It has now been two years for me in seminary and two years serving as a pastoral intern at the church I grew up in. These two years were like a rubber band being stretched slowly. God is constantly challenging me, showing me just how powerful He is, how gracious He is, and how loving He is. God never stops working to display His glory. He just keeps on going—the Energizer bunny that never stops drumming.
Here are three lessons God has taught me these past two years.
1. The importance of godliness.
For each Christian, there is nothing more important than his or her personal holiness when it comes to ministry. No matter how skilled or gifted a person is—if Christians do not deepen their relationship with Christ, then their ministry will fail. It’s like a garden hose attached to a shallow well. You may draw water for a short period of time, but soon you will dry out and fail.
Every ministry difficulty I have encountered has stemmed from character issues, either in myself or other partners in Christ. Godliness is of the utmost essence. It makes or breaks every ministry.
More importantly, Asians understand the value of godliness in their leaders. Community honor and shame matters more than individual. If a leader does not demonstrate godliness, then the shame doesn’t just fall upon that individual—it impacts the church as a whole.
Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way.
(1 Timothy 4:7–8)
2. The importance of leadership.
While I recognize that godliness is the biblical qualification for church leaders, that does not mean learning other leadership skills are unhelpful. As I continue to take on more leadership responsibilities, I found that I need to grow in how I organize my meetings, how I communicate with my team, and how I delegate tasks. These are all skills you can pick up in MBA programs and professional environments.
In many ways, these leadership skills result from a labor of love and care for the church. Team members appreciate it when meeting agendas are concise and focused. They feel included when communication is open and clear. And they feel empowered when tasks are delegated according to their gifts. While our ministry depends on the foundation of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, it does not mean we cannot pick up quality practices from professional businesses and organizations.
The Eastern culture, in general, may not prioritize promptness or organization or even reading emails carefully (…okay, very few people read emails carefully). But Asians do value hard work. When I put in the time to prepare my lessons, my meeting agendas, and even my counseling sessions, the people I minister to recognize the time and effort that was invested into each task.
3. The importance of rest.
This lesson is probably the hardest one I had to learn. I’m the busybody guy. I packed my schedule constantly. I leave no room for water breaks. I play all 48 minutes. Crazy Busy was written for me.
But I learned so much this year on how tired and weary I am. God may not grow weary, but I do. And it impacts everything. My own spiritual walk. My personal relationships. The quality of my sermons. The heart attitude I carry into each counseling situation. I need rest. And I am still learning how to rest. I get antsy when I have nothing to do. My fingers twitch nervously when I’m not productive. I must be constantly producing.
However, I find that when I do not learn how to rest, then my flock does not rest as well. I set the example; and if my example demonstrates my own strength and labor, then I am not leading my flock to live by faith in God. I must learn how to be like Mary and not Martha. While God certainly commends hard work, He also commands us to find rest in Him.
The Asian mindset doesn’t appreciate rest. If you have one hour to kill, you should invest that hour into something productive. That same mindset carries into how we save every penny. Nothing goes to waste. But I need to learn that spending my time in prayer, in reading, in quiet moments is not a waste, but an investment for longevity.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.