The article I wish to share with you entitled, “ From the Perspective of Abraham’s servant to The Church’s Pastoral Search”, was from my devotional sharing at the church council meeting on April 11 this year. I hope by presenting it here in this issue of Heavenly Dew that all members of Tri-City Chinese Baptist Church can also benefit from it.
Motivation behind the Search
Recall that about a year ago when I first came to this church, I learned that Pastor Daryl Watts in English congregation and Pastor Mak in Cantonese congregation were both interim pastors, and that the brothers and sisters in Mandarin and Cantonese congregations were all more advanced in years. After praying about it, I discussed the future development of the church with the deacons and church council. We all agreed that for the sake of spreading the gospel and the expansion of God’s Kingdom, the church must pay more attention to spreading the gospel and the spiritual development of the next generation. For this reason, we have set the next five to ten years of the church’s future to develop the second-generation ministry of the church. We also decided to find full-time pastors for the English and Cantonese congregations in the shortest time possible. Today, we are witnessing God’s miracle to us, having found both a Cantonese and an English pastor. All thanks and praise to God’s great grace!
When I recall this whole incident, God led my thoughts to a picture, the story of Abraham in Genesis. Because Abraham knew that he was old and because his wife Sarah had passed away, he was worried about the promises God made to him – that his descendants would become a great nation and that his kingdom would become a blessing to others (Genesis 12:1-3). How could these promises be fulfilled? So the story is about how Abraham sent his servant back to his native clan and tribe to find a young woman, who would return to be his son’s wife.
When the servant of Abraham received his master’s order, his heart was uncertain. Except for the long journey back to Abraham’s home town of Nahor, would there be a woman willing to come back with him and willing to marry far away from home? But Abraham said to his servant, “God will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine” (Gen 24:7-8).
From a certain point of view, the directive that the pastoral search committee received from the church is very similar to that of Abraham’s servant, that is, to find a suitable pastor to minister to the English congregation. But where is this person, we really didn’t know, even if we extensively interview candidates and find someone we like, that person may not be willing to come. But I think that our pastoral search team is like Abraham’s servant, knowing that this matter cannot be done by our own strength. We must let “God’s angel be in front of us” and as long as we try to do our best, even if the person we choose is not willing to come, we have done our due diligence and responsibility. For this, I would like to thank the deacons and the pastoral search committee for their hard work.
Searching in Prayer
Abraham’s servant came to city of Nahor, his master’s hometown. It was evening when he came to a well. It was also the time when the local women came out to fetch water. He prayed to God, “I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” We must admit that there is no special place mentioned in this servant’s prayer and that there may not be many people willing to draw water for other people. It’s also a bit like our search committee members talking about what qualifications and conditions we should list. Of course, we outlined a candidate’s qualifications to the best we could but, strictly speaking, there was nothing special about what we listed because in the end we didn’t know what kind of person God would send us.
But if you carefully read the prayer by Abraham’s servant, one of the specifics that he prayed for was that this woman must not only give him water to drink but also his camels. That is to say, the wife he hopes to find for his master’s son will have a gentler and more considerate and caring character than an ordinary person and also be willing to serve others. Among the eleven items we listed, several of them were related to spiritual character and fervency in service.
Searching in Faith
What makes me curious is that Abraham’s servant’s prayer is a very adventurous prayer. He did not say how old this woman should be. Have you ever thought what if the one who came out to fetch water was an old lady and was to give him and his camels water to drink, what should he do? Fortunately, thank God, the Bible says that just after Abraham’s servant had finished speaking, the young and beautiful virgin Rebekah came out with her water jar to fetch water. And what she did for him was just as he had prayed to God, clear evidence of God’s grace to Abraham.
For Tri-City Chinese Baptist Church, there was originally a condition listed by search committee that the applicant must have more than three years of full-time preaching and ministry experience, but when the final draft was finalized, we removed it. We agreed if the future direction of our church is the younger generation, we had to consider that God may send us a young pastor who may have just graduated from seminary. When we talked about being younger, we thought somebody maybe forty years old, but God prepared for us a really, very young man who is only just 30 years old and Pastor Choy has come to us. Although we previously interviewed several other candidates, they were all deemed not a good fit or because of other considerations. But during the whole process of calling Pastor Choy, from the very beginning until today, through all the pastoral committees, councils, and even the voting of the church members, we see clear evidence of God’s grace to us. I still remember October 19, 2020, I think I was the first person to see Pastor Choy’s application letter to the pastoral search committee. After reading his email, I immediately sent an email to Deacon Roddy Kwan saying:
This is just in our mailbox. My first impression is this can be a very good fit to our church needs, in terms of our church culture. He is young and smart with a great potential. It may be worth to have the initial contact with him.
We were excited about what God had prepared for us. Yes, we had hoped to have a younger pastor, but we didn’t expect him to be so young, so smart and gifted, and knowing that his father is also a pastor was also a big plus. From interviews, conversations, his letters, and his focus on God’s Word, we knew that God might have sent us the person we were looking for. The only thing left was whether he was willing to move from Canada or the east coast to Northern California to work with us. Thanks to God’s grace, Pastor Choy accepted our invitation. Today, he has come to us and has joined our ministry team. Let us welcome his arrival and give glory to God.
Finally, let me use Genesis 24:67 as the closing of my sharing:
“Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
I have this request for everybody- to cherish Pastor Choy’s ministry` that God has prepared for us, to love him in the Lord, and to assist him in his preaching ministry. I believe that by the grace of God, Tri-City Chinese Baptist Church will surely be greatly blessed by God, and in the future God will indeed accomplish great things through this church and will make this church a blessing to many people. Regardless of the past history of this church, whether there is anything that saddens us, I pray to God for bringing us Pastor Choy and through God we all receive comfort from God because we know that God is with us still! He loves us and He wants to continue to use us to be His beacon of gospel witness. Let us work together in the Lord – preaching the gospel, leading people to the Lord, expanding the kingdom of God so that the name of the Lord will be praised and exalted among all nations and races.