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a change of plan or a plan of change?

I led my wonderful team of dedicated Shepherds to Batam’s iHotel over the weekend; this was our first independent ministry-planning trip and I must say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I trust that my Shepherds had also enjoyed this time of reflection and evaluation that I had carefully designed for them to embark on. I’ve journeyed with them for 18 months now and while it’s been a wonderful ride, I desire for them to grow deeper in their individual walks with God.

Keith and I arrived slightly later than the rest of them as we had to oversee the collaboration with the Grace Kids at GII Sunday services; it was also the first time I had the opportunity to be the emcee in the adult services. (I improvised from what I thought was a messy first service and I am grateful that the second service turned out much better…) I am confident that the adults now know that R-AGE @ GII exists and that it’s the best place to be at on a Saturday afternoon.

It was great to have caught up with Keith on our journey to Batam. I’ve always identified him as one of my successors and I’m confident that he will be able to lead R-AGE @ GII to greater heights where I could not. Keith, you will surpass me and I will help you to do that because I believe so much in what God will do through you. (: I am blessed to be able to mentor an exceptional young man like him.

I bunked with Bradley for this trip and I thoroughly enjoyed bonding with him and knowing him more intimately. We had a good time catching up in the room and in the pool. I celebrate his appetite to get out of his comfort zone – that’s the mark of a G0d-fearing and Christ-loving disciple. And I look forward to hearing his reflections on a passage of Scripture I asked him to meditate upon.

We decided to have seafood dinner at a roadside coffeeshop – yes, those typically dirty and warm ones (with pesky buskers) and the overpowering aroma of belachan chilli that clogs up your respiratory system. I must say I was impressed with the team’s courage to eat everything that came their way (although some felt queasy after dinner). The best thing about the feast was its price – we ate a mountain of food for a mere 10 SGD per pax.

***

The first activity we embarked on after dinner was “Dials on a Dashboard” – a little exercise I’ve adapted from Wayne Cordeiro’s excellent book, “Leading on Empty”; I got my Shepherds to systematically recognise, rate and recalibrate the various dials on their dashboard. It was a brutally honest activity and it set the tone for the contemplation they would embark on.

For the purpose of my own journaling, the 15 dials I’ve identified in my life are:

  1. Faith life
  2. Family life
  3. Relationship life
  4. Mentoring life
  5. Leadership life
  6. Intercession life
  7. Online life
  8. Author’s life
  9. Speaker’s life
  10. Competency life
  11. Contemplative life
  12. Financial life
  13. Leisure/Fun life
  14. Social/Fellowship life
  15. Health life

It is my earnest prayer that everyone in the team would UP(a)GRADE in their own faith pilgrimage. I am eager to grow, as I always have been, and I have already put into action some things as soon as I arrived home. May the Lord continue to give me grace as I seek to please Him in all that I do.

I encouraged the team to wake up early the next morning to do their devotions on a passage of Scripture (Hebrews 12) that the Holy Spirit revealed to Yixian during the Dashboard activity; I thoroughly enjoyed receiving insights and understanding from the Lord as I meditated on and memorised His Word. It was an empowering experience! MAN, I LOVE THE WORD!

***

After breakfast, we returned to the room and I asked the team two key questions:

  • “What have you done?” (I got them to list all their achievements in ministry – to itemise what’s been happening)
  • “How have you done it?” (I got them to investigate their attitudes behind these ministry achievements – to inspect the condition of their hearts)

It turned out to be a powerful exercise as this soul-searching activity became a heart-wrenching experience for a few of them. One Shepherd (whose identity I shall protect) even broke down during this activity. We ministered to her on the spot and tears flowed freely – not just on her cheeks but on those who were standing in the gap for her as they laid their hands to pray for her. It was a moving scene indeed… This is unity… This is the body of Christ… This is biblical fellowship.

I was led to get everyone to worship God together before every session (with David’s iPod and two speakers no less!) because I believe that it’s important to engage the Lord in any crucial decision; I felt that it was imperative to make decisions in the presence of God for it’s always in the presence of our living and loving God that our lives are changed to be more like Him. And so it was – God is faithful – this was ministry at its finest hour. And it wouldn’t have been possible without the Spirit’s conviction.

***

As part of my bid to sort out my health, I had already completed 10km on the treadmill within 24 hours of arrival and was about to go for my first swim in eons; it must have been more than six months since I last put on my goggles. On a lighter note, I discovered the power of my physical presence – some of the girls who were in the pool disappeared (more like ran away) within seconds of me entering it to swim my laps; it’s like they saw a ghost or something. HAHA!

We consumed lunch at a local restaurant and after that, half the team went to do water sports while the other half remained behind to enjoy some free time. Huiyi and I would have loved to join those out at sea but her sudden bout of illness prevented us from doing so. We ended up enjoying a nice two-hour Thai/Balinese combination massage for a grand total of 14 SGD per pax (cheaper than Shanghai!). More importantly, as always, I enjoyed my afternoon with my wife-to-be. (:

We waved Esther, Natalina and Huiyi goodbye as they left a day earlier due to prior commitments. The rest of us went to the nearby Nagoya Hill (for the umpteenth time!) for dinner at another local establishment. The most hilarious scene must have been when Bradley and I literally carried the table top without its legs. You must see it to believe how ridiculous it looked!

***

We returned to our Shepherds Headquarters (a.k.a. Yixian’s and Jeraldine’s room) where we embarked on ministry evaluation. It was a proper meeting with minutes recorded and we listed down all the various programmes that we had already embarked on for 2011. And I helped the Shepherds to see how important being intentional is in planning for our programmes. We made quick-fire assessments to every programme, from cells, to services, to regional gatherings, to trainings and to special events:

  1. Should we keep it or trash it?
  2. If we plan to keep it, how can we improve it?

All of us unanimously felt the need to be even more evangelistic in the way that we operated. When we plan “Win” events, we will naturally need to have “Equip” activities and eventually it will result in it being a “Build” event. I saw in the Shepherds’ eyes a conviction to be intentional, intensive and inclusive in all that we would plan next year. I was glad to be able to transfer what I had learnt from a conference to my team of leaders.

(I was tickled to see the contrast between my M&M’s (Melody & Melissa) – one was bustling with energy and the other completely zapped!) We spent the next few hours affirming one another with objective, subjective, introspective, retrospective and most importantly, heartfelt words of encouragement. I am confident that this is the first time the Shepherds were encouraged on such a scale – I pray that it had lifted their inner man/woman. (: Well for me, I went to bed feeling great and grateful about what the Lord is doing in this season of my life.

***

Our final activity was inspired by 2 Corinthians 5 where I reminded the Shepherds of our duty and need for the ministry of reconciliation. I shared with them openly and honestly on my own attempts to reconcile with a couple of people in my life (and I am proud to say that I’ve already taken reconciling action tonight, as soon as I got home).

I believe that as we grow as a ministry both in quantity and quality, through processes and programmes, cracks of misunderstanding will appear in our relationships; these are inevitable for when iron sharpens iron, there is heat and friction. And when cracks appear, the devil will too, with his lies and deception. We must not fall for it – hence the great need to reconcile each other to Christ (and to each other) and to clear up any potential or active misunderstanding before it erodes into bitterness.

By the end of this retreat, we had evaluated the three main components of ministry: people, programmes and processes. We had also recorded feedback for the various programmes that the ministry had executed on the service, cell and events level. I am hopeful that this Retreat had been in line with the coming 40DOC campaign, and sets the tone for personal renewal and corporate alignment.

Praise the Lord for all that He’s done through me at this Shepherds Retreat – A change of plan of a plan of change?

***

I shall leave you with two paradigm shifts that the Holy Spirit inspired me to share with the Shepherds:

  • I challenged them (and now you reading this, and eventually R-AGE) to remove “Arrowed” or “Bombed” from their dictionary for that’s a secular and selfish way of thinking. Instead, let’s train ourselves to say, “What an opportunity indeed!” whenever we are given the privilege to do something for the Lord and His people.
  • But if you are simply unable to lend a hand due to your existing commitments: “Don’t be a dead-end, but be a Y-junction instead.” So that when you really can’t help when people approach you, you can still help by pointing them to other people who may be able to help them. This results in their burden being lightened regardless.

We are a team and this is a team effort; let’s behave like an Ephesians 4 team!

***

Of late, I’ve had an overwhelming desire to have a deep life and to dig deeper, thanks to the influence that Ps Edmund Chan has in my life. And I believe that this is evident in my conversations and in the way that I operate. He put it succinctly, “The depth of your life determines the breadth of your ministry.”

I have never desired depth in my life and ministry as much as I have right now. Oh Lord, please give me Your grace and enable to grow myself and R-AGE in a deep and riveting manner. Hear my cry, Lord – I do not want to raise a shallow generation of believers!

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ten disjointed thoughts and an attempt to resume writing.

1. Numbness is a clear symptom of pre-burnout; it’s a terrible feeling (paradoxically speaking) not being able to feel. All I asked God for today was to help me love Him with my heart. I have little problems loving Him with my mind, soul and strength or even loving others. But to love God with my emotions seemed like the hardest thing to do. Nonetheless, the key word here, is “pre” and the response to numbness is gratitude of foresight; the insight of foresight.

2. Ever since planning for Rhema 2010 began, everything seemed like a task to and for me. I loathe it when my (rare) desire to dwell in melancholy is overpowered by my choleric temperament to solve problems, disengage and move on. I may not show it, but I hate being unemotional. I hate it, really. It was never like that before when I was younger – what’s happening to me? I have become intolerant to affection and indifferent to sentiment. I must never become irrelevant to the people I love and disinterested in the world that I live in.

3. I experienced a paradigm shift on Monday. I repented before God for being transactional in the way that I related to Him, my mentors and mentorees. It is my deep desire that my relationships with people evolve into transformational journeys, and not just transactional events. I got so annoyed at myself for getting ahead of myself. I must learn to differentiate between form and substance. I must not allow intentionality descend into the abyss of transactions. There’s so much more – I don’t want to settle for anything lesser (with presumptuousness)!

4. This week, I finally caught a glimpse of why Peter Chao and Edmund Chan prizes mentoring relationships above ministry leadership. After spending the evening with DYLM, I understood it; while leading R-AGE to the next level is what I will always aspire to do, being a friend and mentor to my beloved shepherds and mentorees is what I shall desire to be for all my days. And I believe the turning point was this week – when investing into their lives becomes the topmost ministry priority for me; let’s see how God helps me to translate that into action.

5. I’ve completely messed up what “intentional” means. And I’ve shortchanged myself with my mentors and shortchanged my mentorees when they’re with me. Oh Lord, help me to undo what I’ve foolishly done! Humble and help me to learn from this. Intentional is when I take a step back to allow God to use me to minister to people. Intentional is when I seize opportunities. I know I’m speaking in code and only I will decrypt it. Ironically, agenda is the enemy of intentionality. Yes, I have identified my “Peter, James and John”; the journey with them begins now…

6. I could have a hundred mentors and a thousand mentorees, but nobody could ever take the place of each one of them in my heart. It’s not about calendar or content… No one could replace no one. One of the worst feelings in mentoring (or life in general), even though it’s theoretically unhealthy, is the feeling of abandonment. I understand how you felt now because I felt it myself… Now it’s up to me to take the next step towards reconciliation – I know it is about to unfold. Oh God, give me wisdom to repair relationships. People aren’t statistics and mentors aren’t vending machines; I am humbled.

7. I intentionally (URGH – the use of that word fills me with disgust!) rescheduled all my appointments next week because I’m in desperate need of an extended break. Regardless of how invincible I’ve always perceived myself to be, still I couldn’t shake off the emptiness that accompanied the disengagement from an intensive two-month discipleship programme. I gave so much away my tank is almost empty. It happened last year and again it happened this year. I am a fool to think I could have overcome it. (Now I understand why I was compelled to read Wayne Cordeiro’s “Leading On Empty”.) It’s time to recharge.

8. Leading a youth ministry from 80 to 120 people within a year makes any youth pastor swell with pride… But nothing – and I mean it, nothing! – is more satisfying and encouraging than watching my successors take the lead to bless me… This afternoon, they instructed me to sit back, relax and do absolutely nothing tonight – and I did just that. I cannot thank God enough for their deed and gesture. Keith and Yixian, you both are God’s precious gifts to me and I will remember that I am leading a group of youths who love me deeply and want me just as I am. You have honoured me tonight – thank you.

9. I thank God for the parental green light to (at last!) take our relationship to the next level in 2012. I may not have the emotional capacity to respond but cognitively, it’s one of the greatest news I’ve received in a while. What a privilege – thank you for daring to entrust your daughter to me; she is most special because one has ever made me want to love her more than I love myself. You have no idea how much we are looking forward to our union. God has answered our year-long prayer; He is faithful indeed!

10. I really hope to commence, complete and continue my theological education at Fuller Seminary and I am truly convinced that it will come to pass one day…

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