A few years back, the thought of entering ministry sounded close to ridiculous and yet here I am one week shy of enlisting into seminary. What transpired between then and now would take too long to recount but perhaps sharing my key learning points within the past 1 to 2 years would be more manageable. As I reflect through my experiences, three broad themes come to mind – Calling, Community and Discipleship.
“For every day I have on earth is given by the King” sings the last stanza of the song “My Heart is filled with Thankfulness”. This line alone has kept me going more than I ever imagined. God calls, provides and sees us through. Throughout my time in ministry, some have asked me how I have come to know if God has called. To be honest, I find this question hard to answer even now because feelings can be misleading. Even though I suspect that there is more than one answer, I have come to realise that one of the ways is to do the thing we probably hate the most – wait. I do not mean being idle but rather being patient, prayerful and active in listening.
That being said, waiting is just one part of it. My time of internship has required me to revisit time and time again my decision to enter ministry. Yet for each time I do so, I feel more and more certain not so much of my decision to follow but rather what I think is God’s call for me to enter ministry based on passion, burdens, gifting and affirmation. At the same time, I do not wish to paint too positive an image of this certainty. In fact, truth be told, this certainty grows only after times of difficulty. As I reflect back, I realise that it is through the process of going through discomfort, set-backs and even stress that I gain clarity and see God’s hand of sustenance.
The importance of community cannot be understated. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” writes Paul to the Philippians (Phil 1:27). Community is essential to the Christian life. It reminds us that we are collectively on a mission together. Though we may have different roles within this mission, we are all participating together in it. Throughout my time in ministry, there have been times of tiredness and even disappointment. But thank God for community; through it, I see fellow workers co-labouring in the work of the gospel and persevering. The people who have been the greatest encouragement to me are actually those who have been working in the marketplace but at the same time so actively serving in church. I am reminded that during corporate worship, when we gather as the people of God, the Christian life is not just all about me and God as we sometimes like to think it is. But it also includes those who have run the race before us, those currently running with us and those whom we will pass the baton to in future. (Heb 12:1)
But community in the form of friendship has also been pivotal for me in my few years of ministry. An article published years back titled “Everyone’s Pastor, No One’s Friend”. A simple online search would even show that one of the common problems pastors face is loneliness. Yet for me, I am fortunate and very thankful that I have yet to find myself in such a position. Perhaps this is because I am still an intern. But even so, the friends I have found in church and the weekly activities that I am able to participate in with them has been truly a source of blessing. The amount of support and encouragement I have received has been tremendous. This support has not been coming from my peers alone but even from various adults who have taken time to meet me for meals and catch up with me. In fact, being able to be seen as a friend is to me a blessing in itself because it means that I have community that I can be vulnerable to, that I can confess to. Could this be what Jesus was talking about when he said “Love one another as I have loved you”? That is not to love someone as pastor or love someone as cell group leader. But to love someone as wonderfully made created in the image of God and who is your brother and sister in Christ.
The last point of reflection that I have is discipleship. Having been attached to both the youths and young adults, I realised that more than anything, they need role models. During the most recent church camp, we managed to find time in the creative exercises to gather the youths in groups to just hear and listen to them. The conversations we had were deep. Youths were sharing about their struggles and from the conversations it reminded me once again of this genuine interest among them in taking their Christian walk seriously. To be honest, this is something that I have found to be true time and time again. As I reflect on this, the solution to me seems clear. It can again be found in the words of Paul but this time in his letter to the Corinthians: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1).
My time in facilitating bible study in both PLH and YACHT has been more than meaningful but I do think it is insufficient in disciple making. My own personal conviction and reflection is that there is a need to share life with others. To model for youths and young adults a lived life as we follow the example of those who had run before us. The lived life cannot be merely what we say but must really encompass what we do including our use of time and money. I am convinced that it is far more difficult for youths and young adults to develop a heart for the poor, to know what it means to live a contented life in Christ if they do not at the very least see it in me. In a book containing a compilation of prayers by the Puritans lies a prayer that says:
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
How true and powerful. Indeed let this be my prayer that I may live out the repentant and contented life that is founded in the cross of Christ in order that God may be glorified and that it may inspire others to follow Christ.
 Bennett, A. (2007). The Valley of vision: A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust.