Pastor John Kim

by Steven Hong

No, that’s not a guest speaker preaching on Sundays. That’s our head pastor, John Kim. After a hiatus from ministry, he’s back in full-swing, one month earlier than originally scheduled. The Beacon had a chance to catch up with him to discuss the purpose of his time off, how it was spent and what we can look forward to as he jumps back into ministry.

First of all, to clear up any misconceptions, what was the purpose of your time-off?

The past year and a half has been difficult, to say the least, as we have faced a number of challenges at church that have been quite unlike anything that we had faced before. There was the turmoil with the pastoral staff that really brought much pain and discouragement. I felt like my heart had been torn out. It also affected a good number of relationships within the church as well as in my personal life and so the consequences ranged pretty far and wide to the point where I felt like I had been emotionally and mentally battered. I know it sounds a bit dramatic but I can’t even begin to describe the pain that was in my heart. There was also the stress of our moving to the new facilities and adjustments in leadership. There were various trials at a leadership level that at times had been very disheartening and all of these things put together had a severe affect on my body as well as my spirit. As I shared a number of months ago, I started to get severe chest pains and a host of other ailments that led to visiting the emergency room and medical specialists. I have been put on several medications and also various recommendations regarding health care. So as a result I asked for a medical leave of absence that would give me time to address both my physical and spiritual issues. It definitely was not a time of sabbatical where you would seek refreshment and opportunities to study and grow. It was more of a time of laying aside my pastoral responsibilities fully so that I could get physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual recovery time as I was at the point of severe exhaustion and emotional depression. To be honest, I was very close to the point of wanting to simply resign and pursue a quiet life. The job that appealed to me the most during this time was to be a librarian, as you know that I love to read. But God was gracious to give me time to recover and get my heart and head straightened out enough to be reminded that whether it was my physical ailment or spiritual struggles, He is faithful to provide all that I need.

How were you able to spend the time off?

For the first time in 21 years of ministry, I actually set aside my pastoral responsiibilities fully and was disengaged from the regular duties. I took the time to get some sleep, visit doctors, and spend time with my family. There were two weeks that I was able to visit Austin, Texas and stay with my brother-in-law. It was there that I was truly able to experience some solitude, rest, and reflection as it was literally very quiet all day and I had the whole day pretty much to myself. I did a lot of reading, watching football games, and sleeping. It’s amazing what happens when you get sleep. I was thinking back to the point where my sleep debt had started to accumulate and I believe it was in 1988 when I started seminary. I was just starting out in ministry as a youth pastor and so since that time, I really had not slept well or consistently. So getting some good prolonged sleep was pretty significant. I also started exercising so as to strengthen my physical state. I really felt my body deteriorate over the past year and a half from the stress and troubles that I had been going through. It got to the point where I really was troubled at how I felt. It even scared me because I didn’t know that my health could go downward so fast. So I started working out and have been pretty consistent since then.

How is your health currently?

As I mentioned, I have been exercising and that has been helping me a lot. I am still taking various medications and will be monitored as to my heart condition, my digestive tract, as well as my general health. So I would still appreciate prayer for the state of my health. But while addressing my physical condition was significant, my spiritual health was of a greater concern because I had come pretty close to the point of despairing and giving up. But I am happy to say that I am doing much better spiritually and much of that has been related to my spiritual disciplines.

Has your mindset in regards to ministry changed in the course of your time-off?

I have definitely learned many lessons during this time, many which are still ongoing. Just to share a few:

    1. Trusting in the Lord needs to be a higher priority, particularly when circumstances are stormy. Proverbs 3:5-6 has always been a favorite passage but I think over the years it has become more precious. But I realize that I still struggle tremendously with FULLY trusting the Lord alone. I still tend to want to add my two cents. I rely on my past experience to guide me rather than seeking heavenly wisdom. I wrestle with fearing man and what people would think and say. But I am driven back again and again to the simple reality that I am ultimately helpless and God is ultimately sovereign and that it makes much more sense to trust Him than myself or other human beings that will ultimately fail.

    2. Take time to rest and pace myself. Yes, the Christian life is a race and I tend to, as a former sprinter (all of my one year in running track my sophomore year in high school), run hard and fast. There is much to do and I don’t want to waste even a day not giving my all. But I am learning that it is not all up to me and more importantly, I need to ask myself the question, “Am I truly worshipping God in what I do? Or am I just busy with a lot of activity that makes me feel spiritual?” I need to spend more time in God’s Word for my personal growth, not just to preach. I need to pray, not just because there are so many prayer requests, but because I need to just commune with God. I need to serve the church family, not just because I have gifts or need to show that I am involved in ministry, but because it should be a natural extension of my love for God (Matthew 22:37-40). While I need to make the most of each day, taking time to rest and strengthen my body and soul is not a waste of time.

    3. I need to delegate more but take time to train up trustworthy people to pass on the work of ministry. I do tend to carry a heavy load because I want to get a lot done. But I do not have the gifts and talents to do all things well and one of the things that would maximize the ministry would be to focus on the depth of growth so that the breadth of the growth can be increased. This takes longer and at times seems not as quick a solution to the present needs that we have. But the reality is that we can’t just delegate responsibility to anyone. 2 Timothy 2:2 talks about faithful men that Paul passed on his legacy so that they might pass it on as well. That is my hope as well.

    4. To focus more on the positive and not get dragged down by the negative. I tend to be very sensitive to criticism (I don’t know too many people who aren’t) and so I do easily get discouraged. When people are deliberately hurtful and inflict pain, all the more it really gets me down because I just don’t understand how someone who is a Christian can be cruel and mean. Yes, we are all capable of hurting people with our words and actions, but there always seems to be a few in any church that make it their business to really inflict the kind of damaging hurt that is meant to really last. I think this is what affects me the most as I have experienced this now a few times in my years of ministry. But then I read about the apostle Paul in Philippians 1 and see that he is able to still experience joy, even though others are taking advantage of him. So one of the things that I am resolved is to really be thankful and purposefully focus on the good things that God is doing in our midst.

How can we as a church be praying for and encouraging yourself and the other elders/pastors?

I think it would be helpful that every member would be careful in considering how they are fulfilling their role as Scripture calls them in relation to the leaders. I don’t say this to be self-serving but there is a very clear reason why many pastors end up getting disillusioned and then even quitting. I talked with many pastors and the majority of them struggle with all sorts of discouragements. Recently one pastor asked me how often I thought of quitting. He told me that he thought about it every week. I think if church members really knew what was going on in the hearts of their pastors, they would be horrified to think that they might have contributed to their discouragement and even despair. John MacArthur has given a message titled, “The Sheep’s Responsibility” based on 1 Thessalonians 5:13. Here is the link (http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/52-25). Read it, or you can even listen to it for free since Grace To You now allows you to download all of John MacArthur’s sermons for free. If you take this message to heart and apply it, I think you will do much to bring encouragement to the pastors.

Anything else you want to share with the body as you jump back in the ministry here?

I just want everyone to know that I am so thankful to God for our church family and that I am excited to be back. Please be patient with me though. I still am not in the best physical shape. I haven’t preached in almost five months at Lighthouse so I’m a little nervous. But at the same time I am very anxious to get reconnected and involved in the life of the church.

Advertisements

About

The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

Subscribe



%d bloggers like this: