By and large, our senior leaders/members, elders, fondly called “Tatangs”, the unique title given to those who have served as a Chapter Head, play a special role in the Community. I like to regard them as the ordained role models because of the influential role they play as guides, teachers/preachers, overseers, enforcers/guardians, and intercessors. And to be effective in these roles, they should remain unblemished by setting the example of rightly ordered life and dedicated service with the one purpose of glorifying God.
As a newly integrated member of the growing pool of “tatangs” in the community, I continue promoting my personal mission of making disciples who are belonging, growing, and serving in my Chapter for it gives me so much delight when I encounter new faces among our servant teams who actively participate in the planning and execution of projects and events.
In my walk as a Tatang, I draw inspiration from the letters of St Paul. Not once did I see St Paul falter in his mission despite the unbelievable sufferings he went through. He was reviled, lost his position and power, fled for his life as he received death threats, imprisoned. And I can only wonder, “What in heaven’s name kept him going?” He always knew that he was sent out into the world to do the will of God by the power of the Holy Spirit through the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus. He persevered in order to bring the life to people that comes only from and through Christ.
St Paul’s letter to Timothy, his protege, was all about getting him ready for mission. In 2nd Timothy 1:3-7, Paul said, “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as did my forefathers, as I constantly remember you night and day in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am convinced is in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-control.”
In this passage St Paul gives me three important points that I take to heart.
Firstly, he reminds me to always offer special blessings to the new servants. St Paul started with a beautiful prayer. He prayed for the well-being of Timothy even though he himself was going through difficult times. He expresses his eagerness and longing to serve with the young servant because this brings him great joy. I often ask myself, “Do I find delight in the service of the new servants? Or do I question and criticize them of their shortcomings, deviation from norms, or lack of zeal?”
Secondly, he reminds me of the importance of acknowledging God and honoring members for the sacrifices they have endured for our sake. St Paul reminded Timothy of the gift of faith which he received through the generosity of God and from the sacrifices and prayers of his elders. Here, he cites the contribution of his mother and grandmother for molding him into what he has become, a servant of God. When Timothy realizes the trouble that God and the elders have gone through, a deep powerful faith and hope is cultivated within.
In a similar way, we should do well to be reminded of the amazing things God has already done in our lives. Hence, we acknowledge God’s work in our activities. It is also noteworthy to honor the sacrifices of our members who have nurtured the community. We must honor them during special occasions and through our prayers. When we honor and acknowledge their contributions, members receive comfort and the strength to push forward and complete their own mission.
Finally, Paul calls on Timothy to rekindle the gift he received from God. He tells me to empower the servants to rekindle the fire that is smothered by the cares of this world and the sheer grind of life that they live day by day.
When I think about it, rekindling a fire back in Jesus’ period was not easy. One had to delicately take care of small embers by covering them from the cold and rain. Dry kindling was selected and gathered, placing the small pieces delicately on the few remaining embers. The embers were then fanned to radiate a substantial amount of heat to fire the kindling. As it developed into a small fire, slightly larger pieces of wood were placed until the flames grew into a raging fire.
I can understand why a number of servants get “burned-out” in service. The stress brought about by the seemingly insurmountable challenges and the resounding calling of service can set new servants off-course. The easiest thing to do when difficulties, conflicts, or criticisms are encountered is to simply quit and change direction.
I know now, as Paul knew then, that what is being demanded from young servants, the fanning of embers and the rekindling of the fire, is not at all easy. That is why we must emphasize that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-control.”
It is essential, therefore, that my role now as a senior leader is to serve in all humility as a guide and teacher, always seeking to meet community and individual spiritual well-being and when needed, assist in anyway possible, to encourage members through gentle reminders and kind words, and to set the example. I need to exercise self-control by not being critical and scrutinizing, otherwise I will smother the embers of zeal. Instead I need to be understanding and loving.
In building a community, every member is called by God to play a specific role. I know in my heart that this is the senior leader’s way, the Tatang’s way.