Raymond Leacock—London, UK
In the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, I take this opportunity to share how I became a full-time
minister. I hope my testimony will encourage other brethren who are considering
this path, and that they will take courage from seeing how God guides, builds
and trains us for His ministry—even before we start.
HOW I CAME TO THE TRUE JESUS
What are my experiences of
God and His church? It began in 1986, when I was thirteen and attending another
church. That church had invited members from the True Jesus Church (TJC) for
fellowship, and that was my first encounter with the TJC. During one of the
prayers, when the TJC members encouraged us to pray for the Holy Spirit, I
could feel that my prayer was different: I was able to focus and engage in deep
communication with God, without struggling to think of what to say to Him.
Between 1988 and 1990, I
attended services regularly at the TJC in Central London, which was located in Pitfield Street at the time. There was one particular
evangelistic service in which the key message was to be born of water and the
Spirit. The sermon made me determined to pray for the Holy Spirit. Then, during
one Sabbath in church, I sensed a change in my prayer. That night, while
watching television, I felt in my heart a strong urge to pray. Only my brother
and I attended the TJC, so to avoid disturbing my parents I went into the
bathroom. I knelt to pray in the name of the Lord Jesus and said, “Hallelujah,”
to praise the Lord. Soon I received the Holy Spirit and began speaking in
tongues. I was so overcome with joy that I had to stop praying for fifteen
minutes. After my initial astonishment wore off, I continued to pray with tears
Soon after, I received water
baptism. However, attending services proved to be difficult as my parents were
not church members, and they would challenge me week after week. Although I
found it hard, I can see on reflection that the sufferings of other brethren,
whose testimonies I have heard, and the persecution of Christ’s followers
recorded in the Bible, were far greater.
In September 2003, I married
Sister Wendy Chan, and together we had a son, Zeph. However, life changed when
Wendy was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in
December 2007 and had to undergo treatment. This period was a trial for our
family and relatives, and a test of our faith and prayers. As I look back, I
can see that the prayers of the church members helped to spare my wife of
physical suffering. Her joy was evident, and we were able to testify of God’s
grace while facing the illness. God’s help was even more apparent seeing other
patients in the hospital struggling with their treatment. We experienced God
taking care of us and drawing us closer to Him. His grace could be seen, for
example, in how my employer allowed me the flexibility to juggle competing
priorities: my work, the hospital visits, and caring for my family.
LEARNING TO PERSEVERE THROUGH
After Wendy had completed
four rounds of chemotherapy, further tests confirmed that she was in remission.
It was during this time that my brother also had a kidney transplant. Both
these matters, plus a change in circumstances with my employer, prompted me to
think about the future. Before her illness, my wife had said that since I was
so involved with church work, I might as well think of applying for the
theological training program (TTP) to become a full-time minister. Back then, I
had laughed at the thought. However, her words came back to me while she was in
remission and my brother had undergone a successful transplant. I wanted to do
something more meaningful in life. Compared to my secular work, I realized that
doing church work was far more rewarding and joyful. I knew that serving God
and His church, and helping people to find salvation through Jesus Christ, was
the most satisfying work I could do.
Through prayer, I reached a
decision. It would mean a complete change of direction in life, but I was
certain. I spoke at length with my wife, parents and in-laws; they all accepted
my decision. After that, I had a meeting with the Leicester TJC board to
discuss and submit my application to the General Assembly of the United Kingdom
THE INTERVIEW AND UKGA DECISION
The next step in the TTP
selection process was an interview by a panel appointed by the UKGA. Although I
was familliar with the panel members, I did not know
what to expect in terms of the questions they would ask or their reactions to
my responses. As it transpired, they asked about my family life, my prayer
life, how I would reach out to brethren from different backgrounds, and about
sermon delivery. The most testing question concerned what I would do should
Wendy’s illness relapse.
The panel later gave their
decision to the UKGA Board and to me. I had been accepted and would be sent to
the United States to start the TTP. Meanwhile, I continued supporting the
pioneering work in Cardiff. My wife and I would regularly share ideas on how to
promote the evangelistic work and hymnal worship in the UK.
After a time, Wendy became
ill again. Like during Peter’s imprisonment, the believers offered constant
prayers for us (Acts 12:5). In May 2010, the Lord called my wife to rest in
Him. I now faced life without my helper and friend. Likewise, my son and
relatives would have to adapt to life without Wendy. Six months ahead of the
TTP, I went through a tough period and a steep learning curve. I had a choice:
to struggle in my grief or to focus on God, who grants us peace.
THE NEXT CHAPTER
I decided not to delay
starting the TTP, even though I had the option to go later. The day before
travelling to the USA, it finally sunk in that I would have to leave my family
and become a theological student. I spent time talking to my son, who was four-and-a-half
years old at the time. I wondered if our relationship could be sustained
through Skype conversations across different time zones. Would he remember me?
I can only describe this type of struggle as being like that of a soldier about
to go to battle. However, I was confident God understood what I was going
through and would give me strength. I also reminded myself that my trials did
not compare with those of other ministers.
Aside from a slight
acquaintance with a few preachers in the USA and a superficial knowledge of
some American terms, I did not know much about my destination. Despite this, I
felt positive about travelling overseas to the household of God, to gain a
deeper understanding of His church, His people and His work. I was resolved to
continue following the Lord and not look back with one hand on the plow (Lk 9:62; Mt 16:24; Lk 5:27).
As a theological student, I
gained extensive knowledge about the Holy Scriptures from the lecturers and my
classmates. I also discovered how to apply these lessons to serving God and
leading a disciplined life. I was encouraged to be strong and to gain strength
from the Bible’s teaching: that the end of a matter is better than its
beginning (Eccl 7:8). By God’s grace, I was able to share my personal experience
with a brother whose father was suffering from leukaemia.
time later, my theological training took me to Taiwan. Once
again, I had to adjust to a new environment and slightly different teaching
methods. While I was there, I was able to appreciate how God worked in the
lives of the brethren, and I was thankful for having the opportunity to assist
in the church work.
I completed my theological
studies in due course and returned to the UK in 2013 to undergo my practicum.
It was time for me to know the members in the UK, to adapt to working with the
preachers and to follow the church’s arrangements to serve the brethren. Part
of my training included missionary trips to Kenya and Ghana.
During this time, I started
feeling incomplete and realized I should get married, both for my own sake and
for the sake of my son. I believe my fellow workers and the church members also
shared my concern, although they did not openly say so. Thank the Almighty God
for His arrangement; He had brought Sister En Tsz Yan
(Victoria) into my life in 2011, when she visited the UK from Taiwan with a
group of brethren. By God’s grace, we got married in 2016. Since then, the
church members have witnessed my joy. Indeed, to find a wife is a good thing,
and it is a favor from the Lord (Prov 18:22). I again
have a helper, a companion, who makes me complete for God’s ministry: together,
we can glorify God.
From a young age, Victoria
had studied English and hoped that she would be able to help the church
ministry in some way; now she knows what God had planned for her. Zeph appreciates having a mother who cares for him and is
willing to guide him. And I know that I can focus on God’s ministry. Indeed,
God provides in His time, and His arrangement is better than our own. This is
the grace and blessing of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. His arrangement
makes me recall the words of a church minister who once said that the virtues
of a preacher’s wife, among other things, should be to love God and to love His
church. I thank God for His providence.
The apostle Paul was chosen
by God to minister. After fasting, prayers, and the laying of hands, he was
sent by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2–3). However, Paul still had to go through a
learning process: to understand who the Lord was and what He wanted him to do;
to learn about the church and about himself.
Concerning the work that God
had planned for him, Paul had to grasp the scope of his ministry. He learned
how to submit to the Holy Spirit, who sent him to specific places to preach and
to teach. Wherever he went, and with each subsequent missionary journey, Paul
discovered more about the believers—their virtues and their spiritual needs—so
that he knew how best to help them. Paul also came to know what he could do, what
he could not do, what to avoid, and what was helpful. He developed close
working relationships with his co-workers: the apostles, brethren and
elders—relationships in which Christ was at the centre, and which were founded
on the truth of the gospel.
Today, there are things we
can do to progress our service for God and the church ministry:
essential if we are to gain guidance and spiritual power when doing God’s work.
Through prayer, we can ask God for wisdom to understand His word and the
ability to share it accurately with others. The word of God is both the helmet
of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17), building us up, along with
others in the community of faith.
Endurance and Perseverance (1 Pet
We need these
qualities to fulfill the will of God. Preachers have very limited time to
prepare for upcoming work. We may be physically in one church, but our mind
could be pondering over an issue that concerns another church. Different
churches have different needs requiring our attention. For this reason, we will
experience both joys and burdens when serving the Lord. We need to be able to
persevere and manage conflicting priorities.
Accountability (Lk 17:10)
preachers are trusted to carry out their duties, it is important to let the
local church ministers and church board members know, out of courtesy, what
matters we are dealing with, along with any concerns or suggestions for their
Discipline (1 Cor
As servants of
God, we need to maintain our focus, be discerning, and not be complacent. We
also need to remain teachable, heeding our co-workers who walk in the truth
(Tit 2:11–12; Heb 13:7). Mission and purpose become sharpened in the course of pastoring, preaching, teaching, counselling
and generally carrying out God’s ministry.
Pastoral Care (Jn
convocations, visitations, fellowships—these demand much of our time, and it is
likely we need to serve throughout the day and into the night. The fruits of
our labor may be seen quickly, or it may take time for God to manifest His
Family (1 Tim 3:4–5)
Aside from the
refreshment one gains through fellowship with the brethren, it is important for
preachers to draw strength and support from our own family members. Returning
home means catching up with the family, as well as dealing with the mundane
matters of running a home. Our children may want to tell us about their
achievements at school or in their religious education lessons, and may have
pressing Bible questions. At home, we cherish the limited time we have with our
family, and we
gain comfort when we see our children’s progress in the Lord.
Intercession (Mt 9:37–38)
Serving as a
full-time preacher, I can see the need for more brethren to be trained for this
role, as the church has growing responsibilities in the UK, Africa, Europe and
elsewhere. What can the church members do?
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but
the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out
laborers into His harvest.” (Mt 9:37–38)
highlighted to His disciples the lack of workers, and taught them to pray to
God over this matter. God is willing to send out the laborers, but the question
is, have we shown our concern through intercession? Let us not forget to ask
God to choose those who have the heart for His ministry (Acts 1:24–25).
“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that
the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to
that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with
us of His resurrection.”
And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas,
who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. (Acts 1:21–23)
Barsabas and Matthias had accompanied
Jesus and His disciples from the beginning. Although they were not ordained
workers before this point, they would have witnessed the works of the Lord and
learned to be like-minded and faithful to propagate Jesus’ teachings, in the
same way as the apostles. While the Lord Jesus was on earth, He observed the
devotion with which Barsabas and Matthias served. He
was able to decide who would be involved in His ministry, and at which point
they would be sent. This is similar to how Barnabas and Saul were chosen to
serve (Acts 13:1–3). God does indeed observe how we minister before He chooses
us for His ministry.
In church, there
are various roles, some of which seem more prominent than others. God has
appointed apostles, teachers, and those gifted to help and administer—all varied
but vital roles (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11–12). With
God’s help, we should take note of how God is guiding the next generation, and
how we can help those brethren to discover the gifts with which they can serve
God and glorify His name.
the Lord Jesus Christ continue to bless His church and enable us to abide in
His word. Let us seek to fulfill Daniel’s prophecy of
the end time:
“Those who are wise shall shine like the
brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the
stars forever and ever.” (Dan 12:3)