The final session with my leaders was the shortest one. There was no way they could have tanked (I’m learning youth lingo…) another trademark long sermon from me after being turned out at 4am to clean the entire church. I trust that the structured experience would be etched into their hearts for a long time. And if I can find the piece of paper that I scribbled down my debrief pointers (“Leadership lessons to be learnt”), I’d post in another entry.
At around 6:30am, we dismissed everyone. Most of them returned to their bunks and a handful became all-terrain sleepers; the GI Chapel morphed into a huge dormitory. At 10:30am, we assembled them in service for the last time, and I began my sharing by stating that we ought to be hungry for two things: God’s whereabouts (His presence) and God’s will (His plans and purposes).
However, what prevents us from getting hungry is when we are already being filled and have no more space in our lives.
I thought Kenneth Yeo brought out this lesson superbly at Minus One (an initiation of sorts involving the new leaders just before Leaders’ Retreat commenced). He split the leaders into a few groups, lined them up and got them to transfer water from a bottle at the start of the line into a bag at the end of the line by passing it from one person to another other via sponges. Then he introduced a twist by pouring a little Ribena syrup into each sponge, and challenged them to do the same thing without any trace of Ribena in the bag. The leaders instinctively used half the sponge to execute this task and ended up transferring less than half the original amount.
If you have too much of worldly things cluttering up our lives, how are you able to stay hungry for the things of God? Your appetite is directly proportionate to how full you are. Try eating an expensive dinner immediately after a cheap lunch – the thought of food would repulse you! If you want to be hungry for God, then you have to learn to de-clutter and de-accumulate. The scary but ironic thing is when ministry and church work clogs up your life and takes away your hunger – that would be a travesty.
In John 4:34, “Jesus said to them (his disciples), ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.'” I believe Jesus revealed to us the secret to being filled with the things of God. But to do the Father’s will, we must first know His will. Only then are we able to accomplish the Father’s work. That is why the Grace AG theme for 2013 resonates with my soul; paraphrasing what my senior pastor (Ps Calvin Lee) said, in order for us to effectively live life missionally, we must first be deeper in the Word.
Ezra understood that well. In Ezra 7:10, we learn that “Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the LORD and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel.” Through this, I derived a four-step approach to God’s Word that I will share over the pulpit in greater detail in the last week of January. Grasping this, I believe with all my heart, has the potential to change the way we live as well as to change the world that we live in. If we are not changing the culture, we’re not changing anything. But if we, like Ezra, are determined to SORT out our approach to God’s Word, I’m sure we will constantly remain hungry for God’s presence and His will.
- Study: read, remember and reflect upon His Word.
- Obey: apply what we have learnt.
- Reap: the benefits of applying God’s Word.
- Teach: pass on these benefits to others.
In addition to that, I also shared Ps Edmund Chan’s “PDA Lifestyle“ with my leaders (which I will also teach in greater detail over the pulpit):
- Personal revival: experience revival everyday by getting deeper into God’s Word.
- Divine appointments: sense the Holy Spirit leading you into a divine appointment.
- Active obedience: learn to obey what the Spirit put upon your heart to do or say.
I believe that once you catch this method of evangelising, of loving people in the name of Jesus, you will never look at preaching the Gospel in the same way ever again. My desire for my (spiritual) household and I is to practise the PDA lifestyle and to leave the results to God. Sometimes, it doesn’t necessarily have to culminate in a dramatic conversion. Sometimes, all that’s needed at the moment is a simple spiritual conversation. All you need is to faithfully do your part, and learn to trust God for the outcome.
If you want to live from the inside-out, then your perspective must change; God didn’t call us to be a student, a teacher, a pastor, but to be a witness! Live your life in the Word and let the Gospel be seen in your life. We have to preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words. If anything at all, I think the X-factor of a believer is authenticity, and not perfection. I’d rather be real and flawed and to appear perfect. After all, if Jesus can love me even though I’m like that, then Jesus must really love me – that’s what the pre-believers should see in your life!
In summary, a hungry Christian is a growing Christian, and his appetite for learning and doing God’s will should never diminish regardless of his age or education level. If you call yourself a hungry and growing Christian, then I’d expect you to always seek the better way; choose the way of wisdom and apply it into your situations. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing.
It is my prayer that I’d always display an appetite for growth and an active pursuit for opportunities to mature in Christ.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.]
To find out more, visit www.GDC2013.com.
Mark 3:14 – And Jesus appointed 12 to be with Him, that He might send them forth to preach. This is the key strategy of Jesus Christ for world evangelisation. Intentional disciple-making and a call to a radical new testament discipleship to Jesus as Lord of all.
It has been said, that the world is in trouble and the church is in need. Sure, we have said that the world is in trouble; look at the financial meltdown, global warming, the rise of terrorism. And we look at the church, we say that the church is in need; the church is in need for more manpower, more missionaries, more pastors, more money, more buildings.
But we got it all reversed – the world is in need and the church is in trouble. Superficiality, immaturity and mediocrity has characterised the church. Carnality and compromise has robbed the church of her spiritual power and her spiritual authority to make a difference in this world.
There is a need for us to come back to the ancient paths. There’s a need for us to come back to the Holy Scriptures to understand the call to disciple-making. Today, God is on the move. We are healing a fresh call, heeding it, hearing God’s call from on high – a call to disciple-making, a call to make Jesus Christ Lord of all.
The Global Congress on Discipleship (GDC 2013) is issuing that call. We aim to bring together 10,000 disciple-making leaders and disciples from all over the world, to champion the call to disciple-making, to return the church to her disciple-making roots, to go make a difference. It is my belief that intentional disciple-making is the key to world evangelisation. At the heart of that key is radical discipleship to Jesus.
We’ve brought together good men to come and champion that call; Robert Coleman, on The Master Plan of Evangelism; Ravi Zacharias, to give us his exegesis of culture and the state of the church today; pastors like Randy Pope and Peter Tan-Chi, disciple-making pastors who will champion the call of disciple-making in the local church; leaders like Bill Lawrence and others, giving us a call to lead from the inside-out, to make disciples; and then there are others, like Luis Bush, calling us to come back to discipling the young in the 4/14 movement.
Come and join us, we want to see the move of God as never before because this is the critical need. The church is in serious trouble but God is restoring the church. There is a compelling call, a compelling vision, to go make disciples, revitalise the church so that once again it can make a difference. Once again, there is a transformational power in the life of the church to turn the world the right side up for Jesus.
This is at the heart of the GDC 2013; the Global Congress on Discipleship is not issuing only a call. It is giving a model. It is championing the vision and the strategy necessary to return the church to her disciple-making roots. So whether you’re church pastor, a missionary, a para-church leader, a lay leader, come together and let us champion this call because God is on the move, and you and I are part of history.
So God bless you, we pray that the world would come together and see what God’s strategy is as we join our hearts in GDC – the Global Discipleship Congress in May 22-25 in Manila, Philippines. See you there.
— Rev Edmund Chan
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):
- Personal revival – meeting God daily.
- Divine appointments – seeing doors open.
- 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)
Off the top of my head and in no order of importance…
1. Being secure helps you to stay humble. You’d be slow to anger and quick to apologise because you won’t feel like it’s a dent on your ego. And you won’t mind people thinking you’re in the wrong or having a wrong impression of you.
2. Being secure helps you to discover who you are. Coming to terms with your flaws and weaknesses is a painful thing, but when you’re not ashamed of your shortcomings, admitting it allows you to grow into your own skin.
3. Being secure helps you to be yourself. I think it’s tiring being someone else. Confidence is being comfortable with who you are and being acutely aware of your strengths; people don’t grow in their weaknesses, but in their strengths.
4. Being secure helps you to grow. One defining mark of a leader is about teachability. I always pray that I’d grow in my potential. I don’t want to fulfill all my potential and realise that there’s nothing left to grow in.
5. Being secure helps you to serve others. The world tells you that serving is for subordinates, but the Bible tells you that the top of the food chain must serve those who receive the least honour. Security breeds service.
6. Being secure helps you to trust God. There is no better test of faith than to place your trust in God to answer prayers than in your own ability to get things done. This is only possible when you recognise that God can do more than you can.
7. Being secure helps you to forgive. No one has the power to from getting or watching someone else get hurt, but everyone has the power to forgive. Forgiveness must always be exercised in the perspective of what Christ has already done for us.
8. Being secure helps you to have fun. Let your hair down and paint the town red! It’s no fun being around someone who doesn’t know how to have fun or make a fool of themselves (in the right place and time, and for the right reasons).
9. Being secure helps you to groom other people. The job of my generation is to help the next generation surpass us in everything. Secure leaders don’t hoard but invest themselves into people generously and willingly.
10. Being secure helps you to look toward eternity. God doesn’t call us to be successful, but to be faithful. In light of forever-ness, I am glad I only need to be accountable for what I am given to steward.
Being secure means that you can truly live like you have nothing to prove, nothing to lose and nothing to hide. So be secure in the Lord today – freedom beckons!
I guess it’s about time I breathed life into my blog, again.
Over the last weekend, I preached the final installment of “The Call of Duty: R-AGE digs deeper into Ephesians”. It was based on Ephesians 6:10-24 and the armour of God. I titled the sermon, “Is there courage in R-AGE?”. I had the luxury of having three weeks to prepare for this sermon (due to the combined adults and 180° Easter outreach services) and extra time meant that this sermon could pack more punch.
Most times at the end of a service, I always feel I’ve preached the worst sermon of my life, but surprisingly, I enjoyed preaching this one. Not because I tickled minds with interesting nuggets of information, but because I felt that I had executed the prophetic burden God laid on my heart for the youths. It’s similar to Apostle Paul’s cry for the believers in Ephesus – to boldly proclaim the Gospel. I challenged two groups of young people at the altar; those who used to preach the Gospel boldly and those who have never preached the Gospel boldly before – that the Holy Spirit would strengthen them to do so.
While I was thankful for those who responded, there were more who didn’t and I wondered why – was it due to my inadequate delivery of the message, their apathetic spiritual condition or simply because God didn’t plan it that way? Or was it something else beyond my comprehension? I couldn’t put a finger to it but it drives me to intercede more intensely for my beloved youths.
David Lee was the emcee for R-AGE @ GI and at the closing of the service, he echoed what I had actually said at R-AGE @ GII – that the responsibility of evangelism doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the leaders, pastors and those who are more fervent in their faith, but on everyone who calls himself a disciple of Jesus. How could we remain unmoved if the love of Christ has already moved us? It is my earnest prayer that R-AGE would experience the Father’s love first-hand!
“Stop evangelising. Instead, start loving people in the name of Jesus”, I first heard Ps Edmund Chan say that when I traveled with him to Perth last October. He repeated that statement at the recently concluded Grace Leaders’ Retreat and it was a sobering reminder for me. I had a short SMS exchange with Gabrielle Ong this morning and I encouraged her not to give up on proclaiming the Gospel to her pre-believing friends. I told her that one of the most effective ways of demonstrating the Gospel is to find opportunities to pray for people – you “speak life” into them and they get a chance to see your faith in action. It works!
Back to the sermon… Well, I’m not sure about other preachers, but the thing I enjoy most about preparing a sermon is how much I learn and am challenged through what I read and write. I already know what God would want me to do in response to my sermon and I look forward to walking in obedience this week. It is my prayer that R-AGE would take ownership of the souls within their communities who haven’t met Jesus.
Even as I type this, my heart is moved by the compassion Jesus has for the ones who are suffering and the ones who do not yet know Him. I am thankful for the Spirit’s reminder in my life – that my occupation isn’t one of a part-time youth pastor but a full-time Gospel preacher! I must never lose sight of reconciling others to God through the Gospel!
It’s going to be an awesome week, my dear friends. Let’s raise the shield of faith on each other’s behalf, gird up our loins with the written truth, wield the power of the spoken truth and advance the Gospel for the King! What a privilege to shepherd R-AGE – I am thankful for this season of my life. God is good.