Phase 5: The Garden of Gethsemane – The Pain of Leadership (1997-2001)

My Leadership Journey

  1. No Pain, No Gain - The Path of Discipline (1984-1986) 
  2. Don't Miss the Boat - The Pursuit for Growth (1987-1991) Part A Part B
  3. The Anointing of Elijah – The Pace-setter’s Legacy (1991-1992) Part A Part B
  4. Give me the Mountains – The Pioneering Spirit (1992-1996)
  5. The Garden of Gethsemane – The Pain of Leadership (1997-2001)
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In serving in the university ministry, I learnt the pain of leadership through one of the significant events of my life. It began in 1996 when the concept of 'pastoring the city' was birthed around the world. Our local version is 'pastoring the campus'; led by my respected pastor. Not long after, I was then raised to a leadership position to replace my pastor. I experienced intense struggles and pain as I went through during those years of leadership.

The Four Kinds of People who Gave others Pain (Matthew 26-27)

1) Unteachable People

One of the difficult times I went through was to have to deal with unteachable leaders. One would most likely hear this from an unteachable leader :"You're a leader, I'm also a leader. You have your way, and I have mine." The frustration comes when the whole group becomes stagnant when there is an unteachable person in the group. I was not discouraged though. I continued to believe in God's directions, but I ultimately had to take a longer period of time to fulfil the dream for God, because of the presence of unteachable people in the group.

2) Unreasonable People

I strongly believed that the "Kingdom of God is advanced by forceful people". This pushed me to 'beat' my own body to the limit, causing my health to deteriorate and it came a time when I had to be hospitalised; I am not suggesting others should follow my radical lifestyle. I had a very challenging experience during those times when I was sick with a weak voice. I had to deal with a leader who was extremely unreasonable, accusing me of not showing enough care and concern, and demanding that I meet her to answer the many questions she had. I was totally drained, especially when I was without my voice and had to resort to answering all her questions in written form. The lack of understanding from the lady was disappointing. Unreasonable people would  often say, "You are a leader and you need to solve my problems, and you need to solve it NOW!" Many people were unable to take care of their problems themselves and pushed the responsibilities of their problems to their leaders. 

Insight from Matthew 27:19:

While Pilate was sitting on the judge's seat, his wife sent him this message: "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."

Pilate's wife warned him about the innocence of Jesus, but he acted unreasonably by allowing Jesus to fall into the hands of the people. The people were acting unreasonably too by choosing to release Barabbas and not Jesus. Without thinking, they spoke, "Let his blood be on us and on our children" and the consequence of this is that the Jews became a very persecuted population.  Unreasonable acts and words can lead to God's judgment and serious consequences. I strongly urge everyone to not only be reasonable but also to be careful in what we say and to take up responsibility for our problems and words.

3) Ungrateful People

An ungrateful person will complain, "You never do anything good for me!", after having received all the blessings. Ungrateful people will receive all the blessings and will not attribute their successes to their leaders. However, when things go wrong, they will blame their leaders. I had my share of experience with ungrateful people. When I took up leadership position during my times in Campus ministry, I faced many accusations, saying that I was not caring enough. This was unjustified as I spent most of his time sacrificing my personal time to shoulder a heavy responsibility and workload for the larger body; resulting in a lack of time for interpersonal relationship building. I sometimes wished my responsibility was as low as many others and I could afford more time to 'chill with others' which others interpreted as 'personal and caring'.

4) Untruthful People

2000-2001 was one of those most challenging years of his life of serving in NUS. As I was taking over the leadership of 180 people and 20 key leaders in the midst of an intense nation-wide campaign, 10 of the leaders wanted to leave. I was disappointed as this meant a lost in morale of all the members at the very beginning of the "major campaign". They had many interesting reasons for leaving which were not consistent with the high level of commitment they portrayed prior to the leadership handover. I wished they would say it simply that 'they are leaving because of the change of leadership'.


Recalling the servant leadership as exemplified by Jesus, I felt like Jesus during those tough times, being in a state of physical and emotion anguish. Just like Jesus, I would very much like for the cup of suffering to pass from me. But just like Jesus, I declared that "not as I will but as You will" (Matthew 26:39). The journey of suffering in the footsteps of Christ strengthened me and was a test of my tenacity and commitment. If no one pay the price, I shall!