Details of Your Ministry Call
How did you come into ministry? As soon as I committed my life to Christ I felt a call to ministry. That was when I was 14 years old. I was very shy and didn’t tell anyone about it for some years. But I started writing sermons and mailing them to a friend who lived in a town where there was no church. Then the burden became so great that I would go at night to the beach near my home and preach when no one was there! I started preaching before people in my late teens. This means I have been preaching for over 50 years. I am still thrilled with the privilege and honour of being a preacher of the Word.
What are the ministries you are involved with and have been associated with up to now?
I give about 50% of my time mentoring and teaching YFC staff and volunteers. Then I spend a considerable amount of time counselling, mentoring and teaching pastors. Over thirty-five years ago my wife and I helped restart a Methodist congregation which ministers primarily to the urban poor from non-Christian backgrounds. We are still active in that church, and that is where I do my grassroots ministry.
What have been some of the obstacles and discouragements you have faced?
I strongly believe that if God is for us no one can be against us. Therefore, my serious obstacles and discouragements have been mainly from myself and my weaknesses, not from others or from circumstances I have faced. I have had more trouble from myself than from anyone else. We have to believe that God turns everything for good (Rom. 8:28). Our disappointments are God’s appointments to bless us.
Indeed, people disappoint us. There are few things that take away joy as much as anger over the bad things people have done to us. Yet to say that they have permanently harmed us is tantamount to saying that they are stronger than God. That is a serious error. God will look after us. That is the deepest reality—deeper than all the hurts we experience.
How do you overcome such obstacles and discouragements?
Primarily through confession, through taking into account the reality that God is turning it into good, and through pleading for God’s help and joy. When people hurt me, I go to God for comfort and grapple with him till the joy returns. I am a firm believer in groaning and lamenting to God when I am feeling down. God also often uses my wife and children and my close friends to mediate his comfort to me after I have groaned and lamented to them.
The truths of the gospel have been very helpful when discouraged. I especially find refreshment by going to the beach near my home to be with God and by singing hymns which remind me of the truths of the gospel which are greater than all my problems. Many years ago I read statement from George Mueller that the first and primary business which he attends to everyday is to have his soul happy in the Lord. We must guard our joy. We must battle for joy. We do that through confession of our own sin and through applying the reality that God is sovereign over all the disappointments in life.
We make many “sacrifices” and we experience a lot of pain because of our call to ministry. But the joy of the Lord compensates for all of that. The joy of the Lord is our greatest wealth. People may do terrible things, but Jesus is always more wonderful than those things.
Now this does not mean that I have no pain in my life. I live with pain daily, especially about my own failings, about my failure to help people with whom I serve to live triumphant Christian lives, and about the masses of humanity lost without Christ. I have come to believe that Christian maturity includes the ability to have joy and a broken heart at the same time. That is the maturity I seek.
I must say that I have not been called to experience a huge pain in my life as some of my friends have. If God honours me with such a responsibility, my hope is that the same principles of groaning and lamenting to God and to friends and of trusting in God’s goodness will give me the patience and hope needed for the pain to be used to honour God. All this is clearly taught in Romans 8:15-39.
How do you balance ministry with family and personal life?
It is tough. It is tiring. But I keep trying. My wife is a good balance for me. If she cautions me about my neglecting some aspect of family life, I take that very seriously. So, I have often had to make remedial changes after I got imbalanced. Such neglect can happen without my realising it. This is why I need my family members to alert me.
I always take my family’s needs as a primary responsibility; and however tired or stressed out I am, I seek to fulfil those. Generally, I have found that, after making such decisions to do things for the family when I am stressed out or tired, I end up refreshed and happy that I did it. The balanced life is our cross. It is easy to do only ministry or only family. Doing both is hard and tiring—our cross. But God keeps refreshing us.
There is one non-negotiable. We cannot neglect our daily time with God. It is immensely refreshing to spend unhurried time with God. We may not find the time “inspiring” every day. Special emotional and spiritual highs come occasionally. But being in the presence of God builds our security. Almost unconsciously the truth that “The eternal God is [our] refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27 NIV) impacts us. That refreshes us so that we can continue to serve him. When we serve without this security we become prime candidates for burn-out. This is why I believe that spending time with God is the most important thing I do daily.
I also try to take a weekly day of rest. That is not Sunday, because that is a work day for me. I do this in obedience to God in keeping with the Sabbath principle. God has asked me to rest; so, I do it in obedience to him, even though my inclination may be to work. Taking a sabbath is actually an affirmation of faith. I am affirming that God, and not I me, is the one who works and that he alone is ultimately responsible for my ministry.
Any other information you might think important for understanding your ministry?
My favourite passage of the Bible is 1 Timothy 1:13-17. Paul talks about how he was a sinner and how despite this God called him to the ministry. It thrilled him so much that he cried out: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1Tim 1:17 ESV). That is my favourite verse in the Bible. I am thrilled that though I am an unworthy sinner I have been given an amazing privilege of being God’s representative.
Increasingly, I am preparing for the day when I will not have strength to serve physically by trying to give more time for prayer. I feel particularly called to intercession and I believe that that is the most important work I do.
I am 68 now. I have asked God to enable me to be active in ministry till I am eighty. But I will gladly accept whatever he thinks is good for me. These things are in his hands. I will concentrate on being obedient to him today. And that is a tough task with a careless and weak person like myself.
Next to my salvation the most wonderful gift God has given me is my wife. She is my best friend and even though he shuns all public involvement (unlike me) she is truly my partner in ministry.
The legacy you would love to leave behind.
I have no time to be thinking about leaving behind a legacy. That desire could detract me from the work God has given me to do, and could also cause me to fall into the treacherous trap of seeking personal glory. I have seen older Christian workers wasting energy, time and resources seeking to leave behind something as their “legacy.” What we want is to see God glorified on earth and the kingdom of God to grow and flourish. We will do all we can towards that end. And because we represent a great God we will seek to do our work as well as we possibly could. The desire for God’s glory is what drives us to excellence, not the desire to win a name for ourselves.
Fruit is what God gives. My job is to be obedient to the call God has given me. And I do that work in submission to the body to which I belong, which in my case is specifically Youth for Christ and my church. I will concentrate on that. Let God decide on what my legacy is. My great desire—the thing for which I eagerly wait—is to go to heaven and see the face of Jesus and hear him welcome me home. That is the greatest reward I seek. Every day I think of heaven. It is from that vision that I get my values. Until I go there, I want to be serving the Lord.