The Dawning of a New Season
One of the many reasons I enjoy living in Australia is because I get to enjoy four seasons in a year (not to be mistaken with Malaysia’s four seasons: rain, hot, hotter, hottest). The change of seasons are always a good opportunity to reflect on the past season and to look forward to the coming one. Perhaps winter was particularly cold for you this year, therefore you pack away your duck down jackets with great anticipation for Spring. Perhaps you enjoyed winter and you’re a little disappointed that the comfortable winter sleep ins are coming to an end. Whatever your feelings may be, one thing is for sure: change is on its way.
Similarly, all of us experience different seasons in life. Depending on circumstances and choices, we transition from one season of life to another. Each is filled with its own set of excitements and challenges, and each are formative to our character and sanctification in distinctive ways.
This has been the case for me as I transition from being an undergraduate student to working as a Ministry Intern at South-West Chinese Christian Church. I’ve experienced and learnt great things, some of which I know I will carry on for the rest of my life (especially some significant character lessons that I’ve learnt about myself). However, like every season, a new one is set to dawn when the time is right.
Such a time has come for me.
Therefore, I am writing this post with great excitement and anticipation to announce that I will be entering a new season of ministry and training. From February 2015, my internship will come to an end and I will become a Student Minister at South-West Chinese Christian Church and begin my studies as a full-time Masters of Divinity student at Christ College – Sydney.
This may come as a bit of shock to you because while theological education is the natural progression from my internship, I did not start out intending on finishing my program within one year and hence my communication so far has always been that I would finish at the end of 2015. Well what happened?
1) Initial Plans
As you may be aware, I began a new season of my life at the beginning of 2014 where I set out to be trained for ministry through our church’s two-year internship program. Simultaneously, I was enrolled in Macquarie University’s (MQU) Master of Arts (Ancient History) program partly to complement my practical training at church and partly because I really enjoy studying history. Therefore, my original plan was to finish both my internship and masters at the end of 2016.
The first 6 months of this combination was incredibly enjoyable (if you’d like details on them, I’ve recorded them under the ‘Monthly Updates’ category of my blog) as I learnt to balance academic study and ministry training. I learnt a lot from both spheres, and not surprisingly, both spheres were mutually informing.
2) Catalyst for Change
All was going well until an unassuming afternoon in June when I caught up with one of our church leaders over coffee. We talked about some reforms that could potentially be implemented at church from the beginning of 2015 due to our steadily increasing size and talked about some strategies that needed to accompany that. Near the end of our meeting, he gave a somewhat throwaway question, asking me why I set out to do a two-year internship instead of just serving for one year. He said that given my previous ministry experience, perhaps it is worth considering fast tracking it instead.
I went away wrestling with that for about a week. I prayed over it very hard and spoke to those who were close to me to get their feedback. This was a period of intense personal and relational dialogue (my special thanks to Sherilyn who patiently listened to me weigh up the pros and cons out loud), and I could see the strengths and benefits of my decision in both directions. There was much to gain by continuing on in my current position but there would also be benefits from taking the next step.
In short, I spoke to Pastor Pete after a bit of thinking and praying to seek his advice on the matter. So he evaluated my internship, talked about my intentions for starting college earlier, and discussed what it would look like if I was to begin full-time study in 2015. After a bit of thinking and praying, Pete agreed that it was a good idea and told me to begin applying for colleges while he spoke to our church’s board of elders. Soon after that conversation, the other pastors and elders at church kindly approached me to hear my thoughts and to see how they could help in my thinking process. Once again, I want to note how gracious they were to me during this entire process. I could not have asked for better pastors and elders to guide and lead me. In all our conversations, I could really see that they had my best interest in mind and wanted to do whatever they could to help me grow in my ministry competence and spiritual maturity.
3) Consequence of Change
Soon after applying for college, I received the following email from Christ College.
If you intend to take up the place offered, we ask that you sign and return the Contract of Acceptance. Please let us know if you should change your mind or are unable to take up the offered place for any reason so that it can be offered to another applicant if needed.
Rev Ian Smith
I edited some of the other administrative details from the email, but I trust you get the point.
College choice was itself a journey and this is probably not the best place to elaborate on that. However, after meeting Dr Smith at his office and spending 1.5 hours talking to him, I walked out confidently knowing that Christ College would be the right place.
After hearing that I had been accepted, Pastor Pete talked to me about ministry for 2015 and suggested that I should consider digging my hands into the new church plant in Bankstown. Because participating in a church plant was always my desire, I smiled and quickly agreed to commit myself to that.
4) What Now?
So what now?
Firstly, I want to thank all of you who have been supporting me in prayer and financial partnership. None of this year would have been possible without it, and I am incredibly grateful for your ‘vote of confidence’.
Secondly, I want to specifically thank my church and our staff for their encouragement through this year. All of you have taught me so much about how I can grow to be a better follower of Jesus Christ and a pastor. A special ‘thank you’ to Pastor Pete for this incredible year. The primary reason I chose to become an intern at SWCCC was because of Pastor Pete and what he had to offer. He has taught me a great deal about ministry training, picked up and carried on a lot of my slack and mistakes, and nurtured me through our victories and valleys. He has empowered me to do things that I don’t think most Senior Pastors would allow their interns to do, and has given me opportunities to explore my own gifts and calling. I’ll never forget him say at my supporters evening in February that he believes that I will be able to do more than he will ever be able to do. Given how much he’s done for the gospel so far, I doubt that will ever be true. But if that ever becomes true, it is only because I stand on his shoulders (that has recently become more solid because of the hours he’s been clocking up at the gym and on the bike).
To my dear financial supporters, I will be sending a simple letter in the mail to inform you on what to do next. Your financial aid has enabled me to serve without distraction and without having to worry about my material needs. Thank you for embodying gospel generosity and for sacrificing your personal needs to meet mine. To my dear prayer supporters, I hope you will continue to pray for me as I embark on this new journey. This new phase will come with a new set of challenges and I hope and pray that God will grant me all the wisdom I need.
5) The Dawn
I hope the short journey I’ve sketched out above gives you a good idea about how things have came to be. This adventure has been extra-meaningful because of God’s provision and because of fellow sojourners like yourself. I hope and pray that I will be able to reciprocate the same kind of positive impact that you’ve had on me.
If you have any questions or comments you’d like to raise, as always, please do not hesitate to get in contact with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts or queries.
Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.
(2 Timothy 4:2, HCSB)