Having a Pastor’s Heart

Indigenous Church Leadership ... Pastor Paul Moses tells his story (from Issue #533)

by Paul Moses

Hannah & Paul Moses

Hannah & Paul Moses

A few years ago I was part of a team of about 10 or 12 of us from the James Bay area to minister in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Our first stop was not a Native community, but a church where we had our orientation and shared in a Sunday morning service.

It wasn’t until the Saturday evening that I found out that it was the very church that Doug Taylor had resigned from as pastor back in the 1960s to come to Moose Factory (ON) as a missionary.

Our group was the multiplying fruit of his ministry … we had come full circle! We visited Doug on that trip, then in his 80s. We sang for him, and he prayed for us. It was a wonderful time.

As a young kid I remember visiting Doug and his family at their house. Looking back I can see that, despite all the difficulties I grew up with, Christ had His hand on me.
The road to my healing began when I accepted Christ as Savior when I was 11 or 12 while special Gospel meetings were being held. But the following years as a teen and adult – in my search for true spirituality, growth, maturity, victory, consistency, healing, fruitfulness, freedom, and learning to walk in God’s grace – I had to deal with deep issues, many related to my fatherlessness.

Hope & Healing
Paul pastors Waskaganish Cree Gospel Fellowship, an associate member of Native Evangelical Fellowship (NEFC)

Paul pastors Waskaganish Cree Gospel Fellowship, an associate member of Native Evangelical Fellowship (NEFC)

Through the help of close friends, relatives, and counseling, it wasn’t till I was a married man with children that I began to see the things I had to deal with. I had covered things up, and I had to let God get in touch with my pain and hurt. I had to allow others to help. It’s especially my wife, Hannah, who has helped me find healing and freedom. She has shown God’s grace and transformation power.

In 1990 there was no one else to take on leadership at our Waskaganish (Quebec) Cree Gospel Fellowship, so I stepped forward. Getting to that point in life was not quick and easy, but I had significant Christian men in my life. They were role models for me and, even when I was down and out, they were there for me. They prayed for me and they challenged me. There were the Cheechoos, the Jollys, John Beck, and others.

Some of them had previously been into alcohol, but I saw the change in their lives. I watched them get involved in ministry, go off to Bible school, and then serve in ministry around Canada, and some of them coming back to serve in the local church.

There were several missionaries, too, who nudged me towards God when other voices were telling me to give up. Some of them rebuked me on occasion, and I needed that, too!

Learning To Serve

As a teen I remember being asked to get the stoves going at the church each Sunday. It wasn’t much, but I was learning church responsibility – and there was satisfaction knowing that people could come to a warm place. Then I was asked to teach a Sunday school class, then asked if I could lead a service. I still remember the first time I was asked, “Can you preach the message?”

I remember wondering how I, a hurting boy, could be asked to do these things. I think some of my mentors were ready to give up on me sometimes, but they still believed in me. And these missionaries and Christian men gave me a vision for the church.

As a pastor I remember feeling overwhelmed by past hurts, and wanting to resign. I hadn’t given up on the Christian life, just on being a pastor. I remember talking to four men about it. They all knew my weaknesses, but they didn’t say, “Well, you gave it a shot.” They said, “Paul, you have a pastor’s heart.”

I said, “What?!” They said, “We’ll support you. We’ll stand by you.” I had given up on myself, but God hadn’t, and I needed to become willing to walk in God’s grace.

Dreams Realized

I had a dream of attending Bible college, and the Lord made it possible for us to go to Briercrest from 1993-97. I wanted to go, but I was also afraid that I might fail, like I had with other things. I remember the first day one of the staff there told me, “I can tell you’re going to succeed.” What an encouragement!

I’ve seen other dreams realized, too. I was diagnosed with diabetes and was overweight. As I got more victory in my emotional and mental life, I also got more victory in the physical. Thirteen years ago I was able to bring my weight down through exercise, and my diabetes is very stable. It has given me opportunities to speak to groups about diabetes and weight loss. One of the best benefits was being able to play hockey with my sons! I now run six days a week and enjoy it.

More From Paul…

“No matter what our vocation, we should be a disciple. Being a pastor or missionary, I’m also a disciple of Christ,” Paul told our workers, as he challenged us with these thoughts:

  • To be a disciple of Christ … I need to know what that is. It’s someone who learns from his teacher. We come “to” Him, then we come “after” Him to be “like” Him.
  • It costs to serve Jesus. Before leading someone to Christ, they need to know there is a price to pay. Salvation is free. Discipleship costs. But it’s well worth it! Jesus isn’t offering us ease. He is offering us victory.
  • We have to make a clear choice. Christ wants to be first place. No man can serve two masters. It may include leaving family and friends. But if I love Jesus more, then I will love others more.
  • A disciple worships at any cost, and he works at any cost.
  • For some of you missionaries, your parents said, “Don’t go!” It is a challenge for grandparents to be far from their grandchildren.
  • To those considering full-time ministry, people will say, “How much will you make? Why would you leave your family?” We need to say, “Lord, what is it you want me to do?” I have to ask myself, “What am I hanging onto? Would I continue to serve if finances are low? … if diseases come? … if there’s no results?”
  • White people brought the Gospel. Now it is up to us (First Nations) to take the Gospel out. But I think we kind of stopped somewhere, just maintaining church. Our (local) church has reached out to neighbouring communities. But we need an ongoing effort, not just an occasional effort.
  • Out of His unlimited resources God strengthens us through His Spirit (2 Peter 1:3).

Adapted from Paul Moses’ messages at NCEM’s Central-Field Conference, spring 2015.

(from Issue #533)