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Posts in Generosity
"Help! I did not expect ministry to look like this!"
 
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When I was asked by the team to write this blog, that was my exact thought: “Help! I did not expect ministry to look like this!”

But first...

Disclaimer: I don’t profess to know the whole works, and experiences definitely vary between individuals. I find it terribly challenging to pen these thoughts down as I still consider myself fairly young in ministry, compared to the many who have given their lives to serving God (who are way more qualified to write this), but I hope what I’m about to share from what I’ve learnt during my time in full-time ministry would bless some of you who are praying about or are in it.

Being Real

Full-time ministry was not something I considered going into while growing up. Having known family and friends in ministry, it never looked easy (or fun!). Audio was a growing passion and fast becoming something I could see myself doing for many many years. I’m not sure when it happened that I started desiring to use the things I’ve learnt to serve full-time in a church or ministry, but when I ORD-ed (left the army), I sent out my resume to various churches. I was eventually ‘picked up’ by “Oops!Asia” and that was my entry into full-time ministry.

June this year would mark my 9th year in ministry. Were these 9 years as I expected when I first stepped in? Definitely not.

I’ve heard people ‘glamourise’ full-time ministry:

“Wow! You get to serve God full-time! It must be fun.”

Great, and mostly true, but they only paint the side of the picture the public sees. The common reality is usually one that involves wearing multiple hats and handling multiple responsibilities, and no, not all of it is “glamorous”.

Not every organisation or church is able to hire extensively and fill every role and need. For example, here at Awaken Generation, all full-time staff do dual roles - one on the ministry front, and one on the organisational front. I handle all things Sound related, including teaching and running a stream, and I also manage the facility and logistics (making sure there is an adequate supply of drinking water and toilet paper).

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“Wow! You get to do music full-time! Such a good life.”

Other ‘realities’ and challenges I faced are with time and finances. There are busy periods and then there are waves-crashing-on-all-sides-thunder-lightning-hurricanes-perfect-storm seasons.

A friend once joked that in ministry, there is no full-time or part-time, only over-time. And we (have to) learn to ride the waves and the seasons.

Finances are challenging for me as well. This would almost always be challenging especially for those starting out, but it is also a journey of recognising God as the Provider. Is this the best-paying job? No, but it definitely is worth it. Our “yes” to God should not be laden with conditions and ideal situations. If He calls, He will enable.

“It must be easy working in a church, everyone’s a Christian.”

And yes, while everyone is (probably) a Christian, everyone is also a human being with flaws and weaknesses, on their own journeys, learning to manage their own struggles, occasionally celebrating victories, sometimes losing the plot a little, still having bad days amidst other good ones, and overall basically, still human. I hope you get my point?

 

The Reward is Better than the Sacrifice

A group of leaders visited Bethel Church in Redding and got to spend some time with the Bethel leadership team. During a Q&A session with Ps Bill Johnson, he was asked how they did it - travelling for long periods of time, long hours, late nights, and all while having kids and thriving families. Bill Johnson’s answer was that they would tell their children all the time that the reward is better than the sacrifice.

That statement stuck with me. Every one of us needs to remind ourselves that the reward is better than the sacrifice. And the reward can mean many things and come in many forms.

The reward of souls saved.
The reward of lives transformed.
The reward that awaits us in eternity.

And I believe very much as well, in the reward of God’s Presence and Hand on our lives. My pastor shared recently that the Levites (full-time temple workers) were not allocated a plot of land as their inheritance. Instead, God would be their inheritance; God Himself was their portion.

The Call of God

My last point is this, what is God’s call for you? Full-time ministry today doesn’t just mean working in a church or a Christian organisation, it doesn’t mean getting paid to do ‘Christian work’. I strongly believe that full-time ministry can and must look like each of us picking up the mantle to ‘go and make disciples’ wherever we are called to.

What is the posture of our hearts?

"Help, I did not expect ministry to look like this!"

‘Ministry’ here can refer to a whole array of activities, people groups, job scopes, and so on. When we say ‘yes’, let’s not enter each season with an expectation of the experience and outcome, but rather be expectant that wherever the Lord calls us to, there He will be, and where He is, He is enough.

June this year would mark my 9th year in ministry. Were these 9 years as expected when I first stepped in? Definitely not - they superseded any expectations I thought I had.

 
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Spiritual Family: What Does It Look Like?

by Calvin Hong & Shawn Wong

From the beginning of humanity, God showed that His design of Family was something special. He thoroughly enjoyed the company of Adam and Eve and they enjoyed His presence. There was no shame, nothing to hide, and in fact, were without clothes! They were completely vulnerable.

But because of sin, a separation occurred. The natural instinct of Man since then has been to cover ourselves up; to protect and defend ourselves. However, in God’s original design of Family, there was no need to be ashamed of anything - because He is a God of covering.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it was because they chose not to trust God when He instructed them to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Instead, they chose to listen to another voice. They did not believe that God did not mean them harm, nor that He knows and wants the best for them. They didn’t have a Family mindset.

But God fights for Family.  He could have chosen to wash His hands off of humanity and restart creation. But ‘He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.’ (Phil 1:6) In order for sin to not have a hold on mankind, the spilling of the blood of an animal was required as atonement. He then spilled the blood of His Son Jesus to permanently reconcile all of humanity to Himself. He is a God who covers. He calls us Family, and He values Family.

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We all need a spiritual family - a community of people who genuinely love and care for us, who point out the veggie leaves in our teeth (literally and figuratively), and who are unafraid to say what’s needed to see us step into our destinies. Here are 4 truths about building healthy relationships within a culture of family that I learnt from my friend, Victoria Jeffs from Day2 International. These points sum up how we can relate to each other in a healthy way and display God’s original idea of Family to our brothers and sisters in Christ:

  1. “I mean you no harm.” It means you only have good intentions for your family members – to see them prosper and succeed. It means wanting to bless them and to be a key part of a their lives. When they’re convinced of this, they become more honest and vulnerable, and more willing to allow you a place of influence in their lives.
  2. “What matters to you matters to me.” There are important things that we are all after. Ask yourself: How can I as a family member help guide and build you so you can fulfil your purposes and dreams? Each of us has different needs. However, though we try to do what’s humanly possible for them, we don’t try to become the Holy Spirit - for it is God who actually makes the change and transformation in their lives.

  3. “I only want what’s best for you.” It means seeing the gold in someone, instead of stumbling over their shortcomings. It’s about looking out for each other. There’s no competition within Family - it’s about helping each other climb our ladders, to be the best that we can be.

  4. “It must pass the test of seasons.” How can we build a relationship with someone unless we’re willing to spend time with them, be vulnerable, or willing to invest in them? Doing all that takes time, patience, understanding, and grace. Seasons involve ups and downs, and Family lasts regardless of them.

We all make mistakes. That’s why God in His grace covers our lack. Likewise, that’s the example we must follow. Let’s all ask: Do we cover each other despite our failings, or do we openly reprimand and shame? Do we pray for each other, or cast judgmental looks and express disgust in subtle ways? May we grow in love and be living testimonies who rightly display God’s original design of Family.

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Many thanks to Day2 International for the 4 Truths. Do visit their website at www.findyourday2.org!

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Learning to Celebrate the Success of Others

One of the most exciting events the Awaken Generation Team has the privilege of hosting every year is our annual ‘Mid-Year Showcase’ – where a few of our songwriters, together with the musicians from other streams get to work together to arrange and present the original songs they have been working on throughout Semester One. It is definitely a huge highlight for us as Mentors to see our students get the opportunity to share their creative work in front of an audience, and ultimately revealing an aspect of the Father through their testimony and sharing. One of my greater highlights though is actually witnessing a beautiful culture emerge amongst my songwriting class – a culture that celebrates the gifts and successes of their peers.

No doubt that creatives or humans, in general, will be confronted with an uncomfortable feeling that arises from insecurity one time or another – a feeling of discomfort when you see someone else succeed (especially in your area of gifting) leaving you feeling inadequate, insufficient, and left behind.

God is in the business of breaking off this spirit of jealousy, envy, and ‘kiasu-ism’ from our lives. I believe God wants to rewire our ways of thinking (Romans 12:2 – ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’) in this area, to set you free so that you can rejoice and celebrate with those who succeed around you.

 

Here are 3 truths I’ve learned to start walking in freedom in this area:

1. Know that God is a God of ‘More Than Enough’!

If God chooses to bless someone, that does not mean He now has less to bless you with!  Our God is Jehovah Jireh, a God of unlimited resource and of abundance. If someone else gets blessed or receives a breakthrough, learn to get excited instead, because if God can do it for him/her, He’ll be able to do it for you! Meditate on the truth that He is MORE than enough for you.

 

2. Develop a heart of a spiritual father/mother/mentor

Brothers compete with one another, but a father’s desire is to see their children’s successes surpass them in every way. Grow in your mindset as a disciple-maker, and know that your greater purpose is to sow into and raise up effective leaders in the Kingdom of God who will go further than you. We are part of the same team and want to see the bigger vision of God’s kingdom established on earth, and we need one another to achieve that!

 

3. Trust that God has a unique plan in your life that only YOU can fulfil  

Look at your thumbprint – no one else in the world has the same thumbprint as you do! I believe this is an external expression of your inner destiny that is in the same way, completely and utterly unique. Psalm 139:14 says that you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. As much as I would like to, I am simply not able to reach the same people as you, because I’m not you; I don’t have the exact same gift mix, personality, culture, DNA, spheres of influence, calling, and position as you. No one else can fulfil your destiny, except you! So, choose to break off the spirit of comparison, and learn to steward what God entrusted specifically to you and steward it well for yourself, not comparing yourself to others.

My prayer is that the Lord will make you a CHAMPION for others. May God give you grace to be an encourager – just as Barnabas was to Paul. Allow God to take you into the fullness of the destiny He has for you, and know that it is His desire to promote and prosper you in every way.

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Generosity: The Mark of Sons & Daughters

By Ian Chew

“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)

I used to think, “If only I had more money, I’d be willing to bless others. If only I were rich, I’d be more generous”. Yet it’s sobering to realise the Bible illustrates it as the generous who will prosper (Prov 11:25), and NOT the prosperous who will be generous. It’s true: Status or wealth does not guarantee that one will exhibit generosity. I have known wealthy people who are unforgivably selfish, but at the same time witnessed those who have little give unreservedly. The latter humbles me greatly.

'As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”' (Luke 21:1–4)

Generosity is more about posture than it is about value. In other words, it matters not the amount you can offer, but the spirit and heart behind it. It was said that the poor widow out-gave all the rich despite putting in only two very small copper coins. I used to stumble over the little I was able to give or sow into anything. It felt negligible. Then I realised God specialises in using “little”. Had a young boy not offered up his seemingly insignificant 5 loaves and 2 fish into Jesus’ hands, 5000 would not have had their fill that day and experienced one of the greatest demonstrations of divine provision. God is not in need of resources – He owns the universe. What He yearns for is that, in our giving, we cultivate a spirit of generosity and selflessness. What He seeks are sons and daughters who would partner with Him in releasing heaven’s resources by sowing the first seeds.

Which brings me to this: Generosity is not even an issue of personality; it is actually an issue of identity. My problem was not that I was naturally thrifty or prudent; my problem was that I had not yet fully understood sonship. The orphan spirit hoards for fear of lack, but the renewed mind gives from a place of security. If I truly believed He owns all of heaven and earth, and that He calls me son; it means I have access to unlimited resources in heaven and on earth. Would I not be compelled and provoked to live generously? To be a conduit of His blessings and resources?

God wants us to be generous because it models His heart. We ought to be generous not just financially, but also with our time, words, and deeds. I believe the way we live generously partly determines how much resources God will put in our hands, with ever-increasing influence and authority. Ever since stepping into ministry, I've had the wonderful privilege of being friends with many who exemplify radical generosity. More often than not, they carry great influence and are impacting our world profoundly. After all, God shows he readily adds to those who have been faithful with little (Luke 16:10).

Let us therefore endeavour to walk in radical generosity, demonstrating the Kingdom wherever we go.

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