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Reflections on being courageous for the Gospel.

I guess it’s about time I breathed life into my blog, again.

Over the last weekend, I preached the final installment of “The Call of Duty: R-AGE digs deeper into Ephesians”. It was based on Ephesians 6:10-24 and the armour of God. I titled the sermon, “Is there courage in R-AGE?”. I had the luxury of having three weeks to prepare for this sermon (due to the combined adults and 180° Easter outreach services) and extra time meant that this sermon could pack more punch.

Most times at the end of a service, I always feel I’ve preached the worst sermon of my life, but surprisingly, I enjoyed preaching this one. Not because I tickled minds with interesting nuggets of information, but because I felt that I had executed the prophetic burden God laid on my heart for the youths. It’s similar to Apostle Paul’s cry for the believers in Ephesus – to boldly proclaim the Gospel. I challenged two groups of young people at the altar; those who used to preach the Gospel boldly and those who have never preached the Gospel boldly before – that the Holy Spirit would strengthen them to do so.

While I was thankful for those who responded, there were more who didn’t and I wondered why – was it due to my inadequate delivery of the message, their apathetic spiritual condition or simply because God didn’t plan it that way? Or was it something else beyond my comprehension? I couldn’t put a finger to it but it drives me to intercede more intensely for my beloved youths.

David Lee was the emcee for R-AGE @ GI and at the closing of the service, he echoed what I had actually said at R-AGE @ GII – that the responsibility of evangelism doesn’t fall on the shoulders of the leaders, pastors and those who are more fervent in their faith, but on everyone who calls himself a disciple of Jesus. How could we remain unmoved if the love of Christ has already moved us? It is my earnest prayer that R-AGE would experience the Father’s love first-hand!

“Stop evangelising. Instead, start loving people in the name of Jesus”, I first heard Ps Edmund Chan say that when I traveled with him to Perth last October. He repeated that statement at the recently concluded Grace Leaders’ Retreat and it was a sobering reminder for me. I had a short SMS exchange with Gabrielle Ong this morning and I encouraged her not to give up on proclaiming the Gospel to her pre-believing friends. I told her that one of the most effective ways of demonstrating the Gospel is to find opportunities to pray for people – you “speak life” into them and they get a chance to see your faith in action. It works!

Back to the sermon… Well, I’m not sure about other preachers, but the thing I enjoy most about preparing a sermon is how much I learn and am challenged through what I read and write. I already know what God would want me to do in response to my sermon and I look forward to walking in obedience this week. It is my prayer that R-AGE would take ownership of the souls within their communities who haven’t met Jesus.

Even as I type this, my heart is moved by the compassion Jesus has for the ones who are suffering and the ones who do not yet know Him. I am thankful for the Spirit’s reminder in my life – that my occupation isn’t one of a part-time youth pastor but a full-time Gospel preacher! I must never lose sight of reconciling others to God through the Gospel!

It’s going to be an awesome week, my dear friends. Let’s raise the shield of faith on each other’s behalf, gird up our loins with the written truth, wield the power of the spoken truth and advance the Gospel for the King! What a privilege to shepherd R-AGE – I am thankful for this season of my life. God is good.

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take, take, take it all in again.

I apologise for the delayed update of last weekend’s sermon because work has caused this week to pass rapidly. It’s well-documented that I’m not a fan of administrative work (even though I think I’m pretty decent at it); I spent the bulk of my energy in the last few days assembling the ministry action plans and the budget for R-AGE@GI and R-AGE@GII. It’s a huge step up from last year where I only needed to put together the R-AGE@GII budget.

This is the first time I’m embarking on such a mammoth task. I am thankful for Ps Ronald, who has given me the immense privilege of being responsible for these crucial administrative matters as well as for his patience in bearing with my non-stop anti-admin laments. I am also thankful for Ps Cuixian (who is the queen of administration) and her stupendous work of assembling the excel sheet – her formulas truly make the spreadsheets a work of art.

Then I found myself petitioning to God for a personal assistant as well as two ministry staff (one each for R-AGE@GI and R-AGE@GII) to help ease my load in the coming year. I’m not kidding on this – I’m seriously taking in applications – talk to me if you want to serve God in the youth ministry in a full-time capacity. It’s going to be a gargantuan responsibility pastoring 300 youths so the need for more hands on deck is definitely there; I approach my role next year with fear and trembling but also with great anticipation and excitement.

Well, while you’re considering joining me in the best job this world has to offer, help yourself to the slides and audio recording of last week’s sermon – about the importance of Memorising the Word of God. Heads up – Ps Ronald will be preaching this weekend (24/25 September) on Prayer as a Spiritual Discipline while Ps Leon will preach for the first time at R-AGE (8/9 October) on Worship as a Spiritual Discipline. I trust that they have a word in season for the young ones.

In between, R-AGE will stage Same, Same But Different (where I’ll preach an evangelistic sermon tentatively titled, “Cheemism”). I trust you’ve been putting in effort to invite your friends to this service – it may just change their life forever (in every sense of the word)! Also, I’ll be heading to Perth (yes, again) for a week-long ministry trip with my revered mentor (as well as to catch my breath!) in early October and only after that will I return to continue the sermon series with Fasting as a Spiritual Discipline.

I trust you’ve enjoyed the series so far. I look forward to leading a spiritually disciplined youth ministry.

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1 Timothy 4:7b (NASB) >>> …Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.

is your church still relevant to its community?

Recently, I had the privilege of hanging out with my key leaders from R-AGE @ GII and R-AGE @ GI at its respective planning retreats in iHotel @ Batam and Salvation Army @ Bukit Timah respectively. One of the activities I led them in as part of an evaluation exercise was to list down every programme that our youth group had embarked on in the last year – from cell groups, to youth services, to conferences, to regional outings, to Christmas parties, to Easter productions, to ministry meetings, and to church retreats; I wanted a comprehensive laundry list of everything that had taken place in our ministry. Both sides did this with relative ease and easily came up with 40-50 (!) programmes. Yes, we were stunned by the sheer number of programmes.

That was our first epiphany.

Next, I got us to sort out these programmes into only one of these three categories(, which I called the “WEB” for easy recall):

  • Win: evangelistic or pre-evangelistic in nature.
  • Equip: trains and ups the level of leaders and members.
  • Build: grows and fortifies the fellowship of the believers.

Both sides arrived at similar results – on average, less than 15% were Win programmes, another 15% were Equip programmes and approximately 70% of what we had planned and executed were predominately Build programmes. Needless to say, my leaders were flabbergasted; they shared my same reaction when I completed this exercise myself at the beginning of the year. I also told them to consider how a Win programme would naturally include Equip elements and inevitably Build the youth group.

That was our second epiphany.

What I got us to do next was to name as many known felt needs as we could of the respective communities we were ministering in; R-AGE @ GI and R-AGE @ GII had obviously listed different needs based on the demographics of its vicinity – we’d be foolish to plan and execute similar programmes for an affluent Tanglin community as we would the heartland Bukit Batok community. I told them to think about the needs that their sheep had and to their (and my) astonishment, some of my leaders struggled to even name these needs because they weren’t cognisant of it. Bottom-line was, we do not really understand the felt needs of our respective communities (and honestly, we ought to be chagrined by this).

That was our third epiphany.

Next, with the list of needs we barely were able to list down from the previous segment, I got us to match it with the programmes that we had planned and executed in the last year. It was awkward for us because we struggled to do this matching exercise properly; when we did find a match, it wasn’t an entirely convincing conclusion. The question that I fired at us was, “So, how does R-AGE meet the needs of the community it exists in?”

That was our fourth epiphany.

It was only after four self-discovered epiphanies that I released us to proceed with the budgeting and programme-planning exercise. I told them that it was imperative that these four revelations formed the backdrop in their minds before they strategised for 2012.

Without mincing my words, I told them that it is pointless if a youth group isn’t able to serve the students in its community; similarly, a church becomes useless if it doesn’t value add to the community it exists in. What’s the point of establishing a church if all it does is to exist for itself? It would end up becoming a self-serving community that is completely irrelevant to its neighbourhood. (I’m embarrassed to say this but the truth is that most times, a community centre meets the needs of its community more effectively than a church does, and it should never be that way!)

Some sobering questions a church (any church!) must ask itself are:

  1. Does the neighbourhood know the existence of the church?
  2. Does the church even meet the needs of its neighbourhood?
  3. Is the church serving the neighbourhood effectively?
  4. Is the church making a difference in the neighbourhood?
  5. Would it matter at all to the neighbourhood if the church suddenly disappears?

So, is your church still relevant to its community? I’m not sure about you, but I want to ensure that my ministry is.

With that conviction (hopefully) drilled into my leaders’ hearts, I am hopeful that the programmes that they have dreamed of for 2012 would have a greater relevance to (and impact on) the youths in both Tanglin and Bukit Batok. Otherwise, we’re really wasting our time, energy and resources doing what we do. Let’s get real and stop kidding ourselves.

If we are irrelevant, we are useless. If we do not contribute, we should cease to exist. If we are not even meeting their felt needs, then why would young people even want to join our youth group? Come on, we must have a vision that is bigger than ourselves!

R-AGE must never be a feel good club – certainly not on my watch!

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