It was about 10 years ago, when I was 20 years into my time writing at Matthias Media and editing The Briefing. I had met up with David Jackman at Sydney Airport (for some reason I can no longer remember), and in the course of chatting I made some flippant, slightly self-pitying remark about getting stale by doing the same thing for a long period of time. In his gentle, deep voice, David said something that was both encouraging and the kindest of rebukes: “You know, I think just about the hardest and most necessary thing about Christian ministry is to keep doing the same thing”.
I have thought of his words often. David was only partly talking about my job, although his words did stiffen my spine to keep working hard at Matthias Media. He was really pointing to the unchangeable nature of Christian ministry in whatever form it takes—to patiently and persistently, year after year, keep speaking the biblical Christ-centred truth in love, keep praying for God’s Spirit to work, and to keep loving people and persevering with them.
2020 will herald some changes for me, but I am hoping and praying that it will be a new opportunity to continue persisting Jackman-style in the same old thing.
On January 1st, 2020, I will start a new role at Campus Bible Study (at the University of New South Wales) as a ministry trainer and writer-in-residence. I’ll be spending 40 per cent of my time working on campus, training students and ministry trainees, and the rest of my time writing (as well as doing some speaking and ministry workshops in Australia and overseas).
I’m excited about this new role and mix. It’s well and truly time that I chained myself to the writing desk again, and started attacking the long list of ideas and projects on my “To write” list. (It’s been a lean seven years in that department.) It will also be invigorating to go back to where it all began for me—campus ministry at UNSW—and invest in a new generation of students and trainees. Campus Bible Study is one of the most significant and strategic ministries I know of, and it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to be involved there.
There’s some sadness involved as well, of course: after five hugely enjoyable years as the part-time Director of the Centre for Christian Living (CCL) at Moore College, the work of CCL will have to continue and flourish without me (as, no doubt, it will). Although I’ll still be loitering in the college precinct from time to time as an adjunct lecturer, I will miss very much the daily interactions with students, staff and faculty, plus the fun of working with Karen Beilharz (my assistant at CCL).
Perhaps even harder, after 31 years, I will no longer officially be an employee of Matthias Media. I will still be on the MM Board, and I hope and pray that this new work arrangement generates a much-improved output of books and resources for MM to publish. But I won’t be part of the publishing and editorial team, and I won’t be working daily with Ian Carmichael and the rest of my friends at MM. Perhaps that will be a relief for them, but it will be a wrench for me.
These feelings are natural—the excitement of starting something new, and the sadness of no longer working as closely with long-term ministries and friends. But the most important thing about any new Christian venture, including this one for me, is that it keeps doing the same old thing.
It’s the same thing we should all be doing: speaking the truth in love, in whatever form we can, in whatever situation we find ourselves, to whomever will listen; depending on the Holy Spirit, in faith, in prayer, and in thankfulness; loving and persevering with the people God has graciously given us to work with and to work for; and rejoicing in all that God does through the cracked and crazed clay pots that we are.
That never gets old.