几度花落时 (When do the flowers fall)

Image result for flowers on the ground

几度花落时

徘徊花丛里,情人呀不来,
痴痴在等待,莫非你把我忘怀。

那年花落时,
相约在今日,
可是呀不见你来。

曾问那花儿我心事,
可知我相思苦,
随那流水呀寄给你,
再问几度花落时

When do the flowers fall

Lingering in the flower fields,
my lover didn’t come,
foolishly I waited,
could it be you forgot me?

That year when the flowers fell,
Our meeting was today,
but you didn’t come.

I have asked those flowers my heart’s trouble,
they know my sorrows,
following that flowing stream back to you,
again I ask when do the flowers fall.

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Preaching like Bishop Dale Bronner

As part of my personal skill upgrading, I decided to study and learn why some preachers are better able to capture my attention. How is it that some preachers speak for an hour but feels like a few minutes while others speak for a few minutes but feels like an hour? That’s what I would like to highlight key points. Once you’ve learnt the various methods, incorporate some of them and it becomes your style. I would not critique their biblical content but only on their styles of preaching. We know that good content when delivered poorly is just as ineffective.

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Bishop Dale Bronner is a black preacher who is part of the Word of Faith family. Some of you might disagree with his theology but he is nonetheless an excellent presenter. After watching several of his sermons (here’s a good sample: Be still and know), here are some key points of his preaching style.

1. Repeat the title at the start.

At the start of the sermon, Bronner begins in the pulpit. He repeats the title slowly and clearly several times in a row so that the congregation knows it.

2. Be dynamic. Have two (or more) modes: Normal and Excited.

Bronner is a dynamic speaker. When he stands behind the pulpit, he speaks calmly and confidently. His posture is erect and often speaks with a gentle cadence. That’s his Normal mode. Sometimes, he steps out from the pulpit and walks around the platform. In his Excited mode, he speaks with more expression, actions and exhortations. Often, he expands the same point that he made at the pulpit in a personal way and returns to the pulpit to continue his sermon.

Halfway or near the 3/4 mark, he steps out of the pulpit for an extended period of time to exhort the congregation. This is a longer Excited mode. He gives applications and encourages his listeners to apply the truths he spoke on. He uses “you” many times (e.g. “God says to you…”). His voice raises in intensity over time and he begins to shout loudly. At the climax, background organ music begins to play while he keeps on yelling with intensity and passion. Many congregants clap and stand up in agreement. Some term this as the “whooping/celebration” mode especially used by black preachers to inject excitement into the sermon. (Since I’m Singaporean, can I do a Singlish/Hokkien mode? I got to try it one day)

After this climax, Bronner returns to the pulpit and reverts to his Normal mode. He speaks softly and ties up his sermon. It might be even softer than normal. If you analyse the time stamp for his mode switches, it paces nicely with a narrative arc in a storybook or movie. The arc looks like this:Image result for narrative arc

We see from this diagram that intensity rises and falls as the story progresses. This is good storytelling. Intensity might rise and fall like crests of waves in the beginning but it always increases till the climax. That’s why Bronner comes out from his pulpit for a short time in the earlier part of his sermon to build some excitement but only near the end does he build up to the climax. He then relieves the tension built up in the climax with a short and soft ending.

3. Display key lessons on slides for note-taking. 

Bronner includes Bishop’s Notes which lists out questions for reflections, Greek words with explanations or key points. The congregation must understand what you’re talking about or they’ll tune out. He rarely uses it, which makes it more powerful. When preachers rely too much on powerpoint, their points lose power! Sermon outlines in church bulletins work well too but may distract them from looking at the speaker. Once the point is covered, blank the slides.

If there are other preachers whom you enjoy listening, please comment and I will take a look at them.

Book Summary: Does your tongue need healing? (Derek Prince, 1993)

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For me, I have often misused my tongue to insult, tear down, profane and speak failure. I did not realise how powerful the tongue is until I read this book. I’ll like to highlight key lessons from this short book to bless those who like me, need God’s help to heal our tongue.

  • Our tongues are an indicator of the condition of our hearts.
  • Do we keep a tight rein on our tongue? If not, our religion is worthless.
  • Our words determine our destiny. Do we believe God’s promise to us or do we say otherwise?
  • Diseases of our tongues:
  1. Excessive talking
  2. Idle or careless words
  3. Gossip
  4. Lying
  5. Flattery
  6. Hastiness of Speech
  • The root of the problem of our tongues is our heart (Matt 12:33-35; James 3:9-12).
  • 3 Steps to healing of our tongue:
    1. Call your problem by its right name – sin.
    “I have a problem with my tongue. It is sin.”
    2. Confess your sin and receive forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:7-9)
    3. Refuse sin and yield to God
    Say “No” to sin and “Yes” to God. When sin challenges you, say, “No, I will not yield to you; I will not yield the parts of my body. Above all, I will not yield that member which causes most of the trouble: my tongue. Sin, you cannot control my tongue any longer.” The turn to God and say, “God, I yield my tongue to You, and I ask You to control the member which I cannot control.” You need the Holy Spirit to control your tongue.
  • God gave us a tongue to glorify Him. Either our tongue leads to hell fire or Holy Spirit fire.

Commentary on the Didache

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The Didache (Greek: teaching) is a short manual for early Christians in the first century AD. The closer date of the document is to Jesus’ time, the more reliable. Thus, the didache provides a earlier window into the past. Why was it written? Some believe it was written after the Acts Council (Acts 15) as a guide for Gentile believers. The church introduced many pagan elements after the time of Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the state religion (roughly 300 AD). I shall comment on some of the earlier practices that differ from ours today. We might learn some practices that would be beneficial to adopt again today.

Chapter 1 to 5 outlines the way of life and death. The way to life is to obey the Great Commandment: Love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

Chapter 6. Against False Teachers, and Food Offered to Idols. See that no one causes you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly careful; for it is the service of dead gods.

The issue of food sacrificed to idols is not so common in the West. It was common in the Greco-Roman empire and still is today in Asia. Here, just like Paul in 1 Corinthians 8, warns against eating food offered to idols unless our conscience is clear.

Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism. And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

This is the common invocation that pastors use in baptism. If your church doesn’t, something is wrong! Running water is specified, maybe referring to conducting baptism in a river or stream. It is fascinating that they even indicate the temperature of the water used for baptism. Cold water is preferred over warm (maybe according to the weather). There is flexibility in the procedure but the main thing is that baptism should be carried out without being legalistic. There is a concession if running water is not available. The Pastor can pour water over the head of the person being baptised (I don’t think sprinkling is meant). This might have taken place with the head over a container. Three times is needed for the invocation of the trinity with each pour. The requirement to fast before baptism is lost today. The baptiser and the person to be baptised are to fast for one or two days before the event. Others observing the baptism are invited to fast too. This underscores the sanctity and purity involved in the act of baptism.

Chapter 8. Fasting and Prayer (the Lord’s Prayer). But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Thine is the power and the glory for ever..

Pray this three times each day.

Early Christian fasted twice a week. They purposely chose a different day from the “hypocrites”. Who are these hypocrites? A guess would be religious Jews who attempted to show everyone that they were fasting and thus holier. Christians were to fast on different days to prevent identification with these hypocrites. I’m not sure exactly what kind of fasts these Christians did. Whatever it was, meal time was replaced with prayer. Fasting without prayer is meaningless. Here, Christians are asked again not to pray like the hypocrites who babble (Matt 6). Instead, they prayed the Lord’s prayer. When we are at a loss of what to pray, we can easily repeat the words our Lord taught us. They prayed the Lord’s prayer three times a day. That’s a great discipline to incorporate into our lives. When we wake, midday and before we retire for the night.

Chapter 9. The Eucharist. Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks this way. First, concerning the cup:

We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever..

And concerning the broken bread:

We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever..

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”

It seems that the Lord’s supper was quite established by that time and thus instructions are provided for the early church. The Cup, representing the blood shed for us by Jesus, is presented first. Here God is thanked for the ” Holy Vine of David”, meaning the blood ancestry that traced itself from David to Jesus. This blood was shed for us on the cross. Next the broken Bread, symbolising the body of Jesus that was broken for us is presented. Here God is thanked for “life and knowledge”. God became human flesh (Incarnation) to give us life and a knowledge of who God is. What is the “scattered over the hills” talking about? Possibly, it was referred to Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 (Matt 14:13-21). After people ate the Bread (Jesus’ body), the remaining pieces were collected. This is related to the unity of Christ’s Church. As Christ has fed every church around the world with spiritual food, may we all be gathered together again at the end of time.

Suddenly there is a warning. Only those who have been baptised can partake of the Eucharist. This means that the Eucharist is open to Christians who have been baptised from any church. The main thing is if the person is baptised in the Lord or not. What is the reason for this strictness? Jesus said that holy things must not be given to the dogs (Matt 7:6). I agree with this fully. There is a practice of open table in some Methodist churches where unbaptised persons are allowed to take the Lord’s Supper. They may be eating and drinking judgement. If they really desire to partake, why can’t they wait and go for baptism first? Let us not fall into judgement for giving what is holy to dogs or pearls to swine.

Chapter 10. Prayer after Communion. But after you are filled, give thanks this way:

We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which You didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You modest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name’s sake; You gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us You didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. Before all things we thank Thee that You are mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou have prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen.

But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.

We are to thank God for the body and blood of Jesus that was given for us. The meaning of tabernacle means to stay or reside. When Jesus took on human form, he tabernacled among us. When we accepted Christ, he tabernacled in us. Check out my post on an expanded explanation of God dwelling with us.  We thank God for physical food but much more for spiritual food that God graciously gave us. We pray for the protection, purification and unity of the church. We need to be forward looking towards Christ’s second coming. The Lord’s Supper not only looks backwards to what Jesus did, but proclaims that Jesus is coming back again. We desire that he speed his coming back to establish his kingdom. Because of Jesus’ impending return, we are to live holy lives. If not, we must repent. What a wonderful prayer.

I believe with all my heart that all the offices and spiritual gifts have not ceased. There are still apostles, prophets, gift of tongues, healing and prophecy. I believe the office or role of a prophet or apostle is still active today.

Chapter 11. Concerning Teachers, Apostles, and Prophets. Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not. But if he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there’s a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet who speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not every one who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat it, unless he is indeed a false prophet. And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

In regard to teachers, check their doctrine. If it is a different gospel and does not line up with the word of God, reject it. There are many false teachers in our churches today that claim to speak from God but are teaching an entirely different gospel. We need to know the Word in order to discern the truth. In regard to acknowledging apostles and prophets, there seems to be an allusion to the “decree of the Gospel”. At that time, and still today, there are many who claim to be apostles and prophets. How do we test them? See if they desire money and material items from the church. The church is to warmly receive them but give only a simple meal and lodging. Also, these visitors should not stay more than one or two days! If they desire to have a good meal or money for himself, he is a false apostle and prophet. There are many prophets that I have met in churches who are money hungry. They think that being a prophet entitles them to good food and luxury. However, this proves that their motivations and calling are wrong. Their prophecies are false and often sugar-coated to make listeners happy. We need to be discerning and firm. Their behaviour speaks volumes and we are to watch their actions carefully.

Chapter 12. Reception of Christians. But receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, and prove and know him afterward; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you more than two or three days, if need be. But if he wants to stay with you, and is an artisan, let him work and eat. But if he has no trade, according to your understanding, see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep away from such.

We are to give Christians the benefit of the doubt first, and get to know them better. If they are in urgent need of money, we can help them for a start to tide this difficult time but they need to eventually work and self-support. No one must be idle and free-load off the Christian community (2 Thess 3:6-13). Some go to church to look for hand-outs and the church gladly gives them. But more effort is needed to find a way for them to earn a living.

Chapter 14. Christian Assembly on the Lord’s Day. But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned. For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.”

Early Christians did various activities on Sunday: They gathered together, had Lord’s Supper, confessed their sins and reconciled broken relationships. I think it is important to have confession of sins weekly and that forgiveness must be a part of our lives. If not, our sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving, money are all impure. God is worthy of pure sacrifices. I think many in the churches have forgotten that God is “a great King” and that his name is “wonderful among the nations”. Church members come in late, wearing shorts or caps as if the service was so informal. The holiness and sanctity of the the service is lost. We must reclaim the right view of God so that God will accept our sacrifices. Forgiveness and reconciliation must be sought after quickly and not left to fester. If not, God will not be pleased.

Chapter 15. Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof. Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. Therefore do not despise them, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel. But to anyone that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.

There are two roles: Bishops (Pastor/Presbyters/Pastor/Elder) and Deacons that are to be appointed to shepherd God’s flock (similar to Paul’s instructions to Timothy and Titus). The word “therefore” links back to the previous section on meeting on Sunday to offer God a pure sacrifice. In order to offer God a pure sacrifice, bishops and deacons are needed to lead the flock. Another point to note is “meek men“, meaning that these two roles must be filled by males. I disagree with many denominations (Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran) that allow women ordination and preaching. Why? Not because I think that woman can’t lead or teach well, but because that’s the way God ordained the church to operate. If God says it, I believe it. To read more, check out my post on Reclaiming Patriarchy.  These men are to be honoured for their role as prophet and teacher. A prophet not only fore-tells (tells the future) but forth-tells (tells the reality of the present). He speaks against sin and injustice today. There is also a need to discipline for repentance in our churches today. Many pastors glide over sensitive topics for fear of upsetting them. In contrast, we must target these points! That’s how revivals start. Revival starts with calling out sin and asking for repentance.

Chapter 16. Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord. Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth: first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet. And third, the resurrection of the dead — yet not of all, but as it is said: “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.” Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

The early Christian understood the end times very simply. No pre-tribulation, amillennial or rapture. They understood it as things on earth will get worse and worse while more false prophets and Christs appear to lead Christians astray. Then the “fire of trial” or tribulation will come. Only those who “endure in their faith” will be saved. This means that we need to keep our faith and not get enticed by false gospels and Christs. We can lose our salvation if we do not endure! That is the resounding theme of the book of Hebrews.

Being Generous Pleases God

We all like to be around generous people. But are we generous ourselves? How do we instill a culture of giving rather than one of receiving? The passage I want to look at addresses this issue. After all the wars were ended, King David wanted to build a permanent temple for God but he was stopped. Instead, his son Solomon would be the one to build it. David, like any good father would, prepared the blueprints and materials needed for the temple in advance. After collecting some of the materials, David donated more from his personal bank account. He said:

Moreover, in addition to all that I have provided for the holy house, I have a treasure of my own of gold and silver, and because of my devotion to the house of my God I give it to the house of my God…

1 Chronicles 29:3 ESV

A leader sets the example by giving first. He cannot ask his people to give if he does not do it himself. This is an important leadership principle: Never ask someone to do what you are not willing to do yourself. If you want your people to love, you need to be loving first. If you desire honesty, you got to display honesty first. After David donated freely, he appealed to the leaders of his people to give. What was their response?

Then the leaders of fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.

1 Chronicles 29:6 ESV

Note the word “then”. After the leader (David) gave, then his people willingly gave. Leadership guru, John Maxwell, taught the Law of The Lid. The law says in essence, “A follower can only rise up to the leadership level of the leader, not higher.” Since David’s leadership lid was high, the people were able to raise their personal level too. I know a church where the members are generous in their giving, whether contributing to missions, buying lunch, or driving someone home. Why? Their pastor is extremely generous. People learn from their leader. What is the result of generosity?

Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord . David the king also rejoiced greatly.

1 Chronicles 29:9 ESV

Everyone rejoiced. Generosity by leaders and his people leads to joy because they gave willingly and freely to the Lord. God loves a cheerful giver. St. Paul says:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:6‭-‬7 ESV

If you’re not cheerful, don’t give! God won’t be pleased. Examine if your love of money is more than your love of God and people. Why should we be generous? David provides the answer in his magnificent prayer:

“But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.”

1 Chronicles 29:14 ESV

David realised everything he has doesn’t belong to him. It all came from God and belongs to God. We are stewards of God’s money. It isn’t ours to spend! You are a steward, and God wants you to be faithful with his money. Faithfulness doesn’t mean stinginess but generosity to bless others in need. I’m still learning this powerful lesson by missionary Oswald J. Smith – God is no man’s debtor. You can’t outgive God. Be generous today!

Spiritual Myopia

Myopia is a condition where people are short-sighted. They can’t see far objects clearly without the aid of glasses. Many Christians suffer from spiritual myopia too. They only focus on building their kingdom or their local church. They do not consider the wider kingdom of God that exists. 
When I decided to do my internship in another church rather than my home church, some were not too pleased. One cut off their financial support since I was not serving back home. Had I given up the faith? Had I stopped serving the universal church of Jesus? No.

I think spiritual myopia is common in many churches. They only consider how their local church can be benefitted. If it doesn’t benefit them, they aren’t interested. But it doesn’t make sense. Isn’t the whole body of Christ one? The apostle Paul says:

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:26‭-‬27 ESV

If I help build up another member of the body, the whole body should rejoice! An expanded kingdom mindset says, “As long as you’re serving the body of Christ, I’m happy.” Lines cannot be drawn between churches, conferences, denominations, or countries. We are the body of Christ.

A similar example happened during Jesus’s ministry:

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.  For the one who is not against us is for us.  For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.”

Mark 9:38‭-‬41 ESV

John was worried when someone was carrying out an exorcism ministry without being part of “The Twelve”. He had spiritual myopia. He wanted to stop that person from casting out demons. Jesus ordered John not to stop him but to let him continue. He was saying, “He’s on our side John!” Jesus even gives a promise: If we bless a fellow brother in Christ, we will be rewarded. That’s Kingdom mindset. Loving your fellow Christians even if they are not part of your clique. Even if they go to another church.  Even if they go another conference. Even if they go another denomination. Can we adopt a kingdom mindset and ensure we build the body of Christ? 

Book Review: Helping People Win at Work (Blanchard and Ridge, 2009)

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I love the one minute manager series by Ken Blanchard. But this book deviates from his tried and true formula of encapsulating lessons in a story. Instead, he reverts to a normal book format which instantly loses its charm. Even the content is not very new, but a compilation of his other earlier works. However, I will discuss one gem that stands out: Situational Leadership.

Main Beliefs of Situational Leadership 

  1. People can and want to develop
  2. There is no best leadership style to encourage that development.

Diagnosis
People develop through 4 stages (D1-4), based on their competence and commitment levels. For each Developmental stage, it requires a different Leadership Style (S1-4).

  • D1 – Enthusiastic Beginner
  • D2 – Disillusioned Learner
  • D3 – Capable but cautious performer
  • D4 – Self-reliant Achiever

Image result for blanchard d1 d2 d3 d4

Let me explain the diagram. A D1 enthusiastic beginner (low competence, high commitment) requires S1 Directing style (high directive, low support). While a D4 self-reliant achiever (high competence, high commitment) requires a S4 Delegating Style (low directive, low support).

What does Directive and Supportive behaviour mean? For Directive, Blanchard says it is the “empty barrel” concept where the person needs to be filled up with knowledge and skills to perform. For Supportive, it is the “drawing out barrel” concept where the person has the skills but not the confidence. Thus, support is needed to draw out their best result.

A person has to develop progressively from D1 to D4. As leaders, we need to diagnose the person’s level first then select the appropriate leadership style. We cannot move from Directing (S1) to Delegating (S4) immediately. If a problem occurs, the person usually moves back one stage not to all the way to the start (i.e. D4 to D3).  Take note that this development stage applies to tasks also. A person might be at different stages with different tasks and need the proper leadership style. For example, a person’s listening skills might be at D2, speaking skill at D3 and administrative skill at D1. Each skill must be viewed and handled separately. A D2 skill must be dealt with S2 Coaching style.

Let me give an example. There is a youth in your church who 1) plays on your worship team and 2) leads a cell group. He is a relatively seasoned guitarist but hasn’t played in front of a congregation before. He has the skills but lacks the confidence. So I would label him as D3, which requires me to have a Supporting leadership style. I just talk to him to find out his worries and shower him with lots of encouragement and praise on his guitar skills. I won’t be going back to a D1 style and show him how to play the guitar chords again! However, he’s not very good at leading cell groups. He’s new and unsure what to do. So he’s probably a D1. As an “empty barrel”, he needs a lot of directive (S1). I give him material and books on cell group ministry, tell him exactly how to structure and execute a meeting and hold his hand until he reaches D2. Then I switch to a coaching mode (S2).

 

Book Review: The One Minute Manager Balances Work and Life (Ken Blanchard, 1999)

Image result for the one minute manager balances work and life

Management guru Ken Blanchard, who is a Christian, highlights the importance of staying healthy. As we work, we tend to neglect our health and life. The problem is that when we become unhealthy, we become worse employees and our work suffers. If you’re the boss of a company, you pay out more money for employee medical issues and productivity drops. Your whole company suffers.

Blanchard reminds us to take care of our life to ensure we remain productive in our work. This is very important for those in ministry, especially pastors and missionaries. He notes that “even success could kill you” (p. 19)! Firstly, we need to recognise that some stress is good. Too much stress leads to Burn-out while too little stress leads to Rust-out. Neither is ideal. Blanchard wisely notes that “in early life, people give up their health to gain wealth. Then, in later life, they give up some wealth to regain health.” (p. 70) Don’t reach that stage!

The question is how do we deal with stress such that it doesn’t become strain (burn-out or illness)? There are four moderators to make sure we are in good shape: 1) Autonomy, 2) Connectedness, 3) Perspective, and 4) Tone (p. 32).

  1. Autonomy is the state where people have many choices and relatively able to control their lives. They find that their daily activities move them towards achieving their goals. Also it is the ability to move to other jobs if we want to. I think we need to learn to set goals, vision and improve our skill sets regularly.
  2. Connectedness gives people strong positive relationships in their home, work and community. It’s important to have good friends and support. This would preferably be a Christian group in your church or workplace to offer mutual support whether it be through exercising together or not tempting each other with unhealthy food.
  3. Perspective has to do with the meaning of life. If we have a big picture view of life, the little stresses don’t affect us so much. For Christians, we know our approval is from God and that earthly gains have no eternal significance. Our work should not define or control us. Someone once said, “No one on his deathbed ever said, I wish I had spent more time on my work.”
  4. Tone is how we feel about our body and physical appearance. We can manage this through exercise and a proper diet. Having a healthy body improves our self-esteem and reduces stress. The tone is the easiest to start with as we can measure the number of kilometers we jog or the number of push-ups we perform. Blanchard notes that when we take care of ourselves, we are then better able to focus on other’s needs better (connectedness).

There are some simple ways to stay healthy (p. 50-51):

  1. I love my job/studies.
  2. I use safety precautions.
  3. I am within 5 pounds of my ideal weight.
  4. I know three methods to reduce stress (not drugs or alcohol).
  5. I do not smoke.
  6. I sleep 6-8 hours each night.
  7. I engage in regular physical activity at least 3 times per week (20-30 mins of sustained physical exertion). Stick to your program!
  8. I have 7 or less alcoholic drinks a week.
  9. I know my blood pressure.
  10. I follow sensible eating habits.
  11. I have a good social support system.
  12. I maintain a positive mental attitude.

I think as church workers, we tend to over-indulge in food. Gluttony is a sin that is not condemned in churches enough (Prov 23:2,20-21; Phil 3:9; 1 Cor 6:19-20). I know a pastor who is severely overweight and had to undergo a back and knee surgery due to the strain on his body. He took a long medical leave as a result. Sadly, his unhealthy diet hasn’t changed. What a shame it is to let your uncontrolled love for food shorten your ability to do ministry! How would you explain to God if you meet him ten years earlier than you were supposed to die? Let us stay healthy so we can do more for the Lord’s work.

 

Reconnected (Haiku)

Reconnected

On the train I go

Seated all the rows I see

People with heads down.

Faces cast in blue,

People trapped in virtual worlds

Disc onn ec te d.

Out for lunch I go

Couples seated face to face

Their lips unmoving.

Faces cast in blue,

Couple trapped in virtual worlds

Disc onn ec te d.

It’s dinner at home

Phones silent, chatter alive

R e co nn ected.

​Focusing on the Main Thing

 

Image result for focusingStephen Covey once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” He was talking about being focused on our life’s goals and not be distracted by other stuff. We need this truth in our churches badly today too.

There are thousands of denominations, mainline or independent. However, that is not a problem. Each church is like a different ice cream flavour. People choose what they like. The problem is saying one flavour is better than another. We say that Baptists are more biblical than Pentecostals, or that Methodists are more spiritual than Anglicans. Jesus prayed that the church would be one united body (John 17:20-23). I think many people confuse unity and uniformity. Unity is a heterogeneous cohesion that acknowledges differences. Uniformity is a homogeneous cohesion that insists on total conformity. We are seeking unity, not uniformity!

Now the question is what do I mean by differences? What kind of differences is acceptable to remain in the Christian circle? For that, we need to separate our beliefs into Essential and Non-essential. Essential doctrines must be agreed upon by all Christians. Some are:

  • Deity of Christ
  • Salvation by Grace
  • The gospel of Jesus Christ
  • The Resurrection of Christ
  • Monotheism (One God)

Does it seem too little? No worries, cults differ on these Essentials so they don’t make the cut. Looking at this criteria, we could embrace churches that are “labelled” as Word of Faith or Hypergrace churches since they hold to the Essentials too. We must humbly confess that we have been too hard on some of these so-called “heretical” churches.

Non-essential doctrines are interpretations or culturally-informed beliefs that are not crucial for salvation. For example:

  • Modes of baptism (Sprinkling or immersion?)
  • Gift of Holy Spirit (Tongues still given?)
  • Church structure (Bishop, elder, or lay driven?)
  • Eschatology (end times rapture?)

Many churches sadly have split on Non-essentials of the faith. Does knowing whether the rapture is pre- or post-tribulation really change your life? Nope. Does the Holy Spirit reside in non-charismatics as much as Charismatics? Yup. Check out this site for more info.

In Ted Haggard’s book, Primary Purpose, he argues that for churches to be united in evangelism, they must focus on the Essentials and not the Non-essentials. Find common ground as Christians. Focus on the Main Point. Don’t be distracted into quibbles and division such as stances on infant baptism or cessationism! In light of our goal, the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20), I agree that the banner of Christ must fly higher than our denominational or church beliefs. It is the last days and there is much work to be done for Christ! Can we put aside our differences and work together? The Devil loves it when Christians fight.

What are the implications for us today?

1. Don’t promote Non-essentials or denominational distinctives as Gospel truth. 

As much as you believe your Non-essentials to be as true as the doctrine of the Trinity, it is only one interpretation out of several. Teach it in your church but don’t bring it outside when dealing with others. Unbelievers don’t care about these distinctives anyway. Present the essentials of the faith constantly! A united stand is when an unbeliever receives the same gospel in every church he goes.

2. Be willing to collaborate with other Christians who agree in the Essentials. 

This requires love and humility to join hands and work together instead of competing. Complete, don’t compete. The only difference between Complete and Compete is L which stands for Love. If churches worked to pool resources, stop duplicating ministries, learn to specialize, imagine how much more could be achieved! We need to encourage pastors and ministry workers from other churches and denominations too. Tell them that we’re in it together because we are Christians. Period.

Prior to becoming the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson served as a major general in the Tennessee militia. During the War of 1812 the morale of his troops reached an all-time low, and they began to argue, bicker, and fight among themselves. Jackson called them all together and said, “Gentlemen! Let’s remember, the enemy is over there.”

Jesus is shouting at us today, “The enemy is over there!”