Recently ordained in the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, Brian Luong always knew he had a heart for the gospel. He says, “I’ve always had a desire to serve the church and preach the gospel, but I often felt ill-equipped.” This is his story of coming to faith, growing, being trained and serving in ministry.
From a young age, Brian remembers attending church. As a part of a Chinese family who migrated to Australia from Vietnam, he recalls his grandmother would bring “all the grandchildren along to this little independent Chinese Church in the western suburbs of Melbourne.” This was Melbourne Chinese Bible Church.
In the early years of attending church as a primary student, Brian describes it as lots of fun and games and Bible stories. But a turning point for him was when he was 12 years old. Brian shares, “After Sunday school [one day], we rushed home [to find out]…that my uncle (who was quite young) had passed away.”
It was a devastating experience for Brian’s family and a pivotal personal moment for him. As a part of the Asian culture, mourning plays a big role, but there is no discussion about death. Brian recalls, “from then that made me fear death, [and ask myself], what happens when I die?”
Growing in faith
As Brian continued to grow up, he started attending a youth group run by one of his cousins, John Huynh (now a Minister at Surrey Hills Presbyterian in Victoria). Through youth group, he experienced reading the Bible for himself, week after week. When reading through Mark at around the age of 15, Brian remembers, “I came to realise and see that Jesus has died for my sins and He rose again. It was pretty awesome.”
Over time Brian understood that he didn’t need to fear death, because Jesus had died for him. Jesus had risen to give him eternal life! From there, Brian put his trust in the Lord and began his involvement in ministry.
The tap on the shoulder
After studying Commerce/Arts at the University of Melbourne, Brian moved into work in the finance industry as a young adult. He worked at IBM for 2 years in Business Operations and then at Telstra as a Business Analyst in Finance and Strategy. While he worked, Brian continued attending and serving at Melbourne Chinese Bible Church in the western suburbs. He was heavily involved at church. However, Brian struggled with not having the headspace to think about his place and path in ministry. Moreover, he felt that navigating church life and leading God’s people in a cross-cultural context wasn’t easy.
One day Brian’s cousin John, who had been so instrumental in the Youth Group that brought Brian to Jesus, sent him an email. Brain shares, “he was studying at Moore College. He says [in the email], ‘Brian, I think you should consider full-time ministry’.” Having seen God work so faithfully in him, Brian took this ‘tap on the shoulder’ seriously.
The next step
Over time, as he considered ministry, Brian continued to see a great need in Melbourne for the Gospel. However, Brian describes not knowing what his path should be. “I was feeling ill-equipped but also, I wasn’t sure whether I should go straight into full-time ministry.”
Soon it became clear that the perfect next step was an MTS apprenticeship. Brian shares, “I needed a trainer, an older Christian brother to train me. Teach me, walk with me, pray for me. And [to help me] know if full-time gospel ministry was the right thing for me to do.”
After deciding to do MTS, Brian moved from Melbourne to Sydney to take up his apprenticeship. Having been told about various good training churches in Sydney, he took an apprenticeship up at St Paul’s Carlingford. While there, Brian was trained by Evan McFarlane.
Throughout his two-year apprenticeship, Brian was involved in teaching primary and high school scripture. He taught Prep at Murray Farm Primary School, Grade 2 at Carlingford Public School and Year 7 at James Ruse Agricultural High School. He also ran an inter-school Christian fellowship group at James Ruse, trained leaders, preached at Asian Church, led Bible study, did one-to-ones and more.
Brian says one surprising thing he learnt from was setting up and packing down chairs. He shares, “I remember doing lots of chairs – packing and setting up. That taught me a lot about faithfulness. Every week it was…hundreds of chairs…It was good for my godliness and to build up my character”.
Brian describes doing MTS as tasting full-time ministry in a variety of forms. It whets your appetite to do more and shows you what you need to learn.
From MTS to Moore College to ordained ministry
After his experience being trained in both the theological and the practical by Evan McFarlane, Brian was keen to go to do further study. He recalls one pivotal time after preaching when his trainer gave him difficult feedback.
Brian shares, “I preached the sermon and he just kind of ripped into me. He’s like, ‘really? You said that sort of thing…[He said] the answer is always in the text, that’s in the Bible. So…work harder at the text’.”
After resisting the urge to crawl away and hide, Brian says, “I thought yes, I want to work harder at the text so I can teach God’s word faithfully. That spurred me on to want to do Bible college and want to study God’s word.” So, Brian went to Moore College.
Having completed his study at Moore College, Brian returned to Melbourne. He shares, “I didn’t know where God would lead us, God led us to the Presbyterian Church and that’s where I serve now.” Just a few short weeks ago in February 2022, Brian was inducted into the Presbyterian Church of Victoria to serve as an Associate Minister at Epping Presbyterian Church in Northern Melbourne.
The impact of MTS
For Brian, MTS had a great impact on his work as a minister now. Not only did it lead him on the path to college, but it informed how he thinks about ministry and seeks to work for God. He shares, “MTS really gave me that desire to want to make disciples of Jesus.”
Through his MTS apprenticeship, he was also challenged to see faith as more than just ‘doing things’, but being gracious and like Jesus in how we live and work. Brian describes one particular time he approached his trainer in a mess, struggling with some sin in his life. Brian remembers, “I thought he’d come down hard on me. But he was very gracious, showing me that, God’s forgiven us of our sins and saved us by grace in Christ alone.”
This was just one of the experiences through MTS that really shaped Brian into the worker for Christ he is today. For others thinking about MTS he says, “I think everyone should do MTS.”
“A lot of people don’t do MTS [because] they worry about finances and stuff rather than trust the Lord. We’re worried about those things rather than stepping out in faith and trusting that God will take care of us.”
For Brian, his MTS apprenticeship really shaped his thinking to be all about the gospel. Worldly things shouldn’t stop us from stepping out and trusting God will provide what we need as we do his important work.