How did you become a Christian?
I was brought up in a Christian family. My parents were medical missionaries in the South Pacific and taught me about the Christian faith. However, when I was sent to boarding school in Australia as a teenager, I rejected the faith.
Six years later, as a young man, I was involved in a serious car accident where I was totally at fault and where two other people were seriously hurt. This accident made me face up to my sinfulness. I then began to attend church functions again and was reminded of my need for Jesus.
On the night before my eighteenth birthday, I brought my previous life before God, asked for his forgiveness and wonderfully experienced the free gift of being made right with him through Jesus.
You were the National Director of Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students for several years and were responsible for turning it around for the better. Can you tell us about that? What was it like when you inherited it and what did you do to change it?
Subsequent to being ordained in the Anglican church, I began to work as a staff worker for the AFES in Sydney. Within 18 months, I became its National Director (although in those days we called it the ‘General Secretary’).
The AFES was struggling for a number of reasons.
First, it had become weak in its understanding of the gospel and a commitment to the priority of evangelism. Second, it had become weak in its commitment to strong evangelical theological commitments. Third, it was more committed to a methodology of ministry than it was committed to making sure that effective ministry was carried out and students evangelised and trained for ministry.
During the eight years in which I was National Director, we worked hard at persuading people that we needed to correct these things.
First, we reinstated the priority of evangelism and began training people in it. Second, we made sure that all our members understood core theological convictions and their implications. Third, we totally revised the way in which we did our ministry in a way that would mean that we could much more effectively accomplish our stated goal of reaching students for Christ and training them for a lifetime of gospel ministry.
In God’s grace, this work has been extraordinarily blessed by God. The two National Directors who have followed me continued to implement the changes we made and the AFES is now one of the largest national parachurch organisations in Australia.
More importantly, it is gospel centred and many people are being won to Christ on campuses in Australia. In addition, it is producing many young men and women for ministry both in Australia and overseas.
Have you ever done secular work? How did that shape you as a Christian and a Christian leader?
Yes, I’ve done secular work. When we were church planting in Perth, I worked fulltime as a network and systems engineer for an IT company. This experience helped me to see that sharing your faith as a Christian in the workplace is not as hard as I had thought it might be. It also helped me to see the importance of living an integrated Christian life. You are under the microscope when you are openly Christian in the workplace and that means you need to be godly and also to be ‘prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15).
Working in secular work also helped me to see not only the opportunities but the pressure that is on people both in terms of work and morals. It changed my preaching because I came to experience what most of my congregation experience every day. I think that I was able to apply the Scriptures better than I had before.
Anyone who knows your ministry will know that you are committed to expository preaching and training preachers in expository preaching. In fact, you have been very involved with Langham Preaching in Asia. Why the interest in expository preaching?
When I became a Christian, I learnt to love God and his Son. I also fell in love with his word because it led me into a deeper understanding of him and his Son. However, the church in which I was converted largely had sermons that were topical or that just used the Bible to springboard to something else that the pastor wanted to talk about.
Then I went to theological college and for the first time, I heard the Bible explained systematically, expositionally, and in a way that reflected the theology of the Bible as a whole. It blew my mind.
I realised that when expository preaching is done well and combined with biblical theology, it can be a critical tool for explaining the gospel to those who are not yet Christians and also for ‘equipping the saints for the work of ministry’ and ‘building up the body of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:12). So, I began to explore how I could do this myself.
Since expository preaching has transformed my ministry and since my own experience of preaching was the deficient one that I experienced in the church where I was converted, I wanted to teach others how to do it. It is one little way in which I think that I can help God’s church around the world. It’s been my privilege to do this now in Australia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Chile, the UK and South East Asia.
What did you do your doctoral studies in and how would that help in the training of future preachers?
Since I’m fundamentally a preacher in my gifting, I wanted to explore how to preach from the Old Testament in a way that was sensitive to biblical theology.
This involved exploring just what the term ‘biblical theology’ means and how it should (and should not) be used in preaching. My particular focus was a man who has written much on this topic, Graeme Goldsworthy.
My goal was to help me understand just how it is possible to interpret the Old Testament in the light of gospel of Jesus Christ and then how to preach from the Old Testament in a way that not only took the Old Testament seriously but also exposed how it fitted into God’s great purposes in Jesus.
I did this work not only for myself. I wanted to help others do what I wanted to do—preach well from the Bible. I think that this will be a great asset in training future preachers. After all, isn’t this what we want our pastors to be doing?
Tell us about your family and what they think about the possibility of this new college?
As I said above, I’m married to Heather. We’ve been married 40 years and we have two married sons and six grandchildren. We have only one remaining parent, Andrew’s mother, whom we try and visit in Australia regularly as she is now nearing the end of her life.
Heather is active in ministry herself. She is an able evangelist, preacher, and trainer of women for ministry. She is also doing doctoral studies in Old Testament and teaches Hebrew at ETCAsia as well as co-teaching some of the advanced Old Testament units with Andrew. Previously she was a senior women’s staffworker with the AFES in Melbourne. She is enjoying the new opportunities for ministry in Asia and regularly preaches at women’s conferences and is involved in training women in ministry.
Our children are Christians and love supporting Christian ministry. They are therefore very supportive and love the idea of this college and think that it fits well with us. However, there will be a cost for them and for us in the separation that has come about as a result of our move.
What experience do you have ministering in an Asian context?
While I have not led a church in an Asian country before, lots of Asians come to Australia to study, and I’ve ministered to many of them as I’ve encountered them throughout my ministry.
I have also spoken numerous times at conferences in Singapore and Malaysia over the last 20 years for church camps, Project Timothy and the Klang Valley Bible Conference. In addition, my involvement in Langham Preaching has allowed me to minister in several countries in Asia.
On a more personal note, I also have a Singaporean daughter- in-law thanks to my son! While it will still take some adjusting moving to Singapore, I’m confident I’ll be able to minister just as effectively in an Asian context as I have back in Australia.