More Than Just Pray For Your Pastor, There Is One Thing That Will Really Help.

Recently, there has been an increased focus on mental health and emotional wellness. Not just in society, but also in the Church. Suicide rates are up as more and more are feeling down. Depression is the latest buzzword. Not just in society, but also in the Church. And it hits hardest when we discover that yet another pastor has taken his own life, the latest being that of Pastor Jarrid Wilson.

When that happens, it raises more questions than there are answers. How? Why? Is it even possible? Was he saved? Is he still saved? If you’re looking for a point of view, theological or otherwise, there are enough articles and contributions for you to consider.

Interestingly, most of the commentaries seem to focus on the person and his own self-care, or lack of. As a minister, I am fully aware of how easy it is to neglect this critical aspect whilst determining to give all to the Lord and His people. But there is more to it than just scheduling that personal retreat or chilling over a cappuccino every once in a while.

According to this Church Leaders article, Why Are Pastors Depressed?, a Canadian study by Rev Andrew Irvine of Knox College, University of Toronto, highlighted five key contributors to stress and mental illness in clergy:

  • Lack of Rest or Day Off
  • Lack of Support From Fellow Clergy and a Sense of Competition
  • Lack of Personal Community
  • Marital Strain
  • Signing Up for Ministry but Feeling More Like a CEO Than a Pastor

Please read the full article for a better appreciation of the points. Having served the Lord in a full-time capacity since 2004, I can relate to each and every one of these points. Allow me to add some of my comments so that no one misreads, misunderstands or misinterprets anything.

Lack of Rest or Day Off: It is not that I don’t want to rest, but that it is difficult to do so. Yes, I know the theology of rest and I have preached it more than a few times (to myself too). More easily said than done. I am thankful that presently, I have the flexibility to push hard or pull back. Many pastors do not have that luxury. The demands of ministry and our acute sense of responsibility are a potentially dangerous combination.

Lack of Support From Fellow Clergy and a Sense of Competition: This is really ironic, right? We preach family and teamwork from the pulpit. But when the rubber hits the road, it is often ‘every man for himself’. Sadly, this is still the case in many places. Although we would like collaboration, it is competition we experience. Real or perceived? Perhaps we still need to deal with our own insecurities. Sigh.

Lack of Personal Community: Ministry is all about people. And yet, ministry can be extremely lonely for pastors and leaders. It is not that we don’t want to get close to the people but as odd as it sounds, the people don’t always want the leader to get too close. We are good for vision, direction and instruction. But when it comes to interaction, building authentic relationships, there seems to be this barrier. And since all ministers are busy and stretched, it is difficult to form relationships there too.

Marital Strain: I thank God for Serene and all she has had to put up with. More than a few times, I have neglected her and her needs for the sake of the ministry. It has not been easy for her (seven children & homeschooling) but she has stood by me in every season. Few understand the dynamics and challenges of our family and ministry. Our pet phrases are: “If it’s not you, then it’s me. If it’s not me, then it’s you.” and “If don’t laugh, can go crazy.” Thank God that we are still able to laugh.

Signing Up for Ministry but Feeling More Like a CEO Than a Pastor: Oh man! I sure can relate to this! Back in 2012, it became so frustrating and unbearable: I left my job for the ministry, only to find myself back in a job! I am so thankful that I discovered my kingdom assignment in Archippus Awakening. Now, if only I can just go awaken the saints without having to worry about strategy, administration and management! Hmmmm …

Yes, I have good days and also bad days. There are times when I feel so low that it is scary (no joke). Thankfully, these moments are brief and few; and they go away after a good run around the park. (Of course, read bible, pray, worship, etc.) This does not mean they do not return every now and then. I am well aware that physical and mental exhaustion can trigger such negative feelings and emotions. At the same time, I am also mindful that the enemy is all too ready and willing to help me feel worse about myself, the ministry and others around me.

Thanks for reading and sharing in my struggles and that of many others who serve as pastors, ministers and leaders. We appreciate your words of appreciation, encouragement, support and prayers.

However, more than just a call and reminder to “Pray for Your Pastor” or observe “Pastors Appreciation Month” (coming up in October – in USA, not Singapore), there is one thing that would really, really, really help: that you know and fulfil your God-given kingdom assignments. (Did you see that coming?)

I believe every minister desires to serve God and His people well. That is why we do what we do, often at the expense of our own well-being and health. On our part, we must strive to achieve the right balance and seek help when needed; hopefully not when it is too late. That said, the people of God have a part to play too. If the majority largely remains consumeristic, then the load and stress will remain on the same small percentage of workers. If that is the case, just telling your pastor or leader, “I will pray for you, for God to enable you to do great and mighty things for Him!” sounds nice but is not going to help very much.

Please don’t get me wrong. I appreciate every prayer uttered for me and on my behalf. However, as sweet as these may sound, it is music to our ears when we hear faithful ones step up and say, “Pastor, I know what my kingdom assignment is. I am going to co-labour with you. It is not easy but together, we will share the load, so help us God.”

The above five points are indeed great reminders for me as I navigate the challenges and demands of ministry. Most definitely, by His grace, I will be careful to constantly check my own alignment where these are concerned. As I do my part, I pray that you will do yours too. More than just pray for your pastor, seek to know and fulfil your God-given kingdom assignments.

Trust me. That would really help.

Who Do You Say That I Am?: 19 Years of Following the Christ

19 years.

I would have missed marking this milestone if the host had not mentioned it as she introduced me last Saturday. Credit to her, she did a little research and discovered that it was on 8 July 2000 that I received the Lord’s call to full-time ministry. “In two more days, that would make it 19 years!” she remarked. (Thanks, Tiffany, for the reminder!)

I then went up and preached from Matthew 16:13-19 (for both Saturday and Sunday services). The message was entitled “Who Do You Say That I Am?”, drawn from my book, Alignment Check, about Peter’s revelation and confession of Jesus as the Christ.

As if written specially for me, the passage for today’s Love Singapore 40.Day Devotional is Matthew 16:15-17!

“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (emphasis mine)

Matthew 16:15-17

I know that this may mean nothing to anyone, and that’s fine. Over the years, I have learnt that God speaks to each of us personally and intimately in ways that we understand. More than a few times, He has used these little divine ‘coincidences’ to encourage and affirm me.

These are His gentle whispers in my ear, telling me, “Keep going, Henson, you’re on the right track. I know it is not always easy, but you’re doing fine. Keep going.”

This is why I make it a point to reflect and write about the day He called me. As the years roll by, I cannot rely too much on my memory anymore. Thank God that He sends people (like Tiffany) to remind me, and that I have past posts to refer to:

19 years.

Thank You, Jesus. You’re not just a saviour, redeemer, restorer, deliverer, coach, healer, counsellor, teacher or friend. You are the CHRIST, the Messiah, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Thank You for saving me and for inviting me to participate in the advancement of Your kingdom. May I always have a fresh revelation of who and all that You are. Please continue to enable and encourage me to keep keeping on for You! Amen.

The Crossing Over to the Other Side Always Begins with a First Step

I snapped this shot whilst on a short family break five years ago. As I looked over the horizon, the way forward extended into nothingness.

Having been instructed by the Lord to drop everything without even knowing the next assignment, this picture sure described my situation so accurately. And yet, I knew I had been told to cross over; and that cross over must begin with a very first step of obedience by faith.

It would be 10 days later, on 27 Oct 2013, that the Lord would reveal the next assignment to me – Archippus Awakening. Five years and many steps later, what a journey it has been! Even so, I still don’t know what lies ahead. All I know is that my King and Master, JESUS, is more than faithful and He will lead me forward as I determine to fulfil all He has assigned to me entirely by His grace.

Today, I face a new horizon and another crossing over. After five years, is it not odd that the next step still feels like a first step all over again? The principle remains: every step must be taken with obedience and faith. Truly, it is not where we have been, but where we will continue to go with the One who deserves all worship, praise, glory and honour.

And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry
which you have received in the Lord that you may fulfil it.” Col 4:17

Do You Remember the 23rd Night of September?

I know the first line of Earth Wind & Fire’s hit song very well – “Do you remember the twenty-first night of September?” – except, for me, it’s not the 21st but the night of the 23rd that I remember.

While waiting for the train that night, I snapped a picture of the arrow just for fun. As recorded in my first book, Say To Archippus:

The next day, as I reviewed the post, the Lord prompted me to look more closely. Although the arrow was the object of the photo, it was the red line about the arrow that came into focus. I remember remarking, “Something’s blocking the arrow from moving forward.” And as soon as I said that I realised, “Hey! I’m that arrow and something is blocking me from moving forward!”

Soon enough, the Lord removed that line, inviting and allowing me to move forward with the assignment of Archippus Awakening.

This brief post is to mark the significant date of 23 September 2013: that night, the Lord used a simple visual device on the floor of an MRT platform to direct me into my kingdom assignment.

It’s been five years. Archippus Awakening just celebrated her 4th Anniversary on 3 August 2018. The Lord has opened many doors for the message of awakening to be declared – in Singapore and abroad. Soon, over the weekend of 3-8 October 2018, Team Archippus will bring this message to Guam, USA.

Just a few days ago, I shared this little arrow episode at the commissioning of Archippus Awakening’s second publication, Alignment Check. When Sujuan (designer) proposed an arrow for the cover design, it reminded me of the MRT arrow. Unknown to her, I had also been using the same visual to demonstrate the advancement of the kingdom of God. In the same way, before anyone can move forward, every believer must also find his or own alignment with the Lord and the purposes of His kingdom.

I firmly believe that the kingdom of God continues to advance and He graciously invites His people to participate in all He is doing. Dear Archippus, you are included too. Get on board. Do not allow anything to block you from what God has already prepared for you (remove the red line).

Focus on the aligning. Let God do the assigning. Move forward for Jesus and His kingdom.

To order SAY TO ARCHIPPUS and ALIGNMENT CHECK,
email archippusawakening@gmail.com.

Two Words that Changed the Entire Course of My Life

I would have missed it … if not for Facebook’s prompter: “You have memories … to look back on today.”

How could I forget such a significant day!?

Well, to be fair, the past weeks have not exactly been easy. And this week has also been a packed series of meetings, teaching and preaching engagements too. As if that is not challenging enough, my mind has already raced ahead to next week’s commitments!

For all the bad press the social media giant has received recently, I am thankful to have been reminded by Facebook of this special day.

On the morning of 8 July 2000, two words would change the entire course of my life: Follow Me. In the weeks and months that followed, I responded to the Lord’s invitation to follow and serve Him. It has been 18 years! What a journey it has been, and continues to be.

Each year, I make it a point to pause that I may reflect and never forget the significance of that encounter, and the decisions that were made because of that encounter. But as mentioned above, I almost missed it this year!

This afternoon, as I worshipped with the Filipino congregation of Full Gospel Assembly, the presence and goodness of the Lord overwhelmed me. When the worship leader led the song, “I need You more“, tears filled my eyes as memories of God’s faithfulness over the past 18 years flooded my mind and heart.

These two lines were especially meaningful to me:

I need You more
More than yesterday

Yes, it has been 18 years. That said, it has only been 18 years. If I needed Him yesterday, I need Him today and tomorrow too! If I needed His grace and enablement for the past 18 years, I sure need a lot more of that to fulfil all He has assigned to me.

Later, I brought the family out for a meal to mark this special day. Over dinner, I took the opportunity to tell the children what actually happened 18 years ago (when we had just two children then), how the Lord led, and how that has brought us to where we are now.

From just a young couple with two children, to leaving the family business, to living by faith, to bible college, to running a school of ministry, to becoming a family of nine, to pastoring a local church, to birthing a new ministry in Archippus Awakening – every step of the way, the Lord has shown Himself more than faithful!

Follow Me. Two words that pierced my heart that morning 18 years ago. The Lord invited, I accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history. These two words changed the entire course of my life! I’ve experienced and learnt so much, and I know there is so much more that the Lord has in store for me.

To God be all glory!

It’s ok. Really. The Lord is at hand.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed and anxious? Have you ever felt upset and frustrated? Have you ever felt alone and lost?

Yes, yes, and yes! Guilty, as charged.

Oops! I hope I didn’t stumble anyone. After all, how can someone serving the Lord, living by faith, moving purposefully on kingdom assignment have such experiences?! Well, you just met that someone!

I’ve always maintained that the work of the ministry is no walk in the park. As much as I’d like to inspire and encourage others with nice, pick-me-up statements and Instagrammable posts, I also believe in being real and authentic. And that means admitting and acknowledging that it’s not about mountian-highs all the time. There are moments – and quite a few I might add – that valley-lows are encountered and experienced.

In the past weeks, I struggled with such a moment.

On the surface, everything seemed normal. In fact, things must have looked quite good (have you seen my Facebook feed?). My schedule has been packed and I was kept duly engaged in my kingdom assignment of Archippus Awakening. Looking ahead, the trajectory seemed to be pointing up and up. My schedule is packed and there are more than a few items on the to-do list to take care of.

In Christian-speak, we would say that the Lord is enlarging the place of my tent! And yet … that was why and when the pressure mounted and concerns began to overwhelm. Yes, I found myself in one of those moments. Anxiety, frustration, helplessness, aloneness … you name it … I experienced it all! And the enemy was more than happy to help me feed on my self-pity, that I may sink even further.

Day and night, I wrestled with many questions and issues. At times, I even took it out on those around me. (I am not proud about this, but I did say that I would be real and authentic.) Everything felt wrong. But faith is not based on feelings, I preached to myself. Ya right, more easily preached than lived out. And so, the tussle went on.

Last night, the Lord graciously intervened, reminding me of Philippians 4:4-7.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

There are many familiar words and phrases in this passage, but this was the line that hit me: “The Lord is at hand.”

Oh how I needed to be reminded of that!

My heart wanted dearly to please the Lord. However, amidst the many details to handle, I must admit that He did seem a little distant. In my bid to be responsible and faithful, I didn’t realise that my focus had shifted, ever so subtly. As the saying goes, “If you feel that God is far away, guess who moved?” Ouch. In Archippian parlance, I allowed myself to be knocked off alignment!

How that one little line ministered to me: “The Lord is at hand.”

Situationally, nothing has changed. There are still many things to take care of and to handle. But being assured of the Lord’s presence made all the difference!

I don’t try to rejoice. I can rejoice because the Lord is near! I don’t try to think positive so that I don’t fret. I don’t have to be anxious because the Lord is at hand! And that also means that I can boldly bring my concerns to Him and make my requests. Because the Lord is not too far away that He cannot hear me. He is near and very present! I don’t try to have peace. I have the peace of God because the God of peace is at hand, near me, with me!

Are you overwhelmed and anxious? Are you upset and frustrated? Are you feeling alone and lost? Perhaps, like me, you have lost perspective of who God is and where He is.

Take heart, my friend. It’s ok. Really. Remember … the Lord is at hand.

Archippus Awakening in Kidapawan City: Proud of My Boys!

When the opportunity was presented for Archippus Awakening to conduct an “Awakened Aligned Assigned” Seminar in Kidapawan City (2-7 May 2018), I asked the children if any would like to go with me. As much as I would like them to serve alongside me, I also want it to be a personal decision and not one forced upon them.

Aaron (16yo) was the first to respond. And then, to my pleasant surprise (since National Service leave is a limited and precious commodity), David (20yo) also asked to come along . Needless to say, I was very thankful to have them as a part of TEAM ARCHIPPUS.

Whilst Aaron assumed the role of team photographer, David’s role was not as clear. Very quickly, the Lord settled that for the young man.

At the first session of the seminar, I noticed that the worship team only comprised a keyboardist and a bassist. I asked Ptr Joel if David could help out on the drums. At the next session, and for the rest of the seminar, David was a part of the music team! It turned out that the musicians had earlier asked Ptr Joel if anyone from the Singapore team could play with them.

For the altar call, David requested not to pray for people but to support the ministry time through music. As TEAM ARCHIPPUS ministered through prayer, David ministered through music – playing the keyboards and singing over the people.

For the Saturday and Sunday services, David had the opportunity to share his song, “Worth Every Drop“, during Holy Communion. (Kidapawan City AG Church had been using this song for communion since last August.) We were all so blessed as the lyrics pointed us back to the Cross and how we, though unworthy, have all been made worthy by the Lord and His sacrifice.

With one son upfront, the other son worked quietly in the background. As photographer, Aaron moved about the hall unnoticed, capturing the happenings from different angles. If a picture speaks a thousand words, then Aaron declared the most and the loudest through his photos (view Facebook Album).

In between ministry sessions, both David and Aaron connected well with the youths of KCAG. They were readily welcomed and invited to join in the fellowship and games. As the older members of TEAM ARCHIPPUS returned to rest in the hotel, the two boys stayed on for lots more fun and food (balut!) with their new-found Filipino friends.

What are their own takeaways from the ministry trip?

David: “Every time I go to the Philippines and subsequently go home, I find myself wanting to go back, and this time was no different. I went on this trip wondering what I was going there for, and came back having had the most enjoyable weekend of my year so far. I’ve only known these people for three days, but it feels like I’ve known them my whole life. Singapore has so much to learn from the Philippines. And I have so much to learn from them as well.”

Aaron: “Knowing my Dad would be in need of a photographer for this trip to the Philippines, I decided to help out. When I arrived at the Philippines, I already had the assumption that this was going to be like any regular trip. It turns out that I was wrong. Unlike any other trip, I had the opportunity to interact with the Filipino youth in the church, and as we talked and played games, I was really blessed by them. And when I watched the whole church worship, I could see they were doing it with all their heart. I have really been blessed by them and I do not regret coming at all!”

What can I say? I am so proud of my two sons! And I am so thankful for the opportunity to be on kingdom assignment together with them. May the Lord use this experience to guide and direct them into all He has prepared for them.