Film / Book Reviews

Malaysian Bishop to pastors: ‘Finish well’

Feb 2014    

The Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysia has modelled his book Finishing Well in Ministry after the apostle Paul, for pastors and would-be pastors to follow as they journey in their life’s work to preach the Word of God.

This journey is a marathon, not a sprint. And sometimes, preachers falter and don’t finish the race, let alone finish well.

With more than 30 years serving in various Methodist churches in Malaysia, Bishop Dr Ong Hwai Teik writes with considerable experience.

Concerned about the pitfalls that some pastors face when they take up the calling, Bishop Dr Ong cites Paul’s ministry, as pastor, church planter and victorious finisher. The fundamental elements that sustain longevity are fleshed out to help promote a faithful ending to one’s ministry.

We also uncover what awaits the pastor in the spiritual and emotional realms and what may end their career prematurely. It focuses on the practical biblical example of Paul who had sustained spiritual and emotional well-being. But these are probably quite familiar to pastors and those who are theologically trained, and needs no repetition here.

The author, however, talks about how a pastor’s personal well-being affects his pastoral ministry. Bishop Dr Ong laments that pastors often fail to take care of themselves.

He cites the 2006 research of Mark Chua, who wrote that “one third of all pastors in Malaysia fail to take one full day off every week. In fact, they hardly have a day off in a month. Nearly two-thirds of all pastors who have served ten years or more do not have sabbaticals at all, and for the majority of those who have, their sabbaticals range from a couple of weeks to three months”.

The balanced rhythm of work and rest is imperative, writes Bishop Dr Ong in the chapter on keeping the Sabbath rest.

Another important point he highlighted is the need for friends. Sometimes pastors are idolised and put on a pedestal, and loneliness results.

In today’s context, pastors are driven to perform and deliver, trying hard to adopt techniques that bring success in terms of size and numbers. There is little room for relaxation and leisure, and this is being observed in today’s Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley area, as noted by Bishop Dr Ong.

Finishing Well in Ministry is not a thick book; in fact, it is only 84 pages. It is available for $10 at SKS Books (Tel: 6227-9700) and the Biblical Graduate School of Theology’s Book Corner (Tel: 6227-6815).

Picture courtesy of The Methodist Church in Malaysia; book cover courtesy of Graceworks Publishing

About the author
Bishop Dr Ong Hwai Teik was born in Penang, Malaysia, and went to school there. He received his theological training at the London School of Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary and Asbury

KC Yuen is Editorial Executive with Methodist Message and a long-time member of Wesley Methodist Church.

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