A shepherd of shepherds

A shepherd of shepherds
The Rev Chua conducting Holy Communion at AMKMC in 2005

Shepherding a single church is already a major undertaking—how does one shepherd 21 of them? This is the challenge for the Rev Stanley Chua, who was elected the President of the Trinity Annual Conference (TRAC) at its 45th session last November. TRAC is the connection of Singapore’s Methodist churches where English is the main language; it has more than 28,600 members registered as of Nov 2020.

The Rev Chua is, in some ways, a reluctant President. When asked how he felt about being elected to head TRAC for the 2021–24 quadrennium, his response was: “I can only say, ‘Not my will, but Yours be done [O Lord].’” A career soldier-turned-businessman-turned pastor, the path God led him on to becoming a pastor and where he is today has been one with unexpected twist and turns.

Strangely warmed

 When the Rev Chua was 14 years old, a classmate invited him to a Youth for Christ meeting, and later to his church. No-one at the church took it upon themself to get to know him better, and he stopped attending after three months.

It was seven years later when his then-boss invited him to attend a “Life in the Spirit” course at Wesley Methodist Church (MC). He recalled: “I remember that it was during the fourth week [of the seven-week course] that I was asked if I wished to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. At that time, I hadn’t a clue what it meant—I obliged because I was just trying to be polite!” He knelt on the floor, with his boss beside him and another brother laying hands on his head and praying for him, but initially felt nothing.

“Suddenly, I experienced a warm sensation come over me and a tremendous peace that flooded my entire being. The next thing I knew, I was speaking in another language. In that instant, whatever doubts I had about God were removed. And since then, I have never looked back. I re-dedicated my life to God and not long after, I got baptised and began to serve the Lord actively.”

The call to serve

At Wesley MC, he served actively with the Methodist Adult Fellowship as vice president and president, and as a worship leader for many years. He was then a full-time soldier, having signed on as a regular with the Military Security Department after serving as a commando during his National Service.

In the late 1980s, after becoming more involved in church ministry, he had an intuition that God was calling him into full-time ministry—but it was a call that he initially resisted. Thinking he could serve God as a tentmaker, he ventured into the food manufacturing industry with a dream of employing ex-prisoners and using his business profits to fund missions work.

But God had other plans for the Rev Chua. Through Proverbs 11:30—“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise” (NKJV)—God persisted in his irresistible call for the Rev Chua to join pastoral ministry, which he did in 1992.

A supportive family

The Rev Chua met his wife, Khim, formerly of Paya Lebar MC, in 1987 when their respective small groups from their two churches were concurrently having retreats at Fraser’s Hill in Malaysia. They were married in 1991 and served together at Wesley MC’s Methodist Adult Fellowship for many years.

Khim was a flight attendant but stopped working when their first child, Samuel, was born in 2000. Five years later, Silas was born, and both boys attended Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) Junior and ACS Barker Road.

“I am truly grateful to our Lord for giving Khim to me as my wife,” the Rev Chua said. “When I shared with her the Lord’s call for me to be a pastor, there was no hesitation on her part. She supported me all the way; in particular, during the four years I was studying at Trinity Theological College. God couldn’t have provided me with a more supportive, understanding and loving wife.”

A supportive Church

 In his 23 years of pastoral ministry, the Rev Chua has served at Wesley MC and Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church (AMKMC). One of the most difficult times in his ministry occurred when he was a newly-appointed assistant pastor at Wesley MC in 1997, and the first funeral he had to conduct was for an eight-month-old baby who had died of a brain tumour.

“It brought back memories of when my youngest sister died of a tragic car accident when she was 12 years old,” he recalled. “It affected me deeply because I felt it was unfair for young people to die early. It also triggered memories of my own guilt for having not treasured my sister until she was gone from our lives.”

“But what I have learnt is that death is no respecter of age; we must never take our loved ones for granted because we never know when death will come knocking at our doors. While we have our loved ones with us, we must make the best of every opportunity to treasure them.”

In 2003, he was appointed to AMKMC. While admittedly relatively inexperienced, he was appointed Pastor-in-Charge (PIC) the following year. Although it was a steep learning curve, AMKMC’s loving and supportive congregation helped him grow as a pastor. “I am forever indebted to AMKMC,” he said.

In 2008, the AMK Methodist churches—AMK Chinese MC, AMK Tamil MC and AMKMC—got together to build a new shared church building for their burgeoning congregations. By God’s grace, the three churches raised the $19m needed for a new building, which was completed by 2012.

The Rev Chua left AMKMC in 2014 to pursue further studies at Asbury Theological seminary in the US. When he returned in 2016, he was appointed back to Wesley MC as PIC. It was something unexpected and a task for which he felt totally inadequate, as Wesley is the largest and oldest Methodist church in Singapore. But being a man under authority, he surrendered his will to God and submitted to his President’s appointment. “Pastoring Wesley was indeed challenging, but I thank God again for the loving and supportive leadership and congregation there.”

Shepherding shepherds

The biggest challenges facing TRAC in this quadrennium, he says, are similar for most of the Methodist churches: how to do ministry with our greying populations; how to reach out to our youths and keep them in our churches; and how to do ministry post-COVID-19.

As TRAC President, the Rev Chua sees his role as that of “chief shepherd”. He is waiting on God to give him direction for the Conference and is spending time with the pastors and the lay leaders of various churches to get to know them better. He is also planning sessions with the Conference leaders and pastors to have them listen to God for His will and direction for TRAC for this quadrennium.

He said: “Prayerfully, by the end of this year, I will be able to present at our AC session what I discerned from these sessions and the feedback received from our leaders and pastors.”

How can we pray for TRAC?

The Rev Chua says: “Pray, pray and pray for us that we will be faithful to our call as pastors and be good shepherds for God’s people.”

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Sheri Goh is the Editor of Methodist Message. / Photos courtesy of the Rev Stanley Chua