I believe God’s call to each person is unique. We can conclude this from scanning the Bible and analysing the different experiences of ordinary people when they were called by God. They ranged from the supernatural experiences of burning bush (Moses), visions (Ezekiel), angelic encounter (Gideon), and prophetic utterances (David), to ordinary experiences like Jesus inviting Matthew the tax collector to follow him (modern equivalent: the pastor asking you to pray about joining the church staff). Thus, what I share here may or may not find resonance with the call of other pastors, missionaries and full-time Christian vocational workers.
I feel grateful that the context of my call to pastoral ministry was the charismatic revival that visited Singapore in the 1970s (you can read more about this in the book, “Unfolding His Story” by Georgie and Galven Lee). I was initiated into a period of intense and deep experiences of repentance, baptism, and the infilling of God’s love and power. These powerful encounters with God and other prayer encounters would generate in me an overwhelming passion for God and his church.
Discovering My Gifts and Calling
This passion and desire to serve God’s people grew and blossomed, and ranged from running the library, to intercessory ministry, doing personal evangelism and follow-up, serving in the church management committee, and teaching Bible classes and preaching from the pulpit, first in the youth fellowship and then in the Sunday worship services.
This heavy involvement in church work helped me discover my gifts in teaching and pastoral work, and the affirmations I received helped me identify how God has chosen to work through me most fruitfully. They would inform my pastoral ministry for years to come: firstly, of where I should give the most priority and energy and time to; and secondly, the kind of gifted people I would need to work with to balance off what I lacked.
This overwhelming passion to serve refused to fade or die. The deep desire never left me or waned, no matter how often I kneeled and surrendered the desire to go into full-time Christian vocational work, it would remain. When I looked at the NUS courses on offer for me, there was a complete lack of interest and deadness towards them. A vision and prophecy from a leader emboldened me to finally let the pastor know about my strong desire to serve on the church staff. Despite his advice that I should get working experience first (which I obediently followed), that desire never waned but grew even stronger, for after I was working-training as a cadet-teacher for two years, the daily devotions over a period of a few months, stirred me to leave my job and join the church staff. When I brought this up, surprisingly, the church leaders approved it. Immediately, “left my nets” and answered God’s call.
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Strong Conviction and Perseverance Linked
After years in the pastoral staff, I realised the importance of having a strong conviction that God has called me. The pastoral ministry is fulfiling but also challenging. On many occasions during the forty years of service, there were moments, even periods of discouragement, inadequacy, self-doubt and hurt. There were moments of temptation when I could have given up God’s call. However, it was the strong conviction of God’s call and the Spirit’s ministry of comforting, strengthening, and encouragement that bound and anchored me to the cross, and helped me continue in perseverance and faithfulness.
God not only calls us, but he also empowers and reinforces us. Blessed be his holy name. Amen.