
“What do I have if I don’t have You, Jesus?” — Starfield
My rhetoric response:
What else do I need if I have You, Jesus?
I brought an old notebook along and I found these lyrics I penned in 2004. It’s a song called, Home.
I won’t be staying here for long
Just here for but a moment more
I’m just passing through this transient place
Until I reach my final destination
I don’t live for the here and now
Don’t have to really have it all
What’s here today is gone tomorrow
What’s not forever is forever useless
I belong to above, to evermore
This world is not my home
At the end of it all
There is another beginning
And when my Maker calls
I know that my show is concluding
Don’t get too comfortable
Because I’m simply not home yet
When I die, yeah, when I say goodbye
I’m not leaving home… I’m going home
grow the ministers, not the ministry.
By the time I return from Perth, I’d have arrived at my two-year mark in full-time ministry. Time has passed remarkably fast but it feels like I’ve been doing this my whole life. There’s so much to thank God for in my short pilgrimage as a youth pastor.
At the turn of 2009, Ps Ronald gave me the awesome privilege of leading R-AGE@GII. When I took over the reins, the ministry was hovering around the 70 pax mark on average. Today, by the grace of God, He has grown the quality and the quantity of R-AGE@GII to around 120+ pax every week. Praise God for His faithfulness!
Many pastors, parents and peers have been kind towards me; they are generous with their encouragement and commend me often enough on the work that they see happening among the youths in Grace II. Time and again, I will accept their compliments and thank them for it but deep down in my heart I know I must bring it before the Lord.
In my time with God, I ask Him not to let me believe my own hype and I make it a point to be the first to discredit myself. The Lord showed me two things which I believe will govern the way I approach accolades.
Firstly, it is the Lord who blesses (as well as takes away). Every victory and defeat in ministry comes as a result of His will and not because we have worked hard. God alone decides for Himself when the ministry will grow, stagnate or decline. His timing is always perfect and His ways are always higher. As we continue to serve Him, let us remember that it is God who makes all things possible, not for our glory but for His alone!
Secondly, the Lord reminds me that He doesn’t just use one passionate pastor, but a team of dedicated leaders. Yes, I’ve matured through how He’s been developing my talents and gifts, but the growth of the ministry cannot be supported by just the point man’s growth. The Lord reminds me that the ministry has the platform to grow because its leaders are growing.
As I type this entry at the airport lounge, I can’t help but to imagine in my mind’s eye the nervous faces and timid countenances of some of my leaders when they started with me; these fresh-faced shepherds looked afraid, unsure and blur – they had no idea what was coming their way! But take a look at them now… Confident, assured and more ready than ever to take on any challenge that I would throw at them.
Their attitudes have been sharpened, their faith increased, their competences leveled up, their heart for the youths have grown, their leadership confidence has soared… And I could go on and on. I am immensely proud of them… Indeed the Lord is good to those who serve, love and fear Him.
As a result of their individual growth, the ministry has naturally grown as well. So today, regardless of which level of leadership you’re at, just remember three things:
- First, (if I may borrow Ps Edmund Chan’s words,) take care of the depth of your life! A growing minister is always better than a stagnating one!
- Next, give your priority to investing time, energy and resource to growing the next generation of leaders. If they grow individually, your ministry naturally grows collectively.
- Finally, always remember that it is the Lord who enables and holds all things together by His grace and power, for His glory and honour alone.
You can’t do it on your own, no matter how exceptionally talented you may be!
(Now, I have a better understanding of why Ps Edmund says that he prizes his mentoring ministry above his preaching ministry… Who wouldn’t?)
a September stock-take and an October onslaught.
It’s always therapeutic to do a stock-take after an eventful week, which would have been impossible to pull off and not fall exhausted on my face, if not for the grace of God that saw me though. Warning: long post.
Monday: attended QC (Questions and Contributions) time and a monthly mentoring session with Ps Edmund Chan; ’til this day, I still thank God for the divine appointment in which He has connected me to Ps Ed; what a privilege and honour.
Tuesday AM: led worship at the Tuesday staff devotion with Ps Meng Cham; that’s how I will do it from now on – being accompanied by a seasoned musician makes it so much more enjoyable (because I won’t need to practice with my guitar!)
Tuesday PM: prepared for and sat through a staff meeting, which was a heart-wrenching experience and threw me off my momentum; I’m thankful for Ps Ronald who patiently listened to me rant and vent my frustrations. This forced me to come before the Lord that evening to seek His face. And I’m glad I did. The Lord spoke to me through Genesis 13 and Hebrews 6.
Wednesday AM: Caleb crashed at my place the night before and we watched Man Utd surrender a 2-0 lead to Basel and equalised in typical United fashion at the dying minutes. I struggled through the second half, to be honest. I’m really getting old…
Wednesday PM: led worship at the weekly Wednesday church prayer meeting (J333) with Rafael.; exposing youth musicians through my J333 duties gives me renewed purpose when I find my name on the worship leading roster. My next session is on 30 November and I’ll go over-the-top because I’ll be teaming up with Ps Ronald and the church will be praying for R-AGE.
Thursday: presented the 2012 R-AGE budget in front of the Head of Administration, accountant and finance manager of Grace AG on Thursday (my first time presenting with Excel spreadsheets); administration is really not my strength. Thank God for Ps Ronald who rescued me by answering on my behalf on a few occasions.
Friday AM: had a delectable dim-sum lunch at Royal China @ Raffles Hotel with Sheryl from Eagles, together with Daniel and Xavier too, and joined the Vantage Point magazine editorial team. (I just received my first email from them!)
Friday PM: sat through another staff meeting, and wondered what it would be like next year when I’m chairing it.
Friday EVE: spent time with some of my favouritest people on the planet at the GII Shepherds cell, and facilitated our Harmony of the Gospels lesson; Yixian said if we continued at this pace (in-depth but extremely slow), we’d take two years to finish the book.
Saturday AM: led the R-AGE 2012 manpower deployment discussion with Caleb, Keith, Kenneth and Rachael; yes, R-AGE leaders, we were deliberating over your fate next year! HAHAHA. I can’t wait to see youths lead youths!
Saturday PM: preached an apologetics cum evangelistic sermon (my first attempt) for the Same Same But Different evangelistic service at R-AGE@GII. I actually enjoyed my preparation more than my execution. It was intellectually stimulating to read in greater detail how atheism, pantheism and polytheism (among many other -isms) stood against theism.
Saturday EVE: chaired the Bare Bones 2012 coordination meeting with Nicole, Keith, David and Grace – who have proposed some spectacular ideas for the year-end conference. It’s gonna blow Grace AG away; everything is going to be significantly leveled-up! I’m delighted to be working with such exceptional youth leaders. Watching Man Utd defeat Norwich 2-0 capped my day.
Sunday: preached the same sermon at R-AGE@GI. I took the opportunity to clear up some personal administrative work while waiting to have lunch with Huiyi and Yixian. After a short nap to recharge my batteries, I resumed studying for my 60% News Studies paper (the next day), which I have burned midnight oil for in the past seven days. Little by little, I’ve conquered the paper.
Monday (today): praise God for a relatively easy exam paper! It’s different when you understand what you are reading and memorising instead of mugging just for the sake of. I managed to finished the paper with an hour to spare, so I brought forward my appointment with my hairstylist. It’s 4pm now (at the point of writing) and my head literally and metaphorically feels lighter.
I’m going to complete this blog post before I go ahead to prepare the slides for the R-AGE 2012 Ministry Action Plans (which I’m presenting to all pastoral staff tomorrow!) Then I’m going to head out to China Square to treat my family to a nice dinner of Crab Bee Hoon @ Don’s Pie Club. We’re celebrating my sister’s belated birthday (1 October), as well as my 8th 21st birthday in advance.
This week, I also managed to meet Caleb and Lucas for lunch and mentoring on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. I thoroughly enjoy investing time into young men who possess a desire to grow. Lucas’ huge appetite for growth reminds me of me, especially in the way that I pursue my mentors. I told him to never lose his hunger (okay, boy?).
After our mentoring session over coffee in Starbucks@Tanglin Mall, he asked, “How do you do it, Bro Joey?” It being managing the many things on my plate. I couldn’t find an adequate way to answer him except to say, with all sincerity, that this capacity is a God-given gift; how could I take credit for the grace of God? I told him to ask God for it as well, because I think God will give it. (I didn’t tell him about the price of increased capacity though, but I’m sure he’ll figure that out himself.)
September has been an exceptional month in ministry. Besides starting R-AGE on the Spiritual Disciplines: Training in Holiness sermon series, I’ve also been planning for R-AGE in 2012 and meeting up with lots of youth leaders who might be serving alongside me next year. I am convinced that it’s my time with the Lord everyday that’s keeping me afloat.
I’ve also been reading non-stop throughout the week (and at an aggressive pace too). Besides the Bible during my daily devotions, sermon preparation materials and academic texts, I’ve also been feasting into Edmund Chan’s Cultivating Your Inner Life, Philippe Auclair’s Cantona: The Rebel Who Would Be King and Larry Crabb’s 66 Love Letters. I think I’m concurrently reading eight books – and I love the variety! This is effective for someone like me who gets bored easily.
On a more personal note, I’ve also been spending lots of time with Huiyi with our wedding preparation; we’ve reserved Sunday afternoons to visit bridal studios and photographers, as well as to plan for our big day. The highlight of these trips is to catch a sneak preview of my wife-to-be when she emerges from the changing room in glorious, gorgeous white; she’s gonna be the most stunning bride in all of Singapore next August – you have no idea how much we are looking forward to be married to each other!
I’d probably be packing my luggage midway when this post is published; Jetstar is going to take me to Perth at 5:45pm (Tuesday). I look forward to hanging out with Chin Seng, Ervina and Liang Zhi, but the highlight of my trip is to spend time with Ps Edmund and Ps Ann. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since I purchased the air tickets (super cheap!) a few months ago.
When I began my mentoring journey with Ps Edmund around this time last year, he emailed me his traveling itinerary and invited me to follow him on one of his countless trips; so here I am, excited and still starstruck, counting down the hours before I get to spend quality, uninterrupted and extended time with a God-given mentor, whom I’m sure will sharpen, challenge and inspire me!
October, I am ready for your onslaught!