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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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replacing vs raising: i’d pick the latter anytime.

Let me declare this from the onset: I’m not in the business of replacing great leaders of the past, but in the business of raising good leaders in the present, so they can become greater leaders in the future. After all, I believe that youth ministry is about seed-planting, not fruit-plucking.

R-AGE is going through a season of transition and that means over the next half a year, we will see key leaders move on to another season of their lives. I think this is good for them, and honestly, I also think it is good for the ministry. People come and go, but the Lord’s work continues to be done; when the Lord tells me it’s time for me to go, I will leave, knowing that God has been, is, and will always be in control of my beloved youth ministry.

I share the same sentiments as Sir Alex Ferguson – you can never replace (great footballers like) Scholes, Keane, Giggs or Beckham like-for-like, but you can raise other players to take over their responsibilities. But you must also recognise that their roles in the team on and off the field will never again be duplicated; everyone brings something different to the team.

Even though I’m not in the football industry, I see many similarities in the succession-planning principles between a trophy-winning football team (like Manchester United) and a thriving youth ministry (like R-AGE).

I stand true to my principle of leading young people to lead young people. Look at the recently concluded R-AGE Olympics – it was led completely by a team of youth leaders who were leading a team of youths. A total of 145 people turned up and 38 of them were newcomers! What a mammoth effort by Bradley, Tiffany and their team, for a groundbreaking event such as this!

When I joined the pastorate in 2009, I told myself not to meddle in events planning – that’s not what I joined full-time ministry to do. Yes, I will still get involved, but never on the same level as the committee members. I believe in young people wholeheartedly and that includes taking risks with them, to simply let them lead (while I walk alongside them).

I’ve always told my young adult leaders that they can stay in youth ministry for as long as the Lord leads them to (or for as long as they want), but they should never remain at the expense of another youth leader rising up. This sounds a little cruel and makes me out to be a little unsentimental, but my heart beats for the long-term future and sustainability of the ministry, not to mention a certain kind of cultures I want to imbue into the youths.

I’ve repeatedly told many of my youths leaders that as their youth pastor and ministry leader, I don’t really care for their contributions towards this ministry. No, I care more about their growth. If they spend two years with me in shepherding position and yet have not grown, I have failed as their youth pastor in shepherding them.

For the record, I’m not here to grow the ministry. No, I am here to grow the ministers. If the ministers grow, the ministry will naturally grow. Conversely, the reverse can’t be said. There is no ministry without ministers. You may win or lose if you invest in a project or programme, but if you invest in people, you always win.

The youth ministry leaders of old (are different from the leaders today and) have added to the ministry in their unique ways. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the Lord for them and what they have done. But the truth is, we can never do what the yesteryear leaders have done. No, I don’t plan to match their achievements.

I plan to surpass it.

But only if God wills it and gives me the grace for it. My mentor often tells me: Obedience is the highest expression of stewardship.

By God’s grace, I want to lead and pastor a youth ministry that will be remembered for all eternity, and not as one that tried to live up to their inherited expectations. And if you think you belong to yesterday’s group of youth leaders, don’t rest on your laurels and start fading out of the ministry – may God forbid that! Instead, do whatever it takes to help this generation of leaders surpass you and all that you’ve ever accomplished. I pray that you will find great joy in doing behind-the-scenes work as you mature in your faith and ministry.

So come on, dear friends… Regardless of your age or season of life, let our good God blow your mind on the minister He alone can transform you into. And if you’re working with young people, be patient with them… One day they will surprise you with how good they can be.

We can’t replace good leaders, but we can raise better ones.

Redeemed youths redeem youths.

happy first year anniversary.

Tonight marks the completion of my first year as a full-time minister in R-AGE and Grace AG. Three questions have dominated my heart in the last 24 hours.

  1. How have I contributed?
  2. What legacy have I left behind?
  3. Who have I become?

I am still in deep thought over these three questions. Actually, I have surprised myself by not asking, “What have I accomplished?”. I’d like to believe that it’s a sign of growth and maturity. I remember again tonight, that the Great Commission is not an assignment from God but an alignment to God.

Many things have also come to pass in the last 365 days. I’ve decided to exercise introspection tonight to perhaps, attempt to recall three ministry highlights.

  1. Directing REAL 2010 and investing into my champions
  2. Leading R-AGE @ GII and mentoring my shepherds
  3. The privilege of the pulpit and growing in my preaching

There were many other moments which were hard to leave out – like the unforgettable PIERCE – but my choices were made based on what I wouldn’t and couldn’t have been able to do if I didn’t come into full-time ministry. It all began with a simple act of obedience – which is the highest expression of stewardship – to answer the calling that had brewed in my heart since I was a teenager.

God has been marvelously good and gracious to me. And so I would also like to remember His many blessings in the past year. The three events have affected and reminded most me of His everlasting faithfulness in my life.

  1. Purchase of Dawson, for it catalysed my breakthrough with HY’s parents
  2. Providence of mentors – from Peter Chao to Benny Ho to Edmund Chan
  3. Potential of joeyasher.com, for through this blog, I’ve gained access into people’s lives

Looking back at the year that has passed also allows me to look forward to the year that is to come. 2011 looks next to be one of the most eventful years of my life. Amongst many new events that will be added over time, here are three that I look forward to the most. May God will these to happen in His time and way.

  1. Marrying and sharing my life with HY
  2. Embarking on various mentoring journeys
  3. Growing the youth ministry and as a youth minister

But above all else, I desire most to:

  1. Love God more
  2. Love God’s Word more
  3. Love God’s people more

So tonight, I do not celebrate a year of my forgettable achievements but a year of His unforgettable grace. And with that confidence at the forefront of my mind, I can’t help but to await the next 365 days as a youth minister in R-AGE with a great sense of hope, anticipation and excitement. I put my faith in a big God

Not my will, but Yours be done, O Lord. Thank You for Your favour, grace, mercy and loving-kindness. I love You Jesus, deep down in my heart.

the most memorable and precious morning of 2010.

I have decided to be as candid as I can because I want to capture the incredulity of the events that have unfolded in its rawest elements. This incident, to me, is a demonstration of God’s grace and divine timing, as well as His faithfulness in my life (especially ever since I stepped into full-time ministry). Some people may choose to express their joy in a different manner but this is how I will do it, so don’t judge me. Instead, rejoice with me for every word shared in this post comes from a heart of being humbly thankful for the favour that God has kindly bestowed upon me. I was actually reluctant to write about this because I was afraid of sounding pompous; however, this event has left such a mark in my memory that it would be travesty not to engrave it into my heart and mind. My sole intention is to give God the full glory for what has happened.

Ever since IDMC 2010 concluded, I’ve spent an abundance of time with the Lord and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. It’s something I cannot describe with words; I’ve been waking up much earlier everyday just to have more time with God. If you want to get a glimpse of how I feel, just do what I do – spend time with the Lord. I have a newfound vigour and desire in wanting to cultivate a deeper journey with God and I absolutely revel in it! I remember telling the Lord how wonderful it would be if I could journey with someone who really knew how to grow deep with God… But I digress.

I had dinner with LK on Monday and (I’ll withhold the details of our conversation but) I encouraged him to email BL from CEFC. When I got home that night, I decided to give LK a head-start by googling for BL’s email. At the end of IDMC 2010, I had already wanted to drop EC an email and so when I searched for BL’s email, I also searched for the last correspondence I had with EC, which was dated back to 2009. He had agreed to meet me if his schedule allowed. Unfortunately, that meeting didn’t materialise.

Writing to EC is different from responding to an email; busy men do not have the luxury of time to read long-winded emails, so I needed to be efficient with my words – and it takes time and effort to condense your thoughts. Nonetheless, I clicked on the “Reply” button and left that window open for me to compose my response later on. I was also trying to clear my backlog and was replying to many other emails. The clock struck midnight and I decided to retire to bed so that I could get up at 6am to read the Word.

I depend on my Nokia alarm to get me out of bed. At 5:55am, without the typical snoozing, I sprang out of bed because I was hungry for the Word. As I switched off the alarm on the E71, I also saw the emails that arrived in my mailbox in the last six hours. I saw an email from “Edmund Chan” and I swear the croutons in my eyes leaped out of its socket. Needless to say, I powered up my laptop immediately and zeroed in on that one email. I was sure it was some server screw-up and that it was an old, resent email.

But no, it was really EC – the man himself. (Okay, I know Christians cannot idolise other people but HELLO, THIS IS THE REVERED REVEREND EDMUND CHAN OF IDMC AND CEFC – PLEASE, EXCEPTIONS APPLY. Aiya, whatever. I’m just being frank here with my emotions, wearing my heart on my sleeve…) His reply was simple; he wanted my contact number so that he could call me to arrange to meet me before he went on his travels again. I saw the reply before that and apparently I sent him an email I had intended to send to one of my leaders to confirm our lunch meeting time and venue! I was so embarrassed by this boo-boo!

I composed myself quickly and replied his 5:45am email at around 6:00am. Three minutes later, my Nokia E71 rang.

“Hello, may I speak to Joey please?”

>>> HI PASTOR EDMUND. (INSERT MUTED EXCLAMATION MARKS HERE!!!) WOW. I AM HONOURED.

I was starstruck. Not that it mattered at all, but I apologised for the previous email that didn’t make sense. He chuckled and told me he believed in divine appointments. I was still starstruck. Then he told me that he was free that morning and asked if I was free. HELLO WHAT DO YOU THINK!??? So I audaciously asked if he was free to meet for breakfast at 7am at the Bukit Batok Central McDonald’s. He agreed and we put down the phone. And I literally SKIPPED to the basin, SMILED as I brushed my teeth, SKIPPED back to my room, SMILED as I changed into my clothes, SKIPPED out of home and SMILED all the way to the main road to flag a taxi.

I texted HY immediately and asked her to call me. Enthusiastically, I told her what had transpired and she was convinced there and then, that she was dating a little boy. I also updated my Facebook status, not to show off, but to use it as an outlet to release the adrenaline pumping in my bloodstream!

Both of us were going to be late so when I arrived I waited outside the McDonald’s, and anticipated the arrival of my V-V-VIP. There was still no sign of EC at 7:20am, so I decided to inspect the inside of McDonald’s. From the outside, through the glass panels, I caught sight of a middle-aged man writing something in EC’s latest book, “Growing Deep in God”, and this following was what really went through my head, in sequence:

“Woah God, divine confirmation ah? You send someone who just bought his book to assure me that I’m definitely meeting Pastor Edmund ah?”

“Cannot be right – don’t tell me someone has been stalking him… I’m not prepared to share Pastor Edmund with anyone else this morning ok! I waited one full year for this meeting!”

“Okay, maybe Pastor Edmund arranged to meet me together with someone else… Aiya, ok no choice, beggars aren’t choosers, I’ll just have to learn to share… What to do…? It’s already a privil-”

!!!

“EH HELLO YOU STUPID BOY THIS MAN IS EDMUND CHAN!!!”

So, I composed myself again because I didn’t want to appear too eager for fear that I would scare him away. THIS WAS IT. I AM ABOUT TO MEET THE MAN! I walked up to the table, caught his attention, gestured that I am he whom he is meant to meet (HAHA SORRY COULDN’T RESIST WRITING LIKE THAT!), shook his hand and stuttered through this sentence: “Hi Pastor Edmund, I’m Joey. I was waiting outside.” Of course, as soon as I said it, I felt like a dimwit trying to justify why I was late. I could only offer a quick riposte of, “Sorry, I couldn’t recognise you because of your missing moustache!” (Yeah, he shaved it off.)

Finally, there I was, seated in front of quite possibly my greatest inspiration of a man of God. I didn’t know where or how to begin, so I asked him if I could buy him breakfast. He simply said, “No, let me buy you breakfast instead.” I nodded my head, still starstruck of course, and (for the life of me I do not understand why I) took out my wallet and went to queue up with him. He asked me what I wanted and told me to return to my seat. “Let me serve you.” I was almost helplessly humbled beyond humility and inspired beyond inspiration by his role-model example of servant-leadership.

He asked me to say grace and instantly I wanted to recite the grace I composed, but I was nowhere near being composed enough to utter it without making a fool of myself. So I prayed simply and sincerely – thanking God for this wonderful opportunity to sit at the feet (well, almost) of a man who is completely devoted to Him. I have never felt so happy in a fast food restaurant before, eating Sausage McGriddles; every mouthful tasted divine.

He broke the ice with some getting-to-know-you questions and there I was, happily over-answering every single question like it was the last question he’d ever ask. When ice-breakers were over, he asked me three extraordinarily simple questions, point-blank.

“How old are you?”

>>> I turn 27 next month.

“When did you accept Christ?”

>>> 15 years ago, when I was in primary six.

-a short pause-

“Would you like me to mentor you?”

-MY MOUTH OPENED BIGGER THAN A HUMPBACK WHALE’S-

>>> W-W-WOW! Y-Y-YES! It’d be my honour, privilege and absolute delight to be mentored by you!

Do me a favour here and fill in all the blanks for me, okay? EVERY EXTREME EMOTION OF ELATION AND DELIRIUM – YOU IMAGINE IT – BECAUSE I PROBABLY EXPERIENCED IT. Thank you, very much. (:

He proceeded to spell out for me what he expected of me as his mentoree and laid the ground rules for our mentoring relationship. Then he explained why he asked those questions, and everything suddenly made sense to me. But what was more astonishing was how God was involved in this truly divine appointment. He told me that God had spoken to him about me already. To keep the account brief (because I’m unsure how much I’m permitted to say), he told me that he shaved off his signature moustache because he was mourning for a mentoree who suddenly passed away over the weekend. However, God comforted him by telling him that He would send him a new spiritual son.

And that was when my email was accidentally sent to his mailbox.

***

The adventure didn’t stop there.

We ended our inaugural mentoring session at 9am and he asked me where I was headed to. I told him that I was heading to GII to lead devotion for a group of youths. He offered to send me there. As we approached the destination, I asked him to alight me outside GII because it was troublesome to turn in and out of the narrow basement car park. Nevertheless, he made a right turn into the compound and said,

“How could I pass up on the opportunity of watching you teach?”

I’d be a millionaire if I got a dollar for every time he stunned me that morning.

So I guided him to the car park, got out of the car, entered the lift with him, and walked to the classroom where the youths were waiting. I opened the door, exchanged morning greetings with everyone, held the door for EC to enter, then as calmly as I could, said, “This is Pastor Edmund”. The only person who knew who he was, was EL. EC was EL’s hero; you should have seen the look on her face when EC appeared after me. She immediately contributed to my a-dollar-for-every-stunning-moment-morning.

I have never taught with so much nerve before. When I asked the class to share their reflection on Proverbs 1:1-7 (the passage I’ve selected for the morning devotion), guess who also answered with a bag of nerves? No prizes. At the end of my 30-minute session, he sat me down by the vending machine and conducted one of the most enlightening debrief sessions I’ve ever attended. Throughout those three precious hours, he shifted a number of my paradigms and challenged an equal of my perspectives; I was tremendously sharpened that morning.

At 10:15am, I escorted him to his car and bid him farewell. That morning, I caught a glimpse of the remarkable leader and mentor that he is reputed to be. This is a morning that I will forever remember because it was a grand display of God’s faithfulness and goodness in my life.

***

If I didn’t send him an email a year ago;

If I allowed myself to be discouraged by those who sniggered at me when I boldly declared (by faith) that one day he’d mentor me;

If I gave up after failing to make an appointment;

If I weren’t discussing about BL with LK over dinner on Monday;

If I didn’t help LK search for BL’s email and remembered about that email from 2009;

If I didn’t click “Reply”;

If I wasn’t clearing my email backlog;

If I didn’t casually tell the Lord about my desire to find someone to teach me how to grow deeper in Him;

If I didn’t wake up to spend time with the Lord at 6am;

And this is just my part of the story… After this incident, I have become a firm believer of a God of divine appointments, a God who rewards beyond my imagination, and of a God who answers prayers – no matter how simple or casual they may be. My God knows my needs and He supplies them accordingly for His glory. I am also convinced that if you want really want something, and have the faith to receive it, you have to take action and go on to pursue it. After all, if you never ask, you never know. Oh God, I’m glad I asked!

I love You, Lord and I can’t wait to grow with and glean from your servant EC. I still cannot believe that You would send a man of his calibre to be my spiritual father and mentor. Truly, truly, it is my honour, privilege and absolute delight to call You my Lord, my God and my Father who knows my heart’s desire. I’m madly in love with You. Thank You for Your grace and favour that I definitely do not deserve. May I glorify You wholeheartedly through this newly established relationship.

IDMC 2010: an intermission.

Probably the most annoying GIF in the world. (Source: Very Demotivational)

I’m halfway through my second IDMC and I’ve learned many new lessons as well as have been reminded of some old lessons. IDMC will always be a special conference for me because it was on the second night (that’s tonight!) that I made my decision to step into full-time ministry. What’s inspired me most so far though, isn’t what EC has been teaching but what he’s been living. Through EC’s example, I’m convinced that one of the top priorities of a preacher is to spend an abundance of time dwelling and delighting in the Word of God. I echo his sentiments in my heart for I think that’ll be one of the best things a pastor could do for his congregation. It’s time for me to dig even deeper into the Holy Bible!

Once my thoughts are organised in the right places, I’d be better placed to write something worth reading. For now, I’m excited that a good number of youth leaders in Grace AG has signed up for IDMC 2011 – the numbers stand at 19 at last count but I’m expecting the final number to swell to 25 when I register everyone tomorrow morning. On a side note, I’ve been impressed by the Covenanters’ commitment to their own conference – it’s obvious that they own it and are tremendously proud of IDMC; you could see this pride hung on the faces of all the volunteers – well, if I was one of them, I’d be proud too. It’s been a thoroughly pleasing experience for me as a delegate to be treated to their genuine hospitality. Needless to say, this is something that I’d want R-AGE youths to pick up – be it during Rhema Conferences, events, services or cells. Covenanters make me want to return to their church because of how welcoming they are – can our guests say the same thing about us? I have confidence that we will attain an excellent standard of hosting with the right training.

In the meantime, I hope you haven’t spent too much time looking at this GIF. It’s been rolling ever since I started composing this post and it still hasn’t ended. Epic GIF, no less. I couldn’t help but to post it. For now, I look forward to the third installment of IDMC 2010.

JAT in a nutshell.

Famous people call it bio and computer programmes call it read-me; I decided against being witty, so off goes “I am not but I know I AM” (it’s the title of LG’s book anyway) and in comes “about JAT” – no frills, no nonsense, no smart-alec terms – just a simple (and severely over-elaborated) self-introduction. I enjoyed writing this – partly because I’m writing about myself (I’m shameless, but honest! Hmm… Shamelessly honest or honestly shameless?), but also because I enjoy writing – it was a creative exercise that I thoroughly reveled in. Normally I’d say to you, “Enjoy!”, but for this one, I’d tell myself – “Enjoyed!” This “about JAT” is now a mainstay on my blog – you can find it amongst the links on top. (You can’t judge me on my blog – I’ve already done that!)

***

I am Joey Asher Tan, a 26-year-old Youth Minister with Grace Assembly of God Church, Singapore, since 15th October 2009.

I gave my life to my Saviour, Jesus Christ, on 28th November 1995, and started to pursue Him as my bullseye in life on 4th June 1997.

I was baptised as “Asher” on 23rd December 2005, and this Hebrew name represents, “Blessed, joyful and happy”, which is a befitting self-description.

I am a Bible-believing Christian who desires to know God more by working excellently and learning earnestly through a balanced lifestyle, for the glory of God.

***

I love God, His Word and His young people; I seek to provoke thoughts, challenge perspectives and pen indelibility through my kaleidoscope of experiences.

I attempt to write daily because I want to capture the sheer plethora of thoughts that flood my mind; I consider it an achievement if I expand on one everyday.

I hope you feel my heart-on-sleeve passion, in-your-face authenticity and how I believe that the greatest gift you could ever give to young people, is to believe in them.

***

I answered God’s call by heading into full-time ministry with my church, which is probably the craziest, but best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I wake up every morning and thank God for allowing me to work in my dream job; I serve with “R-AGE” – it was there, as a 14-year-old, that my life changed.

I am in the business of Redeeming A Generation for Eternity and I pastor around 100 young people in the Grace AG (Bukit Batok) youth community.

I turn 21 every 21st October and I’m getting younger by the day because I hang out with the most awesome bunch of young people in the world.

***

I graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma in Mass Communication, where I discovered my communication aptitude for writing and orating.

I credit my decade in Anglo-Chinese School for a rudimentary education in confidence; it is stillwhere I’d school my kids, after all, for the best is yet to be.

I am a commissioned officer and a tank platoon commander by training; I was with the Singapore Armed Forces for three years as an Army Regular.

I headed the Marketing Division of Global Beverages Asia and Wine Mall during a fruitful two-year stint in Shanghai, China, where my worldview formed.

I am currently pursuing my Bachelor of Communication with Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and I cannot wait to begin my theological education.

***

I trust that I am an authentic leader, a passionate speaker and a mentor who believes in young people; God engraved this three-fold ministry on my heart.

I am a grateful son and proud brother in a remarkable family that is spilling over with God’s grace, goodness, mercy and favour; I couldn’t ask for more.

I am confident I will be the world’s best father to my children and the best husband my wife could ever dream of; I’ve been blessed, so I shall bless.

I consider myself immensely privileged to be able to say “I love you” to a girlfriend who is a constant reminder of God’s grace to me; I can’t wait to marry her.

***

I started serving in church when I was 15 years old, when God told me that I’d be a worship leader; God anoints those whom He calls – ministry began there.

I know I am built for the stage; I enjoy song-writing, performing and revel in taking the lead vocals – I delight in expressing myself and thrive in the limelight.

I have childhood dreams like everyone, so one day I will study in Fuller Seminary, speak to a million people, travel around the world, meet my heroes, John Piper and Eric Cantona (plus Uzumaki Naruto in my sleep!), and maybe even have a street named after me.

I aspire to be a published author, sought-after speaker and recorded artiste (and of course, life-changer and history-maker) before I depart this earthly body.

***

If I could only say one thing to you, I would look you eyeball-to-eyeball, and say…

“Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing; I am absolutely nothing without Christ.”

keep the main thing, the main thing.

Today, I commemorate my first year in Singapore since I returned from Shanghai for good. I fondly remember how I made my comeback at the No One Else album launch concert. I will never forget the microphone stand, the spotlight, the explosive Roller Coaster introduction, and those 10 memorable steps (wished it was 100!) I took to superstardom the centre of the stage. It was my moment of conceited indulgence (so bear with me) and it’s not very often I get to feel like a rock star. Yes, it’s a terribly vain thing to say, but I’ve never denied my appetite for the limelight. (Fronting a band gives me a completely different rush from leading worship or preaching and I’ve really missed that! RL, CK, JT… It’s time to revive…)

Anyway, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve read the above-mentioned expression. “Keep the main thing, the main thing” is synonymous with “Do not major on the minor” or “Know the difference between urgent and important”. Over the past nine months, something that I’ve honestly struggled with is to discern between my dreams and God’s dreams (for I certainly don’t want to mess this up!), as well as to think about how all these dreams are translated into ministry execution. I honestly find the marriage of the two dreams extremely challenging at times.

When I felt the call to enter full-time ministry, there were only three ministries that God deposited into my heart – Lead, Preach and Mentor – and these governed the way I operated; you could say that these are the three pillars of my personal calling. I’ve tried to center all my decisions around these pillars. Of course, I’ve made a couple of wrong decisions along the way, like getting involved in the Grace 60th Anniversary and being involved with the original YAYP transition team; I try never to live in regret, but to learn from retrospect for it is pointless if to lament about spilled milk.

As my portfolio increases and as my tent enlarges, so will my influence and competencies too. I’ve learnt that I must learn not to get involved with everything even though I want to and may foolishly deem myself suitable for it, and especially when it is logical to do so. (Sigh, logic – Man’s feeble attempt at second-guessing God’s sovereign will…) That’s the reason why I believe that a personal vision statement is important. If you have a motto to preside over the way you function, you more or less know what to say yes to and what to turn down; it helps you to live a principled life. What’s yours? Mine is:

“I am a bible-believing Christian who desires to know God
by working excellently, learning earnestly while having a balanced lifestyle,
for the glory of God.”

At our mid-year appraisal this morning, RY told me that “marrying your dreams into God’s will is a constant struggle”, and I concur. That’s why I think it’s always a step of faith to act on what God has impressed upon my heart. With RY, I always learn something new or am reminded of previously-learnt lesson – that’s why he’s my mentor and that’s why I look up to him so much. And in true hero-fashion, he balanced the above-mentioned statement with this: “But remember, it is God who planted these dreams into you”. That took a huge load off my shoulders; I couldn’t believe that I missed something as obvious as that!

I have been wired to lead with my heart on my sleeves and somehow this quality has become my signature. Perhaps it explains why Passion is one of the three flagships of my personality, besides Authenticity and Believing in Young People. These are the core values I think my life represents most dominantly and consistently. Again I quote my boss, “Passion is like a tap; once you turn it on, water gushes out” – I’d like to believe that my passion for youth ministry doesn’t just trickle out, but that it surges out.

However, I know that one day my passion will run out. RY encouraged me today and told me that I have tenacity; it was the first time this word was used to describe me. He deliberately chose tenacity over perseverance for (I think) the latter represents an indefatigability to endure present situations while the former indicates a determination to push oneself through to overcome challenges. I liked that distinction and I believe that tenacity should rightly be the best friend of passion for they are perfect complements.

So anyway, back to keeping the main thing, the main thing, I think it’s a good opportunity for me to take a step back and reflect, and to ask God to give me grace so that I can differentiate what I want to do from what I need to do, as well as to determine what He wants me to do. (God doesn’t need me to do anything. He doesn’t need anybody to do anything for Him. In fact, according to Psalm 50:12, if He was hungry He wouldn’t even tell you or me.) In our lifetime, we’d go through seasons after seasons and so it remains a wise thing to focus, always on the main thing. If I were to strip everything down to its core, the main tasks in life (in fact, the only two tasks), is to love God more and to love His people more everyday (Mark 12:30-31).

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