TRAINing: I Love because I am loved

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Preparing myself to be a pastor, internship at GMC and through the works that I have done in these four weeks, had helped me to find my identity as a leader, a model, a preacher, a counselor, and a care giver with the church. It also helped me to understand how a pastor is to be tied in a unique way to the church.

As a leader, I learnt to see myself from the perspective of Christian leadership, as distinct from that of worldly leader. Christian leadership should be congruent with the leadership of Christ himself, not following secular models of leadership. Instead of being a transactional leader, I learnt that I have to be a transformative leader preparing for change and building up Christian communities. Sometimes, I tend to maintain status quo and value on consensus. I prefer not to have changes but this internship helped me to be more flexible and prepare for changes, especially in this dynamic world.

As a model, I see the importance of a pastor’s character and his role as an example to the congregation. I am reminded not to be a “two-tiered Christian”. Moral instruction for clergy should not be seen as a sort of ethical upper level than laity. However, the ethical requirements for clergy are still exceedingly high due to our sacred vocation, as leaders of a counter-cultural community. I always struggle with the identity of the pastor as a public figure but I have to learn to take it. Because when a pastor ascends the pulpit to preach, the pastor’s moral flaws become more pronounced, unmasked and opened for all to see. Therefore, I am reminded to “behave myself” at all times.

As a preacher, I learnt to see myself as a servant of the word. Servant is someone who obeys his master and speaks only when his master intended him to speak. This reminded me that when I preach, I should only speak the truth of God, rather than to please audiences. I benefited a lot through the experience of my pulpit ministry in this internship. I remembered what my lecturer once said, “preaching is a gift of God which is graciously self-revealed by God”. This reminded me that I should always bring the congregation to God in my sermon, though my preaching skills are also important.

As a counselor, spiritual counseling is so much different from most of the counseling in the secular realm which is a matter of passively sitting back, waiting for people to take initiative and seek help. In this internship, I am reminded that a pastor should take initiative to show his care to his flocks, like how Jesus looks for the lost sheep. Pastoral care should not have been limited to psychological need. It should be able to lead one back to God ultimately. Most importantly, it reminds me of my limitation and to be aware of the area that I am incapable to help. After all, we are called to care, not to cure.

As a care giver, pastors tend to take on too much of the burden of their congregations upon themselves. I take this as a warning to myself, not to see myself as the Savior and replaced the position of our God. I have to be aware not to let “helping people” to be a satisfactory basis for my ministerial work as this will virtually bring self fulfillment on wrong focus. I have seen so many pastors with depression as a result of putting focus on Christian pastoral care wrongly to be meeting people’s needs. Thus, I found it helpful for myself to be sure with my own identity in pastoral care ministry.

In this internship, I understood that a pastor is tied to the church in a unique way – the communal life of the congregation. The pastor is the one who is responsible to gather and call people into the communal life with God. This means that everything the pastor does, in worship or in personal life, should bring people to God. To achieve this, a pastor should interpret the Scriptures clearly and make sure that the messages are clearly relayed. Devoting oneself into a committed prayer life is essential to enter this priestly ministry. I have to admit that too often prayer becomes merely one of the church programs and my personal event. This is because I always  misunderstand the real meaning of worship. It is a way of being in love with God, not for utilitarian or pragmatic purposes.

Looking back, there were times of struggle, but I know that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. For many years, preconceived negative ideas towards the life of a pastor have been rooted in my mind after observing that some pastors do not enjoy their ministries. However, my own understanding of a pastor’s life changed after this internship. There is so much joy, peace, hope and love when we are in the ministry serving the people of God and those in need. I would like to conclude my internship with this – “I am loved when I first love others, just as we love because God first loved us. Thank you, GMC.”

By Linberg Wong
M Div year 2, TTC

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