• Blog
  • My 2.5 Star Review: Dealing with Criticism

    When I launched my album ‘The Kingdom’ back in 2014, it was a joyous night of celebrating the accomplishment of the songs that the Lord had given me in that season. I was very proud of the work because I was deeply satisfied with the revelations and the messages these songs carried, which I knew would have a significant impact on people’s lives. It was also a dream to have recorded it with Ed Cash’s studio in Nashville, Tennessee, which had always been a lifelong dream of mine!

    I remember the next day being pleasantly surprised that there had been a critic at my launch and they had written a public article reviewing my music. Curious of course, I logged in straight away to read it. Interestingly though, the article was not quite a positive one that I would have ‘shared’ enthusiastically over my social media. In fact, the album was given a 2.5/5 review for its work.  

    I remember sitting there, having a brief moment staring at the computer screen. I knew I could allow my heart to go either of two ways: 1) I would let a number dictate or destroy the works that I knew to be powerful, or 2) listen to God’s voice, and be confident in the value of His work done through me. I chose the latter.

    I know for some people receiving difficult criticism, especially in a public setting can cause one to spiral into condemnation and question their self-worth. First, your work is separate from your identity as a child of God, so don’t foolishly let a ‘performance’ dictate your value. Secondly, if your art has a greater purpose than just to ‘impress’, then that in itself is invaluable.

    For me personally, I was and still am very proud of the work of art the Lord had given me. Not just because of the production and the effort put into the art of songwriting, which I personally thought was done phenomenally as a team, but also because of the fact that I’ve had very REAL testimonies of miracles that have been released because of these songs! One woman received a miracle baby (his name is Lucas) after declaring in faith the lyrics of ‘Hand in His’. This song also gave couples, who were suffering in marriage, the courage to love again with the strength of Christ. Do these songs have value? Absolutely.

    As artists and creatives, especially if you know you are a son or daughter of God; having purpose in your art beyond simply ‘entertaining’ or ‘impressing’ others is vital. Art can be used to heal, uplift, and invite Heaven’s government – it is a conduit to express the very heartbeat of God. Your primary role is not to win the praises of man, but it is to be faithful to the assignment entrusted to you by the Father.

    I pray that the Lord will release His grace upon you to create without fear but to create instead from the overflow of a steadfast confidence that He loves you and will partner with you to release His goodness across the earth.  

    You can find the link to listen to my album ‘The Kingdom’ here!

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Collaboration: The Model of Kingdom Creativity

    By Shawn ‘Walrus’ Wong

    God loves collaboration. Right from the beginning of time in Creation, we see the Trinity collaborating in perfect unity to form life.

    The Father who spoke, the Word of God (a.k.a. Jesus) was released. By the authority inherent in the Son, the Spirit of God, who had been hovering over the waters since verse 2, empowered the atoms and molecules into motion. The earth, hitherto formless and void, scrambled to align itself to the command that was spoken, like paint adhering to the motion of the Painter’s brush on canvas.

    As wonderful as the outcome of Creation was, let us pay attention to how it came about. Notice that each person of the Trinity had an integral part to play in the eventual result. It was a combination of the Father’s command, the Son’s authority, and the Spirit’s power. An example of perfect teamwork – 3 distinct persons acting with aligned values, demonstrating the spirit of unity like no other. That, we believe, is a model for what creativity was meant to be for us – collaborative.

    In January, AG held our first-ever Songwriting Retreat, where songwriters from different churches and denominations gathered to craft songs for our next live worship album, which will be recorded in July. We were so humbled by how the Lord blessed us with original, powerful worship songs that we believe will impact the nations.

    (Above: AG Songwriting students working together on a song.)

    One of those songs started out with a lyrical idea that I had about God speaking light into darkness. As a group, we came up with a melody for those lyrics, added more sections, and worked tirelessly to refine it into the best version it could be. After two days, we had finally completed the song!

    What struck me about the whole process was that by the end, 7-8 songwriters had contributed to it. The people who helped finish the song were totally different from the ones who started on it. There was no way I could have written the song on my own, without the group’s collective input.

    We were never meant to operate in a silo. The Bible is replete with stories of people coming together for the success of a specific purpose or project.

    When the Lord saw the Tower of Babel being built, He said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” (Gen 11:6) Remember, God was saying this about a project that He did not even support! What more, when we begin to listen to His heart and come together in unity to create pieces of art that are Spirit-breathed?

    Let us decide today to throw out the spirit of competition, and to put on a spirit of humility that says, “Yes, though we may be quite different, I’m willing to learn from and work with you.” If a brain had an idea, it would do little good without eyes to look for the pen and paper to write it down, or legs to get to the desk when it finds them, or a hand to pick them up. We were always created to operate as One Body. As Lou Engle put it, “We can only fly UNITED”; and he wasn’t talking about the airline.

    We believe collaboration is the model of Kingdom creativity, that no piece of art can reach its utmost potential apart from a community – friends who love one another, are rooting for one another, and whose values and goals are aligned. Remember, if we are one people and have the same language, nothing which we purpose will be impossible for us!

  • Blog
  • 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.

  • Blog
  • God’s Dream For Your Life

    By Alarice

    “God had a dream for your life before you were even born,
    and then He wrapped a body around that dream to 
    fulfil that dream.”
    – Lou Engle

    If God had a dream for us before even the foundations of the earth, before we were knit together in our mother’s womb, before we ever took our first breath, then should it not be our greatest prize to discover this dream for our life and to live it out?  

    God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Being human is knowing that we were created for significance; to be part of a greater story beyond ourselves; it has been deposited in us, it is our DNA. Whether we are moved for justice, for beauty, for compassion, for the extraordinary and supernatural – we cannot deny that deep down there is an innate and insatiable desire to live a life of purpose and impact.

    But oftentimes we let the fear of man, the expectations of others, and the worries and cares of the world to choke and vanquish the dream. It is wisdom for us to know that there is a very real war against our souls that seeks to destroy the very thing we were born to do. The enemy shudders at the thought of a world where orphans realise their identity as sons and daughters and fearlessly live the fullness of their calling; establishing His Kingdom across the earth.

    There is an oppression that we come against; the status quo. ‘Don’t do anything radical,’ they say. ‘Stick within the lines,’ they say. But do you not feel a surge in your spirit? As deep calls out to deep, the Spirit of God who lives in us; the same power that raised Christ from the dead, compels and provokes us to bravery and radical courage. It may cost us our comfort, our reputation, our life – but ask any of the great heroes of faith, and you will know that partnering with God in His plans for the earth is the greatest joy and fulfillment for the believer.

    Here at Awaken Generation, our theme for 2018 is ‘Destined’ – our prayer is that the people of God will walk in boldness and courage to push past the fear that entangles, and break free to discover this dream God has for each of our lives. Even as I write this, I know that dreams once hidden are now resurrecting to life in your heart and spirit. Place this vision ever before your eyes and run to it.

    May this year be one where, with even the tiniest step of faith forward, the sails of your heart will catch the mighty wind of the Spirit and propel you to the vastness of the open seas of His destiny for you. Come, taste and see.

  • Blog
  • Hallelujah When It Hurts

    By Jean Tan

    It’s easy to sing praise when all is well. What happens when the realities of your world don’t seem to match up with the goodness of God’s promises?

    I was born with a cleft palate and lip. My first operation was at 3 months of age, my second when I was 1 year’s old. My third at 9, when they discovered a hole under my lip. My fourth at 16, when my jaw grew out so much I couldn’t talk or eat well. My fifth at 17, and then sixth at 18.

    I had to go through 6 surgeries to look and speak as normally as I can today.

    I have been called a monster, crooked, ugly. People stared in the streets, boys laughed or recoiled.

    Somewhere along the way, my parents divorced and my dad went bankrupt. I did well in school to make things better for myself and ease the finances on my family, but also so that I could go away for college and live life on my own terms for a change.

    And when life was finally heading somewhere, I was diagnosed with kidney disease at 24. The doctor’s prognosis: a 30% chance that this would go away after treatment, another 30% that symptoms would recur through life, and another 30% that I would have kidney failure by the age of 40-50.

    It didn’t make sense. Somewhere, somehow, I felt betrayed, unfairly given a load I’d never asked for, and one that few else understood. I stood by pews and cried, soaked up hospital bedsheets with blame, couldn’t utter the words of the songs on Sundays.

    But even through all of that, I couldn’t rid myself of an undeniable sense that Someone was with me. And that, despite the madness of life and the questions that came with it, that He was palpably real, present, and was giving me a great measure of resources to deal with whatever I needed to deal with.

    So through all that madness, I knew I always had a choice: to turn further inward, and away, into the poison of bitterness, doubt, and anger, or move into the light in an almost insane trust in the goodness of God. The former consumed me alive, again and again; the latter was the only thing left to save.

    For the next 6 years, as I lost practically everything, I kept turning to the light. Every time I stumbled, I turned. Every time I didn’t understand, I turned. Every time I was hospitalised, I puked, I fell, I turned –

    Turned to One I was angry with, and yet the only Person whom I could trust. The only One who saw it from the start and understood; who knew pain and chose to take it upon Himself so we would know what strength and hope was. The One I’ve come to intimately know as Lord, because He’s proven Himself faithful, time and again.

    Because when I began to turn to the light, regardless of the darkness that loomed – the light began to form itself in me. Light replaced night, and hope replaced the hollow. Instead of anger, thankfulness grew. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I learnt to give strength to others. Instead of despair, I found confidence and faith: that no matter what happens, everything will be okay.

    And strangely, as I turned – all the things I’d lost began returning, one at a time, like flowers blooming out of the wintry cold. Relationships, job opportunities, money, music, travel… they came back with a vengeance and with a beautiful sweetness I’d never known.

    It was in that journey that “Hallelujah” was written. It’s a song about giving your very last breath and turning to the light again and again, even when you don’t see the good that comes out of it. It’s about making the choice to trust, even when you are riddled with doubt. It’s about knowing that there is darkness in this world, but that His goodness overcomes it.

    Because He is good.

    And He will never fail you.

    Facebook: fb.com/jeantanmusic

    Instagram: @jeantanmusic

    YouTube: www.youtube.com/jeantanmusic

  • Blog
  • Worship & Songwriting: An Interview with Dan McCollam

     

    Dan McCollam empowers worshippers worldwide to understand and release the transformational effect of worship on individuals, families, cities, and nations. As director of Sounds of the Nations, he trains thousands around the world to write and record worship songs using their own ethnic sounds, styles, languages, and instruments. Awaken Generation has had the honour of hosting him at Singapore’s first-ever Sounds of the Nations conference in 2017. Dan plays over 40 instruments and is a director and teacher at The Mission School of Supernatural in Vacaville, California. He also serves on the teaching faculty of Bethel School of the Prophets and Bethel School of Supernatural Worship in Redding, California. Dan and his wife, Regina, have been married for over 30 years and have four children.

    AG: For someone whose life and ministry involves a lot of music, what kind of music do you personally listen to? 

    Dan: For pleasure I mostly listening to World Ethnic music. Also, I like a lot of nice acoustic guitar or piano pieces. It’s usually original melody instrumental pieces. I like bands that combine electronic sounds with earthy, acoustic, ethnic instruments. But we always have worship music on in our home. Honestly, we love the Bethel and Jesus Culture stuff because the message reinforces our values. So I really like that.

    AG: We heard you have a supernatural grace to pick up any stringed instrument and play it immediately, do you have any favourites?  

    Dan: My favourite instruments to play, as far as ethnic instruments, are the Chinese instruments. And that’s because they’re tuned to the pentatonic scale, and so you can’t hit a wrong note, which is really cool because then the creativity that flows out of that is just super. Like the ‘ruan’ – the round banjo – and the ‘guzheng’. So I play those and I really, really enjoy playing them. So the pentatonic instruments are some of my favourites. They just immediately take me somewhere.

    AG:  Okay, onto some questions about worship! During the Sounds of the Nations conference, you were talking about releasing the atmosphere of an attribute of God that you’ve gotten a revelation about. Some people may be new to this concept, so what does this look like?

    Dan: Before you can change an atmosphere, you have to carry one. So if you wanna release peace in the room, then go to the hardest place there is for you to have peace, and retain your peace; keep your peace. And you do that, again, by just tapping into the presence of the Lord, acknowledging Him as the Prince of Peace, letting the peace of God rule and reign in your heart and mind.

    A lot of people try to start changing atmospheres before they really become a carrier of an atmosphere, so it’s really practical first to meditate on that attribute and then embody that atmosphere. Let the word become flesh in you. Let that song that is focusing on that attribute take you there. Get really accustomed to that level of personal breakthrough, and then you can start pushing it out into the room.

    AG:  And this will happen naturally? 

    Dan: It will, but intention is really important. So that’s the other thing. You know, there’s really only four scriptures in the New Testament on worship:

    1. John 4:23 – the Father is seeking worshippers,
    2. Colossians 3:16 – teaching one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
    3. Ephesians 5:19-20 – being filled with the Spirit, then speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and
    4. Revelation 4, where we see the four living creatures around the throne.

    Two of those are about singing over other people, or creating atmosphere over other people. And I think it’s a real missing gem; a real missing understanding in worship. Obviously, singing over one another is creating an atmosphere of encounter.

    So you see this in the Old Testament – Samuel said, “Listen, Saul, when you come into the atmosphere of these prophets who are prophesying on their instruments, your heart will be changed into another man. The spirit of prophecy will come on you.” Then later in 1 Samuel 19, where Saul is trying to capture David, and he sends the armies to Naioth, the whole armies come under the influence of the atmosphere that these prophets are creating. So we see that people are creating atmospheres through their worship.

    AG:  Which starts from a place of meditation and cultivation in the secret place. 

    Dan: Yes. And we parallel it again to the Isaiah passage, that God sends forth His word to accomplish His purpose. So He doesn’t just speak it; He sends it to accomplish a specific thing. In the same way, when you start singing atmospherically, you’re not just singing the song; you’re sending the song to accomplish a kingdom purpose.

    AG:   Do you believe that everyone who is musical has the potential or grace for songwriting?

    Dan: I actually believe that everyone on earth should write a song, and the reason is: Scripture repeatedly says, “Sing a new song to the Lord, all the earth”; “Sing a new song to the Lord, all the people”. And some people take that as, “Everybody, sing the new song.” In Psalm 40, David said, “He pulled me out of the miry clay, He set my feet on the rock, He established my goings and put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise. Many will see it and fear and trust in the Lord.” I feel like God actually gives everyone a new song when they’re born again, and that song doesn’t always manifest as a song, you know what I mean? But He re-tunes us; He changes the song in us; He changes the heartbeat in us, so to speak. And I think out of that place of encounter, that everybody can create and sing something original.

    I think the spiritual song is, in a way, creating or songwriting, and I think that’s very, very important – putting your own vocabulary to your worship.

    AG: I think that gives a lot of people hope and encouragement. So what would your advice be to people who are new in their journey of songwriting in general?

    Dan: When I first started writing my songwriting books, there weren’t any out there for worship. There were none. And as soon as I put my first book out, three other famous people put books out on worship writing – Matt Redman, Paul Baloche, and different ones. At first I was really frustrated, like, “God, why did you have me write this? These guys were gonna do it anyway!” And He’s like, “No, I need a lot of voices for what’s about to happen. I don’t just need one voice.” But there are good tools out there for songwriting.

    Take a class in Awaken Generation! Yeah, really! Seriously. Because you’re getting songwriting plus song-mentoring… I know a lot of people who have read songwriting books but what they’re crying out for is some critique on their songs. And having a song mentor like that who can critique your songs? Man, that’s worth a fortune!

  • Blog
  • I Wrote a Song, Now What?

    First off, congratulations – it IS something to celebrate when we are able to churn out a song that articulately expresses EXACTLY what our hearts have been trying to express – a process that oftentimes comes with much pondering, seeking, wrestling and frustration! After your song has been birthed, many would ask: ‘So…what do I do with it now’? Here are some of my thoughts that I hope will help you consider what to do next:

    Define Its Purpose!

    As worship songwriters, it is our mandate and responsibility to steward the messages and revelations given to us by the Lord for our songs. Sometimes, they may be songs that are primarily for our personal worship – a sacrifice and offering of praise not for anyone else to hear but the Lord. Other times, they may be songs that are supposed to be heard and sung by our communities, local churches, and the global church. That doesn’t mean the song that has a global influence has more value than a personal song for the Lord, it just serves a different purpose, but each is of value in the eyes of the Lord.

    Refinement is Part of the Process!

    Remember, when you get Heaven’s download for a new song – it’s just the first part of the process. It is rare to receive a song that is perfect as it is, because you would often need to go through the process of ‘mining out’ and refining your song. We need to partner with the Holy Spirit in our craft and skill, and in the spirit of excellence to help the song maximise its potential. I once wrote a song called ‘Hand in His’. It took me a couple of years to write because I felt the message behind it was so weighty that I needed to say it absolutely right. Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to go through process and seasons in order to have the right words to say. Patience is key; to say exactly the right thing is worth the wait!

    Collaborate in Community!

    If you take a look at the top songs on CCLI, you’ll notice that pretty much all of the songs have multiple songwriters working on it. That’s because 2 is always better than 1! Songs are able to go to places you never expect when you have another creative’s input. Don’t play the ‘possessive’ game, especially if you are writing songs to be a blessing for the local church, work with people you have chemistry with and trust. Working with other songwriters is always helpful in receiving feedback to what is working and what is not!

    Record, Record, Record!

    Once you have refined your song to the best that it can be, it’s time to to get your songs arranged and produced! A producer’s job is to add the ‘dressing’ to the song, so that a full band accompaniment and the like can bring your song to life! Hence, Awaken Generation set up over very own Production House to serve artists in their songwriting and production journey. Post-production entails song editing, mixing (to me one of the MOST important stages of recording that sets apart a GREAT song from an average one – invest in a great mixing engineer), and Mastering. Recording your songs IS an investment – I saved up $5,000 in 2008 working in a retail shop in my university days to record my first EP.

     

    Let It Be a Blessing!

    Songs meant for the church need an opportunity to be heard! At Awaken Generation, we always make it a point to include at least one of our original songs in all our worship sets that we do for Worship Nights, Convergences or church ministries! Songs that carry the heart’s cry and DNA of our local community and nation are powerful because they were written from the soil of the nation! We need to be singing these songs. Find opportunities to use your song live, but also remember we are in a digital age, where getting your songs accessible to an almost infinite world is possible through media like YouTube, Spotify and iTunes. Personally, I’ve been using a third-party distributor (www.tunecore.com) for many years now and have been pretty happy with how they’ve managed my online music catalogue.

    I hope these tips will help you in your songwriting journey. All the best!

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

    Interview with Calvin Hong by Shawn Wong

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

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

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

    The necessary things to do are:

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

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

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

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

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

    S: That’s pretty extreme!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Interview with Calvin Hong by Shawn Wong

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

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

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

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

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

    S: What causes ministry burnout?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Blog
  • Dealing with Offence, the Number One Relationship Killer

    by Alarice

    Have you ever known a particular ‘easily-offended’ person whom, after a while, would consecutively get offended by every one of their friends and systematically start to cut them off from their circles of influence? It’s not long before you would see them completely isolated, offended by everyone – it becomes them against the world. 

    THIS is the NUMBER 1 strategy of the enemy to steal the abundant life that God has for us.  It says in John 10:10 that the ‘enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy’, and he loves to do this by sowing seeds of bitterness and offence that ultimately lead to the destruction of God-given relationships! Friends, our Christian life MUST be done in the context of relationship, community and family – it is the foundation of Heaven’s culture. There is so much richness to be found in doing life in community – it is where our callings and our identities are affirmed, where we are positioned to fulfil our destinies, and where we are sharpened and experience growth. It’s time we got smarter and realised the enemy’s schemes, learn to forgive, and let go of offence so that we can enjoy the abundance of being ‘set in a family’. 

    So how do we overcome offence? How the Lord has personally shown me, is to ask the Lord to give you a revelation of WHO that person is DESTINED TO BE. Sure, they may have flaws (we, too, have flaws), but it’s not to stumble over who they are not. Instead, we are to celebrate who they are! They are sons and daughters, God sent His Son for them, they are called to do great and mighty exploits in His name! Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities – we have a common enemy and it is NOT your neighbour. Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see the greatness in that person and you soon will find that you will be able to release your hurt and release that person into the fullness of their destiny in Christ.