Category Archives: Mentoring Minutes

The issue of mentoring is the mentoring issue; these are the highlights of my mentoring journeys.

to establish a FAT and Hungry culture (part III) – teachable.

FAH-Logo-Draft-II

Photo credits: Caleb Kay

In my 12 years of learning to be a leader and leading leaders, I’ve found that there are two groups of people who are a joy to be with: those who are enthusiastic learners and those who are easier to teach. Both groups had this in common – a teachable spirit – and that is indeed one of the key considerations when I select potential leaders.

I’ve always believed that a good leader knows how to feed himself, be it through books, mentors, sermons, journalling or in times of solitude. Leaders must see that it is their personal responsibility to learn. My friend, Ps Chua Seng Lee, once told me not to depend on anyone in the organisation for my personal training and development. He said that if I didn’t take charge of my learning pilgrimage, nobody will. I agree with him. After all, one can only be spoon-fed and hand-held for so long.

One of the common “complaints” of a believer, regardless of which church or ministry he belongs to, is that the “sermon is not deep enough” for him. I’ve had peers tell me that when they want to switch to another church. I’ve also had youths tell me that when they want to leave the youth service. Granted, some assert that because they are genuinely seeking something more, but some conveniently say that because they do not realise that the onus of learning is on the student, not the teacher.

In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus made the exception of explaining a parable. He hardly did this so it must have been a lesson he did not want his disciples to miss. He went on to explain the different metaphors used in the parable:

  • The seed represents God’s Word. (And I think the farmer represents anyone who’s teaching you the Word of God – it could be a teacher, pastor, preacher, mentor, leader or parent.)
  • The footpath represents Christians who are deceived by the Devil and are quickly scattered.
  • The shallow soil represents believers who are  joyful and enthusiastic at the start but are not rooted in the Word. As a pastor in a pentecostal church, I believe this is especially true of pentecostal believers who seek the experience more than the truth. They say that they “can’t feel God anymore” and soon after begin backsliding.
  • The thorns represent Christians who are easily distracted and tempted by the world.
  • And the fertile soil (the only positive example) represents what I believe to be teachable Christians who hear God’s Word and accept it into their heart.

With that parable as a backdrop, what then, is your posture in learning from the preacher, your leaders, the cell kits and your daily devotions? Do you approach it with a “Let’s see what he has to say” or with a “Let’s see how I can learn from him” attitude? Choose the latter for it is better! If a person think he already knows, then he can’t be taught; a person who carries an attitude that they already know as much as the teacher won’t receive anything from him. In my short journey of meeting youth leaders around the Asia, I have met some who think they already know all they need to know about the Word or youth ministry – it’s difficult and almost repulsive to converse with these people. I know, because I’m like that sometimes. (:

Truth be told, in my last three years as a youth minister, with the exception of sitting at the feet of outstanding bible teachers and expositors like Ps Benny Ho or Ps Edmund Chan, most of the growth I’ve made were through preparing and listening to sermons, reading books, reflecting during times of solitude (though fewer than desired – sigh!) and walking with the Lord. I grew because I took on the responsibility to learn and then God caused the growth!

I’ve sat into many youth services and to be honest, youth ministry sermon content doesn’t differ too much due to the limitations of preaching to a teenage crowd. So instead of scrutinising theological content when I sit into a youth service (or any other kind of service), what I do is to try to catch the preacher’s heart. You see, you can’t teach a love for the Word, a passion for discipleship, an urgency for evangelism or a desire for mentoring the next generation; these things are more caught than taught. I always remind myself to catch the teacher’s heart more than the stuff in his head.

Here’s what I’ve learnt: if you can’t learn from teachers, you will struggle to learn from God. Some believers have the mentality that since they are able to download directly from God, they won’t require a man to teach them the Word. Of course, there is truth in this (that the Holy Spirit can illuminate truth from the Word), but that alone is inadequate. Think about it, if that was so, then why did God give teachers to the church? In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul writes that teachers were given to us “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (KJV).

Therefore, I believe that there is wisdom in having a teachable spirit. The way a leader receives instruction from teachers gives me a glimpse of his character. His posture as a student eventually determines his destiny as a learner. In sailing, the setting of the sail on a sailboat is also called the “attitude” of the sail. Wind is the irreplaceable yet uncontrollable component in sailing and the same wind visits both good and bad sailors. Depending on the attitude of the sail, wind would cause the sailboat to be steered into different directions. Two believers can receive the same teaching, but have completely different responses and takeaways. At the end of the day, it is the attitude of a teachable spirit that will enable us to travel in the right direction.

7 Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.
8 So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you.
9 Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.
10 Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
11 Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life.
12 If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.

— Proverbs 9:7-12 (NLT)

And in Proverbs 15:10, “Whoever abandons the right path will be severely disciplined; whoever hates correction will die.” That’s pretty extreme! So if you want to be a wise man, have a teachable spirit. If not, the one who eventually loses out is you!

There are four good examples of teachable men in the Bible:

  1. Moses shows us that a teachable man is a meek man. He was also hungry to learn from and lean on the Lord’s guidance.
  2. David shows us that a teachable man seeks to to God’s will. He demonstrates in many Psalms that he wants to receive instruction from God because he wants to follow Him.
  3. Jesus shows us that a teachable man knows the Father is the ultimate teacher. Try accomplishing the immense mission Jesus was tasked to do – no wonder He stayed so close to His father and did only what He saw the Father doing.
  4. The disciples show us that teachable men are led by the Holy Spirit. They demonstrate how the Holy Spirit not only empowered, but also instructed them in the way they should go. May we be wise, for it is tempting to try doing God’s will in our own wisdom and strength.

In application, being teachable means to:

  • Receive instruction from the Word and the Holy Spirit.
  • Receive correction from parents, pastors, leaders and mentors.
  • Humbly learn from others regardless of age or experience.
  • Bring compliments, criticisms and crises before God and godly counsel.
  • Review moral standards in: alcoholism, dressing, academia, relationships and worldly vices.
  • Be open, honest and humble about your lack of knowledge, skills, and character.
  • Desire challenges that will stretch you but help you reach your goals.
  • 
Be willing to let go of your own way of dealing with things and your own ideas to learn and develop new convictions.
  • (And this I picked up from my mentor, Ps Edmund Chan,) have the “Double L” plate hung on your front and back, so that those who follow you see a LEADER, and when you look at yourself in the mirror, you always see a LEARNER.

God could use the disciples to such great effect not just because they were faithful and available, but that they were also teachable. Think about it, this was an uneducated and underwhelming motley crew of unknowns who had to depend on the Jesus to teach them everything they needed to know about their newfound faith! If they can and needed to be taught, surely we too should follow suit.

The difference between modern-day and Jesus-day Christians is that the former has two things the latter doesn’t: the Holy Spirit (sent after Jesus ascended to heave) and the complete Bible (written years after the early church was formed). Therefore, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide us on how we should conduct ourselves, and how we should approach God’s Word with a willing heart and a teachable spirit. If there’s one thing we ought to determine ourselves to do, it is to remain teachable in all circumstances.

My mentor in Perth, Bro Au Chin Seng, once told me, “No matter how high you climb, there will always be areas you’ll need growth in.” I’ve learnt from him that the day might come when I may no longer have anyone above me in a hierarchical setting, except for God Himself. This is when the greatest test of humility and teachability takes place. He mentioned that the two most poisonous words of a confident, mature and experienced man is, “I Know”. That single-handedly puts people off in correcting me and giving me feedback. He reminded me to always adopt an attitude of learning regardless of how old, wise or mature I am, in any situation, for the moment I stop learning is the moment I stop living.

[Credits: teaching materials adapted from Arlo Moehlenpah and Pierre Eade.]

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where is the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

Here’s an abridged version of the sermon I preached at the final youth service of Grace Retreat 2012.

The story of our faith is unbelievable to a thinking mind and sounds like a fairy tale to non-believers; any argument made would probably be counter-argued. That’s why it is important for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit – so that He’d confirm our message and make the Kingdom come alive. Hence, let us not dilute the power of God through the Holy Spirit!

Authentic Christianity with the power of Spirit is attractive because it makes you want to want it. When God’s power shows up, people would naturally talk about it; and it is more persuasive than cutting-edge creativity or intellectual brilliance. We are limited by our own ability, but one act of the Holy Spirit changes even the most stubborn mind. But it is ironic that we still choose to rely on ourselves.

Always remember that the power we receive when the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 1:8) is mighty, miraculous, supernatural and environmentally-changing. That power was given to us for us not to be witnessing but to be a witness; it’s not what you do, but who you are. Therefore, be convinced that the Spirit is a catalyst for unbelievers to be drawn into the Kingdom.

On a personal note, I don’t want to lead a numerically large, but a spiritually powerless youth group. It is my prayer that R-AGE youths become Spirit-filled disciple-makers. After all, we are called to be a pentecostal Spirit-filled ministry. Let us not mute ourselves to the spiritual realm that the devil is trying to rule, but tap into God’s power that is available to all.

Be warned that the forces of darkness will not cower at our intellect or be intimidated by our creativity, but will shut down when they encounter a disciple who is filled with the Spirit. The best publicity for Jesus is when a Spirit-led demonstration follows a Gospepl proclamation. After all, it just takes one powerful, significant and authentic move of the Spirit to accelerate things to the next level. Aaron Kok (one of my youth leaders) can relate to that, I’m sure. Click here to read his powerful testimony.

In order to be catapulted into a Spirit-led way of life, I’d encourage us all to practise a PDA Lifestyle (I borrowed this concept from my wise mentor, Ps Edmund Chan):

  1. Personal revival – meeting God daily.
  2. Divine appointments – seeing doors open.
  3. Active obedience – responding with faith.

You see, if you dare to do the ridiculous, God will do the impossible. God is looking for young men and women to take spiritual risks, out of obedience to what God is saying. God is looking for (young) people who would potentially change their environments. So, R-AGE youth, would you be the next person God uses to do something extraordinary in your school, work place or home?

I aptly ended with a quote I picked up from AIYS 2012 (where this sermon was birthed at anyway):

For me, living an ordinary life is not an option anymore. — Peter Parker (aka Spiderman)

I will finish well.

You either choose to be right or choose to grow; but if you choose to grow, you will have to learn to give up your rights. I take my comfort in Philippians 2:1-18. Teach me to see it from Your point of view Lord, because nothing else makes sense; assure me, dear Father, that this is a divine appointment.

Tonight, I am devastated and defeated, but tomorrow, I WILL FINISH WELL.

Have the Attitude of Christ

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.

7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,

8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Shine Brightly for Christ

12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. 16 Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. 17 But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. 18 Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.

exactly how much should a leader give?

I attended the first session of the Fatherheart conference last Friday and while I appreciated what James Jordon shared, it was the ride back home with Garry and Peiying that I enjoyed more.

The two of them kindly offered to give me a lift home. I took my seat at the back and we caught up with what God was doing in our lives. The last time I had a chat with Garry was at the 40DOC thanksgiving service. And during that conversation, he shared about how he was contemplating whether to carry on leading the cell that he had been facilitating during the period of 40DOC. I was so encouraged to hear that he decided to obey God to serve as a cell leader despite his verbalised inadequacies.

Halfway through our conversation, Garry asked me a genuine question which I thought was a question most Singaporean Christian leaders might ask:

“How much should I offer to God as a leader? Exactly how much is enough?”

Garry’s a straight-talking guy – the man on the street – who wears his heart on his sleeve. He told me that he felt like he wasn’t doing enough as a cell leader. Like any responsible leader would, Garry wanted to do more. But he wasn’t sure where he should take the benchmark from.

I had all of five seconds to think about how I should respond to his sincere and honest question. I didn’t want to give him a Sunday-school answer or something that wouldn’t be of any help. He wanted to ask for my opinion because he felt that since I was leading R-AGE, I would be able to identify with his question.

I told him that to answer that question, we would first have to take a step back from it.

If we were to measure our performance as a leader based on what we did, then it would never be enough. A good (cell) leader could always give everyone a lift home after cell ended, or bless his members financially, or make hospital visits, or offer prayer and counsel whenever necessary, or lead multiple cell groups, or write cell curriculum, or host dinners for newcomers, or mentor the next cell leader, or lead mission trips, or call his members everyday, or organise fellowship activities, or conduct street evangelism, or…

It will never be enough; of course a leader could do something more, but there’s no end to it.

In my reflection, I think that the greatest decision that a leader could make is to obey what God is prompting him in his heart to do. It could be any of the above, or it could be simply to wait and not take any action. “Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship” – words of my mentor, Ps Edmund Chan, that I have already engraved onto my heart. It’s not about how much you do, but more of why and what you do, and who you do it for – God or Man? The right deed at the right time for the right person is as good as a divine appointment; the best thing a leader can do is to do what the Holy Spirit impresses upon him to do – it will always be perfect.

I also believe that the greatest gift a leader can give away is to give his people Jesus. Jesus (the Gospel) is undoubtedly the best gift for any believer (or non-believer). In my years of mentoring, I always tell myself that my main priority as someone’s mentor is to connect him back to the Vine (John 15:5). I am not Jesus – I cannot be there for him 24/7 – but Jesus can. If a person is properly connected to Jesus, he will eventually yield himself to the Lordship of Christ and make Jesus the Master of his heart and life.

One of the emblems of my life is that “Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ”. I believe that if one is not connected to the right Vine, the fruit that he bears isn’t the right fruit. Hence, I’m inclined to believe that the most important thing a leader could do is to give his members Jesus because Jesus is all they need (not you, fortunately or unfortunately). And if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough.

I am reminded of Jesus’ edict for Peter (and all of us) in John 21:15-17. (This is the same passage that I laid the foundation of R-AGE @ GII upon.) Jesus’ response to Peter’s triple declaration of love for Him was to “Feed [His] lambs”, “Tend [His] sheep” and “Feed [His] sheep”. I’ll elaborate on this with another post some other time (as well as how I passionately believe that pastors should just pastor) but for now, the question that I have for every Christian shepherd is, “What are you feeding your flock?” and “How are you tending your sheep?” If a leader can answer that with his conscience clear before God, I’d run over to pat him on the back on a job well done.

So exactly how much should a leader give? Not much – just Jesus – because if Jesus is everything, then Jesus is enough. Be a good shepherd – it’s a privileged position to serve God in.

a sick note’s sick note.

I shall attempt to string some thoughts together as I await the cough medication to take effect and knock me out.

1. In the last 24 hours I have sneezed and blown out so much mucus that the skin of my nose is starting to peel off. My work rate has dipped significantly and that’s discouraging. I am officially a serial Kleenex waster. I need a tissue for my issue.

2. The end of the year is drawing close at a scary pace and with it comes the completion of a two-year succession plan. I fear it as much as I anticipate it. But I take comfort that inadequacy is the beginning of reliance. 1:300 is scary whichever way you look at it.

3. Marriage preparations have been on-the-ball so far and we’re making the first couple of major payments. It’s a test of our financial resources and a trust in His divine providence for our needs. Paying for renovations and the banquet will be the ultimate test.

4. Besides what I do for survival, I’m also working on a few side projects – things that challenge me creatively – that makes me thrive. I concur that I’m indeed a fire-starter, not a flame-fanner. May the Lord grant me the resilience to complete these things.

5. Communication is a two-way process. So what if one can articulate his thoughts but fail to allow others to express theirs? On that note, I’m hoping that I will be able to pick up a couple of tips from Huiyi, no less, on how to be an even better listener.

6. There’s a part of me that cannot wait to embark on my theological education next Fall but the thought of studying and working at the same time (for the next half a decade) is frankly, quite demoralising. The workload will be heavy. I need His future grace.

7. Comparison, contention, conceit and competition can be overcome by celebration and contemplation. One of life’s real test is to be genuinely happy for someone; it’s not as easy as it sounds – you’d be surprised at your inner conversations, if you can hear them.

8. Something that I’ve shared with my mentorees recently is something that I’ve picked up from my mentor: if we operate by our capital (knowledge) and capabilities (skills), we can only bring it as far as we can. Let’s learn to operate from capacity (potential), so that by faith and trust, God can bring it further than we can; sounds strange, but I’d be devastated if one day I’d have fulfilled all my potential – that’d mean that I can longer grow anymore. May my insatiable appetite for growth never diminish.

9. There are days where I just want to abscond to another dimension with Huiyi and live like hermits for the rest of our lives – where our world only contained two of us. I wonder what God thinks of this. Maybe He’s grinning at my musing.

10. I return to the pulpit this weekend with the discipline of silence and solitude; this is quite possibly the hardest sermon I’d preach in this series because I’m always restless and packed with back-to-back activities. Maybe being ill will help me to learn this art.

I like to write. And when I make time to, I feel so much more organised, inspired and energised. I hope I will be able to return to the 2010 Q1 and Q2 days where I was writing almost one post everyday. For now, this will suffice. Writing is cathartic, baby.

questions for reflection.

There are four questions regarding the next generation that I will be reflecting upon in the next few days.

1. What are their cries?
2. What are their felt needs?
3. What are their real needs?
4. What are the solutions?

There are four questions regarding church vehicles that I will also be reflecting upon in the next few days.

1. What is the purpose of a cell group?
2. What is the purpose of a mentoring group?
3. What is the purpose of a discipleship group?
4. How do you integrate these three groups in a church?

I have four thoughts to dwell upon.

1. Unless values change, nothing changes.
2. The difference between chronological and iconical thinking.
3. The distinction between synchronical and diachronical events.
4. The remedy to a contrarian mindset.

If food is for thought, then reflection cures indigestion.

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.

At full strength: my beloved R-AGE@GII Shepherds at our planning retreat on National Day. (Photo credits: CK)

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?)

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