Calvin Hong

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Pastoring Creatives

    By Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong

    If you’re a leader in any capacity – in church, a company, your family – you’d have probably found out that leadership is an art. A leader requires flexibility, sensitivity, courage, and innovation, among other qualities, in order to be effective.

    In a creative environment, there are challenges that present themselves perhaps more frequently and overtly than usual. Some examples are a critical spirit, pride, perfectionism, and an ‘orphan’ mindset. All these stem from how each person answers this question: “Who am I?” Basically, IDENTITY – the fundamental bedrock that determines not just how effective we are, but every aspect of how we live life.

    As leaders at Awaken Generation, our whole role is to nurture creatives, and we get plenty of opportunities to do so with our songwriters, singers, musicians, and dancers. I believe leaders are often too quick to pass judgment on creatives, that they are too ‘emo’ or ‘edgy’ to pastor. The quickest solution becomes to typecast them, rather than get in the thick of it and help them to discover who they truly are. Leaders are often too quick to correct the ‘expression’ rather than to take time to call out their identity. Remember, it’s out of identity that creative expression flows.

    In pastoring creatives, it’s important that we recognise their gifts, but at the same time learn to work with their hearts. So as leaders, the very first heart-journey we must take with them is their path of identity.

    Establishing Identity

    Oftentimes creatives rely on their talents to prove themselves, but we need to help them express themselves from a place of knowing they are children of God. Why is this important? Because their talents don’t determine their worth; instead, their identity in God does. Once they have grasped this truth, transformation will happen, not just in their art or work, but in the way they live their lives.

    It’s usually the ‘orphan’ mindset that causes this insecurity; this mindset tells us that there’s not enough recognition to go around, and we always have to one-up ourselves and others to be appreciated, approved of, and loved. The problem is that orphans turn to the wrong source when they should be looking to God. This ‘one-upping’ game never really ends – orphans will remain orphans until they find their identity in the Father.

    Many creatives may find their value in the ‘quality’ of the art they create. But if we base our value on circumstances or what others say or think, we’ll always be disappointed, because these are fleeting and unstable. However, God never changes; He is the one constant, the fixed point. Likewise, our identity, rooted in Him, never changes – that is the most reliable basis of our value and self-worth.

    Bill Johnson (Bethel Church) once said, “If you live by man’s praises, you will die by their criticisms.” Delicious food for thought!

  • Community
  • Ministry Burnout // Part 2: Prevention and Warning Signs

    Interview with Calvin Hong by Shawn Wong

    S: So, other than counting the cost, how can burn-out be prevented? Especially amidst fast-paced lives, busy schedules, pressures, and the constant emphasis on getting stuff done.

    C: One way to prevent burnout is to be around people who are full of passion, and understand their value and identity. I like the analogy of the coals. When you isolate one block of coal, it fizzles out over time. But place it among other blocks of coal, it keeps burning and has synergy with the rest.

    So, when I find myself feeling discouraged, or when I don’t see any positive outcomes despite my efforts to achieve something, I find friends around me who are encouragers so I can receive from them and lean on them. Sometimes I watch inspirational videos on YouTube, or testimonies of people.

    The necessary things to do are:

    1. Understand the vision for your life (that God gave you).
    2. Ask: What do you need to stay filled for the long haul (to fulfill this vision)?
    3. Find ways to sustain yourself.

    It applies to other areas as well, like sports, work, and relationships. What keeps you burning? Is it your vision, or your emotions (how you feel)?

    I’ve also learnt to watch and take care of myself, especially in ministry, by learning to say no. It’s learning to say yes to the Lord, but no to the things that can clog up my life. We sometimes find it hard to say no because we don’t want to let people down or miss out.

    S: So have you experienced burnout in your life before?

    C: In all honesty, I’ve not experienced burnout to an extent where I say, “God, I don’t want to walk with You anymore.”

    S: That’s pretty extreme!

    C: The reason why some may get to that place is because of their unrealistic expectations of how God ought to come through for them, but God somehow always comes through and gives us a reality check, which propels us into greater depths of knowing Who He is, without the selfish ambitions or motives.

    God makes a very poor servant, but He makes a very good Father, if you let him be your Master.

    I have had seasons in my life where I had nervous breakdowns. As humans, we break down due to pressures of life or circumstances. It could be a death in the family, or a loss of job or relationship.

    That’s where the Lord brings His comfort through the Holy Spirit. For me, the question is, when these circumstances occur, do I have the courage and understanding to take time to rest? That’s why companies have Annual Leave. Businesses that are not making profits take time out to reassess things and recalibrate, but to say that one is totally burnt-out means that they want to stop pursuing their objective. They have overexerted themselves doing too much, with the wrong motivation.

    I don’t think we can ever get burnt-out loving God.

    S: Is it possible for someone with the right motives to burn out, even if he is doing so as an expression of loving God?

    C: It’s possible. It’s just like the story of the ‘Starving Baker’ that I read in ‘Habitudes’ by Tim Elmore, which I love.

    There was a baker who had a passion for baking. Over time, he realised that a lot of people were coming for his bread. When he saw that his business was growing, he focused on baking even more, instead of training somebody up to assist him. He eventually starved to death.

    It’s very hard when you’re running things all by yourself and don’t delegate. The role of a leader is to lead by example, and to serve, but it’s also to delegate. It’s not a one-man show. I see leaders taking on ten tasks, which looks glamorous on the outside. But inside, they’re drowning.

    You know you’re becoming a starving baker when, instead of growing joyfully and bearing fruit, you go in the opposite direction. What was supposed to be exciting becomes an obligation or a chore. That’s a sign that something unhealthy is already happening.

    This story is probably the best analogy for someone who started out vibrantly, with the right motives, feeding people, but he forgot to feed himself.

    A good question to ask is: Are you feeding yourself and allowing yourself to get fed?

  • Community
  • Ministry Burnout // Part 1: What is ‘burnout’ & what causes it?

    Interview with Calvin Hong by Shawn Wong

    Singapore has always had the reputation of being a ‘high-pressure society’. Sometimes this high performance drive infiltrates even the church and affects the way we do ministry.  I sat down with AG Mentor & Senior Leader Calvin Hong to have a conversation about the dreaded ‘ministry burnout’ and how to avoid it. 

    S: ‘Burnout’ – It might be a term that not everyone’s familiar with. What exactly is it?

    C: To be burnt-out means there’s nothing left inside of you to keep going.  For example, the oil in the lamp: If you don’t keep refilling the lamp with oil, it will run out. When people burn out, they usually have a loss of value, identity, or passion.

    I don’t think burnout is necessarily spiritual; I think it’s usually relational. “I don’t feel like I fit in” or “I’m so disappointed in this or that person.” It could be a result of bad leadership or poor decision-making. But if you say, “I’m spiritually burnt-out”, it means that there’s a disconnection from the Holy Spirit. It happens when you rely too much on your own strength, have become task- or talent-orientated and results-driven, but you don’t see results.

    When people say they’re burnt-out in ministry, it’s because they’ve allowed their work to be the lord and master of their lives, rather than allowing the Lord of the work to be their sustenance.

    S: What causes ministry burnout?

    C: Ministry itself is like work. If you don’t prepare enough food for the journey ahead then, at some point of time, it will run out.

    Luke 14:27-30 says, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?”

    People often burn out because they had not counted the cost. There are many Christian leaders who keep saying yes; they don’t count the cost of their commitment.

    They’ve put ministry in priority over themselves. Rather, there must be a healthy tension. My life should revolve around what Christ is doing through me. It must be Christ-centred, not results-orientated to get recognition.

    It’s about guiding yourself by asking: What is the best lane in which God has called me to run this season?

    S: I love what you said about preventing burnout by counting the cost first, before diving into a commitment. What about people who have already committed, and then are starting to feel burnt out?

    C: Sometimes mistakes are how we grow and learn. We need to think: How can I do this or that better?

    For young believers who esteem to achieve something great, there’s something called Process. You’d have to go through the process of life and the school of hard knocks. And if you stick around long enough, you’ll come through it. The important thing is to always do a reality check of where you’re at.

    Sometimes, because we’re so passionate, we overwork ourselves. That’s why all the best athletes have more than one coach for each aspect of their training – conditioning, technique, nutrition, etc. – each warns the athlete when they’re about to overwork themselves or are developing in a wrong direction.

    S: So, other than counting the cost, how can burnout be prevented? Especially amidst fast-paced lives, busy schedules, pressures, and the constant emphasis on getting stuff done. 

    Get Calvin’s answer to this question and more in Part 2 of this interview! Stay tuned for updates!

  • Blog
  • Interview with Calvin: The Pitfalls of Leadership

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    by Awaken Generation


    Tell us a little bit about yourself… Some fun facts.

    What do you want to know about me? In my free time, I like to find things that energize me, actually. So sports is a big thing for me, discovering new places, doing new things… I’m actually a very boring person (laughs).

    No you’re not! I heard that you like to clean & organize things as well right?

    Well, only if people leave a mess. Like, ahem. But yes, I like to keep things clean & organized.

    What material are you currently reading?

    I love reading Habitudes by Tim Elmore, who is an amazing speaker, leader & writer. He was mentored & trained under John Maxwell’s leadership. I like his books because the content deals with the welfare (internal) & attitude (external) of a leader. As leaders, what we don’t realize is that we have to learn to lead ourselves well because whatever we “import”, we unwittingly “export” to the people that we lead.

    Tell us about something you’ve personally learnt from leading the Awaken Generation team & student cohort.

    Leadership is never about suppression, it’s about empowerment. You’re supposed to help your team feel good & productive, but the sad thing is that many leaders abuse their power & cause their team to suffer. That’s operating out of a place of fear & that’s not the Kingdom perspective at all.

    That’s the exact opposite of what we seek to do here… that’s why we have things like team devotions, updates, mentoring. We pray & worship together, we encourage & affirm one another in our different gifts. & of course, we hope to pass this culture on to our students!

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    Leadership is never about suppression, it’s about empowerment.

    What is one big pitfall that leaders often fall into?

    As long as you are a leader, you need to receive. You give out so much of your emotion on a daily basis, so how can you not be fed?

    I like to use this example: the ten commandments. Did you ever realize that four of the commandments are about our relationship with God, while the other six are about our relationships with our brothers & sisters? This doesn’t mean that your relationship with God is secondary to the relationship to the people around you, but it means that a lot of our lives are spent living in communities, interacting face-to-face with someone. We are not made to walk alone. No man is an island. We are made to walk in community.


    A speaker, evangelist & a life coach, Calvin’s heart beats to see every life transformed, living purposefully & fulfilling their destiny in Christ. Calvin is the Head of Mentoring at Awaken Generation & leads both the staff  & student cohort pastorally.