Written by Ho Kee How
As a young Christian in the 1980’s, I used to look forward to attending missions rallies and conferences organised by missionary groups (such as Keswick Convention, Overseas Missionary Fellowship) and missions-minded churches (many of which had since gone ecumenical). My heart was stirred whenever I heard reports of the Gospel work in the mission fields, and the oft-repeated refrain that “the harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few” (Lk 10:2). But even at that young age, I understood (through my reading of the Bible and stirring Christian books) that not any eager or zealous fellow can enter into that “labour force” – it’s skilled labour! I knew I didn’t have the calibre to be a pastor. To me, a minister of the Gospel requires some ability. He must have the mental capacity to study, for he needs to be able to expound, to feed the flock! Though I did fairly well in school, it was all in the area of written work, not speaking assignments. Knowing my aversion to public speaking and my rather reserved nature, I realise I’m not cut out to be a minister of the Gospel. But the burden to serve the Lord full-time didn’t leave me – though my uninitiated thinking of full-time ministry referred only to “pastor” or “missionary”.
As secular work didn’t interest me very much, I believe I’d have given up all and serve full-time if I had received a clear call from God. Yet I knew I should not go ahead of the Spirit’s leading in my life. Such biblical discretion has stood me in good stead – for had I gone ahead on my own indiscriminately, I’d probably have gone to study theology at SBC or BTS. These being non-committed against inroads made by charismatism and liberal theology, I’d probably come out having my doctrines tainted and faith subverted! I haven’t heard of FEBC or Life Church then. Well, God has His timing…
In the course of time, another door did open for me – “schoolteacher”. Upon becoming preoccupied with pursuing a career as a schoolteacher, I did not expect God to call me into full-time ministry. I’ve always believed that God, in the normal course of affairs, would call His servants while they are young and still in their prime. (Scriptural examples and godly examples throughout church history attest that God’s choicest servants are plucked out of the world and set apart for His ministry early in life.) In the meantime, God providentially led me to Life BP Church in 1990, where my faith was strengthened by Rev Tow’s faithful, scholarly preaching (and incidentally, where I also got married). Some years later, my wife and I met Pastor Koshy through Newton NBS, where we were further nourished by his impassioned teaching of God’s Word. Over time, we were made aware of the needs of the small church at Gethsemane, and felt led to contribute there with our humble gifts and service. Hence our transfer in 1999, with Rev Tow’s blessings. We were asked to serve in the Gethsemane Adults’ Fellowship committee, and were happy serving the Lord in a small way, giving wholehearted support to the ministry in Gethsemane.
Over the years, however, there was an increasing sense of emptiness as I did not find much fulfilment in my work. I felt as if I was engrossed in things that do not matter to God’s kingdom. This heaviness and unease came to a head when I was confronted by God’s Word in Isa 55:2: “Wherefore do ye spend … your labour for that which satisfieth not?” There came a point when I told my wife that I find no more joy in preparing classroom lessons; I’d rather prepare Bible-lessons! By God’s providence, we hear of Pastor Koshy sharing more and more of his burden for an enhanced literature / publications ministry. I felt I could contribute. I don’t have many skills, but I realise I have a knack for words. My “tools” are the 26 letters of the English alphabet – whereby I’m able, by God’s grace, to use a combination of these and organise words into stirring sentences! It was also around about this time that we heard of the need for an assistant editor to help in Bible Witness ministry – in the wake of the church not being able to get an employment pass for the previously appointed personnel, despite repeated attempts at applying. I felt the urge to step in and help; to continue doing my own thing without due consideration for the Lord’s work is downright disobedience and ingratitude! I shared my inner thoughts and burdens with Pastor some time in early 2010, and with Pastor’s encouragement, I enrolled in FEBC in July 2010 for theological studies.
I thank God for the undreamt-of privilege to have studied theology in a sound Bible College (founded expressly to teach a 100% perfect Bible). Though I had not the privilege of studying at the feet of its late founding principal, Rev Tow, I’m nonetheless thankful to have learnt from some of his eminent students, one of whom is our pastor himself. It has been a privilege to be taught by him, and is now an even greater privilege to “co-labour” with him in the editorial ministry.
And now there is this growing awareness that many long-held biblical truths are being systematically distorted and misrepresented by a proliferation of modern English Bible versions, as well as liberal and ecumenical material flooding the Christian market through the media out there. God’s flock, in order to be protected and nurtured, must have constant access to sound biblical reading (and even study) material. In this age of “information explosion”, having good Christian literature is simply not an option but an indispensable channel for biblical teachings to be disseminated. Thus, the need for our church’s enhanced literature ministry has never been greater.
Indeed, “the gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mk 13:10) before the end comes. One ubiquitous and effective way is through the printed page, for “the pen is mightier than the sword”. Truly, while I never expected God to call me at such a “late” age, I realise that God, in His mysterious outworkings, has somehow set me apart to “labour” in the (written) word, which entails essentially the ministry of writing and editing. I feel unworthy, and yet at the same time, honored. God has granted me the desires of my heart. Having put my hand to the plough, I am not unmindful of my ever lurking tendency to fall back and slide into my old ways. My greatest fear is, in the words of Paul, “lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (or disqualified)” (1 Cor 9:27b). Realising that I cannot do without the prayers, encouragement and even admonition of church leaders and God’s people, my prayer is that the Lord may help me walk worthy of Him, and “establish … the work of [my] hands upon [me]” (Ps 90:17) – for His glory and for the edification of His saints.