‘Wesley will always have a special place in my heart’: Interview with Rev David Ho

After five and a half years as Pastor at Wesley Methodist Church, Rev David Ho is ready to move on to the next season of his life – he will be furthering his studies at Biola University (Talbot School of Theology) in Southern California in the US. At Wesley, Pastor David is widely known for his pastoral care; he never fails to have a kind smile or encouraging words to people who cross his path. As the pastor overseeing the Outreach Ministries at Christian Outreach and Social Concerns (COSC), Missions, and Witness & Evangelism (W&E) ministries, Pastor David’s responsibilities included working with the leaders, members and staff of the outreach ministries to strategise, plan and execute various outreach initiatives such as the Alpha programme, outreach work amongst the marginalised and vulnerable in Singapore and overseas missions. He is married to Margaret, working in a Methodist Church, and has a son in university. Wesley TIDINGS recently caught up with Pastor David to learn more about his next phase of life in ministry.

1. Pastor David, the first thing I would like to say is thank you for the ministry that you have been doing here. Many Wesleyans have been struck by how kind and pastoral you have been to them. What are some of your best memories here at Wesley Methodist Church? For example, which parts of your ministry are most energising to you?

I am very grateful for my five-and-a-half years in Wesley, during which the Lord has granted me many memorable and blessed moments here.  As a pastor, I value my interactions with members and colleagues, especially the moments where hospitality and trust are graciously extended through the authentic and vulnerable sharing of lives. I see these as sacred moments where the Spirit is working to refine and form us as members of God’s new family, the Body of Christ. The settings for such sacred moments include marriage preparation and weddings, wakes and funerals, hospital visits, outreach and evangelistic events and spiritual conversations about ministry, family, workplace and personal issues.  

One memorable moment occurred in the context of marital counselling. During a marital counselling session, after listening to the bride’s (then a pre-believer) difficult childhood experiences, I was led to share the gospel of love and grace. I then asked whether she was ready to be a child of God, and she responded positively. Thereafter, I had the privilege to conduct, with great joy, a fully Christian wedding. 

Other memorable incidents related to COSC’s outreach work amongst vulnerable seniors in Singapore. Building on the faithful ministry of COSC colleagues and members, I had the privilege of baptising one elderly man and another elderly couple in their rental flats. These moments are etched in my heart because they display the Lord’s gracious invitation and welcome to a marginalised segment of Singapore society into His family.

Pastor David presenting Mr Koh his baptism certificate after baptising him at his flat

2. Is Wesley Methodist Church the first Church you are posted to after you graduated from your theological studies? You strike me as a person who never stops learning. What are you aspiring to learn when you go to Biola University? Why does that particular area interest you?

Prior to commencing my journey as a Member on Trial (MOT) in 2015 at Barker Road Methodist Church (BRMC), which is my home church, I served as a ministry staff at BRMC for 10 years engaging in church planting in the Bukit Batok community. It was during these 10 years of church planting (2005 to 2015) that I completed my Masters of Divinity (MDiv) at Trinity Theological College (TTC) while studying part-time. After around two and a half years at BRMC, I was appointed to Wesley Methodist Church on 1 January 2018. Wesley will therefore always have a special place in my heart because she is my first local church experience outside my home church. It is also at Wesley where my pastoral identity and ministry was developed and moulded as a ‘rookie’ pastor over five and a half years.  

I am thankful that I am able to embark on my further studies after about 19 years of full-time vocational ministry. The posture I take as I enter this new season is not so much to “learn” or “acquire” more knowledge or skills, although these are important. Rather, more significantly, I seek to experience and yield, in a fuller and deeper way, to God’s sanctifying work in my life through the Word and Spirit. In my own journey, I have come to appreciate that discipleship entails more than accumulating knowledge, skills or ministry accomplishment; it involves an ongoing inner journey of surrendering to God’s refining Spirit, while purging the idolatry of self-pride, self-will and self-accomplishment. It is this journey from biblical knowledge to life application and inner transformation where many Christians experience roadblocks or a lack of handles to progress. This is an area that I seek to explore, learn and experience at Biola University while pursuing a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care.

3. What will be some of the things you hope to do in Los Angeles, besides pursuing your studies?

I am guided by the view that discipleship encompasses the whole life. Apart from intellectual and spiritual training in seminary, I hope to experience God in new ways through visiting different churches and ministries, and also through interactions and spiritual friendships with faculty, school mates and people that the Lord allows me to cross paths with. I am also hoping to strengthen myself physically through exercise and sports coupled with a healthy diet. I view a recent gift of a pickleball paddle by a friend as a nudge to explore the sport there. My hope is that I will return to active pastoral ministry larger in faith, stronger in fitness and leaner in weight.    

(L-R) Pastor David cycling with another pastor

4. You have told us in your sermons that you do not come from a Christian home. Tell us a bit about your background. Talk us through how you went from coming from a non-Christian home to being a Christian.

My father, a medical doctor, was born in Malacca and grew up in Peranakan culture. While he had some exposure to Christianity, he was ambivalent about faith. My mother was a schoolteacher who grew up in a non-Christian family. They were responsible and caring parents who did not impose their beliefs on myself and two siblings.

I was first exposed to the Christian faith when I entered Anglo-Chinese School, a Methodist mission school, at Secondary one. Through God’s prevenient grace, the chapel services and witness of Christian friends gradually opened my eyes to a new perspective of reality centred upon Jesus Christ. Amidst the restless years of adolescence, when I was seeking my own identity, I was captivated by the message of God’s grace and love in the person of Jesus Christ. When I was 15 years old, I responded to accept Christ at a school chapel service. Thereafter, I began to attend Barker Road Methodist Church with some of my school mates.

5. What were you like as a boy growing up and finding your way through life in ACS, ACJC and in the law faculty at NUS?

Sports was a significant part of my growing up years; I played football, badminton, table tennis, tennis and squash with my school mates.  Being an introvert, I was quiet, shy and mild-mannered, compared to my extroverted and talented friends. I was uncomfortable with “attention” and “public speaking,” preferring to be in the background.  When I entered ACJC, I stepped out of my comfort zone and successfully ran for the Student Council.  While studying at NUS Law School, I was led to join the NUS Students’ Union to be involved in volunteer work. Over my four years at NUS, I led a team of volunteers to run a weekly programme for special children at MINDS on Saturday afternoons.  It was also here that I met my future wife.     

Pastor David with his wife Margaret and son after ordination service

6. How did you know you were called to be a pastor? How old were you when you entered full-time ministry?

When I was 27, I was invited to serve in the LCEC (Local Church Executive Committee) of my home church. As I balanced my hectic work life in the corporate world with my church life as an associate lay leader, I sensed a deepening conviction in my heart that the Lord had something else in store for me in the future, and that my time in the corporate world would be temporary. However, there was no timeline and I enjoyed learning and exploring the exciting world of banking as an in-house counsel.

In 2004, when BRMC decided to plant a church in Bukit Batok, the Lord convicted my wife and I to be part of the task force to engage a different segment of society. Along the way, the Lord unexpectedly planted a “thought” in me to consider serving in a full-time vocational capacity in this church planting initiative. I remember visiting Telok Ayer Methodist Church several times near my office at lunch time to pray and seek God. I found it difficult to leave my profession, with the status and financial security that it accorded (I recognised that these have become idols in my soul). Through the death of a school mate from cancer in 2005, the Lord impressed upon me that life was transient and fragile, and that His plans were greater than my own. Within a week of my friend’s passing, I resigned, with some fear and trembling, and entered full-time vocational ministry at the age of 35. A few years later, I commenced part-time theological studies in Trinity Theological College (TTC). Upon my graduation in 2014, at the invitation of my pastor-in-charge (PIC), Pastor Malcolm Tan, I entered into pastoral ministry in 2015, after prayerfully sensing that the Lord was leading me into a new season.  

7. Have you known dry seasons in your ministry with seemingly few fruits? If you did, please give us some advice on how to get through such seasons.

I firmly believe that it is important for us to embrace the reality that our spiritual journey will not just have moments of peace, celebration and joy, but that there will be moments of dryness and difficulty, with fruits seemingly sparse. Much of the biblical story of Israel (especially the time of exile) occurs in seasons of spiritual discomfort, fatigue, dryness and barrenness.  With our limited human lenses, we should not be too quick to label these seasons in our lives as “blemishes,” “failings” or “wasted time,” or to blame ourselves for not being good, strong or productive enough, as if we could save our own soul simply using our own strength (only God has full optics on our condition and the spiritual road map). These could well be seasons where the Lord is teaching us new lessons in our weakness and brokenness, where our hearts are softer and more malleable, and He is drawing us into a deeper dependency and intimacy with Him. In such moments, it is important to still our hearts and spend time in solitude and reflection, to allow the Word and Spirit to search our hearts, so that we may allow the Lord to deal with any idols, anxieties, distorted expectations or bad habits. Seek out trusted and mature believers who care and who are willing to make space to listen to you without moralising and judging (unlike Job’s friends).    

Having set the context above, I have certainly experienced spiritual dryness at various junctures in my life. In a way, these experiences in life and ministry have led me to choose to study “Spiritual Formation and Soul Care,” to gain a deeper understanding of Christian Spirituality.  

8. Talking about fruits. Share some fun facts with us: What is your favourite fruit? What is your favourite local food? And, is it kopi or tea for you? 

I enjoy most fruits, but my favourites are strawberries and mangoes.  From time to time, I do enjoy a good durian with family and friends.

Due to my exposure to Peranakan food while growing up, my favourite local foods are Malay and Indian cuisine such as Nasi Padang, Roti Prata and Nasi Biryani. When I want something less rich, I enjoy good dim sum.

I enjoy both kopi and tea, both with milk.   

9. Finally, having been here for five and a half years and knowing us so much better now, what is your personal hope and/or vision for Wesley Methodist Church?

I hesitate to share my personal hope and vision, being keenly aware of my own limited human lenses. However, based on the counsel of Scripture, and taking reference to our Wesleyan tradition, I believe that the Lord is calling us back to the basics, that is, the Great Commandment. May we all grow in purity and depth in our love for Him and our neighbour, and practise it daily.

Wesley TIDINGS would like to express our appreciation for the ministry work Pastor David has blessed the Wesleyan community with over the last five and a half years as he bids us a temporary farewell. Pastor David leaves for the US in early August. If you wish to reach out to Pastor David Ho, you may email him at davidhosh23@gmail.com

Read also: A Pastor for all Seasons of Life Retires

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