HeartCry Missionary Society appreciates the labors and willingness of Mike Stewart, pastor of Heritage Church, for teaching pastors in Cambodia. Mike was born and raised in central Mississippi.  After graduating college in 1986, God changed his course of direction with a deep conviction of sin and desire to follow Christ.  In 1998, he was ordained to the ministry by BelAir PB Church in BelAir, MD and ultimately moved to Huntsville to begin his first pastorate.  In 2005, Heritage was formed and called him to be her founding pastor.   Mike and his wife Peggy have seven children, Caleb, Tori, Elizabeth, Adrienne, Isaac, Benjamin and Phebe. Below is Mike’s report. 

Last month, I was blessed to travel to Phenom Penh to teach a 3-day conference on pastoral ministry with Shalom School of Ministry.  There were 26 pastors in attendance and most of their wives were also present.   All of the messages were based on I Peter 5 as it relates to the call to shepherd the flock of God (1 Peter 5:1 – 5) and the struggles associated with it (1 Peter 5:6 – 10). 

The first day was spent teaching on the function and work of the shepherd in relation to a word-centered ministry and oversight of the flock of God.  The Apostle Peter gives the suffering elders three pairs of exhortations that contrast godly, humble oversight to that which is rooted in pride followed by the right motive in verse 4.  According to Chhinho Saing, director of Shalom Mission Cambodia, the prosperity gospel with many of its subtle forms is a growing challenge in Cambodia.  He related the story of church members being offered a building and a stipend of food to join another congregation.  While we are not strangers to this doctrine in America, the economic conditions make the people of Cambodia even more vulnerable to this false gospel.  This portion of scripture provided the opportunity to encourage pastors whose oversight is motivated by the joy of the Chief Shepherd’s appearing (I Peter 5:4) rather than dishonorable gain and Lordship over the Lord’s flock (I Peter 5:3). 

The second day we continued instruction in shepherding the flock transitioning into the clothing of humility. As pastors, our strength and help to persevere by faith in ministry is the continual supply of grace God gives to the humble.   Therefore, we focused on the need to resist our adversary the devil who seeks to devour pastors by stripping them of humility with the rags of pride, which God opposes.  We used Jesus as the model for ministry and Peter’s experience of failure in pride and restoration in humility.  During day two, we increasingly applied the messages to pastors’ wives.  

The third day was focused on the sovereign rule of God’s mighty hand and the need to remain under His hand in all trials and suffering in ministry.  As many of you know, the Cambodian people suffered greatly during the killing fields and the current economic conditions are depressed.  Under such conditions, we often question the love and care of God.  During the message, I read a portion of a related hymn that poses the question…

“does Jesus care when my heart is pained to deeply for mirth or song?  As the burdens press and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long?” 

The answer taken from Hebrews 4:15 – 16

“His heart is touched with my grief.”  

Hebrews 4:15 – 16

I emphasized the need to understand that God’s care for us does not keep us from the pain of fiery trial and suffering but actually places us in it for His glory and our holiness (I Peter 1:7; 13 – 15). 

We concluded with the need to rely on the grace of God through every struggle and sorrow in ministry. During the conference, opportunities were provided for pastors and their wives to share their struggles in ministry and family.   One sister shared the following experience…

These 2 days really touch my heart and I want to express myself.  Since I believe in the Lord there are many struggles sometime spiritually as well as physically. Sometimes I feel like I can hardly go on with my life.  Sometimes I question God, so why does He allow this to happen to us…Your teaching explained to me why God allows this to go on in my life.

I am thankful to Heart Cry and my good friend J. T. for the blessing and privilege to participate in this conference.May the Lord bless His word to advance and be glorified as it is with you.

Sincerely, Mike S.