TEAM OF COACHES
In early July, I was watching Wimbledon on TV and marvelled at the skills and performance of the winners. This time I also focused my sights on the team of coaches. All star players recruit men and women to train them through thorough preparations.They help the stars to improve their strokes, to keep fit, to prepare mentally for every game. You could see the joy of the champions – Noval Djokovich and Serena Williams as they hugged their coaches. Imagine these champions deciding to dispense with the services of their various trainers. That would save them a fortune. But it would also lead to their decline both in competitive edge and financial earnings! All top athletes, CEOs and noted leaders need to have a good team of coaches around them. What about those of us in Christian ministry? If you find yourself in a rut or labouring for months without a breakthrough, should it be time to look for coaches? In the pastoral field, humble pastors often receive free coaching. There are godly and wise coaches who are there for us!
I have never had a formal coach who did one-to-one training with me but I cherish memories of Christian leaders I looked up to. Their lives, encouragement, admonition and example have deeply influenced me.
When I was starting work as the newly appointed General Secretary of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), my Chairman was Dr Oliver Barclay. It was our tacit understanding that he would offer to counsel me in my personal walk with the Lord and also in my ministry as a global Christian leader. I often bounced new ideas on him. He was always pointing me back to biblical principles and urging me never to go for quick fixes or be satisfied with pragmatic solutions.
I remember asking him how I should handle Christians who belong to the charismatic wing of the church. Both of us were then strong Word Christians. He told me how he himself got a staff member from his own team to jot down 10 theses in favour of charismatic theology and practice and 10 theses against. He was actually teaching me not to be a one party person.
I remember another occasion when he asked me whether I had gone on vacation with my family. I thought I would impress my Chairman by telling him that we had six days off. I was stunned by his reactions. He chided me and exposed my imbalanced choice! “Look, how on earth can you claim you’ve had a refreshing holiday with your family? You spend a day or two before you start off to pack and plan. On arrival, the first two days are for adjusting. And on your fifth day, you have to pack again and get ready for home.” He went on, “As long as I am chairman, you must promise me that you will have least 14 days off for your family vacation. That will do you a world of good.” How true – I have never forgotten those wise and practical words.
There were others who shared their “secrets” with me. John Stott, with whom I met once every two months for a few years taught me that he prepared every one of his sermons on his knees. Wow! I was overwhelmed when he would cite people and students movements. So when I asked him where he obtain those news, he replied, “Through the Prayer Diaries the IFES sends me!” He had been systematically praying through the prayer points in those diaries.
When I sought the counsel of wise and godly leaders in the area of finance, I achieved much success in fund raising both for IFES and Emmanuel Church in London. I shudder to think what would have happened if I did not connect up with key men when I had to raise well over one million pounds within nine weeks to purchase our current Centre in Westminster in 1996. Then again, when I retired as pastor, I turned to trusted financial advisors to help me invest our savings and retirement funds. Thankfully these have performed well above the market rate.
We can all have blind spots: we think of ourselves as the wise expert leader or entrepreneur and do not invite others to coach us.
Looking back at over 50 years of leadership, how I wish that I had eagerly submitted myself to receive training on building up teams and spotting and recruiting key staff.
When I was working with IFES, I had the cream of student workers to pick for our international team.
By God’s grace we grew.
But when I switched to pastoral work, I thought I possessed the talent to recruit first rate church staff.
I failed to understand that the context had drastically changed. I recruited a few staff that could have damaged the church or curbed its growth.
If only I had learnt discernment from experienced pastors.
I wish I was more intentional relating to Christians whom I have the joy of mentoring. I always wanted our relationships to be informal and I liked them to think of me as an older brother, not as an expert. So these folks were either influenced when I shared with them in small groups or through my example.
When I stepped down as Senior Pastor, I had friends in East Asia who personally asked me to mentor them. They have in me not only a coach but also a spiritual father. I maintain an interest in them as persons and also in the well- being of their family. I’m quite staggered by the hours I spent enabling them to relate to their spouses and children. I often write encouraging notes to them assuring them of prayers and asking them to share how the Lord has answered.
WORKPLACE ATTITUDE AND VALUES
Most of the people I mentor are in the workplace. This provides me with an excellent forum to learn the challenges they face. My contribution to their lives lie mainly in helping them to shape and embrace Christian attitudes and values in all their relationships.
KEEP ON BLESSING OTHERS
Wherever I go and whenever I minister, I seek to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ always to yearn for God’s favour and blessings and then in turn, bless those near and dear as well as strangers that the Lord brings across their path. I am enthusiastic in motivating believers to constantly release blessings.
I look back at my leadership experience. Yes, there is much to thank God for the achievements. I praise God for His giftings, talents and empowering but I could have done much more if only I had the humility and desire to gather a team of men and women who could assist me in developing my character, my ministry skills and my overall growth. END
Wee Hian was General Secretary in IFES (Intervarsity Fellowship of Evangelical Students) for many years; then was Founding Pastor of Emmanuel Church in London. He now travels to different parts of the world to speak.