All posts by Student of Eastern College Australia

I have a Vision: Mark Ansell

Mark Ansell, Executive Pastor at Gateway Church Frankston shares his vision for the local church.

Way back in 1997 I carefully wrote down my personal vision for our local church (Gateway Church Australia), which had been going for about 11 years by then. Every year since, I carefully place this same personal vision in the front page of each new diary. It has held me in good stead over these many years of doing life and ministry:
mark ansell blog

• I have vision of a Church that is so strong and vibrant that the community around it acknowledges, “something is going on there!”

• I have a vision for a Church that exalts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and is convinced that He alone is the eternal answer to the needs of the world.

• I have a vision of a Church full of committed, Spirit filled Christians who will use every one of their gifts and talents to strengthen the local body of Christ, and who will energetically extend the Kingdom of God in new and fresh ways with the unchanging Gospel proclaiming the great news of Jesus Christ.

• I have a vision of a local Church that is a safe and secure community for children, fractured families, and hurting people.

• I have a vision of a Church that has a leadership that will inspire, teach, model, encourage and transparently live out Holy Spirit filled lives that are bright shining lights to the people they lead, and to all those who are seeking Jesus.

This is my vision.

Insights into Ministering in the Moment

Tony Chandler is family therapist and Eastern College student who has also spent the last four years travelling to Indonesia to assist ministers who are experiencing stress and burn out. Below, he reflects on how Eastern College has helped equip him to be effective in some very real and difficult situations.

My normal work is here in Australia as a family therapist, but over the last 4 years I have also been working with the “Disciplemakers” organisation in Indonesia helping pastors and their families who are experiencing stress and burnout.

Recently I was working on the island of Ambon where fifteen 15 years ago a major jihad terrorised the island. I found that a number of pastors and leaders were still struggling from this situation.
-One of the core aspects that we focus on here is grace, how they interact with students, colleagues, parents and carrying that grace with them.”
While I was there I was invited to preach one Sunday night and gladly accepted the invitation. I prepared a sermon on ‘Mercy” and used the beatitudes from Matthew 5 and the woman caught in adultery from John 8. At the end of my sermon the pastor broke down in front of the congregation and repented of an 8 year dispute with the pastor of another church, which happened to share the same building for services. They had not spoken for years. The entire leadership of the church was called up to the front and I was asked to pray over them. They then left the church and went to the home of the other pastor who used the building on Sunday mornings. They all asked him for forgiveness. He must have been surprised to see about 10 people standing at his front door on a Sunday night!

I was able to get insights on how to minister to the pastors on Ambon because of theological studies I am currently doing at Eastern. The jihad traumatised the people and they are struggling to recover fully. I found that I was able to recall some historical periods where Christians had to deal with persecution and I could apply the theological reasoning of people like St Augustine as I ministered into these situations.

My Journey Back to Eastern

Simone Turner began studying a Bachelor of Ministry at Tabor with her husband in 1998. After some time, Simone put her studies on hold to work full time as a High School Chaplain. Simone then got married, had her first child and together with her husband planted a church. During these seasons of her life, Simone never forgot about her Bachelor course and hoped she would get back to it one day.

As I have learnt, life doesn’t necessarily always go to my plan and I found the years were ticking on and maybe that inspiration to finish my degree was just too far gone. It wasn’t until, many years later, when my husband and I felt it was time to hand the church leadership over and to move into another season of life that I began to wonder what would be next for me. My young dependent children were growing and my youngest was approaching school starting age, so this triggered a new stirring and shifting in me to explore something new. I began to wonder again what it would look like to re-engage in study and tentatively put my feelers out to see what I could find.

For a long time I had wondered what it would be like to be a school teacher and through my work as a school chaplain had discovered a strong drawing to the school community and life. My children being at primary school had meant I could get very involved in this strong connection I felt but I was feeling stirred to explore it deeper. I looked around at other courses, becoming increasingly aware that it was time to get back to my original degree and finish it off in order to move into this next season.

So in 2013, this brought me back to Eastern to start a conversation about what this would look like. I was so encouraged by the willingness and support I felt to re-engage with what I started so many years ago. There were many emails and phone calls that I made, as I navigated my pathway again. It was like going back to an old familiar track that I had walked many years before, but realising that things had changed. It would look a whole lot different now and I needed to forge ahead in a different way. Eastern had moved from Ringwood North, Oban Road to Mulgrave, and my Bachelor of Ministry course was no longer as it had existed.

I am eternally grateful for those who made it possible for me to return to study here. After much consideration, I was enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at Eastern, being recognised for my previous studies, as well as shaping into a new degree. I decided it was time to pick up the books again and began with one subject a semester just to see how it all worked in with my busy, family life. I had a very supportive family and eventually found myself fully jumping in, with a full time load.

“I decided it was time to pick up the books again and began with one subject a semester just to see how it all worked in with my busy, family life.

But this wasn’t the only purpose for being back. God had been stirring within me a desire to study to be a primary school teacher. At first it was a little scary to admit, but it became clearer the more I studied that I was not just here to finish what I had started but to set myself on a pathway that was altogether different than when I originally went to study.

So with the support from many of the staff and students here at this college, I completed my Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Youth Studies, mid 2015 and then jumped straight into the Graduate Diploma of Education (Primary), which I am due to finish mid 2016.

I feel humbled to be at this point and to be here. It has been the most rewarding experience to come back and finish what I started with my studies and I thank God for the unusual pathway He has led me on to this day. I feel excited about what is next. I am enjoying my current studies a lot and look forward to stepping into whatever God provides. God is truly remarkable and I know with all the twists and turns and deepening and richness of faith I have journeyed is in part attributed to what I have encountered through my studies at Eastern.

My experience at Eastern has given me a sharper mind, deepened my faith, given me a rich and widening community and inspired me to be courageous in doing my part to change the world I find myself in everyday.

The Responsibility of Bringing Truth, Justice, Healing and Transformation

This reflection is taken from the Graduation Speech by Jonathan VB at the Eastern College Australia’s Graduation Night in 2016.

I was drawn to Eastern College because it appeared to encourage independent learning and creative thinking, as well as an education that encouraged you to ground your learning in practice. As someone who had at the time served for some 22 years in professional ministry already, I was drawn to the shape of the study, the way I could shape the direction of my study towards what I wanted to research and the encouragement I got to ask hard questions and ground that in practice.

“We have a responsibility to take the gift that we have been

I remember fondly one of my supervisors after conversing about where my thinking was heading. He had a look of excitement and wonder in his eyes and said, “I think you have found a non-traditional answer.” Eastern has certainly delivered in being a place that stretches you and encourages you to think beyond what is traditionally understood and accepted.

Eastern College has shaped us all in ways that I think we will never fully come to appreciate. We leave different people than we were when we came.

As I was thinking about this occasion today, this moment we are all in I couldn’t escape the thought that we are the privileged few in this world that get to enjoy the opportunity to study. Across the many continents of this globe there are more faces than we can take in of people that will never have the opportunity to study and read at the level we have, people that will never be able to dress up in a Batman suit and a funny hat and receive the award that we are today. People in isolation,  people in slavery, people in remote indigenous communities, people in refugee camps, people in slums, people with crippling illness, and people who come to our country to seek this opportunity yet get sent off and locked away in places like Manus Island, Nauru.

As I reflected on what it means to stand here as a privileged minority university graduating postgraduate student, I think we need to take seriously the words of Jesus to his followers in Luke 12:48 when he says, “To whom much has been given much will be expected” or as Eugene Peterson puts it “Great gift mean great responsibilities”.

To myself and my fellow graduates, we have a responsibility to take the gift that we have been given and to whether it be in the fields of arts, aid and development, counselling, psychology, education, ministry and theology or whatever we need to take the Good news of the Kingdom of God in Jesus, to be true tellers, to rage against injustice, to bring healing, transformation into our respective locations. May we not be found sitting in our rooms staring at our certificates on our walls feeling good – may we be found in the trenches in places of darkness and evil in this world bringing light, hope, justice, truth, healing and transformation.

And for that, and in closing, on behalf of the graduating students body today, I extend our thanks to the faculty and staff, for putting into practice your learning, and that in which God has gifted you with and seeking to rise to the responsibility of bringing truth, justice, healing and transformation through the education and nurture of people such as us – may we make you proud and may God bless us all.