My Leadership Journey
- No Pain, No Gain - The Path of Discipline (1984-1986)
- Don't Miss the Boat - The Pursuit for Growth (1987-1991) Part A / Part B
- The Anointing of Elijah – The Pace-setter’s Legacy (1991-1992) Part A / Part B
- Give me the Mountains – The Pioneering Spirit (1992-1996)
A consistent prayer that my church ministry had in my first year in NUS was that a cell-group would be established in every faculty and hostel in the university. However, I came to be increasingly disturbed with the prayer that was not backed up by any actions and as the days dragged past, the condition remained the same. There were still no cell groups in the many hostels in NUS. In 1992, I finally decided to take a greater initiative to fulfill the vision. I applied to stay in Raffles Hall in my second year.
Through genuine care for the hostelites, the first cell group in Raffles Hall was birthed. It was around that time when I encountered the orientation committee chairman of Eusoff Hall. When he was invited by me to join the pioneering of cells in NUS hostels, he at first declined saying that his heart was in Eusoff Hall. But he was challenged to a greater vision, of planting cells not just in one hall, but in halls all over the university. In 1994-95, he helped planted the Eusoff Hall and Temasek Hall cells. Then I continued to challenged others and eventually guided them to start cells in 95-96, King Edward VII, in 98, Kent Ridge and Sheares. However it did not stop there. I led the team to provide pastoral care to different ethnic groups. In 1999-2000, the PRC cell was birthed, following that the Indonesian cell. At one point, there was even Indian and Vietnamese cell running.
I realised that staying in our comfort zone is usually the default of most people. This is why many do not attempt the impossible and see them come to pass. How then can we learn the lesson of pioneering?
Surveying the Land
In Numbers 13, twelve leaders were sent to explore the land of Canaan. The best, the sharpest, the most courageous leaders were selected for this important task. Yet when they returned, ten of these leaders came back with daunting reports.
They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.
Believing the reports of these ten leaders, the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, forgetting already that God had delivered them from Egypt, the place where they suffered terrible persecution. Only Caleb and Joseph had faith and believed that victory was possible because the Lord was with them.
Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."
The ten leaders were struck down because of their faithlessness (v 36) and the Israelites subjected to forty years of wandering in the desert. What were the failings of these ten leaders, who though entrusted with the heavy responsibility of surveying the land, fell so completely?
Characteristics of a non-pioneer
1) A non-pioneer always sees the difficulties. (Numbers 13:28)
These leaders were aware of the fruitfulness and abundance of the land. In fact, they reported according. However, things became terribly wrong with the word ‘But’. But the people who live there are powerful. But the cities are fortified and very large. But we cannot possibly win them. Seeing only the ‘buts’, these leaders closed their eyes to the goodness that God had in store for them.
2) A non-pioneer always sees disaster
13:31-33 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
They saw only impending doom, only their frailty and their enemy’s seeming prowess. Instead of holding onto the victory that God promised, they saw the destruction that they believed laid in store for them if they entered the land.
3) A non-pioneer allows himself to sink into despair
14:1 -2 That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!
Discouraged by the negative reports of the ten leaders, the people allowed themselves to fall into despair, forgetting that their God who had so faithfully delivered themselves from Egypt would not lead them to destruction. Instead of seeing things with faith and exercising the strength of God, they began to lament and complain against Him and even started wishing for death as deliverance.
4) A non-pioneer sinks into depression
Taking the step out into the missionary field, into pioneering, is an immense task. If missionaries do not choose to see past the present difficulties and hold on to the promise of God, they can easily sink into depression. Rejection, feelings of being unloved, questions and doubts about one’s vision will cause him to fall short of God’s purpose and plans for him.
How shall we then equip ourselves in such a way as to have a pioneering spirit, like that of Caleb and Joshua who saw the fruitfulness and abundance and despite being presented with the difficulties, continued to trust in Him?
Characteristics of a pioneer
1) Conviction: the strength of your passion
Joshua 14: 7-8
I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.
Despite the passing of 45 long years, Caleb continued to hold on to his convictions. The strength and intensity of his passion did not fade with time. In the same way, I spoke to a passionate young leader, Daniel, who shared a burden for the PRCs in 1999 and felt a calling to China. I challenged him to serve the PRCs in Singapore first and through this period, his passion never wavered. Daniel was stationed in China since 2003.
2) Consistency – sustenance of your pursuit
v 12: Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.
Caleb continued to sustain his pursuit of his inheritance. Even though the Israelites had by that time already received areas in Canaan as their inheritance, Caleb persevered for the hill country of Hebron. He never faltered or stopped believing in the inheritance that was promised to him. Eventually victory came to him because of his relentless pursuit. Similarly, I never gave up on my vision despite the mockery from people around me nor was I contented after establishing a cell in just one hall, but I continued the cause!
3) Courage - stedfast to the promise
v. 11: I am still as strong and ready for battle…give me this mountain….I will drive them out just as He said. [...]
Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites but Caleb was not discouraged by this and courageously strove to take on the strongest fortress. While people around him melted in fear, he believed and trusted in the might of his Lord.
Similarly, my foray into foreign territory, surround by people who did not welcome me, taught me the importance of courage, to persevere despite the odds, despite the language barriers and the fears of being ridiculed and unappreciated.
4) Conquest - stick to your Partner
v. 12 [...] You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said."
A pioneer is always on a conquest to conquer new territory. Once we have the sureness of His promise, we cannot afford to be laid back. We must lay hold of the vision and move into battle! The battle for Caleb, did not end with Hebron, but he continued thirsting for more and God rewarded him abundantly. (Joshua 15: 13-19)
May the Lord remove in us faithlessness; our eyes that lose sight of Him in the face of difficulties. May we receive the strength of conviction, for consistency and sustenance of pursuit, the courage to be stedfast to His Promise as we conquer with Him closely.