Teaching God’s Word
Equipping the saints is not a cliché for me but a major reference point for pastoral ministry. It is therefore not surprising that teaching God’s Word through sermons and Christian education courses was something I found great joy in. I loved teaching the Bible and every year I devoured books on preaching, and experimented and incorporated new homiletical insights, ideas and styles into my preparation and delivery. I found satisfaction when I received feedback that the adaptations were effective, and concerned when they fell flat. I also enjoyed the development and execution of Christian education curriculum. I enjoyed running Life in the Spirit seminars to help members receive the baptism of the Spirit, and conducting membership and foundational courses for new believers.
Pastoral Care and Mentoring
Another facet of ministry that I enjoyed was meeting with leaders and members individually and giving them pastoral care, personal counsel or coaching. Patient listening to members’ concerns and struggles is a powerful way of equipping and helping them move towards wholeness. When I first began pastoral ministry in the 1980s, visiting families in their homes was the norm, but gradually I noticed that with the formation of home cell groups, the pastoral care that came through cell groups lessened the need for pastoral home visits unless there were special needs or circumstances involved. Still, it was the one on one sharing and sharpening of life that I found fulfilling.
Blogging as Ministry
Halfway in my forty years of pastoral ministry, I stumbled into blogging through my son Joshua’s suggestion. At that time around AD 2000 I began blogging on Xanga to reach out to the youth in church, and later moved my blog to my own website. Somehow this blogpastor.net website was blessed by the Lord to influence its readers. Readers from around the world read the blog. The blog was cited in the Asia Wall Street Journal, the Straits Times, and in books and articles. The discussion was very active and beyond my ability to monitor and I saw that blogging allowed for conversation/discussion and thus was a good platform for teaching and influencing thought and attitudes. I enjoyed this thoroughly as it also led me to see my writing as an extension of my teaching and pastoral ministry.
Later in the last decade of my pastoral ministry, I was more interested in spiritual formation and spiritual direction. I saw how waiting on God in silence in a retreat setting with a spiritual director to guide helped me recover from a burnout, and I became convinced this kind of ministry to be vital for the spiritual health and vitality of pastors, church leaders and members. I completed a Master’s program on Christian Education and Spiritual Formation with AGST Alliance, went for annual silent retreats, and searched for spiritual director formation training. The whole area of spiritual formation of the soul became a focus for me.
During the last five years of my role as senior pastor, I also became more engaged with issues of pastoral succession and sought to equip a team of new ministry staff so that when I retired, the church would have a leadership team able to feed, care for and lead the church. My main concern was to equip them to do what would be a major means of equipping the saints – the Sunday sermon. As this was my main strength, I designed a simple program to give them opportunities to develop their preaching ministry. They have all been trained in Bible Schools but I wanted them to apply what they have learned in a systematic way and with peer group supervision and encouragement. I enjoyed this coaching role in the last five years of pastoral work.
If leading, feeding and caring are the main roles of a pastor, then I would rank the roles in order of personal fulfilment this way: 1) feeding, 2) caring and lastly 3) leading.