It’s with mixed feelings I sit here tonight at the lap-top reflecting on the fact that tomorrow is the last day of the school year. It’s the summer holidays. But for me, it’s not just the last day of the academic year – It’s my last day as a school teacher at Portree High. In fact, technically, it’s my last day as a teacher. As of next week, my family and I are leaving the Misty Isle, and its wonderful people, and heading to pastures new in Dunblane (Stirling). From here on I’ll be studying at Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS) as a Ministry Candidate for the Free Church of Scotland, whilst being employed by Dunblane Free Church as a Church Worker. It’s a sad time, and it’s an exciting time. Sad because we will be leaving a place that has been home for us for the last six years, but exciting because we are heading into the next chapter that God has for us.
From a vocational point of view, I’m really looking forward to my studies at ETS. In the first year I will be studying New Testament, Greek and Systematic Theology. I’m looking forward to this because whilst I graduated with an Honours degree in theology from the Scottish Baptist College in 2007 – because half of my degree was in youth work studies, there are gaps – so I’m looking forward to addressing some of these gaps.
Also, one of my frustrations in the last few years has been struggling to find the time to study whilst doing bi-vocational ministry. When half of your time is in the secular job, and the rest of your time is doing ministry, and you also have a family to invest in – there is very little time for in-depth study. I’m looking forward to the two days a week that I’ll be spending in Edinburgh sitting under quality lecturers and accessing the treasure trove which is the Free Church Library. Over the last few years, as the Lord has been stirring my heart towards the call to training and preparing for gospel ministry, the following scripture has been significant:
“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10)
I’m also incredibly grateful that the Lord has opened up a door for ministry in Dunblane. I’m grateful that the Free Church of Scotland is developing new approaches to mission, ministry and training. I’m an ‘incomer’ to the Free Church, and I come from a church background that emphasises spiritual gifting, anointing, and experience over and above theological training and ‘Ordination’. Having come to appreciate the Presbyterian way of doing church, I am incredibly grateful that the Kirk Sessions of Portree and Dunblane; the Presbyteries of Skye and Wester Ross, the Mission Board and the Board of Ministry have explored and supported this new ministry arrangement in Dunblane. I’m looking forward to partnering with God’s people in such a beautiful part of Scotland. Scenically, Skye is a hard place to compete with, but the areas around Perth and Stirling have their own dramatic beauty.
It’s an exciting yet daunting time. It’s a time for stepping out of the comfort zone. A time for leaving the comfort of a job I love, enjoy – and do quite well; a time for stepping out of the place of financial comfort as I resign from teaching, and sell our house; and it’s a time for stepping out of social comfort as we leave Portree and the people we have come to love and know over these last six years.
However, it’s good to remember that there are various seasons in our life.
In 2001, a few years after becoming a Christian, the Lord opened a door for me to become involved in youth work. I loved it. To me, it was the greatest job in the world. I could never imagine myself doing anything else. However, the time came to take the leap and transfer into teaching. Again, it was a time of risk. Schools made me feel claustrophobic. The institution made me nauseous. However, I caught the wave – or did the wave catch me? — either way, I quickly fell in love with teaching. George Steiner once said, “The calling of the teacher. There is no craft more privileged.” In many ways this is true – the joy of working with pupils is fantastic. However, there is a higher calling – and that calling is the call to preach the gospel. Charles Spurgeon once said, “If God calls you to be a minister, don’t stoop to be a king.”
In many ways, I’ve been haunted by the call of God for years. In the same way that the educational institution made me twitchy, the same is true for the institution that is church ministry. I’ve always preferred ministry on from the edge. The institution that surrounds ordination, ‘The Ministry’, and so on – has always seemed a little daunting. However, I trust that same God who led me into youth work, and who went before me; and the same God who led me into teaching, and who went before me – is the same God who is leading me into ministry and goes before me. I was encouraged by this quote from my Principal Teacher, in the speech she made at my fare-well lunch, “”It is not great men who change the world, but weak men in the hands of a great God.” Well, isn’t that the truth? How did the Apostle Paul put it?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:9)