This article was first published in Wesley TIDINGS, January 2021.
“Before I went into full-time ministry, I was a Sunday Christian, even though I had served in various ministries in the church,” said Rev Philip Lim.
Recounting what led him to full-time ministry, he said: “I knew a church member who retired from his job and gave his full time to serve in the church. Nothing was too low for him to do! Pastor Philip thought then that he could use this man’s decision as a model, and follow suit. But within two years of this church member’s retirement, he was stricken ill, never recovered, and passed on. This was a wake-up call for me.”
For Pastor Philip, this episode jolted him out of his complacency and he realised that time was not in his hands, and that he should serve God in his prime and not offer God his retirement.
In 1989, Pastor Philip, then an accountant, enrolled in Trinity Theological College (TTC) and became a Member-on-Trial (MOT).
“There were times during my ministry when I felt like giving up,’ said Pastor Philip. “But I remember what the speaker had told us at the TTC graduation service said – serving God is about being faithful, and not about being successful.”
And so, this reminder spurred him to persevere.
Giving God the Prime of His Life
Some 31 years later, Pastor Philip is on the retirement road, having served in three churches — Trinity Methodist Church, Kampong Kapor Methodist Church and Wesley Methodist Church. In between, he had taken a two-year study trip to Duke University, Durham, U.S.A., where he studied Christian Spirituality and Worship, a stint that opened his eyes and changed his worldview on life. Aside from a year-long sabbatical in 2007 when he rested and rejuvenated, after which he joined Wesley Methodist Church in 2008, Pastor Philip has dedicated much of his adult life to the Church.
He can, therefore, can rightly claim he has given his prime to God.
Pastor Philip speaks fondly of his time at Trinity Methodist Church, where he was Pastor-in-Charge (PIC), for it, was there that he felt he made an impact, namely in the church rebuilding project that he was involved in.
As PIC, he brought on board the rebuilding project his experience having been involved in a building project in his job as an accountant. He fondly remembers various aspects of the project — demolishing the educational block, leaving the sanctuary untouched, building three stories downwards, the sanctuary set on fire by workers who were carrying out hot-works, resulting in the contractors having to replace it with a brand new sanctuary, designing a baptismal pool which doubled up as a water feature. Clearly, Pastor Philip finds this part of his ministry fulfilling as he recounted how good it felt to be driving past the church and seeing its clearly visible structure and presence.
“Before the rebuilding, the church had looked more like a godown,” he quipped.
Trivia about Pastor Philip and Wesley
Here’s a piece of trivia about Pastor Philip and Wesley Methodist Church. Before assuming the post of PIC of Trinity MC, Pastor Philip, when told by the then-President, Rev Dr Isaac Lim, that he would be posted to Wesley, balked at the idea, citing its size. He was then appointed to Trinity MC as there was a need for a pastor there.
Years later, when told he was going to be posted to Wesley, he again requested for an appointment to a smaller church, but had no choice as the then-President, Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup, told him that Wesley needed “an older pastor”. Talk about how God re-routes His servants!
Pastor Philip also recounted significant milestones of his service at Wesley such as the time he had to multi-task at his daughter’s wedding – he walked his daughter down the aisle as well as officiated the same wedding.
As if that was not memorable enough, he saw her received as a member of Wesley only recently, laying hands on her at the confirmation service. This was no doubt, another significant event in his service at Wesley, during which he served in the Family Life and Pastoral Care ministries, took charge of weddings and was PICO (pastor in charge of) of the Life Stage ministries.
Pastor Philip also oversaw the Senior’s Ministry (Wesley Glowing Years Ministry), where he claimed he fitted right in, on account of his age. Soaking in his role here, he frequently joins its members, playing the ukulele, as part of the Endless Praise team, at places like St Luke’s and other homes for Christian inmates. He also started Bible study for the seniors, currently into its eighth year.
Then, there are the many study trips, five to be exact, that he had led to Israel, where his contribution lay in his making alive the Word of God so that his travel companions saw the Bible come alive both during and after the trip.
Covid-19 and Technology, and Wesley’s Growth
Clearly savvy at technology, Pastor Philip encourages the elderly to embrace it fully, including learning to use smartphones, and knowing how to use cashless payments.
On the fallout of Covid-19 on church attendance, he feels there is no substitute for the face-to-face meeting of community and the building of relationships, no matter how rampant the use of online platforms, which are suitable for teaching purposes, under the current circumstances. For example, in the case of the Baptism and Membership classes, one positive outcome is that people who could not previously attend church services physically because of work commitments now could do so. But the downside is that the forging of relationships is limited by online platforms. He feels there is a need to build in face-to-face meetings to achieve this, even if it was challenging to do so.
On the continued growth of Wesley’s membership, Pastor Philip envisions that it might well be dependent on her enlarging her physical premises, even if she already has satellite premises such as The Cathay, YMCA and YWCA. As the church has not been gazetted for conservation, it is still possible to optimally rebuild it at its present site.
For now, Pastor Philip just wants to rest and spend more time with his family.
For someone who believes a pastor never retires, it is clear that when he emerges from this rest, he will no doubt find a ministry or two where God will lead him to serve. He will be worshipping in Wesley where his family is members, and where he will be attached to as a retired pastor.
Pastor Philip who considers a full-time ministry not a job nor a career but a calling with no expiration date, has this to offer to those who aspire to enter full-time ministry: “Please God, not men as you will be railroaded by their many expectations. God will equip you”
“Stay focused on God. Always need Him. In all that you do for God, don’t aspire to be successful. Aspire to be faithful.”