“Turn yourself upside-down and look in a different manner.” The advice offered by Dr. Stephen Miller, Regional Director of East Asia Mission to Seafarers, intrigued me. As a child, I loved standing on my hands and seeing the world from a different perspective. Grown-ups rarely turn themselves upside-down on purpose. We wobble and weaken when flipped head to toe, and adults prefer to take stances that are stable and strong. But travel into a different culture–if you really choose to enter in–will turn you upside-down. You can either fight to find your equilibrium or choose, instead, to take in the view.
“God said to me, ‘Go further, go deeper.’” It isn’t just a matter of allowing oneself to be turned around, but like Alex Fung, we, too, are called deeper and farther. Comfort zones fade into the sunset as cultural biases are exposed, theological stances are challenged, and political ideals dismantled. Abandoning the familiar and embracing the unknown gives us the opportunity to gently question our own beliefs and values. Don’t worry, God’s not threatened, He’s bigger than we realize, broader than we imagine, smarter than we think. By turning myself upside-down, then going deeper and going further, I learn how big and great is my God.
I laughed when Dr. Philip Wickeri, Professor of Church History, told us, “In China, everything is true somewhere and nothing is true everywhere.” His words rang repeatedly in my ears as I sought to orient myself (pun intended) in Hong Kong. One person says that all is well with Christianity in China and that the State church is not a threat. The next person speaks of risks and challenges associated with their faith. My friend who knows the country well accepts both points of view, and offers yet another. I’m tempted to cry, “Foul!” and ask, “What is really TRUE?” But then I realize that I’m asking the wrong question.
“Providing an answer is easy. Asking a good question is very difficult,” said Stephen Lee, Saddleback Hong Kong. This is upside-down thinking, and I’m intrigued. I want to ask Hong Kong a better question! Something that goes deeper and farther that “What is TRUE?” So the question I begin to ask myself is, “Where is Christ?” Providing an answer is easy. Christ is in our guide, Nana–He shines in her smile, reigns in her strength, lives in her heart. I saw Christ in an entire cohort caring for a baby, in recovering drug addicts healing a seasoned pastor by the power of the Spirit, in a faithful flock of Chinese Baptists, and in the generous hospitality of a waitress in a wine bar. And though I am well acquainted with Christ, seeing Him alive and at work in Hong Kong helped me to go deeper and farther in my relationship with him. In asking a good question, I began to get a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
“What if leadership was to inaugurate the Kingdom as the Spirit leads?” Dr. Jason Clark is an expert at asking good questions. As I ponder this question, I imagine that such leadership would look something like this: a leader who simply sees herself as a servant, building a platform for the next generation. Her upside-down way of elevating others makes me want to go deeper and further in my own call, which is to equip, empower and launch emerging leaders for Kingdom impact. If leadership is meant to inaugurate the Kingdom as the Spirit leads, then we’ll stop worring about who’s on top, and turn ourselves upside-down and look in a different manner.
Footnote: From each session, I took one quote that resonated with me, and I took time to write it out slowly and deliberately, as a way of reflecting deeply on what had been spoken. Here are a few of those quotes: