It was through God’s family that John Brackenbury found Jesus.
It started with his immediate family. As a child, he was taken to church by his mum each week, and quickly developed a love for learning things there. However, this learning was mostly head knowledge and didn’t hit John’s heart until he was a teen.
At 15 he attended a camp run by Presbyterian Youth and heard talks from the book of Exodus. The speaker was Russ Smidt (now MTS Director of Training).
John shares, “He explained from Exodus just who God is and how He goes about rescuing his people and what he’s like. And part of what I saw was that God wasn’t somebody who I could trifle with or entertain as a side thing. He needed to be taken seriously and so I did, more or less from that point on.” The link with his now ‘MTS family’ through Russ is a clear show of God’s great providence.
Fast forward through school and into university where the idea of a ministry apprenticeship was first raised for John. He describes being about halfway through his degree when a few staff members at his church, Campbelltown Anglican, encouraged him to consider ministry.
John reflects, “For a long time that was just a little niggle that was easy to say ‘That’s a later problem’. I think I had a metaphor of, ‘I’ve got lots of cards on the table and that’s one of them, but it’s not at the front of the table, and I’m not about to reach for it and play it right now.’ So it stayed at the back of the table for a long time.”
The world’s greatest need
From university John went into an internship, then a graduate program before landing a permanent role in Risk Management at a bank in 2019. He reflects, “There was a sense in which everything ‘landed’ and I’d gotten somewhere. I could see what this kind of work was like and thought perhaps I could do this for the next 40 years. At that point I knew what I’d be missing out on if I gave it up.”
God continued to convict John that there was a different path as he worked in corporate. Prior to starting at the bank, his cousin Josh had recommended City Bible Forum to John, so he checked it out.
City Bible Forum runs training, networks and events to help workers have the confidence and joy to stand out and stand up for Jesus, especially as bible sharers. Initially, John attended the lunchtime Bible talks, before joining the Headstart network in 2019.
He says, “It was really impactful for me. It’s a young workers ministry, particularly for uni leavers who are going into full-time work to navigate that transition and to help them not only to see how Jesus makes sense of the 9 to 5, but actually to grow into ambassadors and agents of God’s work in their workplaces – that means sharing the gospel.”
In 2023 John started as an apprentice at City Bible Forum and is working in the Headstart network closely with others walking the same journey he did after leaving university. He trains under Mark Leong with help from Grace Huang.
Taking a considered step into ministry
There were many steps between John engaging with City Bible Forum as a worker and making the decision to become an apprentice there.
After Jason Veitch joined the team at Campbelltown Anglican in 2021, in early 2022 he asked the question again of John, ‘Have you ever thought about ministry?’
John recalls, “I said, ‘Ah you’re the twelfth or so person to ask that, but the short answer is not really. I don’t know how to think about it – can you help me?’” Jason and John spent time chatting through different barriers, questions and doubts and triggered more conversations. John then started to meet 1-1 with another staff member, Simon Twist, as well as having conversations with his now trainer at City Bible Forum, Mark.
During early 2022 while these conversations were taking place, Campbelltown had a visit from the late Karen Darda, a long-time CMS missionary. At her deputation evening, John asked a question of her that gave him more clarity than anticipated.
John shares, “I asked ‘You’ve been overseas for 30 years, so what does home mean to you?’ And she gave a great theological answer which was ‘Home is in heaven, home is never on earth. So that’s where my peace is in.’” While John had heard that from many people, it had never rung true like it did when speaking to Karen.
From his mother, to Russ, to Josh, to Karen – God was pulling the threads of family and fellowship to draw John to him as a child, and as a worker.
As the year progressed John decided to do MTS in 2023, eventually landing on doing it with City Bible Forum.
Supporting workers to be evangelists
John’s main work as an apprentice involves Headstart. Headstart runs on Monday nights in the Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane CBDs and elsewhere simultaneously, connected virtually.
Through his involvement with City Bible Forum as an attendee and now apprentice, John has been blessed to see God working to adopt people to sonship, and to use them to reach more of the lost! He is especially excited by how God is bringing adults into His family, as we know it is more common to become a Christian before 18.
John tells one story about this sharing, “‘When people become Christians as adults it’s really special. In the past few years I’ve seen a guy my age become a Christian and then come to Headstart to meet more Christians. Now he is trying to share Jesus with his Muslim work friends at the bank.”
Another story John shares is of a young woman who is also an adult convert. She came to Christ in her early 20s, has endeavoured to share Him with her friends (sometimes with tears), and now in her mid 20s is thinking about doing a ministry apprenticeship. He says, “Seeing the life cycles of people around me, and walking with them in big decisions as they live for Jesus, is really exciting.”
In addition to planning and running these evenings, and spending time with some young workers 1-1, John is still connected with and trying to share the bible with workers in his former workplace. Evangelism is the heartbeat that John continues to tune into.
When asked why it’s worth supporting MTS, John shared, “We all want to see the Kingdom grow, and so we need gospel workers at scale. Nobody is doing what MTS is doing at this scale. The need is great and there are few strategies that I think are more worthwhile.”
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