1. So John, we’ve heard about why apprenticeships are one of many (though crucial) strategies for raising and training Gospel workers. Tell us a bit about your journey in arriving at this space where you want to be a ministry apprentice.
So I have been thinking about doing a ministry apprenticeship at the same time I became a Christian on campus through the university student ministry at Campus Bible Study (which is a Christian student ministry organisation whose primary aim is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and train Christian students for ministry).
From the time when I came to faith to Christ, I’ve had a profound desire to do any sort of ministry. I was followed up soon after by one of the ministry apprentices that worked for Campus Bible Study (his name was Callan Pritchard) and he invested his time equipping me for ministry. Naturally, I came to know through our ministry-centred conversations that he was working for the organisation (and not just doing volunteering work) and that he was doing a two-year apprenticeship with them, where he, too, was being trained by the staff workers to do ministry, with expectations to be further trained to do this on a full-time basis in the future. So that’s how I’ve arrived in thinking about ministry training.
2. I understand that this is something you’ve been desiring in your heart for a while now, and you’ve had a number of setbacks due to life circumstances. What were some of the things that led you to remain persistent in wanting to train for ministry?
Yes, I was zealous and passionate to do ministry and I even wrote up a five-year plan, which was a rundown of what I’d hope to do and accomplish within the span of those years regarding ministry. Within my rather ambitious plans, I planned to work in the secular workforce for only a year, do my ministry apprenticeship at Campus Bible Study for two years at the start of 2018, and commence theological study at Moore in 2020 next year.
Funnily enough, things obviously didn’t exactly go to plan – I’m still working in the civil industry in the present for longer than anticipated and I’ve decided to do my apprenticeship here in my local church at GracePoint. Coming out from this side now, it is fascinating to see where God has been leading me and that despite the consecutive setbacks that I’ve had the last few years since the time I’ve graduated from university, I can still say right now that I have my heart and mind set on being trained for ministry.
But it wasn’t all smooth-sailing for me – those series of setbacks really did make me waver in my conviction to do ministry. Back then, it was a fairly easy task for me to interpret those setbacks as God’s way of telling me that I wasn’t suited for ministry – so at one point I gave up on the ambition altogether and had a wandering period where I began to look for other potential viable careers I could pursue.
I was offered to study a number of different postgraduate courses in allied health that seemed to make promising careers. But for some reason, I think my heart still clung to the dream to serve God as a gospel worker – perhaps God didn’t want me to immediately quench my convictions to serve Him in this honorable calling.
When I reflected on the first few months that I spent attending this church back in 2017 (not serving in any teaching ministry at this point), I’ve always felt naturally compelled to teach the Bible and I just thrived on the joys from seeing others comprehend gospel truths through my informal bible teaching ministry. It has been awesome to see God use me in such a spectacular way to help the young folks here, especially the boys, to grow in their love for the Lord and for them to pour their hearts, minds and body to God’s grand purposes of proclaiming His glory to all the nations through the global spread of the gospel.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt greater joys in life than to see souls saved and to see souls grow in the fullness of the knowledge of our Saviour. Naturally then, I couldn’t think of a vocation that will let me be more hands-on with the Bible most freely than to do full-time ministry. Those joys in serving God in this way has what’s been keeping me going since the time I’ve been thinking about wanting to be trained for ministry.
3. You’ve been at GracePoint for a few years now and obviously you’re wanting to train here from 2020-2021. Tell us a bit about why you think it would be advantageous to train in a local church context generally and why GracePoint specifically.
If you want to be trained in ministry, you will have to ask yourself some of these questions that will inform your decision as to where you’d want to be trained:
– Where do you want to do ministry? Do you want to do pastoral ministry in a local church, university student ministry, maybe even chaplaincy or prison ministry?
– Where can I go to get the best possible training? Are the prospective ministry trainers experienced in doing ministry training?
– Which ministry training will allow you to explore your gifts and see what you are most suited for?
A. Where do you want to do ministry?
Let’s assume two things for the sake of discussion:
(1) you are super keen to do ministry, and
(2) you have scoped out your options and are blessed to know that you will get really good training in any of those options from well-seasoned pastors who are competent in training people for ministry (whether you decide to do your ministry training at a local church, university student ministry, or a primary/secondary school).
Given that case, I generally advise that it would be of great benefit to you if you decide to do your ministry training in a specific context that aligns with your ministry desires. For instance, if you want to be trained to serve in the pastorate, then it makes logical sense to do your ministry training at a local church – if you know what kind of ministry you want to head into, then you will get greater clarity with knowing how to get to where you want to be and what things you need to work on in order to get to where you want to be. If you want to learn how to plant churches, your church pastors will run you through the ropes of articulating the vision for the church, developing your analytical skills of cultural engagement, mobilising people and resources through networking; you will find that you won’t learn many of these logistical components that are necessary to start and sustain a church plant if you did your ministry training in a para-church ministry such as university student ministry.
B. Which ministry training will allow you to explore your gifts and see what you are most suited for?
Now let’s think about this a bit deeper – let’s assume you know you will get good training in all these options, but you don’t know which option to choose… because you don’t really know where to go and you don’t know where you want to do ministry. All that you really know, on top of everything that was said, is that you are super keen bean for ministry. So what are your safe options?
This is where I would think doing your ministry training in a local church context will be advantageous to you, especially if you don’t have clarity with direction as to where God might strategically place you to serve. The reason I say this is this: What is ministry fundamentally about? It is about people. What flavours do people come in? Do they only come in Asian or Caucasian? Are they all in their early 20s? People come from all sorts of different backgrounds and live through all sorts of different life stages, and our primary task as servants of the gospel is to help people see and savour Christ’s glory in every culture and in every generation. And you won’t be able to encapsulate a more holistic view of ministry than within your local church – a gathering of God’s people from all subcultures and ages.
As you may have already heard from Elliot, though I am more adept to university student ministry, I will be exposed to other different kinds of ministry (such as Kids church, Scripture teaching to high schoolers, and potentially cross-cultural ministry) with the intention to expand my horizons of ministry knowledge and practice. This training regime will ensure that (1) I enhance my present strengths, (2) I neutralise my deficiencies, and (3) that I’ll be given opportunities to tap into hidden strengths that have laid dormant prior to starting my apprenticeship. And these exposures to different ministries will give me a more realistic idea of what ministry is actually like.
C. Why did you decide to do your ministry training at GracePoint specifically?
I think, firstly, I’ve learnt more about theology, learnt more about ministry knowledge and practice, learnt more about leadership, learnt more about myself and what I’m capable of doing, but most importantly, I’ve learnt more about the glory of God through my time here at GracePoint than at any other church I’ve been to thus far. So it would be foolish of me, in one sense, to kill the momentum of learning that I have been blessed with so far.
But perhaps the biggest reason for me for why I’ve decided to do my ministry training here is that I think our pastors here really exemplify what the essence of ministry really is, as I’ve been observing them working extremely hard in the trenches of ministry. It isn’t necessarily their great familiarity with the Scriptures or their wealth of wisdom that has caught my attention as per say, (though, of course, nevertheless I strongly admire their wisdom) but more importantly it was their modelling to me their utter submission of their lives in self-sacrificial service to the Most High King and to the people they are serving. Their love and commitment to growing and discipling me and the rest of our community here to grow in our joy for the Lord has convinced me that I should train for lifelong service to the Lord under the supervision of our pastors here at GracePoint.
4. What are you excited about with regards to your apprenticeship?
I’ve mentioned this briefly before, but I’m very excited to get to devote all my time to ministry, pouring my energy into doing what I love the most: kingdom work. It is quite the generic answer but it rings real true; once you enter into full-time work, it is an uphill battle scraping for any leftover time to serve God and his people. So it is great for this burden to be lifted off my shoulders to focus on doing kingdom work.
But I’m also very excited to learn and to be trained as much as I can from Elliot, Eugene and the rest of the pastoral team. I’m going to try and milk every ounce of wisdom I can by picking their brains about Scripture, gospel and culture, ministry practice, discipleship, spiritual disciplines, and a whole bunch of other things that are beneficial for me to grow to be a useful servant for the Lord. But not only that, I will get to walk alongside each of my trainers in their personal lives for me to observe how the gospel is lived out in every practical moment in one’s life.
5. What kind of support are you hoping for as you embark on this 2 year journey?
A. Continue to be in contact with me, whether through prayer or encouragement!
To everyone who has been walking with me on my spiritual journey, I want to encourage you guys to continue being in contact with me – keep being friends with me! Not because I’m feeling lonely and want company, but because we will all need each other to get on with doing kingdom work for the fulfillment of God’s great commission. Glorifying God is a communal responsibility for God’s people.
If we want to make God’s greatness known, we don’t do this alone – our unity in gospel partnership needs to be shown and set in stone.
A few simple ways that you can partner with me in this way is by:
– messaging me how I’m generally going spiritually and what God has been teaching me in my training from time to time
– praying for me as I spend the next 2 years discerning the call into full-time ministry
I’ll be sending out prayer newsletters that will outline some of the things that God has been teaching me, the wondrous works that I see God has been doing in people’s hearts across the span of my time here, and things to pray with regards to my ongoing battle with sin.
B. Consider financially supporting me as I try to make ends meet
Again, to everyone who is present here this evening, I’d also love for you guys to consider supporting me financially as well! I’m blessed to have great support from GracePoint who is paying a good chunk of my total salary already (and thankful that METRO is also sponsoring me with a considerable amount) but I will still need to raise $15000 per annum to ensure that I make ends meet. I really hate asking for support in this way, especially since I can technically support myself if I just continued working in the civil industry. However, I’ve got to preach to myself again and again, that we cannot do kingdom work in solitude; in varying degrees we all need to learn to live on each other’s generosity of gifts, time and giving. So if you can partner with me in this way by financially supporting me, that would be greatly appreciated.
C. Seek my personal holiness for my sake, your sake, and God’s sake
Lastly, this is my encouragement to my immediate spiritual family here at GracePoint in particular (mainly because you guys see me much more often). You guys might have noticed that the dynamic of my friendships with you has shifted perhaps from the time that I’ve started leading more formally and I suspect that our friendships will continue to develop in ways that I cannot fully predict as I undertake this apprenticeship. But despite all this, what I want to ask from you guys is that you will continue to call me out on my sin. I know I can be quite stubborn and unteachable at times, and if there was one thing that I do diligently, it is that I am a fully-certified idiot! I don’t need to train for 2 years to be a bozo, because I’ve been doing it my whole life.
I have a habit for doing and saying some rather outrageous things and my starting this apprenticeship certainly won’t mean these vices of mine will automatically rectify themselves.
So yes, please continue to pray for me, talk to me, financially support me, but most importantly, for your sake, for my sake, and for God’s sake, be bold enough to expose my sin and wrongdoing (whether I’ve said or done something absolutely stupid) so that I may be sanctified to be more like our Saviour. Of course, bearing in mind the Spirit’s work of regeneration and sanctification, my personal godliness matters most for the overall effectiveness of my ministry to you guys and to the broader community of believers, as Robert Murray M’Cheyne famously says: “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.”