Sunday, 13 May 2012
THE PRAYING, PREACHING DOCTOR
Being able to handle stress and manage our time well reflect sound mental health. Meet a man who is able to juggle many different roles. Pastor Dr Philip Lyn, a medical specialist who runs his own clinic, also serves as senior pastor of Skyline SIB, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Dr Lim Poh Ann of Asian Beacon (AB) met up with him to uncover what makes him tick and more.
1. AB: Running your own clinic is challenging enough. How do you manage to be a pastor as well?
Philip: Three handles help me: Perspective, Priority and Planned neglect. Perspective means knowing and seeing God’s big picture for me. It means not copying others but knowing the distinctives of my life. Priority means fulfilling the various roles in my life: husband, father, doctor, preacher and pastor. It’s hard but having an exceptional wife and a supportive team help immensely. Nancy prays a lot and spends time patiently listening to me when I think aloud. Planned neglect means cutting out non-essential things I enjoy like medical talks, medical research, movies, MENSA and hobbies like golf and badminton. I have to be selective in my reading. I regularly combine ministry with short breaks and, if possible, meet up and bond with two of our children now studying overseas.
2. AB: How did God call you into a pastoral role when you were already running a clinic?
Philip: It was a divine “ambush” really. In 2001, my previous church decided to plant a new church in Kota Kinabalu city. As an itinerant preacher then, I had no desire to be a resident pastor. Ultimately as there was no suitable person, I was asked to fill the vacancy. Nancy and I sensed the Lord’s leading so I fearfully agreed. I thought it’d be short-term but it has already been eight years.
3. AB: Prayer has been a prominent part of your life and that of your church. Can you elaborate?
Philip: Like everyone else, I struggle with prayer but I’m convinced pastors must pray and lead their flock in prayer (Acts 6:4). I have known both heavenly and down-to-earth prayer. Skyline’s growth was catalysed by prayer from day one. In the first year of the church, it’s amazing that half of the church came for weekly prayer meeting. Last year more than 30 of us gathered to pray daily at dawn for spiritual revival throughout the year! Nancy my wife led it. So I joined her in many of the morning prayers. She’s an amazing person – very discerning, prophetic and loves praying. I also preach regularly on prayer.
My own prayer breakthrough came in 1993 when I went to a prayer mountain in South Korea. I learned about overnight prayer, fasting and spiritual warfare. We should emulate the Koreans who pray unashamedly and passionately in public.
4. AB: How did Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (COCM) impact your spiritual development?
Philip: COCM provided opportunities for me to develop leadership qualities when I was a student in Oxford, UK. Its director, Mary Wang became a personal friend and encouraged me spiritually. I led the Chinese Christian Fellowship (CCF) in Oxford for several years. That involved preaching sermons and doing student outreach.
Meanwhile, I received excellent Bible expository preaching at the Christian Union (CU) of the university from well-known teachers like John Stott and Michael Green. Strong spiritual foundations built through the CU prepared me for service as a young leader in the CCF. On Sundays I attended St Ebbe’s church where I was edified by its uplifting sermons.
5. AB: How can believers in urban churches become “soldiers” for Christ?
Philip: By simplifying their lifestyle, intentionally neglecting the good to embrace the best and taking time to take stock and pray over neglected issues. Amid their busyness, they need to serve from a state of spiritual rest. Above all, they need to grow in faith – take God at His Word and apply it in all situations. Then, they’ll see God as real and awesome.
6. AB: Do you think mentoring is important in leadership development?
Philip: I have never been intentionally mentored – but I’m convinced it is far better to build leaders through intentional discipleship and mentoring than to leave it to chance. Our church does not subscribe to a single discipleship training method, being eclectic in approach. However, we recognise intentional discipleship is a must though there are many ways to skin a calf.
7. AB: How can church leaders work together with Christian entrepreneurs to advance God’s kingdom?
Philip: As pastors we need to change our mindset – break out from the four walls of the church and see the 9 to 5 window as an opportunity to influence and transform communities.
Pastors need to disciple marketplace leaders in character and faith. The latter also need training by marketplace coaches. Paradigms must change: Work is not just for survival but ministry. Allowing marketplace leaders to share their journey of faith on Sundays will powerfully impact the church and set people thinking about opportunities for ministry and miracles in the 9 to 5 window.
8. AB: What is the role of modern technology in your church?
Philip: We depend a lot on IT to track new believers and visitors. With 600 congregants, it is not easy to stay in touch with everyone (cell groups help). I personally use texting (sms) and email a lot. Once a week, I go to the church office, and once or twice a month, I meet one-on-one with the other leaders.
All the eight Skyline pastors are bi-vocational, sustaining themselves through jobs outside the church. That’s highly unusual. Only the church administrative staff members are in the church payroll. Thus the pastors are often not in church. While technology is vital for staying in touch, it cannot replace face-to-face meetings. We have spent a lot on media equipment and have produced some excellent DVDs that have touched churches here and abroad.
9. AB: How do the church leaders stay in touch with your members?
Philip: We stay in touch through various tiers and cell groups. Nancy my wife helps “feel the grassroots” through her women’s network. My philosophy is to “pastor all, equip many, disciple a few and mobilise a people.”
10. AB: What are some of the challenges which the Malaysian church must rise up to?
Philip: The local church needs leaders (both pastors and those in the marketplace) with character, competence and courage – not just one or two but ALL these three qualities. We must fully support those who are at the forefront of tackling issues such as injustice, corruption and religious freedom. Meanwhile, it is heartening to witness the rise of vibrant churches which reach out to a new generation through a less traditional approach.
11. AB: Your daughter’s miraculous recovery from strangulation was so dramatic. Have there been other equally dramatic experiences in your life/ church?
My daughter’s resurrection from accidental strangulation by a clothes line is a significant faith milestone in my family and Skyline. It happened in 2002 when Sarah was only four. Other dramatic healings include a woman with a fractured backbone instantly healed at an evening service, a woman delivered from demons and promiscuity, a woman instantly delivered from months of violent nightmares, a dumbstruck man healed, a pre-surgery breast lump cleared and a hunchback made straight in one evening. Nancy my wife was also instantly healed from long-standing gastritis one night and later from a morbid fear of heights. Since then she has climbed Mt Kinabalu twice! Medically, I’m gob smacked, but that’s our God!
12. AB: How do you strike a balance between service and seeking God’s face?
I’m a natural Martha (like service) but when I get extended breaks, I love to be like Mary and sit at the Lord’s feet. Besides my morning devotion, I seek God’s face while “on the run” –practising His presence as I work, drive, meet others, eat or rest. I talk to Him a lot. There is simply no other way as a bi-vocational man. Praying freely with and for others in public and private is also a great way of practising His presence. These habits keep the sword sharp and the shield polished.
13. AB: What are some of the burning issues/lessons you want to impart at the Prayer Conference at DUMC?
Whether our church is big or small … if we quit praying, we “die”. People ought to hunger for God, for without an appetite a feast is meaningless. I hope to impart practical handles on hearing God, fasting, overnight prayer, praying in the Spirit, and praying in faith. Prayer is caught rather than taught – that’s what Nancy and I hope to achieve at the DUMC Prayer Conference.
14. AB: Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the load of responsibilities?
Yes and No.
Yes because it is a high calling and decisions I make affect so many lives; so a wrong call humbles you. Occasionally challenges pile on in all five areas of my life simultaneously (husband, father, doctor, pastor and preacher) and threaten to crush me. In those times, centering on God and grasping the three handles of perspective, priority and planned neglect helps a lot. My credo in such times is: “God is in control. This too will pass.”
No because most of what I do flow from my gifting and inner life. I may move out of my comfort zone in experience and leadership but seldom in my gifting. If I do, I get others to help me. My greatest friend is Nancy, my wife. Even if I foul up bad, three persons still love me unconditionally: God, my wife and my mother! In that order. That reduces the pressure and helps me realign!
15. AB: What keeps you motivated? How do you recharge your battery?
I try to live life to the full each day. Keeping my mind renewed, my conscience clean, my heart centered, my gifting oiled and my family relationships healthy mean everything to me. They help recharge and motivate me daily.
16. AB: Given a chance to start life all over again, would you settle for the role of pastor-doctor?
I’ve always wanted to be a doctor. In university, I felt inspired to be a preacher after hearing the great Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones preach at Oxford. So perhaps a preacher-doctor more than a pastor-doctor! But that’s my natural man speaking. But God had better plans – He “ambushed” me and I became a pastor as well. That has made the difference. I wouldn’t have befriended some outstanding people and leaders had I not been pastoring a church. Also, I wouldn’t have had the joy of seeing so many lives being radically transformed.
17. AB: Have there been instances when both these roles clashed with one another? Or have they more often been complementary?
When I was involved in inpatient hospital care, I could be awake the whole night managing a patient and yet have to preach the following morning. At other times, I was called away to treat patients in the middle of meetings. Such instances are becoming less frequent as my practice now mainly involves outpatient care.
Nowadays I find myself in a care-giving role in the clinic, praying for patients, sharing the Good News and inviting them to my church besides practising sound medicine. I connect with pre-believers in the city through my medical practice. I meet new faces and that keeps me well-balanced … keeps the evangelist in me alive.
The above article was first published in Asian Beacon magazine, December 2009, issue 41.6.