This week, Edwin Ewart, principal of Irish Baptist College, continues his story (you can catch up with part one of the interview here).
We talk about Edwin’s ministry path, with pastorates in several Baptist churches, starting with Letterkenny, in Donegal, then Belfast (Mountpottinger) and Coleraine, before his move to the Baptist College.
As principal, doesn’t see himself as pen-pushing principal (though there is admin to be done), but his greatest joy in the work is its teaching. We discuss some of the challenges faced by Bible Colleges (Edwin is part of the Association of Bible College principals), including the tension between the residential model and the in-service model of training (IBC has a couple of ministry placements – one local and one cross-cultural) as part of the course).
Along the way we discuss preaching (how long should a sermon series run?), the old pastoral chestnut of the extent to which the pastor/minister should have friends in the congregation, and how easy it is to be sure of the will of God in terms of a ministry calling – not least in the context of trying to determine when it’s time to move to a new situation.
We also talk about books: Edwin shares some of the influential books he has read and some of the things he has learned along the way.
Among the early influences, Edwin talks about his involvement in a Baptist youth fellowship and the influence of the church pastor, an early mentor. He also talks about some of his first steps into preaching – delivering epilogues alongside a music group.
He describes the formative influence of his involvement with the Christian Union during his time at university. University years were formative – not least in that it was here that he met his wife, but also because of a significant group of friends.
The opportunity to be involved in speaking that had begun to shape his thinking in terms of a sense of call to vocational ministry, and his pastor gave him strong encouragement to pursue theological training. We discuss the opportunity for leaders to encourage people in this way.
After studying at IBC and entering pastoral ministry, Edwin maintained his contact with the college as a visiting teacher before eventually joining the staff full time.
We talk about the challenge for Bible College students to maintain both an academic approach and a devotional approach.
For your own reflection:
As you listen to Edwin talk about the influence of his pastor, what are some of the things you have noticed about mentors?
Would you describe yourself as a reader? What are some of the books that have most helped you?
Would you agree with what Edwin quotes from Charles Spurgeon in relation to the importance of earnestness in preaching?
What do you make of Edwin’s advice to approach the devotional life with both discipline and variety?
You can find out more about the Irish Baptist College – including the opportunities for study they offer – on their website.
This week’s guest is Helen Warnock. Helen has worked in Northern Ireland with Youth for Christ and with Scripture Union. Since December 2016 she has been Principal of Belfast Bible College in Dunmurry.
In this first part of her interview Helen talks about the kind of work she has been doing in her first 18 months at BBC – a college that is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. She talks about some of the early indicators of leadership (organising street concerts as a child in her local housing estate!) and the family heritage of Christian faith.
She describes her years with YFC, when for part of the time she was responsible for a major monthly youth event in Belfast, how she decided to move to Scripture Union (where she became the first director who was not a Presbyterian minister, and where the first three years represented a steep learning curve), and her more recent move to BBC.
Along the way there is an opportunity to reflect on discerning God’s leading, both personally and for organisations, some thoughts on how a 150 year old organisation can remain as relevant today as it was in the past, and discussion of the role of friends in helping to keep her on course.
For your own reflection:
Helen talks about ways in which experiences on mission teams helped to form some of her priorities: reflect on ways some of your own early experiences of mission or ministry have contributed to where you are today.
In the interview we discuss seasons of events and how to know when it is time to stop and event (even when it has previously been successful): have you any experience of events that may have run longer than they should, or others that have been stopped prematurely?
Do you have space in your leadership to be a ‘thinking practitioner’?
Do you have friends who can speak to you in the way Helen describes her conversations with her friends?
For more on Belfast Bible College, visit their website – in particular you might like to find out more about the new MA that is being launched this year.
In fairness to other Bible colleges where I am also involved, I should mention Irish Bible Institute, and its MA, as well as the Irish Baptist College and its MA: I find myself in the odd, but privileged place of having input into all three MA programmes!