‘For the first time, I wasn’t the pastor’s son …’

Josh’s story | God’s power to equip his people

“I was adamant that I would never become a pastor. I grew up as a pastor’s kid. My dad was a Uniting Church minister in Queensland and I saw what it was like for him. I saw the challenges and the toll it took on him and our family.

After school I moved to Cooma, to volunteer at a Christian campsite. I was only 17. I didn’t even have my driver’s license. I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, even though my family’s faith had been part of everything we did. But I was at Cooma and I’d recently become aware of my brokenness. I had a really clear picture of it. I couldn’t be good enough. And then I had a moment with God. My family’s faith became my own. I trusted in Jesus for myself. For the first time, I wasn’t the pastor’s son anymore, I was just Josh. The people at the campsite all went to the local Baptist church, so I went with them and my faith grew exponentially during that time. I fell in love with Jesus and the church.

But I still wasn’t ever going to become a pastor! During my years at Cooma, some people suggested I go to Bible college, and I said no. I said to Jesus that I would serve him in any way he wanted, but not as a pastor. As well as seeing what it was like for our family, I also had a fear of academic stuff. I’d only just made it through high school with the help of my parents. I’m a practical learner.

Then my job in Cooma was made redundant, so I applied for a job at a campsite in Sydney. I drove all the way in my green Toyota Camry. I knew no one, so I went looking for the local Baptist church. It was great. One day, I told the pastor that I’d never read a book but I’d like to read one. He met with me and he started mentoring me. He’s still doing that, 15 years later!

He helped me to process my life and calling. Part of that was the call to ministry. It came slowly. It took ten years till all my excuses ran out … and then I went to Bible college. It was intense, in terms of stress and anxiety. I couldn’t answer the questions in my first exam. I was sitting there and all my years of self-doubt poured over me. I journaled on the exam paper instead of answering the questions and I vowed I’d never do it again.

But afterwards, I remember the Lord’s strong rebuke and grace. He said, “Do not question my power to equip those whom I have called.” It was the last time I questioned it. It didn’t make it any easier, but I realised who was calling me. It wasn’t about me.

I never left Bible college. After I finished studying, I became the student coordinator. I really wanted to help young students in the ways I’d been helped. And now I’m married to Deanna with three kids … and I’m the pastor at Blacktown Baptist Church. It’s been a humbling experience. Some people might say I was a bit of a tornado at first! But I really want to see what God can do with a bunch of ordinary Christians in Blacktown … and with the most ordinary pastor ever.

Two months before lockdown, we’d just starting meeting in a park for church (once a month). It was good, but now we’re online again. That’s frustrating, but I want to listen to God. What is he saying to us right now? I’ve been walking every day and listening to the audio Bible. It reminds me that so much of God’s redemptive story is full of ordinary, sinful, dysfunctional people, like us, who God uses again and again for his glory.

The words to Joshua are key for me: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

It fills me with assurance. Perhaps being courageous in lockdown means remembering that God is fully at work, even now … and his ways are good and right. I want to be part of them!”

Josh’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

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