t would be understandable if a young man aspiring to ministry looked at Pastor Sam Oluoch and wanted what he has – years of faithful ministry, a happy family, a house and car. But few young men know the years of hardship leading to this pastor’s current condition. Faithfulness in ministry and establishing a biblical church has come at a cost – financially, physically, relationally, and emotionally. In this article, Sam counsels aspiring young pastors to count the cost:
“Of late, my family has been reflecting on the faithfulness of the Lord to us since He called us to full-time labor. It was in 1999 that I called it quits in serving the Kenyan government as an agricultural officer to serve my King in full-time capacity. We had been married for only 7 years and my two girls, Lois and Nila, were still in nursery school. I guess Nila had not even started. So quitting my job for an unknown future brought anxiety, even to my parents. They advised against it, considering my young family that needed to be cared for with a stable job. But seeing what they were not seeing, we plunged into this by faith.
Life was not easy, just as predicted, but we soldiered on. I can’t remember how many times I had to ride my bicycle (the bike ‘Black mamba’, as they were known those days, still survives at 22 years) deep into the night, returning from pastoral visitation, sometimes with night rains falling on me. Some members had cars but still they would simply just wish me a safe ride back home as they closed their doors behind me after a visit. When ministry called for my wife and children to come along, walking long distances with the kids was very normal to us, many times covering a total of 10 -15 kilometers.
This notwithstanding, constant battles with the elders on theological issues was the pain I dreaded most in our church leaders’ meetings. Though I was the pastor, I was the youngest amongst them all, and always divergent in my theology. This earned me names in the eldership. Such meetings would go long into the night, then I would risk the long walk or ride back to my family, a heartbroken pastor. When my wife and I could no longer sustain these battles with elders who eventually passed a policy allowing ladies to preach, I called it quits.
Hence the beginning of ‘Grace Baptist Church Kisumu’ with a dear family of the same conviction from Britain, now retired, Pastor Leslie Beard. I labored for GBC for 17years. Coming now to the capital city of Nairobi to start a new work reminds me of the many struggles, frustrations, and disappointments that are related to church-planting work as I face these once more. But as I said earlier, I have proved the Lord faithful and He will always be in this new work as well.
Young men coming to ministry, my advice to you is this: Do not come to the ministry for the sake of gain. It seems to me that these days, gain is the drive rather than the call. Never view ministry as a stepping stone to easy living and driving a car of your dream and living in that nice house. These may come your way (if it pleases the Lord) but should never be our focus. It reminds me of the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, we are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty.’ (ESV LK. 17:10). Paul responds thus:
‘I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.’”LK. 17:10
S.R. previously served as Africa Coordinator in 2008. He and his brother, and their families served for almost three years as missionaries to the Lozi people of Western Zambia. Upon returning to the States, S.R. joined a church-planting work in West Virginia. S.R. and his family now live in Christiansburg, VA.More By S.R.