Hello everybody. My name is Anthony and I have the privilege of sharing my testimony with you today.
I felt thoroughly blessed and supported by my previous shepherds, pastor Caleb and Jennifer. They poured love and care into my life and God worked through them to touch me. I’ll never forget the day I ﬁnally had the courage to open up about my deep scars to my house church. I was in tears; it was so embarrassing and I was probably so ugly and distraught. Yet it was from that day on I had much more personal peace and deeper relationships. A little over a year ago Every Nation House Church multiplied from Lampang House Church. When Every Nation house church was born, I witnessed how shepherd Grace modelled true servant leadership and I was amazed. She is only one year older, but she feels ten years wiser. She is my friend, but I also see her as my leader and shepherd. My shepherds inspired me. I wanted to be like them.
It was because of what I had seen that I eventually wanted to follow suit. What I saw modelled to me every week engrained into my heart. I prayed to God and I felt God encouraging me to take the next step to becoming a shepherd. It’s not like I knew what it took. Honestly, I didn’t know anything. However, I didn’t want it to stay that way. After consulting with my shepherd, I decided to attend the house church seminar for lay leaders hosted by New Life Fellowship Church in Houston, Texas.
Early into the seminar, I asked God to show me how to become an effective shepherd. I wanted to become a shepherd who could channel God’s love to others. I wanted to be used by God to bless others, but I didn’t know how. So I asked God:
“God, thank you for showing me house church ministry. I want to give to others as I have received. I want to serve others as I have been served. Tune my heart to learn to be an effective shepherd. Equip and empower me to touch people’s lives, by your strength.”
Through the testimonies and the lectures I learned so much about house church ministry. Each wave of new teachings felt like peeling an onion. So many great layers and I felt like I was getting closer to the centre. The heart of the seminar. It was there I expected life transformation, the secret to good shepherding. I wanted to be the best I could be.
And God revealed it to me. However, it was not what I expected. In fact, it wasn’t even what I wanted to hear. It was to pray.
Pastor Eric Shin, the senior pastor of New Life Fellowship said: “House church ministry, is a prayer ministry.” I honestly felt like it was a cliche. Really? Prayer? Did I ﬂy all the way out of the country to hear that? Was that all? In all honesty, I wanted a manual. I wanted techniques. I wanted the know-how. I wanted the secret manoeuvres and tips. But as the seminar continued, God moved in my heart and I was convinced that this was what God wanted me to hear. God wanted me to pray.
Even then, my head was swimming with questions and oppositions. I was worried that my prayer would be dull and forced, especially because I would be praying for the same prayer requests and members daily. I had the wonderful opportunity to personally ask Pastor Eric Shin about prayer. He gave me advice I will never forget.
I asked him how prayer can be less dull or repetitive. Being the mysterious man he was, instead of answering me he asked me a question in return.
“How often do you eat lobster and steak?” He asked. “Not often.” I replied. “So it is with prayer.” He said, “there will be a couple times you eat lobster and steak, but most of the time it will be kimchi and rice.”
Pastor Eric showed me the value of just showing up. Promising God a time and place, and keeping that promise daily. Just showing up and praying, being faithful to your commitment of prayer. Then God will work. But my work is to pray. It was such an “eureka” moment for me. Prayer makes all the difference because when we pray, God moves. I felt at that very moment God answered my prayer. The way to be an effective shepherd is to pray.
Often my prayers revolved around myself: my faith, my life, my struggles. I didn’t pray for others, at least not regularly. But as a shepherd, you’re praying for others more than for yourself. I took to heart the verse in Mat 6:33:
“But seek ﬁrst the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”
I felt God was reminding me how much he loved me and already cared for me. He would take care of me. My role was to pray for others and help them succeed and experience God’s answered prayer and love.
So I decide to obey: namely, I decided to pray. And not the way I usually went about prayer, which was mostly praying for myself and squeezing in others at the end. The way God prompted me to pray was to pray for others, squeezing in my own requests at the end if I had time. This changed everything for me. I even decided to go to morning prayer every day. (Well except Tuesdays, because I don’t my own car and am “ride-dependent”) I went to morning prayer every day from the very next day after I arrived from Houston.
My body was tired yet my spirit, overjoyed. It’s a soul-satisfying, heart-lifting thing to be able to bring other’s prayer requests to God. I often lost myself in praying for my house church members. Sometimes I didn’t even have time to pray for myself. My prayers, which seldom extended for long period of time have gone over an hour long! It even surprised myself. I’ve been praying for an hour and thirty minutes every day!
I’m not saying this to brag about how long I pray. I just want to witness how liberating, how satisfying, how wonderful, how peace-giving, how soul-replenishing, how God-Honouring, how pleasing and beautiful prayer becomes when the focus is not myself. The secret to a satisfying prayer life is to pray for others. It leaves me physically tired, but God helped me through the week. In fact, I was more productive, my heart was secure and peaceful and I had greater clarity. I experienced how when we seek the kingdom of God ﬁrst, he provides for you the things you need. Because God is faithful.
I am currently the assistant shepherd at my house church. When I was ﬁrst appointed assistant shepherd by Grace, I didn’t feel any different. I actually felt a bit insecure and unworthy of the title. I didn’t feel like a shepherd and I didn’t even feel like I was a leader.
But after starting diligent prayer, I’ve become more conﬁdent as assistant shepherd. My love towards my house church members is becoming more and more genuine. I’m experiencing my selﬁsh heart is being softened by God to sacriﬁce. My desires and postures are changing to serve more joyfully and willingly. My prayers are less dramatic, yet more passionate. Shepherding and praying is becoming more enjoyable. It’s difﬁcult, but worth it. I cannot wait until I can serve as a shepherd at full capacity, but even now I’m enjoying every moment.
I’m thankful to God. His way is so upside-down from this world. The world tells me to start my day running. If I don’t start the day faster than others I’ll fall behind. Because I have to be better, faster, smarter, more successful I can’t fall behind, else I’m a failure. But God is different. God tells me to start the day in restful prayer. It takes faith to go against the world, but I’ve witnessed God’s goodness too many times to doubt it. He is faithful. He answers my prayers. I’ve realized in these past few weeks the most productive, the most effective, and the most important action I can take is to pray.
God has invited me to share in his ministry. His willingness to let people partner with him is such an amazing display of his mercy. Even people like me. I’m also thankful for my house church members, who love me and let me love them. What a privilege to serve in such a church! My heart is being ﬁlled by God and give my overﬂow to others. And it all starts in the morning, meeting God in prayer. However, I’m not perfect. Far from it. I’ve already slept in and missed morning prayer a few times already. That’s okay. I’m not a failure. God isn’t upset. I’m building a habit. I’m building a discipline. It will take time and effort. It’s not a numbers game. It’s not a checklist, it’s a lifestyle. And God is cheering me on, and patiently guiding me and training me to be a shepherd. Until that day I’m going to faithfully continue in the ministries given to me.
Thank you for listening to my testimony.