Holy Love: Reflections from our young leaders after attending YMLC 2021
The Young Methodist Leaders Conference (YMLC) started in 2000 with a vision to raise the next generation of leaders in the Methodist church. Read about what Kegan and Joycelyn learnt at this year's conference, which took place from 23-25 June.
(Image credit: YMLC Instagram account)
The theme of this year's YMLC was Holy Love – Radically Compelled to Change the World. The following tough questions were discussed:
How do we live out a faith that is relevant and radical in this pandemic world? What does a personal and social movement of holy love look like? How do we express such love in creative and persevering ways in these challenging times?
Two of KKMC's young leaders, Kegan and Joycelyn share their thoughts after attending the three day conference.
Another life changing message - Kegan Ang
The first half of 2021 had been a hectic time at work; I was constantly working overtime and burning weekends to keep up with the workload. Not being able to travel due to the pandemic also meant that it was more difficult to completely disengage from work. So, I was really looking forward to the three days of leave that I took to attend the Young Methodist Leaders’ Conference.
At past conferences, I never knew how God was going to speak to me, but it had always been life changing when He spoke. I guess I really needed that this year as well.
During the first plenary session, Rev Raymond Fong started by talking about the “Holy Love” of God, which was the conference theme. After establishing what the love of God was like, He went on to suggest some practical steps to be taken in relation to God’s love, the first of which was to “abide in God’s love”. That meant dwelling in the love of God, making God’s love a home that we live in and will always return to.
But I was not prepared to answer the opposite question that was posed to us next.
“Why do I not abide in God’s love?”
This was the question that stuck with me for the rest of the conference.
Kegan Ang attending YMLC 2021, which was conducted virutally. (Image credit: Joash Lee)
First, I had to acknowledge the fact that I was not abiding in God’s love. I had to acknowledge that I had been so busy in office that I hardly thought about doing God’s work. I had to acknowledge that I was so tired when I got home from work each night that spending time with God wasn’t something I wanted to put my last bit of energy into.
At that point, for the first time in my life, I felt like the seed that was sown and fell among thorns, the one that was unfruitful from being choked by the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth (from the Parable of the Sower found in Matthew 13:1-23). That was a rude awakening for me.
“What is choking the love of God in your life?”
The next plenary speaker, Rev Anthony Lee, pushed this conversation with God further when he shared about the importance of making a conscious choice to be set apart for God. He asked this question, “What is choking the love of God in your life?”
As I asked God to reveal these thorns in my life, the answer to that started to come into focus. I initially thought that the problem was thinking I needed to be good at everything to be a good testimony for God at my workplace. That thought, however, gave way to the realisation that I wanted to be good at everything for my own image and not for God, more specifically, I wanted my bosses to think more highly of me than I thought of myself. And finally, it hit me that I was chasing a promotion. I wasn’t busy and stressed over work for the past six months just because it happened to be one peak period after another. I was busy and stressed because I was relying on myself to give myself glory.
When I first stepped into the working world. I told myself that I was not going to work for the money or the promotions. All I needed to do was be the best that I could be and do the good work that God was preparing ahead of me. Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that and started finding my value and my identity in my work. The scariest part was that I didn’t feel I could let go of the pursuit of that promotion.
“I thought I had surrendered this already.”
During the last plenary when Rev Shaun Chong shared about his own version of the struggles I had. One sentence that he said that resonated with me and brought me to the point of closure on this was, “I thought I had surrendered this already.”
Looking back at the times I have surrendered my career and my future to God before, I realised that I have already taken steps of faith like this. In all those instances, God never failed to follow through on what He had promised. I thought that I had already surrendered this to God, but what I failed to see was that surrender is an ongoing posture. Surrendering is not a one-off event but a lifestyle.
To love and to be loved, takes courage - Joycelyn Tan
Joycelyn Tan serves in the Youth and Worship ministries. (Image credit: Joycelyn Tan)
One of the plenary speakers shared that Christianity is not an individual pursuit of God. The devil can easily prey on a lone Christian because there is no one around to watch over them. However, within a tightly knitted community, our peers are there to look out for us and keep us in check. He then explained that the power of a community can only be experienced when each individual is interested and committed. This means that we have to actively protect our relationships with our community, especially during this pandemic. Everyone has a role to play.
(Image credit: YMLC Instagram account)
The first plenary stood out to me. It was a sharing of what God’s Holy Love is and looks like. Contrary to popular belief, the opposite of love is not hate, but fear: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of getting hurt. Fear prevents us from fully extending God’s love to those around us and fear prevents us from fully experiencing God’s love.
But God’s perfect love is transforming, it frees us from fear and brings us to freedom. Because of this, we must be courageous to love and be loved. We must also abide in His love, in the good times and the bad, constantly surrendering ourselves as a living sacrifice to His perfect plan. This is a lot easier said than done, especially when fear leads us into a state of “fight or flight”.
However, God revealed that there is a third option: be still and trust in Him. It’s definitely going to be a journey, but it’s one where I know I won’t be walking alone.