This year marks 21 years since I first heard the good news about Jesus. (For reference, I’ve been celebrating / complaining about Arsenal for longer!)

Like many who come to find Jesus beautiful and believable out of a non-Christian upbringing, I’ve never fit completely into one “tribe”. I’m convinced the gospel is of first importance, that salvation is wholly God’s gracious gift, that the Baptist family of churches have much to offer our watching world, and that old and new confessions of faith beautifully articulate what the Christian life is to be rooted in. After reflecting and meditating on a passage from 1 Timothy 5:17-25 and preaching it recently at Carey Baptist College’s student chapel, I’ve realised that one constant kindness from the Lord throughout my Christian walk has been the presence of least one older couple who have willingly opened up to Cheryl and I their life and family to us in honest and hope-filled ways.

I think it’s significant that in the midst of a whole host of church planting problems, the Apostle Paul doesn’t exhort young Timothy: “Go find a tribe of _____ists to ally with.” Nor does he say “You need to join the _____ed bunch”. And not “Go look for some ______ian Christians to side with.” Rather, through 1 Timothy, Paul tells him to guard the gospel, identify and seek out godly leaders… and then to honour them. “Let the elders who lead beautifully be worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim 5:17).

These past few weeks, I’ve been challenged to keep seeking out older mentors to help me run the race well without bias, hurry, or fear of what others think. At the same time, I don’t often thank those who have laboured in the Word and teaching over the years, so that my soul is full of hope in the gospel for others to glean. Time would fail to tell of all the πρεσβύτεροι who have mentored me. But here are some of them.

Thank you John. From our first Sunday halfway through the book of Ephesians (still my favourite letter), I learned how to enjoy walking through the Word and the beauty of no nonsense expository preaching from you and walking us from “milk” to “meat” in the Bible. You baptised me as a baby Christian, and together with Mihyon helped to lift my eyes and trace the hidden hand of God after losing mum at 19. Nor were you afraid to rebuke me for my youthful immaturity and lack of patience in the tearful ministry of church planting. Grace Baptist Church may no longer be around, but your passion for the gospel and heart for the lost still echoes in me today. And thanks for teaching me to throw an American football the Philip Rivers way!

Thank you Peter. After our first visit to Howick Baptist in 2008, Cheryl and I peppered you with questions about what the church’s position was on a bunch of things as we “reviewed” different churches. Yet in reality, deep down I knew your unflinching exposition of 1 Corinthians that day couldn’t be the last sermon we sat under. We still miss the sermons you laboured to write each week (late into those Thursday nights!), and so appreciate the way you and Francelle still seek to magnify Jesus through the Word each week at Grace Church Nelson.

Thank you Calvyn for taking a young not-yet-married couple under your wing. Your Ephesians 2 sermon was a shock to the oldies but still reminds me not to trash God’s grace even today. Thanks for taking our wedding in 2010, even though it was your first (and last!) at HBC. We love seeing how you and Alice continue to bless others at Whanganui East Baptist. When Paul says overseers and deacons are to be “hospitable“, you’re the first family that come to mind (and not just because you now run a B&B as a “side hustle!”)

Thank you Joe. You and Mandy shared not only the gospel but your whole lives with us through our mid 20’s. You kept pointing us to Christ through every area of our lives. You willingly walked through one of the deepest valleys our family experienced. Hearing Psalm 130 from you that one Sunday still gives me hope today that in the depths of woe, I can still trust in the LORD’s plentiful redemption. What I didn’t realise at the time was that over the years, you kept conveniently “placing” godly people into our paths who would keep bringing up the “have you considered full-time ministry” question (not even conference speakers were off-limits to your schemes!). Yet it was a question that we mostly ignored (that one “dream” aside), until we saw you and your family take up your crosses and follow Jesus to join the Harvest in Rolleston, and finally realised that the labourers were few. It’s a wonderful providence that among the “Foundations” boys who met at your place Sunday afternoons, nearly all of us are now ministry leaders here and overseas. Rolleston Baptist is so, so blessed to have you as their pastor.

Thank you Richard. I learned from you how powerful old-fashioned visitation and prayer ministry was. Thanks for letting me shadow you as an “intern” even when it was mostly us shooting the breeze over a Muzza’s pie or two (contrary to our wives’ health advice). I won’t forget how freely you preached at your first Easter at HBC: “τετέλεσται! It is finished!” (John 19:30) Thank for you for sending us out for ministry, for being a living sacrifice to your wife, and for showing me that the sermon can wait when brothers and sisters need our care. You still never taught me to fish, but I’m glad you’ll have more time to do so now you’re second-in-charge. Enjoy semi-retirement and the granddad years.

Thank you Tim. Our aim was to survive three years in Sydney soaking up everything at seminary, but we left indelibly shaped by your wise and gentle pastoring at Petersham Baptist. You were willing to invest in Cheryl and my life deeply. Yet you were not afraid to call out the “Bible college” hubris that barged into the student pastor sermons you faithfully gave feedback for. The day you lovingly rebuked an error in the middle of community news with the gentleness of Christ I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I caught from you that in preaching, mastering the content AND being concise brings clarity that blesses the congregation. I also learned how crucial it is to think of our most vulnerable at church, and that tone matters just as much as theology when we preach to the weary wounded.

And of course, thank you Albert. You first met me as a troublemaking 17 year old causing cross-cultural havoc at your Cantonese-speaking youth group. Over 20 years of ministry later, you have not given up being faithful to your calling, and I now have the privilege of being a fellow shepherd in the same church family and labouring in preaching and teaching together. Thanks for your trust. To serve together is an honour.


“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

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