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refrain: if you are good enough, you are old enough.

If there was anyone in the world I could ask to mentor me in spotting and developing potential, it would undoubtedly be Sir Alex Ferguson. One day, I will meet him, along with Eric Cantona and John Piper – these are the few people whose hands I’ve yet to shake and whose feet I will sit at to learn from.

I couldn’t help but to rack up my respect for the Gaffer with his latest statement on Rooney. Absolutely classic. I completely resound with the Boss.

… But Ferguson ratcheted up this extraordinary public battle, with a powerful and idiosyncratic late night explanation of why Rooney should have invested faith in his proven ability to spot talent and why the grass might not be as green as the striker really thinks it will be at Manchester City. “Sometimes you look in a field and you see a cow and you think it’s a better cow than the one you’ve got in the field,” Ferguson said. “It never really works out that way. It’s probably the same cow and its not as good as your own cow. Some players like to think there’s a better world somewhere else. It never really works.”

As metaphors go, it was about as memorable as Eric Cantona’s “seagulls follow the trawler” story, though and it was accompanied by Ferguson’s revelation that a lack of belief in his judgment in the transfer market had once persuaded a player – possibly Roy Keane – to leave because he thought Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were not good enough. “He was not prepared to wait until they were good enough,” Ferguson said.

“But that’s the trouble with potential,” he went on. “People don’t identify potential. They’re very poor at it. I’ve identified it all my life – the potential in young people. I know potential. I know how to develop and have faith in young people, who surprise you when given the opportunity and that’s what this club is all about. When you see Manchester United at the moment with all these young players, 14 under 22, you can’t see Manchester United three years ahead.”

(Source: The Independent)

WOW! What a statement of intent! I could totally see myself saying the same thing as Sir Alex! I always believe that we must be infinitely patient with (young) people, because one day, they will surprise you with their goodness. I’m sticking to my guns with this philosophy in my ministry. You can even look at the Bible to see traces of older men believing in much young men to mentor and take over their ministry.

I’ve achieved what I’ve intentionally set out to do – to lower the average age of all my first tier leaders. No, it’s not meant to declare anarchy or rebellion but to simply demonstrate my absolute belief in young people – by putting them on the frontline of leadership. I’m already thinking about the members of my first tier leadership team in 2012! The first thing I told these my current leaders is to find a successor. I believe it’s all well and good if one of my leaders want to remain in young ministry and serve until they’re old like me – in fact, I’d rejoice and praise God for their commitment and passion to serve the youths alongside me! But it should and must never come at the expense of preventing another young person from rising up in ministry. As long as I’m in charge, I will never allow that to happen. Leadership must always renew itself (although I must state my caveat that the higher the position, the harder the succession, and the lengthier the process).

Never, EVER, tell a young person he is a failure and will never make it. Remember one thing – he or she is still young! They have the licence and the privilege (just as you had when you were young!) to make mistakes and more importantly, to learn from it. Our hearts with wrench each time we see a young person falter, but it’s all about the recovery process – never forget that! I remind myself time and again that I’m never looking at the final product. Youth ministry is known to be transient and quite rightly so – the young person you see before your eyes today is far from being the polished individual you will see years later. I don’t know about you, but I’m committed to play my role in cleaning and sharpening this young person.

If I may reiterate Ferguson’s words, there are two lessons to learn and two principles to cherish if you’re in youth ministry:

  1. Be patient to wait until they come good, for they surely will, with the right guidance from you.
  2. If you can’t see their potential – that’s your problem – it doesn’t mean they do not have potential!

I’ve stated it on this blog before and I’ll happily post this paradigm-shifting quote again from the legendary Sir Matt Busby:

If you are good enough, you are old enough.

The funny thing is, the reverse may not be true! Again, I’m spilling my heart out on this matter because I’m so passionate about believing in young people. You’ll do yourself and the young people you are working with a world of injustice if you merely look at ability and age instead of potential and possibilities. You can limit yourself. But never, EVER, limit a young person. OH YEAH, THE SPRINGTIME OF YOUTH!

P/S: I’ve really missed the catharsis of writing daily!

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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).

imparting a passion to the next generation.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m not just a passionate individual but also a person with many passions. And something that I’m exceptionately passionate about is the Word of God. This keenness was originally infused into my spiritual bloodstream by JH, when I was much younger; I saw the fire in his eyes whenever we discussed about the Word of God or when we pursued truth. I also have to thank Him for introducing me to JP, who is undoubtedly one of my greatest influences in this area, even though I’ve not met him yet. It was JH’s gift – Pierced by the Word – that got me into JP’s solid teaching.

And it’s not surprising, a decade on, that I discuss the Word of God with the same fire in my eyes. One of the most satisfying things in life has to be reading familiar scripture and to have the Holy Spirit breathing into you new perspectives. I revel in those kinda revelations – don’t you? And so I find myself asking myself, “What then have I done to impart this passion through my lifestyle and how can I continue to perpetuate that?” I scrutinised my actions and I am inclined to believe that I have done my part.

  • I am a keen student and an even keener teacher of the Word. I enjoy preparing lessons and thrive in teaching them – it rejuvenates me when I exercise my gift.
  • I prepare sermons with excellence and will never preach something I do not understand fully; the last thing I want to do is to undermine or shortchange the pulpit.
  • I memorise scripture in my own time and I encourage everyone within my sphere of influence to do likewise.
  • I attempt to give scripture-based advice whenever I have the opportunity to dispense counsel, instead of just depending on my wisdom and experience.
  • I base my ministry objectives and vision on the Word of God; the daily themes of PIERCE were lifted from Hebrews 4:12 and the three primary roles of my GII Shepherds were derived from John 21:15-17.
  • I invest money into purchasing knowledge and fill my mind with the right things, instead of overspending on things that have little eternal value.
  • I make time to attend additional teaching seminars and conferences instead of just depending on the Sunday pulpit for my Word input and whenever possible, I will encourage my leaders to sign up and go together with me.
  • I have progressively added audio sermons into my iPod and listen to sound preaching (pun intended) more than I listen to music. In fact, I’ve done this so much there’s nothing but sermons and teachings in my 8GB MP3 player.
  • I subscribe to snail-mailers and online feeds and whenever there is new material, I’ll feast my mind on them so that I am able to generate new thoughts.
  • I am actually more enthusiastic to shop in bookshops (or online book stores) than in shopping centres or departmental stores.
  • I attempt to pray scripturally so that my prayers are theologically accurate and always be aligned to/with God’s divine will.
  • Lastly, I try to spend some time each day to meditate on at least one portion of scripture (but I could really do with some improvement here!).

But why do I tell you all this? To boast? (Oh heaven forbid me from that!) I am deliberately detailed in proving my passion for the Word because it has been a journey for me and I wish to encourage you to ask God to expand your capacity to love His Word. You see, I was never so into it right from the beginning. I certainly did not expect myself to end up at this point and I most certainly do not expect myself to stagnate here too – it’s one reason why I am massively looking forward to my theological education in 2012. I concur with what EC said at last year’s IDMC, that while theological credentials are beneficial, theological competence is essential.

But this is the hardest of them all for it is a daily death of self-denial and an utter dependence on the Spirit to enable me to do so – while I make a sincere and genuine attempt to put into practice what I have learnt, more often than not, I fail at achieving this and for that I am the chief of sinners despite all the “accomplishments” listed above. They’re really just merely accomplishments and nothing else. I will never be able to attain godliness (and holiness) by my own doing; I’m constantly a long-shot away from being Christlike and how I long to fare better in this arena. The Word of God repeatedly reveals my carnal nature and humbles me greatly for it exposes my sin and shortcomings. I don’t know about you (actually I do, I’m just writing rhetorically), but no matter how much I profess to love the Word, the most crucial thing is that I live (and do) the Word. In fact, the more I love the Word, the more I discover my sinful desires and the more I realise my need for the grace of God, the counsel of the Spirit and the redemption of Jesus Christ to see me through each moment.

Amazing grace,
how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me.

All right, I have no idea how I ended up there but I guess what I really want to say is that, if I could only choose one passion to impart to the next generation, it would be the passion to pursue the Word of God. I pray that it becomes your primary passion too, especially if you are an influential leader in youth ministry.

He who has called me in will keep me in.

I just got home not too long ago from an extremely satisfying meal at Pasta Fresca with LS – I credit him for my singing techniques as well as for spending time to groom me as a singer 13 years ago. It’s amazing how that has laid a strong foundation for me to perform as well as to lead worship. The most important vocal technique I learnt from him – how not to slur in your singing. Thank you, LS, for believing in my potential back then and for continuing to believe in what God has in store for me even ’til today! Details withheld, but I really enjoyed being able to share so honestly and openly and knowing that he fully understood my every sentiment because he was able to identify with it.

Other than that, I thought it’d be important for me to jot down the things that was impressed upon my heart during our internal prayer meeting this morning:

  1. Remember your covenant
  2. Renew your vision
  3. Reaffirm your calling
  4. Reinstate your passion
  5. Realign your will

I serve a faithful God and I know that He who has called me in will keep me in!

I’m heading for PY’s writing seminar early tomorrow morning so I shall keep this account short and sweet. Looking forward to learn from an established author!

a courage under fire becomes a courage that inspires.

I can’t help but be inspired by the life of Stephen, or the one who is often referred to as the first martyr in of the Christian faith. Stephen’s life spanned across three mere chapters in Acts but the legacy that he left behind for all believers – especially for me – is cemented in history. I imagined the scene unfolding in my mind’s eye as I read the Word of God; at its climax, as my heart pounded at the unveiling of scenes, I somehow felt Stephen’s passion and unwavering belief in the Lord even unto his own innocent death – now that took my breath away! I can’t wait to share my findings with my beloved youths over the weekend. See you at the youth services for the third installment of our Facebook with the Newbies sermon series. Oh Lord, Stephen’s example was riveting, so please help me preach lessons from his life in a manner that’s just as riveting!

The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed at him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.

And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

(Acts 7:54-60, New Living Translation)

the heart of gratitude.

A couple of weeks ago, I was dealing with disappointment. In my  journeying with and surrender to God, I’ve learnt that to deal with disappointment, I need to approach it with an attitude of thanksgiving and a realignment of purpose. I’m a highly committed individual synonymous with being passionate; hence I often get disappointed when people do not meet my expectations because I always wear my heart on my sleeve. When I was younger, I used to create a commotion each time this happens. As I mellow with age, I’ve learnt to be wiser in handling disappointment – sharing with the right people and only after settling my emotions with the Lord. PC once shared with me that it’s always easier to see God’s faithfulness at the end of a season; so I’ve learnt to be patient and to trust God for His timing and method.

20th March 2010 marks a significant day for the shepherds in my immediate ministry:

  1. KY commissioned as a 2LT,
  2. MF & MW had a positive cohesion with their CMs,
  3. KJ & BL joined my team of shepherds,
  4. EL & YX recovered from their cough,
  5. CN & JC returned safely from Australia and China respectively and
  6. HY completed her FYP
  7. I’ve removed all 25 dressings

This time, there’s something slightly different about feeling their joy and celebrating their victories with them. I can’t quite put a finger to it, but I’d like to think that it’s because I’ve been praying for them; there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that maybe I’ve played a minute part in the spiritual shift of things. It’s like what RB shares in Nooma 018 “Open” – tapping into the creative power of God.

20th March 2010 is also a momentous day for my Church – we voted in favour for the redevelopment of G1 (on the condition that the 1.4 plot ratio is approved) and if necessary, would take bank loans to finance this project. I’m confident that the Board and the leadership of the church understands that while it is the hardware that’s being rebuilt, significant time, energy and (financial) resources must be invested into its software. Failure to do so would result in an ultimate inability and incapacity to realise the vision. The last thing we want is to have a spectacular building without the right people trained and enabled to fill the spaces which we have catered expansion for.

I am learning to trust God more and more for His providence and I believe that, in the words of BH, “When there is total submission, there is total protection“. On one hand, I’m delighted that we can finally advance as a Church, on the other hand, I pray that we will understand the sobering responsibilities that now line our way. I believe that if we, as a Church, have missed this point of investing in our people, then there really is no point in physical redevelopment. The leadership must be committed to see through this vision.

Let our hope be in You, Lord, and may You show us Your way – I desire nothing more and nothing less.

by all possible means.

This post is a response to my conversations with WY yesterday and YX just moments ago.

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:22, NASB, emphasis mine)

Now, almost everyone in my church youth group would be familiar with the verse above. It is, after all, the theme verse for the evangelism pillar in 2009 – STBAPMIMSS (so that by all possible means I might save some). Well, I’d like to perhaps offer an alternative way of looking at this verse. This is my interpretation of it.

See, for the Apostle Paul to reach the weak, he became weak, to win the weak. I’d go as far to say that should he choose to reach the strong, he’d become strong, to win the strong. And this applies to whichever adjective that we can throw in here; it’s merely a figure of speech – it’s how low (I think) Paul would go to reach as many as he can for the Lord.

Now before I get embroiled into some unnecessary controversial mess with ISD, I refrain from commenting on the recent spate surrounding Pastor RT. I think there are radicals in every religion and the way to deal with over-zealousness and over-radicality, is this simple thing called wisdom.

In light of the upcoming What’s Your Next Move seeker-sensitive service in a couple of weeks, may I encourage you to remember a couple of things – you are neither the Messiah, nor the Convincer; Jesus Christ alone saves, and the Holy Spirit alone convicts. Our only responsibility, I think, is to preach the Gospel – be it literally or through our lifestyles.

So then, may I suggest that sometimes, it may actually be wiser to take a slightly more passive approach to preaching the Gospel. For an agnostic like my best friend CC, I’d never bring him to Christ by arguing with him about faith issues. In fact, in our aggression (often euphemised as passion) we may actually turn others away even more. So going by Paul’s statement, let’s rethink what it means to save some by all possible means:

  • Perhaps we can learn to be gentle some times instead of being aggressive every time in our approach
  • Perhaps we can try listening to real concerns instead of preaching for conversion’s sake
  • Perhaps we can attempt to be good moral examples instead of being holier-than-thou
  • Perhaps we can remember to consistently pray for our friends’ salvation instead of manufacturing an emotional altar-call experience

Don’t get me wrong, I am not compromising the content of my faith. After all, Jesus did declare Himself to be the way, the truth, the life and the only way to get to the Father – isn’t that a potentially religiously snobbish and aloof thing to say? I firmly believe that Jesus had a radical message (that obviously pissed off a lot of people) but His methods were full of wisdom. He always varied His approach but He never watered down His content.

Therefore, my challenge to you is to never compromise the message of your faith, but reconsider the method(s) in which you deliver it. It is my prayer that the Spirit reveals to you the best way to reach each of your individual unsaved friend. Do not underestimate the power of prayer and do not give up hope when you don’t get the desired result when you preach the Gospel to your friends. Failed the first time? Try something different and try again! Keep pressing on, my friends, and trust God for His perfect timing!

After all, our Saviour Himself “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

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