I do not know when God called me to salvation, and I am content with that because, whenever it was, my election has always been certain and sure. So the when of my calling is not so important to me: the fact of it is everything. Nevertheless, in God’s providence, the people of St John’s Asquith were instrumental in the path that led to my salvation, which I’ll always cherish and for which I’ll always be thankful.
Somewhere in 1987, in Year 4 at Mt Colah Public School, I wanted to become a Christian. I’d been baptised at St George’s Mt Colah as a child, but I was from a non-Christian home. It was a grace of God, then, that the weekly SRE Scripture classes at school had always held my delighted attention, and the truth of the Scriptures was never in doubt to me. I was taught variously by the then minister of St John’s and his wife, and by Mrs Dallinger. I’m sure she was young once (!) but my memory of her was always her walking (tottering) to the school with the knitted beanie and the push trolley. Outwardly frail, but with such an inner treasure; I can’t wait to meet her again in glory!
After one of Mrs Dallinger’s Scripture classes, I grabbed the one church-going friend I knew. I said I wanted to be a Christian, and he answered (as best he could): do I know Jesus, and can I pray to him? Yes, and yes! I had no idea who Jesus really was, or his significance, but I have prayed each night since then.
With Year 7 came a change in school (Asquith Boys) and a different sort of Scripture class. Even in my unformed state I knew I wasn’t being taught the Bible like I’d been used to. So I snuck into my parents’ bedroom to pilfer my mum’s KJV from the back of the wardrobe where it was hidden, and started to read the Bible for myself. I didn’t really know much about the Bible, despite having the conviction that it was God’s word and I needed to listen to it. So I did what any sensible person does when reading a book: I started at the beginning. Genesis, Exodus… Leviticus. I think I made it to the book of Joshua before giving up. I started again in Year 8 and made it to 1 Samuel. It was 2 Kings in Year 9.
That experience had several profound impacts on me. The first was that I grew very conscious of my sinful state before God and my inability to obey his word. Effectively, I was a student of the Old Testament law, and while I might have made small changes in secret (checking my clothing to be of one material; giving up bacon!), a certain despair crept in: I was unable to live up to God’s law. The second was that I never read the New Testament, and therefore never read about Jesus. There is grace in the Old Testament – abundantly so! – but it’s grace-in-hope, and I had not yet met the fulfillment of that hope.
It was at this point that the existence of St John’s Asquith came onto my radar, although the ministry of the church had been there all along. Late in 1992 (in Year 9) I was invited to a youth group of St John’s. What school Scripture and the lunch-time group failed to provide, it nevertheless gave the means for someone to invite me to come along to youth group. One of the youth leaders, Scott Lincoln, invited me to church. And I never looked back.
The youth group went through ‘Seven Basic Bible-Studies’ (now called Just for Starters). To hear of grace, forgiveness, faith, all in Jesus! It wasn’t until January of 1993, however, that I realised what I’d already come to believe during that term of youth group and had believed for some time.
That January of 1993 was the first ever KYCKStart (now KYCK) in Katoomba. For whatever reason, Scott Lincoln couldn’t make it, and so I was able to take his place. When the Saturday night evangelistic talk came around, and people who wanted to give their life to Jesus were asked to stand and come forward, I didn’t, because I realised I’d believed the gospel for a while now. But in God’s providence, the youth leader and I walked back to our group’s accommodation together. Over that next half hour I was able to chat about these things and pray with him, with the realisation I’d been a Christian for some time.
St John’s Asquith was my church family for over nine years, from which I headed into full-time ministry. It’s impossible to summarise those years, and their formative significance for me, so I’ll highlight just one:
Having been in ministry for 20 years, what strikes me is how often people talk about training the laity; St John’s didn’t talk about it so much as actually do it. Gordon Lincoln, the minister, taught the full PTC course, and, through that, raised up a large team of lay preachers and service leaders – of which I was one. I completed my PTC as I was finishing Year 12, and Gordon graciously allowed a very young man to preach and lead. He gave space for lay people to grow.
In God’s grace, so much happened through the youth ministry I was privileged to oversee: the growth in youth, the subsequent formation of Young Adult Bible study groups, the development of so many equipped youth and young adults, and such deep roots for ministry that so many of these, now scattered, are still passionately serving wherever they go.
It’s so humbling to have been used by God as a part of that growth. Consistent for me since then – aside from God’s goodness of course – is the passion and priority instilled when I was at St John’s: to teach, train, pastor and equip laity for works of service; and to open the Old and New Testaments for churches to see the treasures within. To God be all glory.