Tag Archives: staff formation

Rockbridge ’12: IDENTITY TRANSFORMED 2.0 (video)

Preaching “Image Rejected” during week 2.

UPDATE: Image RejectedReclaimed are now posted.

Hi friends! It’s been 3 hectic months since my last post. It’s just been too busy to blog! To bookend the silence, this (like my last post) will be a write-up plus video! There’ll be 3 sermons (2 sermons by me & 1 by my roommate, Garrett Trent, Greek IV @ U.Va staff). Editing & uploading takes time — I’ll add the new videos as I finish & repost the blog link to Facebook/Twitter etc.

Our yearly chapter camp is an awesome time of celebration and growth for students from all over NC, SC, and VA. God is so tangibly at work there and we staff know it’s a crucial time to be present and attentive. I had the privilege of serving in the Identity Transformed (IDT) track for both weeks. IDT helps student wrestle with what God meant identity to be and how our false identities inhibit our transformation. Though it was a new track last year, we saw God work throughout the bumpy first-run to transform students deeply.

I’ve enjoyed my part in growing the track and getting a front-row seat to this amazing process. But I also love IDT because it’s good for me. My identity is often wrapped up in accomplishments. My posture is go, do, build, make. God through IDT calls me to berestlistenbelong. My action must be grounded in my abiding, but that’s easier said than done! God used the 2 weeks of IDT to speak to those very identity issues of mine.

I came into Week 1 worn out from a 6-week blitz of traveling, exit meetings, and a big year-end AIV event. I felt unprepared for my IDT roles (preaching 2 Gospel session sermons & leading a small group).  I hadn’t put in the 10 hours per sermon, I hadn’t reread Colossians recently. I was afraid that, in my unready state, I’d hinder God’s purpose for the track. God had different plans in mind. I was especially amazed on Thursday (gospel session 3: Image Reclaimed). It was the turning point of the week – after 3 days of reflection on false vs. true identity, we were inviting students to receive the true identity God had created for them. As I invited people to let Jesus reclaim their broken identities, 7 people said yes for the first time, and 10 for the first time in a long time! I hadn’t gotten in the way, God has used me, and amazing things had happened during week 1.

Inevitably, all staff come in tired for the 2nd week. But instead of growing to trust Him more, I again felt that I was going to mess things up. I felt out of tune on Tuesday when I preached on Image Rejected. Technically, it was one of my best sermons ever (I executed transitions and points well, etc.). But I didn’t feel spiritually in-tune. When it came to reflection time, I invited students to receive help to pray repentance (to let go of false identities). Again I was afraid that my out-of-tune-ness was going to get in the way. But as the next hour unfolded, over 20 students came for prayer; over a 1/4 of the track! Clearly God had it under control.

You’d think I’d get the message by Thursday. But no. I still heard a voice in my head telling me that I was going to mess it up. And that voice got worse when “only” 12 people accepted my invitation to receive God’s true identity. Half of me was rejoicing & truly excited. But the other half said, There are fewer people this week because you weren’t good enough. You forgot your points. You weren’t spiritually prepared. You weren’t as eloquent. It kept saying that, even when staff prayed against lies of the enemy the steal & destroy our joy. I had not been good enough. If only I’d been more prepared, slept more, prayed more.

Then God used two of the students who’d said “yes” for the first time to bless me. As I was cleaning up, a young man told me that he’d grown up his whole life in church but that God had spoken through my sermons to show him things in a new true way. “Now I feel freed for God to use me now! It’s amazing!” As I was leaving, a young lady told me thanked me for the words I’d spoken; now she understood the truth about what God is offering her. “I’ve become part of the InterVarsity community which was awesome but I never understood ‘the joy of the Lord’ that everyone talked about. But now, today, I have it! These tears I’m crying are tears of joy.”

I actually don’t expect students to ever speak to me after about a sermon; nobody did that week 1 and that’s perfectly normal and fine. But God sent these two students to bless me and affirm me. And in a very gentle and gracious tone, I felt God saying that “They came to thank you because they value their transformation. I value their transformation. Don’t worry, you too can value their transformation.” Here I was, feeling uneasy about getting up there, and feeling like I’d done terribly. To God, I hadn’t gotten in the way. To God, I’d done well.  God sent the students in that moment to speak against my habitual false identity as hero that threatens to steal and destroy. Moreover, I realized that God has been growing me all year in this area.  Last year, when I received praise for my speaking, that voice would probably have gone something like Look at me, I’m such a good preacher. At least now there’s a little fear and trembling. Which is all to say that Lord had this too under control.

Turns out students aren’t the only ones getting transformed.



IMAGE RESTORED (by Garrett Trent) [to be posted later]


Chapter Planting Cohort: a life of constant movement

Post-training post: Since I didn’t get to write everyday like I hoped to, here’s a post-training post.

Learning to live a life of constant movement

“What’s next? Then what? Then what? And after that? Ok so then what do you? What if that doesn’t work? OK so how about after that? And then?” Hans’ questioning at training was relentless as we debriefed our campus immersion day. He grilled us continually, asking us how we would hypothetically start a chapter at the campus we visited. He pushed us repeatedly to think of the next step. “What’s the next step?” And the next? And the next? And the next? Repeat ad infinitum / ad nauseum.

The harsh/sickening/exciting(?) reality of planting is that we must be constantly moving like this. Why? Because truth be told I’m not really at U.Va to start a chapter for Asian-American students, though what I am doing will take that shape in part. What I’m really doing is trying to start a movement on campus. I may be planting  a chapter — with its networks and circles and requisite structures in due course — but I’m starting a movement:

  • In the lives of my students to grow them in mission & ethnic wholeness/understanding;
  • In the lives of their friends who’ve never heard of Jesus;
  • To positively influence and partner with school administration;
  • (Particularly for East Asians) to bridge the horrific, unbiblical, ethnic-identity-based gap between Asian Christian and non-Christians, those in fellowships vs. those in Asian Student Union/Korean Student Association/Indian Student Federation etc.

We are the physical parts of God’s spiritual movement in a new direction and new vision on Grounds. As a result, I the planter have to always ask myself “what’s next?” Not to constantly scheme and mastermind some perfect plan, but so that I am constantly linking where we are now or whatever movement is happening here with the dream and vision that’s not yet here. Having an attitude of constant movement keeps me flexible, keeps me open, keeps me responsive to where the Spirit is stirring something.

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ll be reaching out all year in hopes of finding potential students. But it’s the attitude of constant movement that will keep me flexible — to do more in the areas where the Spirit’s stirring, and to back off the places where it’s not going, to be responsive to Him and not take things personally if they fall flat. As I’m constantly moving to and anticipating what’s next, hopefully I’ll come up with many many good ideas that, if even if I don’t use them for this next step, that they’ll be handy for another one somewhere down the road. As we grow in size and speed, our movement will increase in force and impact on those around it!

When we do outreach (potentially through a public Proxe board), I've always got to have a next step in mind to invite people to! What's next, what's next, what's next!

Chapter Planting Cohort: a life of constant outreach

Post-training post: Since I didn’t get to write everyday like I hoped to, here’s a post-training post.

Learning to have a life of constant outreach

When I arrive on Grounds this August, I will have only my backpack — with fliers, posters, papers, Bible, laptop, etc. — and a vision — that I’ve prayed, thought, dreamed, crafted into understandable articulations. I have no students, no structures, no alumni, no alumni donations, no office, no official CIO status for the group. Those things will hopefully be the result of the vision taking root.

But if God wants this to happen, that means these people are out there.  And to find them I must live a life of constant outreach. Everywhere, anytime, I must learn to be aware, available, invitation. In our training we’re taught to cast the net wide and in a variety of ways. And this scares me.  I’m not fond of talking to strangers without introduction — partly my own fears, partly my cultural predisposition. I have to try many different things in many different places and pray that God will open doors to find the right people!

You could say that my role as a planter is to be a first-year/freshman all year. But unlike the regular first-years who join fellowships or communities, I can’t stop once I just a little resolution. It’ll require boldness and perseverance.

Moreover, in trying to create a missional community, outreach and evangelism must go hand-in-hand. As I meet strangers, shouldn’t I also pray that God will give me divine encounters with non-believers as well as potential core members? And who says that non-Christians can’t be committed to this vision? God has done stranger things before!

Not surprisingly, a life of constant outreach is linked closely with a life of constant observation — because I must be constantly prayerful and aware/open in order to pursue and reach out! So pray that I’d be resilient and tireless in reaching out widely and in many different ways, even the ways I’m scared of!

This gathering of freshly moved-in first-years is exactly the kind of thing I'll have to step into if I hope to find those potential chapter members!

Chapter Planting Cohort: a life of constant observation

Day 1: Learning to have a life of constant observation

Our inaugural event of the chapter planting cohort was, not surprisingly, hands-on. Or rather, campus-on. We spent all our day-time sessions (including lunch break) at a local college to get a first-hand experience in some key chapter planting skills, feelings, environments, and work.

I won’t go into all the details — it’s tedious and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for any future planters! — but we were tasked to learn as much as we could about the school, in any fashion we chose, in 2 hours. After doing this myself and hearing everyone else’s experiences, conversations, and findings, we saw that this observing/learning/investigating must be not just a one-time activity, but a regular activity. Not only that, it must become a lifestyle, a constant posture when we’re on campus.

Between appointments we should always listen, look, watch, actively observe and write down things that show us the real needs, demands, interests, goals, and ideals of the school or our target student group. What kinds of events are put on? What kinds of fliers are on the message boards? What kinds of stories are in the school paper? Are the issues of my students implied or proclaimed? What kind of things do people want? What are their expectations? We must learn to discern these questions as we constantly observe.

Not only did we learn some important facts, but the Lord orchestrated some really divine encounters! Several planters got to share the Gospel with curious students, and TWO of those students took serious steps forward in their journey. By God’s grace, one of them actually works at the hotel we’re staying at. After meeting our staff and making the connection that we’re guests at his workplace, he spent the rest of the day with us. In our debrief meeting, he said “I’m thankful for this school because it has helped me be in the right place to move forward in knowing God.” We were just here for a learning experience! Imagine what it can be like if we do this intentionally, wholly, all-out, at our respective campus chapter plants?! As we ask questions and listen, the Lord can lead us into important encounters both for us to gain insight but also to share the Gospel and connect people to Him.

But in addition to the learning and witnessing, this life of constant observation is the way that God will speak to our heart. As we do this, God will give us compassion and love for this campus, precisely because we are not scripting or scheming (there is a time for that!). As we become active learners and observers, we allow God to show us what is really happening and what He really desires. We are in a place where we can see His vision for the campus, instead of asking Him to bless ours.

Debriefing on campus after our two-hour investigation excursion. We learned some important aspects of the campus culture, and some people had real divine encounters and got to share about Jesus. Sorry the picture is so boring! I wasn't going to take photos while out and about.

Chapter planting cohort!

Hi friends!

I’m ending my first day in Madison, WI after a week in Durham NC participating in my friend’s wedding & meeting up with supporters and partners. Why am I in Madison you ask?

Because I am receiving training on how to plant a new InterVarsity chapter! This week is InterVarsity’s training camp week for staff of all kinds. My chapter planting track is just one of several going on here in Madison, WI. Specifically, I am part of a special select group called the chapter planting cohort — a unique group of staff selected after an extensive process to receive the best training, coaching, and resources as they set out to plant new chapters.

I began applying for the cohort back in January. After extensive applications, self-assessment, recommendations from several other staff/supervisors, and a phone interview, I was selected from among 30 candidates to receive 1 of 20 spots in the cohort.  My supervisor, Joe — Duke IV’s staff worker before my time and the first Asian-American staff worker in our region — is going to be my coach for the entire planting project! We will work together over the next years to bring about the vision of raising up missional, culturally-adept Asian-American leaders and reach non-Christian Asian-Americans.

Tonight we had an introductory session to get acquainted with our schedule, some of the program staff, and other planters and coaches we’re working with. I look forward to 6 more days of great material and listening to the Lord!

Shawn, the new Director of Chapter Planting, leads our introductory session.

Regional Speaker Training

Last Wednesday and Thursday I was in Durham with over 20 other IV staff from the Blue Ridge Region to attend the first ever regional speaker training! Staff young and old, new and seasoned were there to learn some good material and get constructive feedback about upcoming sermons. On Wednesday we had two major training sessions:

  1. Exegesis — how to understand and get the right ideas from scripture so that we are faithfully presenting the text. The process of reflecting on scripture and finding the core ideas is sometimes arduous but we don’t want to impose our own views on scripture!
  2. Deliver — how to effectively deliver these ideas so that they will stick and call people to active engagement/response. We must speak in a way that engages folks (even of different learning styles, of different spiritual/religious backgrounds) that is still faithful to the scriptures and it takes planning and practice!

As I took notes and tried to process all I was hearing, I realized just how far short I fall in my own sermon preparation…

  • I don’t dig deeply enough into the context – both in surrounding paragraphs (or book as a whole), nor the historical/outside material.
  • I don’t go through the grammatical process of diagramming the words to see the real organization of ideas.
  • I don’t take the time to distill the text down to the core ideas.
  • I don’t exercise the patience to let my own heart soak in what God is trying to say to me personally before I want to jump to application or exhortation.

I was very humbled; I am very far from being the speaker/preacher I want to be. Public speaking and preaching is an area where I definitely need more work as a minister. Please pray that I will commit to a more disciplined process of studying and reflection as I go forward with future sermons!

Staff worker Alex Kirk trains us in effective delivery; we learn about styles of learning, ways to organize our concepts, how to engage the audience so that they will hear what the scripture is saying to/about/for them. Lots to take in!

Staff worker John Farmer preaches his sermon in our small group as we listen and give feedback.

Prodigal Me

Adam G & Pat M performing Shane Barnard's "Prodigal Me" for us after a sermon at Blue Ridge staff meetings. So good.

Derek had Adam & Pat perform “Prodigal Me” at Blue Ridge staff meetings as a reflection song after his talk. It is a way good song, and it was even better in the context of the sermon and that week’s focus (Luke 15). It was a real wake-up call to hear the father’s voice in the song – “my servants and I pray for you daily to return.” Do I ever think of God yearning for us? That is the nature of His love, to pursue (He’s been called before the Hound of Heaven) and call us back to Himself and His household as true sons.

If you’ve never heard the song (which is very likely since it was on Shane Barnard’s solo album), you can watch it here. A very good artistic representation of the Parable of the Lost Sons: