Not too long ago I marked 33 years since I entered the ordained ministry. One of the things I did was to write one of my professors from my years at Calvin Theological Seminary. I just wanted to thank him for inspiring me so many years ago with a passion for the gospel and ministry in the church. Another one of my teachers at that time, Richard De Ridder, a missionary for many years, had charged us budding ministers to never lose our passion for the gospel and reaching the lost with the good news of Christ. He told us of a former student of his some years back who had a burning passion for ministry while doing his studies, but when he visited him a decade later, that passion was reduced to just a few smouldering embers. I remember that day asking God to help me to never lose my passion for the gospel and to finish my years of employed ministry with the same passion I had when I would begin. By God’s grace I believe my prayers have been answered. I humbly say that my passion for gospel ministry has not waned but continues to increase with each passing year.
I am now in my 60th year and I do a lot of thinking of the next generation or two of godly leaders needed in the church. When my mother asked for her firstborn son, and I arrived, like Hannah of old she literally surrendered me back to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:27-28), sensing that I would enter the ordained ministry. My mom would often say to me, “Jack, you are exactly where God wants you to be – serving fulltime in gospel work.” I wonder today how many moms and dads see and pray for such a future for their sons and daughters. As CRC churches in Australia we challenge this kind of thinking and praying among God’s people. (Read More) We need many more Samuels and Jacks and Susans and Joannes, our sons and daughters, serving for a lifetime in gospel work.
I am writing this blog as I head down to the heart of the Melbourne CBD to visit the new teaching facilities of the RTC (Reformed Theological College). For decades the RTC has trained up gospel workers in Geelong. Men and women have received first rate Biblical training equipping them for ministry in and through the local church. The RTC has also partnered with the CRCA in raising up men for fulltime ordained ministry. This training used to consist of several years of residency in Geelong. Over the past decade RTC has made this necessary training more accessible for students coming from distant corners of Australia. There was the church-based theological education using the BILD material, also known initially as Task3. There have been teaching intensives specifically tailored for the CRCA. Online core courses have been designed and delivered. And now training for fulltime ordained ministry will be available in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, just a short bus commute from Melbourne airport, within walking distance from Central Station.
The trip from Melbourne airport to the Melbourne CBD and return was an easy commute. For a cost of $35.00 the Sky Bus picks up commuters right at the airport and drops them off at the Southern Cross bus/train station which is at the bottom of Burke Street. After a short walk up Burke Street I arrived at 221 Queen Street, the new RTC location in the heart of the CBD, not far from the Victoria Markets. The premises are still going through major renovations, and once completed RTC will eventually occupy the entire 3rd floor of this Queen Street office building. Besides several meeting rooms there are also some offices for RTC staff and lecturers and room for a kitchen and library. RTC will also be able to accommodate larger groups such hosting the annual preaching conference.
Going to this new RTC location was a contrast to the Geelong campus. As you make your way to the Queen Street campus there are crowds of people everywhere, men and women “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (so it seemed). You hear the trams making their way around the city. You smell the freshy brewed coffee from the many cafes that dot the streets. People were mulling around the shops or enjoying lunch at one of the restaurants in the alleyways nearby. You get this sense that things are moving and happening.
On the way back to catch the Sky Bus to the airport I met this street evangelist on a street corner singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and letting people know that Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus Christ, the One who came to secure the salvation of all those who put their faith in him. I respect this man’s courage, passion, and persistence in declaring the good news to all those passing by.
Whilst I wondered to myself the effectiveness of this man’s approach to bearing witness to the gospel message, I boarded the Sky Bus knowing that very soon there will be young and older men and women gathering together at the RTC Queen Street campus being effectively trained to reach our ever-changing world with the claims of Christ. Some will enter the ordained ministry. Others will become leaders in church and society or engage in a lifelong mission overseas. Wherever they eventually will serve, they will be uniquely equipped to reach our secular cities with the never-changing gospel message.
The day I made this trip was the first Melbourne Campus Student Open Day when RTC staff were available to meet with prospective students and their families. Two other such days are planned for in the new year: Tuesday 24 January, 3pm - 7pm and Thursday 9 February, 3pm - 7pm. You might be considering further training for Christian ministry personally or know someone who is exploring options. Mark these days on your calendar and attend one of these Open Days yourself or bring someone with you. Once the building is fully ready there will be a public open day on Saturday 18 February, 1.00pm – 4.00pm.
I am grateful to God for those who invested in me many years ago preparing me for a lifetime of ministry in and through the church. I also give thanks to God that the RTC is committed to investing in the next generations of gospel workers in Australia. As Jesus reminded us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send out workers into the harvest field.” Let us fervently pray that God will use the RTC to multiply the workers needed.