Ministry without Limits: Reflections on Vocational Ministry

by EU Graduates Fund

Full-time ministry was not my goal coming into a ministry apprenticeship.

This is a sentence which you probably don’t read that often. Yet this was my perspective coming into it at the beginning of last year. I am now well into the swing of things in my second year as a Howie (apprentice), and truthfully full time ministry is now a significantly more viable option for me.

At the beginning of my apprenticeship I had lived overseas and attended small rural churches for work. I had the vision of being trained as a lay person in the church, realising both the opportunities we have here and the need for trained and equipped Christians in smaller churches in Sydney, Australia and beyond. I hope to share with you some realisations that I’ve come to over the past year – in part from experiences gained as a Howie that have lead me to think more intentionally about vocational ministry.

One of the things that I have come to learn and appreciate through training as a Howie is the richness and unplumbable depths of God’s Word. Every week as Howies we spend time being trained together in theology in addition to our individual training and the training we do with students. While growing up in a Christian family, I felt that I knew all the Bible stories, and understood what they meant. In reality, I didn’t have the bigger picture of biblical theology to show me how they all fit together and point us towards Jesus. Spending time trying to explain that glorious picture to students week after week is making me realise how little I actually know about the Bible.

I am reminded of an illustration from John Webster’s ‘God Without Measure’, which we looked at in staff training a few weeks ago as we considered the Doctrine of God. Webster writes that God is like an ocean and we only know him by the tide hitting the shore, where the tides are the working of the Son and Spirit in our world. Yet the ocean is so much more than just the waves hitting the coast. The Bible, like God, is a never-ending treasure and resource that we are only scratching the surface of. Until we come to spend time in it, we don’t realise just how deep it is.

I want to go to Bible College to spend more and more time in God’s Word as a result of being a Howie – and that is a beautiful thing.

Another reflection is that we are exposed to so many different types of ministries in university ministry. We have invaluable opportunities to try out things that are not as possible (note: not impossible!) in a congregational setting. Over the past year I’ve met dozens of people serving in a huge variety of ways, ranging from housing commission ministry, to full-time evangelists, to indigenous pastoring, to overseas work. I think that I knew these ministries existed before, but becoming a Howie enabled me to interact with them on a regular basis alongside students, seeing what and how they serve the Lord.

Personally experiencing that vocational ministry is not restricted to a church context has made me re-evaluate what it might look like for me. After being a Howie, my future may end up more down the vocational ministry line than I had envisioned before. I hope that some of my students may have the same reflections.


Chris Tompkins

Second Year Howie

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