Blog Archives

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.

Advertisements

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.

perth day 4: mentoring on the road.

I don’t normally fancy driving on road trips because I do not have good driving stamina; by about 60 minutes I’ll start to feel fatigued and would want to do a pit-stop – my last road trips from Shanghai to Hangzhou and from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur were no different. It certain didn’t help when my navigators started to sleep on the job. Haha. This time however, enroute from Perth City to Albany, I got past that dreaded hour-mark by singing to 五月天 music and engaging in good conversations with the rest of the passengers.

We discoursed a plethora of issues, be it inevitable topics like Grace AG, R-AGE and YAYP, to more interesting topics like:

  • Mentoring is dynamic (i.e. organic), not decisive.
  • Mentors are one-off, but mentoring is life-long.
  • Mentoring is complex – both systemic and seasonal.
  • Mentoring is about the process and the product.
  • What happens when meritocracy creeps into mentoring?
  • Who’s going to mentor those whose potential isn’t obvious?
  • Could mentoring success be derived from duplicity alone?
  • What is the sustainability and repeatability of a mentoring cycle?
  • What is the optimum age gap for mentors to retain their relevancy?
  • If Jesus had more than 3 years in ministry, would he have continued journeying with his 12 disciples or would he have “released” them to be disciple-makers and gone ahead to make 12 new disciples?

At the end of the day, I arrived at one conclusion, as cliche as it may sound, that human mentors are finite while God’s sovereignty is infinite. We as disciple-makers can only impact, invest and impart so much, and it’s not very much at all! Hence, I honestly opine that regardless of all the possible answers we could find from the above questions, it’s more important for any mentor to enjoy the entire journey, regardless of its outcome, and trust God to shape lives for His glory.

Well, back to the extraordinary mundane… (:

Today packed a straightforward itinerary; we had breakfast at home before setting off to Albany via a 420-kilometre/ 5-hour road trip; saw and fed Alpacas on our first pit stop; fed ourselves over lunch at Black Cockatoo Cafe; drove past Dog Rock and checked into our beach house destination at Barry Court; went for a walk at Albany Town Centre, had dinner of fish, squid and chips at The Squid Shack near Emu Point; went to Albany Creek to do some grocery shopping at Coles Supermarket; and finally returned to our single-storey bungalow. It’s 10:30pm as I write this entry and I am about to retreat to bed – finally, a good night’s rest beckons!

As usual, I always learn from Hunk (aka Chin Seng) every time we interact. This time, he imparted a life-and-death lesson into my system – about decisiveness on the road. Read that as metaphorically as you want… All I shall say is, by the grace of God, I thank God for allowing that overtaking incident to have taken place smoothly… (:

P/S 1: Huiyi and I celebrate our 40th month together today! It is a good Friday indeed. (:

P/S 2: We’re praying for “Never Let Go”! Keep up the good work, R-AGE! Invite friends!

P/S 3: I will post more pictures in my DSLR when I get my hands on a USB cable. For now, here’s what I found in a shop called “Thingz”. I didn’t buy it of course… Bottoms up!

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.

sermon recap: time for spiritual puberty!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First and foremost, I think it was amazing that R-AGE spammed Facebook over the weekend with testimonies of how God impacted our lives. I shared about purchasing Skyville with HY. Click here for the Facebook note and here for the original testimony. This activity was part of the Evangelism Pillar that RL, KY and I produced. It’s a simple idea that turned out to be brilliant beyond our imagination; we designed a lesson to help our youths share how God changed their lives and to tag at least five Christians and five non-Christians, then invite them to R-AGE services this weekend. It went better than we had expected and I’d like to believe that it’s an activity worth repeating a few times every year.

I can’t wait for Saturday! The first PLUG & PLAY (!) since PIERCE will take place at 2:50pm bring your friends this Saturday and be early! With PUSH at 2pm, service at 3pm, Be Our Guest at 4:45pm and cell at 5pm, July looks set to close on a high! RY will also be preaching the third installment of the LIVE LOUD series. We’re doing a verse-by-verse study on the book of James and I had the privilege to open the series with the overview. CX preached last weekend and I’ll be preaching again next weekend. I know this sermon recap is two weeks late but better late than never!

  • James is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get and an in-your-face book that teach us not just to live normally, but to live it out loud for everyone to see. The author is straightforward, direct, practical and honest. He was writing to young Christians who were scattered and were facing trials.
  • These five chapters are like a synopsis of the issues that the church faced then, and even now; the things that caused disharmony in the fellowship. The one root problem in these issues? Spiritual immaturity. James exhorted his readers to mature spiritually.
  • People, unlike the all-knowing God who can see through your heart and know instantly if there is faith in there or not, cannot see the contents of our heart; the world knows the faith in our hearts by examining the works of our hands.
  • BH phrased it perfect: “We are not saved by works but we are saved to work… …Faith is the root of salvation but works are the fruits of salvation.” Works are indeed the consequences of salvation. “People will work because of their salvation for work comes forth from faith.” (Woohoo! I can’t wait to meet BH for our mentoring session on Wednesday morning!)
  • Maturity is not 1) how old you are, 2) how much you know, or 3) how much you have done, but to be “brought to its end; a finished state; at completion; perfect human integrity and virtue; and a full grown adult of full age”. It is a process that doesn’t stop until we meet Jesus Christ.
  • He offers us eight distinguishing marks of maturity. A maturing person:
    1. Is positive in the midst of problems (James 1:2)
    2. Keeps his or her desires under control (1:4)
    3. Is accepting of others (2:8-9)
    4. Has consistent beliefs and actions (2:17)
    5. Is careful with his or her words (3:2)
    6. Strives to be wise (3:17-18)
    7. Has a humble attitude (4:10)
    8. Is connected (5:16)
  • We have to love God and others actively (NT) and passively (OT). It’s extremely easy to fall short of God’s holy standard so it is only by God’s grace that we can make the cut. I always believe that the way we treat the least and the weakest of us show us how strong we truly are as a ministry.
  • The mark of a true Christian isn’t in a perfect lifestyle, but a lifestyle that is being perfected. Your friends will recognise the effort that you make to change. If you keep doing what’s right, no one can tell you that you’re wrong. Consistency is proved and achieved over a long period of time and reputations are built on consistency.
  • When there’s a breakthrough with our words, there will be a breakthrough with our lives. I issued the official R-AGE language challenge: to once and for all get rid of crude words on top of all known vulgar words – from real-life conversations, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and MSN. Let people notice the difference by noticing the absence.
  • People may admire a person if he or she has a righteous, faultless and sin-free life but people will respect a person who desires to change. Wisdom is necessary for maturity because it will govern the way you speak and behave; so always strive for wisdom.
  • I introduced IBM (In-Between-Meetings): I encouraged everyone to have at least one IBM in the week. Initiate and organise meet-ups beyond the weekends – be it to study, pray, eat, or even play together. Don’t give up meeting one another. A united youth group goes beyond meeting once a week!
  • I challenged all leaders: Having a mature individual around brings about steadiness to a group. Love it or hate it, leaders are being watched and mimicked. Hence, we should lead by example by setting and being the example for the younger ones who look up to us.
  • Everyone grows up at a different rate and time, and the maturation point is what we strive for – being completely mature. God alone will bring us to that point. The key to unlocking maturity has nothing to do with us, but with God, so boldly ask Him for wisdom today.
  • Selfishness and self-centredness is the greatest obstacle to maturity for it is instinctive to think about ourselves first. When we can’t look beyond ourselves, we can never look toward the needs of others. It does take effort to consider the needs of others’ better than our own.
  • A maturing church is a growing church. Just like physical puberty, when you spiritual puberty you will experience all kinds of spiritual growth – gradual, sudden and new growth. When we emerge out of our comfort zone to mature spiritually, we will grow as a church.

I look forward to preaching again next weekend!

top ten reasons to watch naruto.

To those who do not follow Naruto, they might just write off this post; some may not even read it; and for those who do read it, they may probably just glance through it. I have a tendency to dramatise my expressions, but to a certain extent, Naruto has made a positive impact on my life. I’ve always been able to identify with Naruto’s personality – I know this is crazy coming from a 27-year-old, but reading his character profile is like reading mine. So here goes the top ten reasons why, if you are not watching/reading Naruto, it’s time you got started!

1. Naruto educates you about mentoring – There are so many examples! Positive ones include Iruka/Naruto, Jiraiya/Naruto, Tsunade/Sakura, Asuma/Shikamaru and Gai/Rock. It also paints realistic pictures of mentoring, that sometimes investing yourself in someone may not always result in a golden ending. Heartbreaking ones include Kakashi/Sasuke, Jiraiya/Nagato and Sarutobi/Orochimaru.

2. Naruto enlightens you on friendships – one of the most touching scenes was when Choji gave up his life to save Shikamaru and Ino. Massively tear-jerking! Another classic moment is a scene from Kakashi’s past, “Those who break the rules of the ninja world are called scum… That’s true… But those who abandon their friend are worse than scum”. Let’s not forget the value of loyalty in friendships.

3. Naruto teaches you about believing in young people – This is a topic really close to my heart; I believe in young people very much and I believe that the role of the present generation is to help the future generation surpass two things in life – the present generation’s legacies and abilities, as well as the future generation’s own potential. The saddest thing to hear at your funeral is, “He was a great potential”.

4. Naruto advocates that young people can change the world – I loved it when Shikamaru told Naruto that it was time for them to inherit the will of fire and to stop behaving like kids; I’m a sucker for hero-themes and enjoyed it very much when Naruto was revealed as the child of prophecy, “The gutsy ninja”, and how he singlehandedly overcame Pain. Do not underestimate the power of one and what God can do through you.

5. Naruto has a tailed-beast within him, like how everyone has an inner beast – The part of us that’s innately evil and sinful. We try ways and means to subdue it, be it by placing the right people in our lives or by doing the right things. But I believe that this inner beast in everyone is spiritual and it cannot be overcome by a physical method. We need something/someone greater than us to overcome the darkest parts of us.

6. Naruto talks about social issues – Anything from acceptance, to power struggles, to standing up for what you believe is right, to doing things that make you look cool, to succumbing to bad influences. I believe that Naruto is able to reach such a wide audience is that it covers a huge spectrum of subjects that everyone can relate to, regardless of age. Naruto’s outspoken character encourages you to never waver in your beliefs.

7. Naruto makes you laugh really hard – The episode that cracked me up the most was when Team 7 tried to unmask Kakashi. I was ROTFLMAO when they were speculating what Kakashi really looked like. And the one where Kakashi debuted the “Thousand Years of Pain” jutsu. Sasuke: “What… That’s not a Ninjutsu… That was just a super powerful ass poke.” Absolute comic genius! Everyone needs a good laugh from time to time!

8. Naruto gives you the platform to dream and reflect – That’s what anime does, after all. Each time I watch Sasuke, CC comes to my mind; Shikamaru reminds me of LK; When I watch Naruto reminisce about Jiraiya, I thank God for RY’s role in my life; Iruka evokes how JH invested in me when I was younger. There’s a moment in each episode that temporarily removes me from reality into utopia, and I think that’s not a bad thing.

9. Naruto inspires you to ponder over what you stand for in life – This is shown in every ninja having their “way of the ninja”, which empowers them to accomplish their goal in life. Naruto’s extremely simple way of the ninja is to “Never go back on [his] word” and to “Never give up”. My way of the ninja is found here. That’s the reason why I strongly believe in writing personal vision statements. What’s yours?

10. Naruto enables you to have conversational currency with young people – I’ve always found it quite amazing when youths suddenly express interest to chat with me when they realise I’m a Naruto fan; it’s like how men bond with army talk, except kids bond when they discuss Naruto. Somehow, I think kids think you are cool when you start using Kage Bunshi no Jutsu in your vocabulary.

I think I may have proven that I’m a big fan by now. My Shanghai cell leader insisted that I was crazy to spend sleepless nights trying to catch up to the latest episode. When I discovered that my youth pastor watches Naruto with his wife and two girls, it gave me the guts to tell my cell leader that Naruto is a family-bonding and youth pastor-endorsed activity. He was speechless. HAHA! Believe it or not, I’ve even written a song called “Watching You”, inspired by Hinata’s battle with Neji with Naruto cheering her on, and how she was fighting to be recognised by Naruto. The entire scene had traces of the I’m-watching-you-watch-over-me feeling; I thought that was a rather poetic moment.

Anyway, I’ve come to the end of my fourth installment of Top Ten Tuesdays, and I’ll probably write on something more serious next week. The ones who would enjoy this post the most are the ones who have been enjoying Naruto religiously. For the rest of you – seriously, you have no idea what you’re missing.

the men who mentor me.

I know, I know, this blog seems to have gone through another parched period. And I hope, that by 1st March, I’ll be able to write regularly. Do bear with me as I am about to resume normalcy in my life. As I’ve said it many times before, there are so many thoughts in my head, it’d be an accomplishment if I’m able to capture and expand on one thought per day.

The virtual silence is by no means a representation of the frenzy that I have experienced in my schedule over the last two months. It’s been crazy, but I like crazy. It’s been intense, but I thrive on intensity. I just returned from an 8-day trip to Sri Lanka (point proven, I didn’t even get a chance to post prayer requests!) and I’m in the midst of preparing for the REAL graduation ceremony this Sunday. On that note, it’s going to be a bittersweet afternoon.

Nonetheless I shall break the reticence by being thankful for the mighty men in my life. I’ve had countless mentors over the past decade and their presence in my life does compensate (to an extent) the lack of a fatherly figure. These men have sharpened and shaped my character and they play a part in who I have become today. Currently, I’m privileged and honoured to be mentored by the following mighty men:

  • On pastoring and relationships, I have RY.
  • On family and finances, I have PL.
  • On leadership, I have PC.
  • And the latest addition… Yes, it’s official today (!!!), on mentoring and preaching, I have BH.

So yes, I am blessed and really thankful for the road I’ve travelled with them but I’m more excited about the road that we’re about to travel. I cannot wait to pick their minds and learn from their journeys of faith and experiences. May I imitate their interpretation of who Jesus is to them and may I continue to remain teachable and open to their words of Godly wisdom and advice for me.

I guess this only bodes well for the younger men and women that I am mentoring. It’s gonna be a great ride!

%d bloggers like this: