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 (Manna 87: Feed My Lambs, Tend My Sheep)
My Journey Into Full-time Ministry
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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 CHURCH

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 of gladness. 

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 PRAYER

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 (UKGA).

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.

Some 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.

AN ENCOURAGEMENT

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:

Prayer (Acts 6:4)

Prayer is 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 4:1–2)

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)

Even though 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 consideration.

Discipline (1 Cor 9:27)

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 21:15–17)

Sermons, 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 work.

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)

Jesus 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.

CONCLUSION

May 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)

Amen.

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Author: Raymond Leacock
Publisher: True Jesus Church
Date: 02/20/2019
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