When I was working full time at Sahmyook University (Korea) in the Business Administration department, I felt God calling me into pastoral ministry. God seemed to be pounding on the door of my heart as I deeply immersed myself in reading the Scriptures. As I read, my soul was overwhelmed by His Spirit. I began to lament, mourn, and cry out as I saw how sinful, impure, and defiled I really was compared to how glorious, righteous, and holy God was.
I resigned from my teaching position in the Business Administration department and enrolled in the Theology department to pursue God’s calling for my life. As a theology student, I busily read all the books and articles assigned and hurried through all the homework, reports, and projects asked of me by my professors. On top of all these requirements, I had to participate in various ministries and activities around the campus of Sahmyook University.
When I began to work as a pastor, ministry demanded that I prepare sermons and visit church members and potential seekers. In addition, there were requests for me to attend events that ranged from celebrating the birth of a child to ministering at funeral services. Soon, not only was I burned out, it felt as though my soul was empty. Even though I realized the severe reality of my spiritual condition, there was not much time for me to even think about it as the visitations of my members and church programs clamored for my attention.
Then, on March 1, 2004, I was called to work at the Toigyewon church. As absurd as it may sound, I could not afford to spend time with God because I was too busy working for Him. With all my heart, I craved and desired to know Him and spend some time with Him. But, due to the demands of my church, it seemed almost impossible for me to set aside time to be with God; I was either too tired or too busy. Then one day I came across a passage in Mark 3:14, 15 that read, “He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (NIV; emphasis added).
The Scriptures testify that Christ appointed His disciples to be apostles so that they might be with Him. Christ desired that they might be with Him, for being with Him preceded being sent out. It was imperative that I resolve in my heart to be with Him daily in Word and prayer. I saw clearly that God called me to be a pastor that I might be with Him first so that He might send me to do the work of a pastor.
By the grace of God, He empowered me to make a resolution to set aside special time to be with Him and I began to spend at least a few hours a day in the study of the Word and in prayer. My time with God revived my spirit, gave me victory over temptations, and gave me a fresh perspective and vision for pastoral ministry.
As I spent time with God, He began to reveal to me how I had taken so many of His blessings for granted. The members of the church I pastored had been very gracious and fully expressed their love and appreciation for me and my ministry. And, over the course of time, I found that I had acted as if I deserved those church members; but I failed to express my appreciation for their love and kindness.
God showed me, through our time together, that I had grown haughty, arrogant, proud, and selfish. God began to speak to my heart and led me to the Cross. He showed me how Jesus “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God, . . . made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6, 7, NIV). He showed me through His own example how He came not to be served but to serve. And God began to transform my heart. I had been making many excuses for my “not giving” and “not serving” nature. I made the excuse that if I started expressing my appreciation for certain church members, it would plant seeds of jealousy and misunderstanding among the church members. But as God pounded on the door of my heart and showed me how poor my excuse was, I got down on my knees and promised to obey the promptings of His Spirit as He would guide me to kindness and generosity.
When the wife of one of my associates gave birth to their first child, my wife and I visited them in the post-birth care unit. We talked together, sang together, and prayed together. We rejoiced and celebrated the precious gift God had bestowed upon them. Around the same time, God opened my eyes to a deacon who had lost his wife and was living alone with his son. We visited him and ministered to him. God then led us to other members who had great needs: senior citizens, widows, and orphans. God renewed my spirit and invited me to partake in the fellowship of love and fully give myself to others through my time with them. Ephesians 5:1, 2 tells us to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (NIV). The invitation is imitation. God demonstrated how He wants us to live through Jesus, not as people living merely for ourselves, but as those living for something far greater. To give, in a sense, is to be like God, for God has been giving from the very beginning. And God loves cheerful givers, precisely, because He is one Himself. Through my time with Him and faithful and voluntary obedience to His command to give, I began to taste and see how amazing it was to live a giving life—a life like Christ’s.
There were times when some of the church members appeared to dislike me. When they began to accuse and criticize, I found it hard to sleep for many nights. But as I continued to spend time with God, He poured out His Spirit upon me and gave me His heart of forgiveness and understanding. He led me to intercede for them. With His tears and sorrow, I was able to forgive them and intercede for them in prayer. And He touched their hearts and transformed them in His own time and way. And now I have a positive relationship with those who criticized me.
The associate pastor with whom I was working suggested that we fund and establish a church for the youth. At that particular time, there were only about 10–15 young people coming to church every week. God led me to see how powerful this vision was, so I brought it to the board, and we decided to start this church. As a result, there are more than 50 young people worshiping together now.
Then the associate pastor came again with the idea to start a church for the teens. Up until that point in time, there were maybe 15–20 teens that were barely making it to church and other activities. I, personally, did not feel the need to start a church for those that were just coming for the Sabbath afternoon program. But once again, God opened my eyes, let me see His passion for the young people, and told me to bring this idea to the board members. Surprisingly, the entire church board agreed to support a church for the teens. Now there are about 70–80 teens who worship together every Sabbath. These students lead in their own Sabbath School and actively participate in the worship service. Twelve volunteers came forward to offer their services to help the teens with Sabbath afternoon activities and prepare dinner for them in the evening. There are also 12 teachers who are leading and helping the teens coordinate worship programs on Sabbath mornings and afternoons. The youth church and the teen church are precious gifts God has given to our church. God has been doing amazing things as I have been setting aside time to be with Him, every single day at His feet.
God did not forget to bless us with the salvation and celebration of new souls who desired with all their hearts to commit their lives to Jesus through baptism. Throughout my time at Toigyewon church, God was calling people to Him, and the church added an average of 44 members every year from 2004–2009. During the same time period, the membership growth was 140 percent, along with increases in tithe and offerings.
If a church member is absent on Sabbath, I call the small group leader in which the absent member belongs, and ask them to contact this person. And, whenever we have a baptismal ceremony, we always ask the small group leader to come forward and officially welcome the new member into our church. Whenever we visit new members who have moved near our church, we always ask the small group leader to prepare an official gift from the church and give it to them. Then the small group leader will be given the responsibility to keep in close contact and take care of them. In my time with God, He has granted me the vision to raise and appoint small group leaders and continue to support their leadership.
Through my time with Him, God has calmed the waves and now peace and joy reign when we elect new officers for the church. For the past three years, God has united our hearts and bound us together in His love.
When God brought me to that place where I finally surrendered, gave all of myself to Him, and began to spend time with Him, He revived me spiritually, filled me with His joy, and gave me His generous heart.
What can I say? Time with God will transform your life, your ministry, and your church. This is the truth, and this truth will set you free!