Leadership

  • Blog
  • How to Be an Encourager

    By Alarice

    What kind of environment did you grow up in? What was your childhood like? Chances are, if you grew up in an Asian family, affirming and encouraging words may have been a rarity. In Asian culture, we tend to show our ‘love’ by pointing out the negatives in you rather than the positives, hoping that you will do better. The idea is that ‘tough love is better than no love’.  There is a silent expectation that if I don’t publicly or audibly express ‘I love you’, you should know because ‘I provide a roof over your head!’ Is this kingdom culture, though? Using fear as a form of motivation is never a good solution. It leads to emptiness, a perfectionist mindset, and a self-hatred when one fails to purge out these imperfections in their life.  Instead, we need to be releasing words of life and godly truth that call out and shape the destiny in people. Through our words, we are calling out the great army of God to fulfill their destiny in Christ across the earth! To do that, we must simply learn to start by being an encourager!

    Encouragement is a prophetic gift. I’m not talking about complimenting or flattery, for true encouragement is not self-seeking or motivated by an agenda; true encouragement chooses to see past flaws and instead calls out God’s destiny over the person’s life. It takes prophetic eyes to see what how God has originally designed the person, what gifts they operate in, and their unique contribution to the world.

    Words carry the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). It is how we access the spiritual realm. We get saved through HEARING the gospel! In the same way, wield your words like a weapon of warfare and ensure that you use it for the glory and kingdom of God! Here are 3 tips on how I’ve learned to be an encourager:

    1. Share with your brother and sister how they have been a blessing to you. Be as specific as possible. 
    2. What gift do you see in this person? (It can be a skill or a spiritual gift!)
    3. How do you see them using their gift to impact others?

    Once you learn to practise this natural act of simply being an encourager, you will soon find that it becomes supernatural! When the Spirit of wisdom and revelation comes upon you, God will reveal the secrets of His heart. Perhaps the Lord will download a vision or specific Bible verse to you for that person that will greatly strengthen them in their season!

    Remember as worshippers or even worship leaders, we are releasing songs that will encourage, exhort, and edify the church. Let us learn to be an encourager on and off the stage, using our words to lift up one another and the name of Jesus!

  • Blog
  • Discipleship: Where Do I Begin?

    By Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong

    ‘Disciple’. There are multiple times in the Bible where this word is mentioned. But what is the essential meaning of the word ‘disciple’? Quite simply, a disciple is a disciplined follower of Christ.

    In Jewish culture, where Rabbis (teachers of the law) are well-respected, the children would already be memorising the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, around the age of 8-10. Yet being a disciple is not just about reading the Bible, but being disciplined to live the life it describes. So what does it mean to be a disciple in our current day? Are we true followers of not just His teachings, but in how we choose to live our lives? Let’s explore this.

    ‘Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?’

    (Luke 14:25-28)

    A Single-Minded Decision

    At events, in the midst of ‘large crowds’, people tend to get excited. The atmosphere, the lights, the music! But I love how the words of Jesus always cut right through all the hype and go straight to the heart. It may be easy to say ‘yes’ when everyone around you is doing so. When all the hype is stripped away, without the influence of crowds, how will you choose to live? Being a disciple means to single-mindedly dedicate yourself to follow Christ, without being tossed back and forth. Luke 9:62 says: ‘But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”’ It’s a firm decision; a decision that is your own to make, without regret (looking back). Know that it’s no longer about you or your preferences, but about complete obedience to God.

    Carrying Your Cross

    It’s interesting that Jesus mentioned the cross in this passage, even before His crucifixion. He was talking about the pain, suffering, humiliation, and sacrifices that may come upon giving God your ‘yes’. The Kingdom of God is not for the faint-hearted. To truly know Him, there are things we have to be willing to go through. Jesus made it clear for us so that there need not be any second-guessing; if we want to follow Him, there is a cost.

    Pain brings an understanding that there will be struggles, but also that our strength is not our own. Humanly, it’s impossible to live this life without the power of the Holy Spirit. Pain keeps us reliant on Him as the source of all our strength and ability – it refines and humbles us.

    Accountability to Spiritual Authority

    Godly governance is done in the context of Family. That’s why God implemented spiritual authority – our fathers and mothers, leaders, elders, etc. As we grow as disciples, it’s important that we maintain accountability to those in spiritual authority over us. Their authority is not given so they can rule over us, but to help us grow in maturity and teach us to obey the commandments in the Bible.

    So let’s ask ourselves: Am I willing to lay down my rights and agendas for His? Am I willing to turn away from my old lifestyle? Will our decision to follow be half-hearted or single-minded? Our responses to these questions will determine the trajectory of our discipleship journey.

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Developing a Pastoral Heart as a Worship Leader

    By Trisha Khoo

    As you read the title of this blog post, you may wonder why a worship leader would need a pastoral heart. Wouldn’t that be the pre-requisite for someone with the title of “Pastor” rather than a worship leader? I used to shudder whenever I heard the term “pastor” used in the context of worship leading, or worse, if someone used it on me. The pressure was almost crippling. But as I further understood the role of a worship leader and what it meant for the congregation I led each Sunday, I was gradually convicted that to steward my call well, I needed to develop a pastoral heart.

    The English word ‘pastor’ comes from the Latin word pastor, which means ‘shepherd’. And the primary role of a shepherd is to care for, lead, guide and protect his sheep and anyone who fulfils these functions serves as a shepherd. As worship leaders, we may not occupy the office of a pastor, but we have the most awesome task of putting scripture, prayer and faith-filled declarations on the lips of our congregation members weekly. The very songs we lead in corporate worship can be used by God to encourage, convict, align and draw people to Himself. This is especially powerful when it is coupled with a unified message brought from the pulpit. So what is necessary for developing a pastoral heart? Let me give you 3 points to ponder over.

    First, we need to realise that Jesus is the ultimate Shepherd. In John 10, He declares Himself as the true and good shepherd and exemplifies what a shepherd is and does. Psalm 95:7 says “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” When we lead in corporate worship, we serve the function of under-shepherds to the True Shepherd. We operate under His authority. As He has called us to lead, He will empower us as we step out in faith to shepherd His sheep. Now, that’s liberating!

    Second, understand that our task is to lead our congregation to Jesus, not to ourselves. It is important for us to intimately know and be known by our Shepherd. Put simply, if our hearts are aligned to Jesus, we will lead and shepherd from a place of revelation; and our congregations will follow us because we lead them to the very One we follow ourselves. And that’s powerful!

    Finally, we care for our sheep and learn to put their needs above our own. Here’s where practical issues like song choice and style preferences need to be considered. For example, the latest Bethel song would sound amazing and the band will do a superb job with it. But if it’s going to distract, or worse… hinder others from encountering Jesus in the time of corporate worship, we miss our mark. Or if we choose songs that have questionable theology, we also do our congregation a disservice. We need to know the people we lead, care for them and be responsible in our roles as worship leaders.

    So be encouraged. As you invest in developing a pastoral heart, you will serve your congregations well, and the True Shepherd will be glorified!

  • 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!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • How to Empower Your Sound Team

    By Caleb Chan

    em·pow·er
    /əmˈpou(ə)r/

    verb
    make (someone) stronger and more confident

    The role of a sound volunteer is becoming an increasingly crucial need in churches, spanning from simply ensuring that there is sound, to helping create an atmosphere for God-encounters to take place.

    More and more churches and leaders are beginning to recognise the need for, not only available but equipped sound volunteers in the church. However, most don’t know where to start.

    In this post, I hope to help get you started on 3 powerful investments you can make to empower your sound volunteers to rise up and meet the needs of your church.

    1. People Investment

    Unfortunately, the sound team is usually not an area to which much value or attention is given. In my previous post, I encouraged sound crews to view themselves as part of the Worship Ministry. I would like to encourage leaders to view the sound team the same way.

    The sound team is often made up of volunteers who want to be a part of the worship team but do not play an instrument, non-serving members who have been called upon to fill a need (that was how I began), or musicians who double up on sound every other week. It can quickly become a gathering of passionless volunteers who report weekly, turn systems on, and push volume faders.

    You could always start with a simple “Thank you”, and if you already do that, go further! Empower them! If you see a need to meet up with your worship leaders, band members, or singers, then also include your sound team. Involve them in the briefings, debriefs, bible studies, appreciation dinners, meals, and anything else you plan for your worship team.

    Make investments into the lives of the volunteers and crew on your sound team. When you sow into this relationship, I believe you will reap volunteers who serve passionately because they know they are a part of the bigger picture.

    2. Equipment Investment

    A practical way to empower your sound team is to invest in necessary equipment.

    We want our songs and sermons to be heard clearly and audibly, but sometimes our equipment is no longer able to support the ever growing needs of the church. Newer and more capable gear are being released at lower prices these days and it might be time to consider an upgrade.

    I’m not suggesting you go out and purchase the best mixers and speakers available, but perhaps keep in mind that you plan to empower your sound team by providing them with better tools for the job.

    Listen to their needs and opinions, and work towards a good goal. Upgrades can also be done in phases if the budget does not yet allow for a full major upgrade. New gear might also renew interest and desire in your team to learn more, which leads me to my last point…

    3. Training Investment

    You could give a car to an unlicensed driver and he is likely to get into an accident and wreck it.

    One of the best ways to empower your sound team is not only to equip them with the right tools but the necessary know-how in using the tools to operate effectively. There is a common saying that it’s the ears behind the sound that make it sound good. We may never have the perfect system, but we can certainly optimise what we have. To do that, your sound volunteers need to be trained.

    It does not take an engineer with a diploma or degree to achieve good sound, no matter how technical sound can be. There are certain fundamental concepts that can help provide a platform for sound volunteers with no experience to start off. Just as much as we would not like to roster an inexperienced guitarist on the music team, it is unfair to roster a sound volunteer with no training and expect good sound.

    Again, I challenge you to make these investments. Have a plan to develop and empower your sound volunteers and I believe you will see – or hear – the difference!  Empowered sound teams empower worship teams to usher in the Presence of God.

    For more information on Awaken Generation’s Sound Training Courses, please click here.

    Caleb is a full-time live sound & recording engineer and mentor with Awaken Generation.

     

  • Blog
  • Interview with Calvin: The Pitfalls of Leadership

    ag-aug-2015-29

    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!

    sundayshootwithag-195

    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.