Fast-Growing Indian Church Pastor: My Secret is Prayer
Monday, Sep. 14, 2009 Posted: 4:49:41PM HKT
This Singapore pastor is never busy.
Rain or shine, he spends at least two hours with God in prayer each day. And he believes that this has been the key to the success of his ministry.
With his unhurried routine of life, Pastor Roy Daniel Mathew has raised an Indian congregation from three to nearly 100 people in less than a year.
And his plan: to make members of 10,000 Indians in his congregation within five years, a significant aspiration for the smallest of the three main ethnic groupings in Singapore.
Born to a missionary family in the state of Kerala in Southwest India, Roy, 32, says that was not how he became a pastor.
In the one-and-a-half hour session he spent with The Christian Post, he told of how from as early as ten years of age, he had pastors telling him God had called him to be a pastor.
Roy, a younger man then, did not want to live his life as a preacher, for he knew how pastors had to suffer financial hardship even in Kerala at that time.
The most that he was willing to do was to accompany his father on his ministry visits to various parts of India including Orissa where they had 20 pastors. There, in the Indian state best known to the world today for its anti-Christian persecution, Roy could not help but count his blessings for having been born in a place like Kerala. While his hometown was a ‘beautiful’ place, Orissa had practically nothing to attract anyone.
The pastor, whose name was Thomas, who he had gone to visit lived in a ‘small’, one-room house in a ‘very remote’ and ‘very dry’ village. Yet the preacher was a ‘happy’ man. The younger Roy could not help but ask the pastor what made him stay on.
He replied, simply: God called him to do this. That touched Roy deeply. He was already experiencing something of the reality of God’s call to him when the small business he started was ‘destroyed’, he believes, by God. That night, Roy got on his knees before God, and surrendered his life completely to Him, to do whatever He wanted, and to go wherever He wanted.
Since then, the young man began to prepare himself for fulltime ministry as a pastor by praying and reading and studying the Bible.
After one year, his life was changed. He began to preach alongside his father, and saw miracles take place in people’s lives through the Word of God. Roy realised that revival was not about healing, but about people realising their sin, their problems with other people. And this could only happen through the Word of God.
The Indian pastor never imagined that he would be called to preach in Singapore. But when he weathered many adverse circumstances including the diabetic condition and pregnancy of his wife, and the difficulty of staying on in Singapore being a foreigner, he realised that everything went smoothly because it was God’s plan for him to minister here.
Starting out with three people, one more person other than him and his wife, the pastor embarked on a serious effort to pray solely for his ministry, not even his personal needs. In addition to his consistent two hours of prayer daily, Roy went through 21 days of fasting going on nothing but water, twice, and held seven day fasts on numerous occasions.
Because of his strong prayer life, he experienced a strengthening of his spiritual life. It is impossible for believers who dedicate two hours of their day to prayer to sin, he said.
This was also how he met the people who eventually became members of his fast-growing congregation. Roy leads the Indian service at City Missions Church that meets in High Street Centre.
Prayer is the only thing that Jesus Christ ‘systematically’ taught His disciples even though He asked them to do many other things such as preach the Gospel and heal the sick, the pastor stressed, suggesting that those who learn to pray well learn to do all the other things well as well. He gave the example of Yonggi-Cho, who is not the best preacher, and yet he founded the largest congregation in the world. Yonggi-Cho is known for his prayer life.
How does Roy sustain two hours of prayer? By recording his prayer topics in a book and praying through them systematically, he said.
The pastor also prays in other tongues. Asked what he thought about criticism that many Christians who pray in other tongues do so artificially, the Indian preacher says he agrees with that.
Believers are called to declare the greatness of God in the heavenly language, and they cannot end at making the same utterances every time.
They need to ‘mature’, he said, much as human beings mature from being babies to children to teenagers and finally to adulthood. Roy says that whenever he prays, he prays things that he has never prayed before.
He emphasised that it is the Word of God alone that can ‘change’ and ‘touch’ people. Preaching is the essence of a pastor’s ministry, rather than the performing of signs and wonders, he said, arguing that it is wrong for entire church services to be started just for miracles.
Churches should focus on preaching the Word of God and see healings take place in addition, rather than focusing on the healings.
At the end of the session, Roy was asked for his comment on the mindset of many believers particularly in the West that as long as they have said a sinner’s prayer, they can live as they would like to.
In his reply, the pastor used the example of the civil law the leaders of India promulgated shortly after independence in 1947. Although free from the British colonisers, the Indian people were not given ‘real’ freedom; they enjoyed freedom, but only within the law. Without a law, India would disintegrate, he explained.
In the same way, Christians have salvation, freedom from the devil, but they enjoy that freedom only within the law of God.