The Closing of a Chapter: A Tribute to Lisa Palm

God and His Word are constant. But everything else changes. We are resistant to change because of our natural inertia. We like the tried, true and familiar.

But change is often a catalyst for growth. When God brings something to an end, He also brings about the birth of something new. When one chapter closes, a new one opens.

Today, the worship ministry of Faith Community Church (FCC) farewelled our beloved Worship Director, Lisa Palm, as Lisa and her husband, Peet, are sent out from FCC to plant a new congregation in the northern suburbs, Kingsway Christian Church. I am excited for them because of their vision and heart not only for their congregation, but for the kingdom of God in the city.

Lisa and Peet have been in FCC for about three years, and they were very much part of the reason why I ended up there as well! Not that I knew them before, but I knew that they were part of the ministry of Harvest Evangelism which was committed to the work of city transformation. I had followed the work of Ed Silvoso and Harvest Evangelism for quite a while, and was surprised to find that an offshoot of that ministry was actually now based in FCC.

I remember seeing Lisa lead worship during one of the first few times we visited FCC before making it our home. There was such a strong worship anointing on her! There was no question that I wanted to be part of such a worship ministry!

But getting to know Lisa, I would never have known (at least not from her own mouth) that I was working with a worship leader with an international ministry. Lisa was always easy-going, infectious in her laughter and low-key. She walked in grace and humility. The younger members of our team called her Momma Lisa, because she never saw her position as something to lord over others. Instead, she truly believed in the next generation and always pushed others out in front of her.

I remember once saying to Lisa that “with a ministry like yours, you should really put yourself out there more…” What I meant was that she should stamp her personality more on our church’s worship. But then I realised keeping a low profile, humbly walking with people, encouraging them to reach their potential, creating opportunities for others – that was Lisa’s ministry. A public profile was incidental and a God-ordained bonus as a result of her faithfulness in the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Many people today, including myself, will reflect on just how much we have been impacted by Lisa. It has truly been an honour to serve beside such an amazing servant of God.

But of course, today was not really a farewell at all. Now that Lisa is in a new congregation, it is another opportunity to reach across congregational boundaries and work together. I’m looking forward to serving with Lisa in different worship projects beyond our respective churches and also helping out from time to time with worship in her new congregation.

So Lisa, may this next chapter in your ministry be your best one yet. May the glory of the latter exceed the glory of the former. Your best days are ahead of you!

Thanks for believing in, and activating the seed of greatness, in so many of us, especially the younger ones at FCC. You have left some difficult shoes to fill!

Here is a video which we played in our final worship team meeting as we paid tribute to our outgoing worship director.

Special thanks to Mark Loy and Nooch for putting the video together!

12 Fruit for 12 Months: The Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness in Review

Unceasing Frultfulness

So we come to the last day of 2012 and it’s always good to end by revisiting the premise set forth at the beginning. It helps us to see how far we have come and how faithful God is.

As I shared in an earlier post, we were at the first and last services of 2012 at New Creation Church. New Creation Church itself went through an amazing journey this year, settling into some swanky new premises at the Star Performing Arts Centre.

On 1 January 2012, Pastor Joseph Prince announced that 2012 would be the Year of Unceasing Fruitfulness based on Jeremiah 17:7-8:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

And then, taking his cue from the tree of life in Revelations which bore 12 different fruits, Prince declared that in 2012, we would experience a different fruit each month of the year.

He finished the first service by asking us to present three different requests to God, believing that in the course of the year, God will provide an answer to each one of those requests.

I remember still lifting up those requests during that service.  The first was that Ling and I would find and settle down in a new church family. The second, that I would see our investment property sold at a particular price. The third, which I was even too scared to fully articulate, was that God would use me to somehow bring unity amongst worship leaders in the city of Perth.

Miraculously, I saw God answer each and every one of those requests over the course of 2012!

So here is 2012 in review – 12 fruits for each month!

JANUARY: REST AND REFRESHING

We had a great time of rest in Singapore and was inspired when we went to New Creation Church with the theme for the year. It set the course for the year of our experiencing great blessings even in the midst of drought. Even when heat came, we remained ever-green!

We also connected with an apostolic leader in Perth, Wendy Yapp, who has been instrumental in encouraging us forward in our ministry in the city.

FEBRUARY: A NEW HOME IN FAITH COMMUNITY CHURCH

We were so blessed to settle into our new church family, Faith Community Church!

The messages we’ve heard Sunday after Sunday have been inspiring and life-changing. Pastor Benny Ho is a visionary and a brilliant teacher of the Word. And we’ve enjoyed meeting new people and being part of the church’s various ministries.

MARCH: LING IS BLESSED WITH A NEW JOB

Ling had been freelancing for a while and had been wanting to get permanent part-time work. God oversupplied and she found herself in a dream job in a dream company with great colleagues. How she ended up in that job was a miracle!

APRIL: AN AWESOME CELL GROUP!

It’s one thing to be part of a church, but another to actually be part of the church community.

We are really grateful to our cell members and our cell leaders, Ernie and Wen for making us feel included and loved.

Having such a great bunch of new friends has been instrumental in seeing us through a period of great transition in our lives. It has been one of the great highlights of the year!

MAY: CONVERGE

Converge full logo

 

We got to be part of the Converge organising committee, putting together a week of events during which the church came together in our city to pray and worship. I was privileged to help organise the Day of Worship – 14 hours of non-stop worship – anchored by different church groups throughout the day.

JUNE: ANOTHER FINANCIAL YEAR IS OVER

For the industry I work in, everything revolves around the financial year i.e. 1 July to 30 June. God sustained me for another year in my job!

JULY: LING JOINS THE HEALING MINISTRY

I was really grateful to see Ling begin serving in a new ministry in healing and intercession. This was something that has been on her heart for some time, and even though I miss serving together with her in worship, I have seen how excited she has gotten every time she sees God works in a person through healing.

Also, Pastor Benny preached one of the best sermons of the year on surrender versus commitment.

AUGUST: CINDY RATCLIFF COMES TO PERTH

Cindy Ratcliff signing

Metrochurch hosted one of my favourite worship leaders, Cindy Ratcliff. And we got to take a photo with her!

And I started serving again in worship ministry at Faith Community Church! Team 3 and Lisa Palm (our worship director) rock!

SEPTEMBER: ARROWS COLLEGE

I was so blessed to attend a one-week module on worship at Arrows College taught by Ray Badham. It was great to see a fresh perspective from a seasoned teacher of worship and also to catch some of the passion from the other students.

OCTOBER: INVESTMENT PROPERTY SOLD

We sold our old apartment! We had been thinking of selling it for quite a while, but the timing had never felt right. So one of the requests at the beginning of the year that I presented to God was to sell the apartment at a specific price. However, as the year was panning out, the economy wasn’t doing well and I began to think that it would be unrealistic to sell for that price.

However, just as we listed the property with our real estate agent, property prices started to recover and we went out on a limb and put up a higher asking price.

Miraculously, within one day of the home open, we had an offer at the asking price, which far exceeded the price I had specified in my request at the start of the year! God is good!

NOVEMBER: JOURNEYING TOWARDS GLOBAL DAY OF WORSHIP

I was privileged to work with a great bunch of worshippers in organising GDW!

DECEMBER: GLOBAL DAY OF WORSHIP

Global Day of Worship

In December, I had the privilege of seeing GDW come to fruition and how God exceeded my wildest expectations!

I really believe (as one of the intercessors had prayed) that it would be an historic moment in our city and that God will orchestrate greater unity amongst the church in Perth, particularly at a grassroots level!

And this blog reached 15,000 hits yesterday!

So, it’s been an amazing year. Never would I have thought the year would have been so fruitful! But God is true to His promises and He always oversupplies, doing exceedingly, abundantly above what we could ever ask or think. The year 2012 has indeed been a year of Unceasing Fruitfulness. I am so thankful to God for what He has done in and through our lives. If 2012 was great, I believe that 2013 will be greater still. I can’t wait to see what great adventures God has in store for us!

Happy New Year and God bless you. May 2013 be your best year yet!

Worshipping Generations

I shared the following thoughts with the band of which I am a part at Faith Community Church on 20 October 2012. We call ourselves “Fantastic Team 3”. Below I reproduce my sharing almost verbatim (with a few edits).

Lisa (the worship leader of our band) has asked me to do a 10 minute sharing with you and I asked what she wanted me to share. She said I could share anything I wanted – which actually is a bit dangerous.

But I think it’s important for us to every now and then get back to the roots of why we do what we do because worship is so much more than what we do here on stage once a month. It’s so much more than singing songs, playing music, dancing, even about getting into God’s presence, although all those things are important.

John Maxwell said this (quoted from Darlene Zschech’s The Great Generational Transition):

Unless the WHY behind the WHAT is taught consistently, that unless we preach a standard and not just a method, then clarity, precision and most importantly the original WHY becomes distorted in all the DOING.

This is why for me, even though I love to be involved in worship, I am always trying to understand more about what the Bible teaches about worship, the foundational things.

In fact, I said to Lisa a few weeks ago, that it’d be a really awesome exercise to go through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and study all the texts about worship.  That’s probably going to take a few years to get through!

Anyway, as I was thinking about what to share today, I thought about this team and the fact that you are all so young and vibrant.  I’ve been in Faith Community Church for about 7 months now and one of the things that drew me to this church was its worship and the sense of God’s presence when I first step foot into the auditorium.

When I joined the worship team, I was wondering which team I’d be put into and I was actually really really glad that I got put into the so-called Fantastic Team 3.  As I said, you guys are so young and vibrant and there’s always a great sense of excitement, but also a sense of unity.

So the thought came to me to share about worshipping generations.

Have a look at Psalm 145:3-7:

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The psalmist says that because God is great and worthy of praise (or in the Message, it says He can never be praised enough, there are no boundaries to his greatness”),  one generation praises His works to another.

There is a powerful principle of worship here: worship is never confined to any one generation.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with say Hillsong United, grungy, guitar driven worship. That’s something you may enjoy.  Nor is there anything wrong with Gaither Homecoming and old-style country gospel. These are really matters of personal preference (and things you’re used to as you are growing up!)

But if your worship is confined to one generation only, then it is incomplete.

Because of the greatness and transcendence of God, a God whose greatness has no boundaries, it takes the crossing of generational boundaries to fully express worship to Him.

So one generation commends God’s works to another.

Notice that there is no “chronology” to this.  We often read this and think: well the older people must pass on the baton and teach the next generation how to worship; to leave the right principles and to blaze a trail for the next generation to follow.

I used to think this.  In fact, at one time, I was so proud as to think that there had been a “degeneration” in our worship.

When I was growing up in the church, we used to have break out in spontaneous worship for extended periods; people would shout prophecies and tongues and interpretation of tongues, people would fall over in worship.  And the songs… Well the songs were so much more Word-based, theologically robust and yes, simpler to sing. None of this syncopation stuff and “fluffy” words with very little biblical references.  And I used to think “man, as I’ve seen how the worship of the church has developed in the last 20 years; it’s just not the same as the good ‘ol days”.

What the psalmist is saying that one generation will commend God’s works to another generation. There’s no sequence.  The old teach the youth, the youth will teach the old, the children will teach the youth, the youth will teach the children, the old will teach the children and the children will teach the old. One generation will commend God’s works to another.

And as far my worries about “degeneration” are concerned, once I began to understand this principle of generations standing side I side,  I realised that the next generation wasn’t degenerating; they were simply different and they ways they expressed their worship were different.

And in fact, sometimes when we reminisce, we often give our memories a good deal more force and gravity than they actually deserve. As an aside, music is particularly good at carrying memory. Recently, I was at a Chinese restaurant when (as they do) an old theme song from a Hong Kong television series was playing. I remember watching that serial when I was a kid and how wonderful it was; the great storylines; the intricate plot; the great acting. I suggested to my parents (with whom I was eating dinner) that it’d be quite fun to take out the DVDs of the old serials and watch them again. They categorically told me that it wasn’t worth it – those old serials aren’t as good as I remember them to be.

I think sometimes we need to recognise that our memories play tricks on us. Yes, the events of the past were great. But they were great for that time. What was great for then may not necessarily be great for now.

Anyway, back to our main thought. We must embrace the different generations and their different expressions, because it is when we can be united in our diversity that we can fully express a worship that’s due God and His unbounded greatness.

Lastly, notice the echoes of the Psalmist in verses 5 to 7.  They (the generations) speak of God’s glorious splendour, so I (personally) will meditate on His wonderful works.

They (the generations) tell of God’s power, and I (personally) will proclaim His great deeds.

Worship is at once an individual pursuit, but it is also a corporate one. And an intergenerational one at that!  Our collective worship inspires our private devotion.

So, that’s why I’m really glad to be in Fantastic Team 3. I’m glad that older ones like me can work side by side with some of you younger folks. And I’m glad that our songs reflect that intergenerational-ness.

Let’s continue to strive to be excellent worshippers in our generation, but also inclusive of the generations before and after us. Let’s be a generation of worshippers, but also generators of worship across the generations!