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 Lim Tribe on Kingdom Assignment in Bandung

First, it was church camps (The Lim Tribe: Serving the Lord Together). And then, KINGDOM101 Teachings and Awakening Events (The Joy Of Having My Children Serve Alongside Me). Whatever the platform, I am always thankful when my children can join me in the work of the ministry.

I consider these as bring-your-children-to-work opportunities where they get to see daddy in action. Yet, more than just show them what I do and how hardworking I am (haha!), my silent prayer is that they may better understand what it means to serve the Lord and His people across different congregations and settings.

Not all work. Also time for some fun and bonding.

This year, a new opportunity was presented – an Archippus Awakening ministry trip to Bandung, Indonesia 17-21 August. [Read Report: A Humble Beginning in GSJA Merdeka. A Great Awakening in Indonesia.] I shared this with the older ones to see which would like to be a part of this assignment – no obligations. Sarah (17yo), Aaron (15yo) and Esther (14yo) opted in.

By the time we made the trip to Bandung, Team Archippus had grown to be a huge group of 24! Honestly, I was a little concerned, having to manage the team, preach and teach, and still look after my kids. I am pleased to say that that concern was totally unnecessary.

From start to end, the three teenagers were just fine on their own. In Archippian lingo, they each fulfilled their assignments really well. As the team’s photographer, Aaron snapped away, doing his best to capture the right shots and angles. [Check out the photos on our Facebook Page] Sarah sang as part of the team that led worship on Saturday. Esther was assigned as projectionist. But since that was taken care of by the church, she didn’t have much to do. Even so, she remained on standby. And when called upon to help me set up the computer and presentation one evening, she completed that task without hesitation.

What warmed my heart most was during the time of response. After our Indonesian brothers and sisters had presented themselves upfront, I invited the Singapore team to pray for them. To my surprise, I saw Sarah and Esther step forward with the rest of Team Archippus. They then proceeded to minister and to pray for the people.

Needless to say, I am so proud of them! These may not have been huge tasks but it warmed my heart to see them moving faithfully in the small things. May the Lord use these exposures as building blocks in their own personal journeys as they seek to one day discover what He has in store for them.

Well done, Sarah, Aaron and Esther!

Truly, it is a joy to have a children serve alongside me that we may be on kingdom assignment together. All praise and thanks to the Lord!

What Are Your Core Convictions?

When I set up One Day At A Time back in 2007, I felt it necessary to include a page where I shared My Core Convictions. For churches or para-church ministries, it would be a page detailing their Statements of Faith. But for a personal blog, it’s just a broad overview of what I believe in and what guides my spiritual walk.

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Over the years, this list has not only served as good reminders, but also a great source of encouragement to me. It points me back to what I regarded as foundational (still do), and helps me in my own alignment check. And especially in trying and difficult seasons, these simple lines anchor and hold me steady through challenges.

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Reviewing them again, I am thankful I made the effort to craft these ten statements then. I know that these pale in comparison with Jonathan Edwards’ 70 Resolutions. But then again, it was never meant to be too academic a piece or to sound overly theological. My Core Convictions simply detail what I believe about God, His Purpose, salvation, faith, obedience, the Word, provision, ministry, the Holy Spirit, God’s will and grace (supported by Scripture, of course).

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What are your core convictions? Do you have core convictions? If not, I highly recommend that you take some time to ponder and to write them down. It is a worthy exercise as it will bring clarity to your walk with the Lord, strengthen your resolve as you serve Him, and also provide focus as you navigate through life’s many distractions and uncertainties.

General Election 2015: Observations for Life & Ministry

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Everyone agrees that this General Election was a little different. Perhaps it’s the SG50 factor, the first election without LKY, the first time without a single walkover, interesting personalities from the opposition parties, etc. Whatever the reason, there certainly was more excitement (and haze) in the air. I actually stayed up for as long as I could tahan (endure) before finally deciding at 2am that I would not wait for the Aljunied GRC recount. This is quite an achievement for one who is not particularly interested in politics.

Now that GE2015 is over, as the dust settles, I thought it’d be good to share some personal thoughts about the process and the psychology behind it. Interestingly, I noted some parallels that would prove helpful to myself as a minister, not in Cabinet, but of Jesus Christ and His Church.

1. Numbers are not everything. However impressive, numbers remain largely deceptive. The opposition parties drew large crowds at their rallies. Many clamoured for Dr Chee Soon Juan’s autograph. Social media was abuzz with seemingly similar views and as many LIKES and SHARES. And yet, when the results were announced, these encouraging numbers amounted to little, if anything at all. Churches and ministries are quite the same, aren’t we? When we report, it’s numbers we present – and the larger, the better. We judge a church’s health by how big it is, and an activity’s success by how well attended it was. This lesson reminds us that numbers are not everything. There can be a lot of hype but very little support. Sadly, the herd mentality has prevailed through the centuries. Look at the multitudes that Jesus preached to. Where were they when it mattered? Jesus was not impressed with nor swayed by numbers, and we shouldn’t be either.

2. Numbers are important. Well, at least for the PAP. The 69.86% result was a “national swing”, a “landslide victory”, a “strong mandate”. To the ruling party, this signalled not just a clear and decisive win but also the support of the people. Although numbers are not everything, certain numbers are important. For the Christian community, we have to look beyond the crowds, registrations and attendances. What we should be really interested in is how many truly love and serve the Lord, translating attendance into action. No point reporting a large number of real-time decisions but finally only a small percentage of real-life disciples. The numbers of true significance may not always be impressive but these are what we must focus on.

3. Complaints don’t necessarily mean a desire for change. I think complaints are here to stay, no matter how wonderful a government is. Even the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew acknowledged the Singaporean as a complainer and grumbler. And the opposition parties found out the hard way when they were snooked into thinking complaints will turn into votes in their favour. Simply, complaints do not necessarily mean a desire for change. I call this the uncomfortable comfort zone. And sadly, this applies to Christians too. I’ve heard enough complaints about churches, pastors and leaders. But when push comes to shove, no one is prepared to do anything – too many years, too many friends, too much investment through tithes and offerings, too much to lose, too much inconvenience, too much trouble, too lazy, etc. Most are discontented with the situation but everyone seems totally content with the status quo. I know this sounds totally irrational but that’s just the way it is. So, by all means, pay attention to the ground but don’t be naive to expect that these would necessarily be there for or with you.

4. We are not desperate enough. Is this not true? Nothing is really at stake. Singapore is doing ok and our lives are rather comfortable. So, let’s make some noise but not too much. Let’s not risk anything. Don’t rock the boat. With affluence and freedom, Christians in Singapore can fall into the same trap. Since we get to worship freely and comfortably in air-conditioned auditoriums, let’s just be satisfied with that. After all, is that not an indication of God’s favour and blessing? But look at what’s happening in America now. That freedom is slowly but surely being taken away. It’s not enough just to complain about poor leadership or questionable doctrines. Believers are forced to take a stand, to put their faith where their mouth is. I am not saying that I desire that eventuality, ever. Armchair politicians are aplenty as are armchair church members. And it definitely takes a certain level of desperation to get these off their religious butts.

5. Be careful what you say about mothers and women. Look what happened to NSP’s Cheo Chai Chen after his poorly considered remark about PAP’s Tin Pei Ling? Enough said.

6. It’s hard to discern who is telling the truth. Many of the candidates spoke well, eloquently and rather convincingly. Of course, some should not even be there in the first place. Everyone had a case for action or for change. But who is presenting the whole truth, really? It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? We have our fair share of that in Christian circles. Today, we have so much information and a choice of the best speakers. But is what we are listening to accurate and in accordance with the Scriptures? Or are we merely hearing what we want hear? Just as statistics and data can be presented by politicians to convey the party’s agenda, we must be aware that in these days, the same is being done with and to the Word of God. It all sounds attractive and good but we must discern if it is truly God’s kingdom’s agenda or not.

7. We decided but God presided. Without doubt, every vote, Christian or non-Christian, mattered. Singaporeans decided who they wanted in their constituencies and in Parliament. The future of the nation rested in our hands, or so it may seem. The truth is, whatever the result, God is not surprised and remains totally in control. In the end, His purpose will stand. Such is the tension between the freewill of Man and the sovereignty of God. We think we have the power to direct and to will, as if everything depended on us. As moral agents, God allows us the freedom to decide; and that carries with it responsibility and accountability. Ultimately, through our decisions and actions, and in spite of, God appoints the authorities. We think we are serving our own purposes and that of our nation, but somehow, these all end up serving the purposes of God! My little finite mind still cannot quite figure out how it all works but it does. It would do us well if we remember and apply this in our lives and ministries. We would rest and trust more. He is God and we are not.

These are just my personal observations. All said, I am thankful and blessed to be a Singaporean. May we never forget the grace of God that has brought us to where we are today.

Ezekiel the Entertainer?

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Imagine this..

You are the Preacher or the Pastor of the hour. Your name has become the latest buzzword in Christian circles. Mention it and people go, “Yes, I’ve heard of him.” You are invited to speak at seminars and conferences, highly sought after, booked two to three years in advance. Your Facebook and YouTube statistics are impressive, not to mention the number of clicks and visits to your website. Your podcasts are well subscribed to and freely shared over social media platforms. Your meetings are well attended because people simply love to hear your anointed messages, and they leave wondering how you got those awesome downloads. Many queue up to be prayed for because you are prophetically sharp.

Sounds good, yes? Which minister wouldn’t desire a ministry and reputation of such impact and influence?

Interestingly, the Bible describes the seeming success of Ezekiel in pretty much the same way: “As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you beside the walls and the doors of the houses; and they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.'” Ezekiel 33:30

As a preacher and teacher of the Word, I must confess that it is all too easy to assess the effectiveness of my ministry by numbers and positive comments. After all, who wants to preach to an empty room? We may declare that it’s not about numbers but truth be told, it is encouraging when the numbers are there. Also, although we are open to feedback and comments, no one likes to be told that his messages are boring, repetitive or ‘not anointed’. Without doubt, I believe Ezekiel did his best and he did exceptionally well. Similarly, we who have the privilege to declare God’s Word must do our very best and not hide behind spiritual or religious excuses.

And yet, more than just popularity and numbers, the Lord is looking for something else, something far more important than sell-out conferences and packed-out churches. In the next verse, He reveals the condition of the hearts of those who flocked to listen to Ezekiel: “So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.” Ezekiel 33:31

I think this verse is self-explanatory. I may not have spoken to thousands but I have been to meetings which involved thousands. The speakers are world famous and the atmosphere is highly charged. The amens are resoundingly loud and the altar call is almost always full. But I wonder what happens when the people leave these meetings? Only God knows. All I know is that what is usually reported is the number who attended and how great the meetings or messages were. Could it also be that those who attended “hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain”?

“Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.” Ezekiel 33:32

Ladies & Gentlemen, put your hands together, give it up, for Ezekiel … the ENTERTAINER! Lights, camera, action!

I know I’ve felt like that at times – the hours spent preparing a message, labouring over the Word, consulting commentaries, revising, and then revising again – somehow, the message is never done, never good enough. And then, I get up to the pulpit, deliver it with all my might, preach my heart out and it’s done. The crowd disperses, a few say ‘thank you for the message’ and it’s over. And you start all over again. Sure, it may have been a good message. But how many, I wonder, will actually act on the word? Have Christian meetings become entertainment centres where the audience enjoys what is presented, stirred and moved even, but leave without any desire for action other than to secure a booking or seat for the next show?

Sadly, with the choices and options available these days, preachers and pastors are pressured (directly or indirectly) to perform. If not, there is always the other church, the other ministry, the many other sermons online, the other offering bag. I will do my best, but God forbid that I should be just an entertainer tickling the fancies of the listeners. I will do my part to stay true to the Word and to deliver it without compromise. Even so, I cannot determine how the people will respond. We are so deeply entrenched in Church and Christian culture that many do not realise that they have become hearers and not doers of the Word, deceiving themselves (James 1:22).

Where am I going with this? I suppose I am just reminding myself to keep keeping on, to remain faithful in my assignment, to never to compromise, no matter how challenging it may be. The indicators of success are not numbers or accolades but faithfulness and fruitfulness; and that only happens when people move from merely being hearers to being doers of the Word. In the context of Archippus Awakening, it is when people are not just awakened, but move on to be aligned and then to be on assignment for kingdom. I cannot force or coerce anyone beyond how the Lord will convict or how they each will personally respond. I can only declare what I have been given to declare and these will have to decide their own course of action.

And in the end, no one can say that they didn’t know or that they were not told. Each will be responsible and accountable.

“And when it comes to pass – surely it will come – then they will know that a prophet has been among them.” Ezekiel 33:33

 

The Lim Tribe: Serving the Lord Together

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This June, I spoke at three church camps (Shekinah AG Church, Bartley Christian Church and Hakka Methodist Church).

And for two of these, Serene and the children came along at the invitation of the camp committees. It was truly a joy for me to have them all serve alongside me in various capacities. Needless to say, I was very proud of each of them as they took to their tasks, desiring to do their very best.

Through their support and contribution, I had a beautiful revelation of the joy we bring to our Heavenly Father when we too serve Him, not out of duty, obligation or coercion, but with love, joy and gladness.

“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15