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teamwork is everything – would you rather go fast or go far?

So, what exactly is teamwork? Obviously, this buzzword describes work performed by a team; here are the other definitions that I’ve found on online dictionaries which will form the perimeters of my thoughts today:

  • the combined action of a group of people, esp. when effective and efficient.
  • cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause; work done with a team.
  • the cooperative work done by a team; the ability to work efficiently as a team.
  • work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.
  • a joint action by a group of people, in which each person subordinates his or her individual interests and opinions to the unity and efficiency of the group.
  • when a group of people work well together.
  • the capability to comprehend and recognize the diverse strengths and abilities in a group setting and then applying them to one final solution.
  • when people work collaboratively towards a common goal as distinct from other ways that individuals can work within a group.
  • cooperative effort by the members of a group or team to achieve a common goal.

I don’t know what you have observed from the above definitions. For me, two words stick out – “people” (team) and “work” (work). I’m inclined to believe that the end result of teamwork (i.e. to achieve the objective) is actually secondary. I opine that teamwork is rooted in people involved in work, or if I may put it this way, teamwork is basically about being (people) and doing (work).

Teamwork gives the unique platform for both the task-oriented and people-oriented individuals to come together to achieve a common goal. Sometimes I wonder what carries greater significance – to achieve that goal or to come together. If a group of people accomplish something and yet kill one another in the process, then it defeats the purpose of working together. Similarly, unless it’s a machine or a computer accomplishing a task, it’s virtually impossible to get work done without involving people.

I led worship three times at the recently concluded retreat and while I celebrated at my accomplishment of playing the guitar for 90 minutes straight on the first night when I co-led it with JQ (and I’ve never played the guitar for such a long stretch of time), it was the second morning’s session which I will remember for a long time to come. I had already prepared a set of songs – complete with pre-retreat printed chords sheets for myself and lyrics sheets for everyone else. However, on that morning, just 15 minutes before the worship set, I randomly played “O Praise Him” (by David Crowder Band) and KY, who sat beside me, quickly caught the song and started to sing along with me.

SOAR247 (my youth group in Shanghai) instantly came to my mind at that point in time and with it came the triad of songs that the youth worship leaders there always led – “O Praise Him”, “Marvellous Light” (introduced at Rhema 2009) and “Prince of Peace” (an all-time favourite with the RLs). All three songs were in the key of G and I naturally medleyed from song to song. In an inspired moment (these moments do encapsulate the randomness and suddenness of youth ministry), I decided to lead these three songs for the morning session instead. Everyone around me immediately captured the idea; it was like they also wanted to be led into worship by these songs too.

It was then I saw the most spontaneous display of teamwork. HY, KY and MS took out their phones to google for lyrics; and in an instant, MW, YX and AT took out the flip charts and started writing lyrics on them. I can’t remember who else got involved but it felt like everyone chipped in without hesitation. I was moving from chart to chart, scribbling down the chords. It almost felt like a rehearsed routine except that it was second-nature for the leaders to get cracking – to make this worship session a reality. 10 minutes later, we were up and running and ready to go. I took a snapshot of that moment of togetherness in my mind’s eye and I thanked the Lord for giving us this wonderful thing called teamwork. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed that worship session because WE led US into worship.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Corinthians 10:20-27)

“Family” is one of the three DNAs of Grace Assembly of God Church (and R-AGE). I’d go one step further to say that a family isn’t effective and efficient unless they learn to work together and love one another. Teamwork is absolutely essential to the core value of a family church, and in a larger context, the body of Christ. May we always remember to be excel in both our being and our doing – and there’s no better way to achieve this than through teamwork.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (Warren Buffet)

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a prayer request for good sleep.

My attempt at sleeping early last night to make up for all the sleep debt that I had been accumulating over the last weeks failed miserably. I slept intermittently and woke up at 2:30am, unable to sleep anymore. My eyes were wide open and my mind was alert. I had too many thoughts in my head and I felt so overwhelmed by all these thoughts because it was all over the place and it covered almost every single aspect of my life. It was as if my mind couldn’t and doesn’t stop working. So I pulled out my mobile phone and started typing away. I must have written a pretty long entry because I only stopped at nearly 4am and yet I still couldn’t sleep. So I tossed and turned in bed until it was 5:30am and then when my body couldn’t take it anymore, I finally slept.

When I woke up at 8am, I felt like I didn’t rest at all. Even though I went to bed at 9am!

Sigh.

My cough and blocked nose worsened when I arrived at the office and I could “taste” the mucus in my nose – you somehow know you’re down with something when you taste the “sick” kind of virus-y mucus. I made my way to the doctor’s at 4:30pm and told him about last night’s sleeplessness. And how it has been like this for some time. He told me what I had already guessed. I even googled it last night after writing the note.

I have insomnia.

And for the first time in my life I will be taking sleeping pills and relaxants to help me sleep. My doctor said that this would help to reset my very messed-up body clock. I’ll be on medical leave tomorrow and I really do hope to get uninterrupted slumber tonight.

On one hand, I’m thankful that I have such an active mind but on the other hand, if I go on like this, it will be quite damaging for my body. I’m extremely exhausted, to be honest. I’ve carried around a throbbing headache the entire day and it was so bad that I couldn’t properly prepare cell lesson tonight. I’m also preaching this Saturday. I need to recover!

Pray for me, will you? I just want to sleep well. I badly need the physical rest. Thank you.

the difference between a job and a career.

I spent some time deliberating this over the past couple of days. I found some interesting attempts at defining and differentiating the two. These definitions are amongst the first few to appear when I googled the above question:

“Your job is what you are doing today. Your career is what you’ve done over the past years and what you plan to do in the future… Your job feeds you and your family today. Your career will feed you and your family tomorrow and beyond.”

“The job pays your bills, and a career is a path you’ve taken (hopefully because you enjoy it) to attain or keep the ideal job for you.”

“A career is something that you build during your lifetime. Jobs are often times task-oriented positions to help meet the goals of an organisation or business. Jobs are often a means to an end… Sometimes jobs lead to careers.”

“A job is something you do simply to earn money; a career is a series of connected employment opportunities. A job has minimal impact on your future work life, while a career provides experience and learning to fuel your future. A job offers few networking opportunities, but a career is loaded with them. When you work at a job, you should do the minimum without annoying the boss. When you’re in a career, you should go the extra mile, doing tasks beyond your minimum job description.”

There’s an endless list of dichotomous definitions but they are largely synonymous.

I remember learning this from somewhere – maybe in one of KK’s workshop (?) – that in a career, people usually stay for a long time and “climb” up the organisational ladder; the good ones care about the welfare and well-being of the company and its employees. To a certain extent, they live for others. Whereas a job is just something people do from 9am to 5pm and remain indifferent to just about everything except for the accuracy and arrival of their paycheck. To another extent, they live for themselves.

Now, this gets me thinking about my own predicament – is it a job or a career? I know for sure that during my army days, it was a job – I did what I was expected to do; on good days, I go the extra mile and on bad days, I do the bare minimum. When I was in Shanghai, it felt a little different because I treated it like my own company. There wasn’t such a thing called “Official Working Hours” simply because at the management level, you work as hard and as long as you’re required to; my boss did not believe in overtime pay for the managers because it was expected of us to get the job done and the project(s) completed. AT’s an excellent boss, and although sometimes he’s quite a slave-driver, he has successfully imbued in us managers the all-important ownership of the company.

So this brings me back to me today as a youth minister with Grace Assembly of God. Is this my job? Not really, because I’d have been imparting my life into young people anyway even if I was an army officer or a marketing manager – I’m just doing it full-time on a more intensive level. Is this my career then? Not really too, because I do not even know if I will be doing this for the long run. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m committed to what I have signed on to do, but I’m keener to listen to God’s prompting. The last thing I want is to overstay – I think that would be absolutely meaningless. But if God tells me to go, I’d be gone in an instant – I’m not worried about transitions and to start out all over again in any industry because I have confidence in my ability to excel wherever I go.

Hence, my answer to the question above – the difference between a job and a career is to know your calling in life and to pursue that calling wholeheartedly in any given time or space instead of being in an occupation for a season of life. I’ve said this to quite a number of people – in my current “job”, while it’s slightly easier than the previous ones because my gifting and skills-set are tailor-made for it, I’ve also poured in double the work hours and emotional involvement. Yet I feel that since I’ve joined Grace in October 2009, I’ve not worked a single day at all simply because I am pursuing what I believe God has intended for me to pursue for this season of my life.

Have you found your calling? Are you stuck with a job? Or are you caught in a career?

air thoughts at the airport.

I won’t have sufficient time to write properly tonight as I’ll be with the boys tormenting LK on his buck’s night. I was just telling BL (whom I met for lunch), that LK will either thank me for such a great job planning this memorable evening or regret making his best friend his best man for his wedding. Tonight is going to be legendary evening that will live on in brotherhood folklore; I can’t wait to execute the tricks up my sleeves together with JT1, JT2, JW and ML. I’m in the business of creating memories! (Actually, I’m going the extra mile only because he has been my best mate for nearly half my life.)

So for today’s entry, I’ve found this two-year-old note lying amongst my facebook notes and I think it’s quite a poignant read, now that I’m finally back and settled in Singapore. I’ll share it here. By the way, do remember to participate in my centenary giveaway!

Air thoughts at the airport
Friday, 10 October 2008 @ 16:13

The all-too-familiar Singlish of my fellow passengers surrounds me as I sit at Gate D87, waiting to board the plane. Like me, a good number of people are also at their laptops, doing work. I have to churn out the company budget for 2009 to while I’m on the plane as I plan to submit it tonight. What really drives me on is that the earlier I complete it, the earlier I can indulge myself with Naruto. HAHA! But seriously, the less outstanding work I have means the more work-free my holiday would be. I do not want to suffer the same fate as my colleague who went back to Singapore just before I did – hounded by calls from the company everyday. That must have been absolutely annoying on a vacation.

I have appointments lined up, hmm, more like packed-to-the-brim, during my time back home. It’s quite scary how I do it but strangely enough I enjoy being loaded with activities. It’s almost deja vu; at the same time last year, I was frantically meeting up with people from all over to say my goodbyes, averaging 4-5 appointments a day; it’s no different this time. Huiyi thinks I’m crazy. Sometimes I think I am crazy too but I think at the end of the trip I will look back and be glad that I’ve actually gone on an appointment frenzy.

I really miss hawker food – good, cheap, fast. I remember a friend telling me that between the three adjectives, you can only choose two. Things that are good and fast will not be cheap, etc. Hawker food is the answer.

More and more people of all nationalities are starting to congregate even as I write this note. I look forward to the many embraces that I will receive from and give to my friends, especially the affection from my family and my girlfriend. Somehow, this trip back – my fourth in a year – is the one that was most hastily arranged but yet the one that I am most anticipating. I guess spontaneity always puts me at the edge of my seat.

Oh, and I have to mention this. I had a total of four checked-in baggages but only one belonged to me. (Thanks, Kurk, for the very snazzy black Samsonite!) The other three baggages are: a snare drum which I helped Jenn to buy, a bag for my grandmother, and a bag for Aunty Coreen; these two bags are such a contrast from my overall public image – it’s a Tiger Beer and a Chan Brothers bag for pete’s sake! That’s certainly 100% yucks. HAHA. Well, it doesn’t matter. The total baggage weighed 37kg! That’s the SAME WEIGHT as when I first got to Shanghai! Thank God the airport folks closed one (and possibly two) eye(s) on this! And to think it’s actually quite a full flight makes me all the more grateful.

In retrospect, it’s coming to a year in Shanghai and in that year, I’ve learnt so much. Well, I can’t possibly write down the things I’ve learnt in one paragraph so don’t expect it to be published here! I believe I’ve matured spiritually, grown wiser in my character and gained valuable work experience over here. I believe I experience many things others do not; for example, my friends in Singapore are dying to head out of Singapore for a vacation and yet I’m dying to head back to my home country for a holiday. Nothing beats home – absolutely nothing. Oh I’m so convinced that It’s a gonna be a good homecoming. The fourth, and the best one yet, I’m sure.

Yes, I’m coming home.

retrospection: painting on a white canvas.

In the blink of an eye, I approach the sixth month of my full-time work with R-AGE. I will not deny that it has been a dream job so far for I don’t even feel that I’ve worked a day – even when I’ve clocked way more hours than what I am required to clock per week. My “clients” are my beloved youths, my “managers” are my G2 Shepherds, my “boss” is my mentor, my “colleagues” are my friends, my “work documents” are the pages of the Bible, my “company” is the place that I worship, my “business meetings” are mentoring sessions with youths and my “products” are leading, mentoring and preaching – I cannot ask for a better combination of work elements. God is good!

At the start of this year when I took over the G2 youth community, I had set out several tasks to complete as well as to lay down certain ground rules for my leaders and myself. Looking back, I rejoice at what the Lord has allowed me to accomplish thus far. As I prepare the Barnabas sermon for this weekend, I feel a tremendous sense of job satisfaction that not many people can claim to have – I thank God and give Him all the glory for this. Indeed, the enjoyment of work is a gift of God to man (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

At the workplan retreat at the turn of the year, I remember sharing with my G2 leaders my basic expectations of them. I think I must have caught them by surprise when I said, “I expect you to mess up”. I’m not looking for perfect leaders or for exceptionally talented ones – there’ll be no sense of accomplishment, challenge or rejoicing if I’m working with finished articles. I believe the journey is more important than the destination, but if we do not know where we are headed for, we will be lost. I told them that I also expected them to be 1) committed to their kids and to be 2) accountable to their leaders (especially in the area of existing and potential BGRs), as well as to 3) pray regularly, 4) display initiative, 5) lead by example, 6) be responsible and 7) demonstrate excellence in all that they undertake – just seven golden requirements. I firmly believe that good leaders raise better ones and bad leaders produce worser ones.

I also requested for time and patience so that I can figure out their needs and wait upon God to give me a fresh vision and direction for the ministry, which I can roll out in phases in the coming months. I also identified the thin manpower, especially evident in the lack of male leaders. I understood their common initial sentiments of feeling inadequate, lacking readiness and struggling to connect with their kids. As a number of them up their ante in their pursuit of God, and as I see them step out and take their place as junior shepherds of the ministry, my heart beams with pride – for I see God’s strength in their weakness, Christ’s victory in their defeats and an inevitable reliance on the Spirit to see them through their leadership roles.

As I shared with NC over lunch today, I believe that we need God to be more godly, Christ to be more Christ-like and the Holy Spirit to be more Spirit-filled; we will never be able to approach a theocentric God in an anthropocentric manner. And I firmly believe in my heart that we are on the threshold of revival – first in our being, then in our ministry. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in G1, G2, Grace or another church, we are not going to accomplish anything if we depend on our own strength. We must continually seek the Lord for guidance and believe that the power of the Spirit will enable and empower us to accomplish the will of God for our lives and in our ministry.

It’s only been six months, and already there’s a lot to thank God for. Brothers and sisters – apart from Jesus, we can do nothing; we are absolutely nothing without Christ. The canvas is white – let’s paint it well.

best-in-your-face-’til-the-end-friends.

How many of your primary school friends do you still keep in touch with? And how about those from your secondary school, polytechnic, junior colleague, university, army or from your previous work place? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a single digit number. And like it or not, that number will slowly but very surely decrease as you age. As I turn 21 for the seventh time this year, I think I’ve learnt a fair bit about friendships – and how most of it takes places in phases.

All right, let’s get technical; when I talk about keeping in touch, I define it simply by the frequency of meeting up. Let’s just put a yardstick of at least once per quarter – that’s four times annually. (I actually believe that if friends can do it twice a year, it’s already an accomplishment. The younger readers of this blog may struggle to understand this, but mark my words on this. When you get to my age, remember you first heard it from me.)

By that definition, with the exception of those who are attending the same church as I am, I keep in touch with a grand total of zero from primary school, one from secondary school (who happens to be my best friend), none from polytechnic, army or from my Shanghai stint. Be it DL from ACJS, CC from ACS(B), JC from NP, ML from BMT, JG from SOA, JH and JQ from 40SAR, LT from OCS, or KS and TS from Shanghai; mind you, when I was in whichever phase, these buddies and I went through some significant moments of life together. We were convinced that we’d be more than just good friends for that period of time.

So I’ve learnt this – enjoy the friendships forged wherever you are at. Milk and remember it for all it’s worth. And know that these friendships are strong and that these friends are important, but at the end of that phase, remember that they are all but permanent friendships, albeit at that point closer than your closest church friends. This is a cynical and very un-sanguine, un-Joey, pessimistic way of looking at things, and I know may protest against this statement, but you heard it from me first – these friendships will not last.

The ones that will last, whether you like it or not, whether you stick around long enough or not, are the ones whom you see in church every weekend. At least that applies to me. These aren’t your seasonal friends – these are your friends for a lifetime. I remember mentioning this at the R-AGE DNA sermon I preached at the beginning of this year – that church friends, fortunately or unfortunately, unlike your friends from outside, are here to stay. You can always change a clique and hang out with a different bunch of school or work friends when you get sick of the current ones. But face it – you can’t get rid of your church friends and they’ve got to face it too – they can’t get rid of you. It’s just like how we cannot change our family members; we’ve simply got to stick to them and find a way to make it work.

And when I look back at the brothers and sisters that God has put in my life in this church, I’m filled with a deep sense of gratitude, because I know that I’m going to be growing old with them and my kids are going to marry their kids (whether they like it or not). The question that I leave with you is – look around you, look at your friends and look deep into their eyes, and look into your heart… How many true friends do you have? How many friends are you true to? After all, true friends attract true friends.

the makings of a great boss.

My relatively short working life of six years has seen me through three organisations, one each in the government, private and charitable sectors, both local and overseas. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with and under the leadership of six bosses, so I am able to differentiate a good boss from a great boss. (No, I will not write about the bad ones.) And without over-spiritualising my thoughts, for I know who my real Boss is, I’d like to share my thoughts on the current one – RY – a man whom I admire greatly and one whom I model after.

First and foremost, I consider it a great blessing to be working with my friend and mentor – someone who has seen me through the ups and downs of my life for nearly a decade. He knows me inside out – my strengths and weaknesses – and knows how to challenge and correct me at the same time. RY has been there for me from the day I developed a desire for full-time ministry to the day God confirmed the calling for me to enter. He was with me at the interview with Grace before I left for Shanghai (yes, I nearly joined Grace in 2007). And he was there with me at the interview last October.

The great gifts that a boss could give to his subordinate is to first believe in and sponsor opportunities for him, protect and fight for him, groom and guide him, listen to and let him share his dreams, and whenever necessary, rebuke and humble him. RY has been an excellent boss because he does all that and a little bit more. I know that he looks out for me from behind the scenes but never announces it. I also know that he wisely refrains from telling me what I need not know because he has my best interests at heart. We don’t give enough credit given for these understated attributes, but it certainly affirms my loyalty to him and gives me the drive to work harder for a boss like that. More importantly, it makes me want to trust him and entrust myself to his captaincy.

Something that I greatly respect RY for was how he deliberately chose not to tell me about his ministry plans for me when I nearly joined in 2007. He understood me well enough and knew that if he had let the cat out of the bag, I’d have jumped onboard on impulse, wanting to take on the exciting challenge. Instead, he patiently waited for God to deal with me and for me to make a decision to enter full-time ministry with my motivations fixated on pleasing God alone. Throughout this time, he continued to pray for me and waited two years before I was available to make that decision again.

To be honest, a great pull factor for me in coming into full-time work with Grace, is that I’d be able to work with and learn from RY on a day-to-day basis and on an intimate and intense capacity. It is rare that anyone can find a boss who is able to completely understand the professional and personal struggles that you are dealing with because he has gone through all of it himself. For that, I have the blessing to learn from his journey of both faith and frustration. While I may learn mentoring principles from books and other speakers, I experience mentoring principles lived out firsthand from RY’s God-led handling of me. There have been more times than one that when I mull over ministry decisions, I find myself asking, “Now, what would Ronald do in this situation?” – That’s the extent of RY’s influence in my life.

As he debriefed me today in the office after I delivered the sermon (which I really enjoyed!), I was filled with a deep sense of gratitude for a good and godly boss who leads by example and who takes the effort to work with me on the details. He doesn’t need to go the extra miles for me, but he chooses to. At the end of the feedback session, before we entered the lift, I patted him on the back and thanked him, from the bottom of my heart, for taking care of me. For all the years that I will continue to work with him, I’m penning this moment down because I’ll always want to remember that RY is the best boss that I’ve had, yet. I confidently know that Jesus must have been a great boss because I see His greatness in my life through RY. Thank you Lord, for sending RY into my life.

And thank you, Pastor Ronald, I love you.

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