Being a pastor is not a bed of roses. Rev Loh shares these challenges in his journey as a minister for over 20 years.
I came to the Lord in December 1981 and never expected that I would end up being a pastor. It was only about 1985 that I started to feel the call into full-time ministry. I resisted the Lord, as I was uncertain about what the future as a pastor would hold. There was fear about finances and time commitment as our two sons were young then. It was not until a few years later, after I had made adequate preparations, that I joined Trinity Christian Centre in June 1989 as a full-time staff.
To bridge the gap between the salary I was drawing in my last secular job and that of a church staff, I taught in the Singapore Institute of Management in the evening hours as well as conducted management courses for various organizations.
The money that I brought in was enough to fulfill the financial needs of the family, but I found that I had to balance my time in being a husband, father, pastor and lecturer. I kept this balance for a few years. As time went on, I felt more alienated from the secular world as I was losing touch with it. I knew that I could not continue to be a management lecturer and trainer. It was then that I felt God telling me to trust Him. I did and He honored His word to look after our needs. We have never felt lack in our finances ever since.
Answering the call into full-time ministry is almost like the journey Abraham took with God. Hebrews 11:8 states: “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going”.
After I agreed with God that I would leave the secular world to serve Him in ministry, I went to see my Senior Pastor, Rev Dr Naomi Dowdy. She asked me, “What do you think God is calling you to?” I had no idea. All I knew was that He had called. I was then asked to serve in administration.
After a few months, it was apparent to both my pastor and myself that God had not called me to this task. I was then asked to serve as a pastor looking after the members staying in the East side of Singapore. Though the task was interesting, I knew that this was not the final stop for me in my ministerial journey.
In early 1996, I felt God asking me to leave Trinity Christian Centre to plant a new church. I consulted with my pastor and we arranged a plan for my smooth transition to the new place that God had for me. On the final day before I left Pastor Dowdy’s office, she asked whether I remembered an incident that took place in church service several years back. She was preaching then. Mid-way through her sermon, she suddenly stopped, turned in my direction and said, “There is a person in secular management work sitting in this direction—God is calling you into full-time ministry and He wants you to answer the call.” Did I remember this? It was as crystal clear to me. She said, “I knew, then, that God was calling you. Now, go with my blessings and fulfill what God wants to do through you.”
It has been 21 years since. It had been a time of joy as well as pain as I labored in what God was calling me to. This, however, was still not the final stop in the journey. After retiring from both being the Principal of the Assemblies of God Bible College and Senior Pastor of The Harvest Force, I am now visiting colleges and churches in various countries teaching and preaching.
Is this the final stop? I think so, but we can never tell. Years ago, I never thought that I would be a pastor, plant a church, be a principal of a Bible college or be traveling the world ministering. As servants of the Lord we just have to walk the path of faith that Abraham did—go forth to a land that we know not of.
The journey as a pastor is one of faith. We will have moments of joy where we will feel wonderful about the call. But there will also be moments where we will face the pits and be in the darkness of the valleys.
There may be times where we experience a lack of finance or support from our church members in doing what God has called us to. We have to resolve conflicts between members, as well as handle difficult people and situations. Sometimes we will be criticized for some of our actions or decisions. Often, we will be wrongly interpreted for our good intentions.
I have gone through such moments and what keeps me going is the knowledge that God can be trusted. Psalm 1:6 says: “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” So long as we are true to our calling and seek to do what is right, we can have the confidence that God will continue to lead us into the Promised Land.
About Rev Dr Loh Hung Chey
Rev Dr Loh Hung Chey is the Founding Pastor of The Harvest Force. He stepped down from the post as Senior Pastor of the church at the end of 2015. He was the Principal of the Assemblies of God (AG) Bible College until he retired from the post at the end of 2012. He still teaches at the College but has availed himself to colleges throughout the world. He also ministers in churches in various countries on a regular basis and has also taught in colleges in many of these nations.
Passionate about church dynamics especially in realigning the focus of churches to God’s purpose for the church, he has successfully helped churches in this aspect. He is also the national partner for Natural Church Development International. Dr Loh has served on the Executive Committee of the AG of Singapore and the boards of Asia Pacific Theological Association, Teen Challenge Singapore and the Singapore Centre for Evangelism and Missions.
He is the author of ‘Transforming into Christlikeness’ and ‘Returning to God’s Original Intent’. These books are about discipleship and are being used by cell groups in churches as part of their discipleship systems.