Tradie swaps his rags for gospel riches

MTS is celebrating 40 years of multiplying gospel workers through ministry apprenticeships.

John Delezio was 40 when he decided to sell his high-rise window cleaning business and embark on a four-year apprenticeship to learn how to do Christian ministry.

“I’m a tradesman, and at the time I had been running a business of my own for about five years. I was quite happy doing ministry during the week, running my business and doing three subjects through the Vocational Bible College at night,” Delezio tells Eternity.

“I was encouraged to look at doing a blue-collar ministry apprenticeship, so I considered that and probably dove head-first into it without fully understanding the ramifications of running a business, going to college and doing ministry more full time.”

One year later, he sold the business and began the long journey of raising financial support for his ministry apprenticeship.

Having worked in factories for 20 years, Delezio wanted to use his time as an apprentice to reach out and build relationships with workers in factories and their bosses, in the hope that he could share Jesus with them.

“It took a while for people to work out we weren’t selling anything – that we weren’t there to Bible-bash them or anything.” – John Delezio

So he went door to door in an area of southern Sydney where there are a lot of factories, asking the bosses if he could visit once a month and get to know the workers. According to Delezio, most of the bosses were happy for that to happen and were pretty welcoming.

“So over the next year or two, I just kept on visiting those factories once a month, building relationships with people and growing the ministry.

“We focused on listening really well to people and then speaking into their lives as they gave us opportunity. It took a while for people to work out we weren’t selling anything – that we weren’t there to Bible-bash them or anything. But we were very upfront with the fact that we were Christians working out of our local church to try and reach into the community and allow people to have better lives,” says Delezio.

“The expectation when I get up each morning is that today is a day where I can share the gospel with someone.” – John Delezio

Because of his factory chaplaincy, a few years ago Delezio was asked to start up another chaplaincy programme at the Royal Easter Show for the carnival workers there. What began as one service on Easter Sunday morning has since grown into daily chaplaincy services as well as two church services.

The blue-collar ministry apprenticeship is one of a suite of ministry apprenticeships offered by the Ministry Training Strategy (MTS), which trains gospel workers to see the world won for Christ. This year marks MTS’s 40th anniversary.

The brainchild of Phillip Jensen (and later Colin Marshall), MTS was founded in 1978 at the University of NSW. Jensen saw a need for many more gospel workers if all Australia was to hear the gospel. The first four ministry apprentices were trained the following year.

Since then more than 2600 apprentices have been trained through MTS, nearly half of whom are engaged in some kind of ministry work.

A celebration was held on Saturday June 16, between 4-7pm at the Roundhouse at the University of NSW – the place where the first MTS ministry apprentices were trained.

Delezio is now employed as a Missions pastor in a local church and a high school Scripture teacher. He says he has many more opportunities to share the Christian message now that he is engaged in full-time ministry.

“The expectation when I get up each morning is that today is a day where I can share the gospel with someone, or encourage them in the gospel to become more mature in Christ. That’s what I wake up with, and I go to bed praying about those opportunities. I think that’s the really good part of it. The expectation is that now this is what I do, and I’m given licence to do that, and it only happens with God’s help.

“The organisation (MTS) as a whole has Christ at the centre, and its goal to create more mission partners through apprenticeships is so good. I think our world would be at a loss if we didn’t have MTS.”