Cultivating convictions to reach the lost overseas with Jon Ullrich

The design for doing an MTS Apprenticeship is to develop the character, conviction and competency of men and women considering gospel work, and to give them the opportunity to ‘try’ full-time ministry before going on to the commitment of theological study. One apprentice whose experience doing MTS gave him not just the taste of ministry but the conviction to be a harvest worker is Jonathan (Jon) Ullrich. 

Jon and Michelle Ullrich

The greatest need is Jesus

Jon grew up in a Christian family and heard the gospel many times at church and through kid’s programs. It wasn’t until Year 5 however, that God worked His grace in Jon’s life. He reflects, “I always looked for acceptance through what I did rather than what Jesus had done. That was always a struggle. Grade Five was the turning point where I accepted him as both saviour and Lord. And then it’s been an ongoing journey since then to live in light of that reality.” 

After primary school and then high school, Jon moved to Ballarat to study paramedicine at university. There he got involved in uni ministry, attended camps and was given opportunities to lead in various ways. Jon shares, “I was encouraged to think about doing a ministry apprenticeship through some staff workers there. So I prayerfully considered that.”

Jon finished his studies and went on to work in nursing paramedicine for two years. Throughout that time he kept going along to MTS recruiting conferences and considering the possibility of gospel work with the help of trusted mentors. He says, “I was processing the question if vocational ministry was something that I could do and how I could use my life for God’s kingdom. The MTS apprenticeship even after those years seemed like a really helpful next step.”

His work in health also helped grow his conviction for how people need to hear about Jesus more than anything else, so in January 2021 Jon left work and started a joint ministry apprenticeship with Ebenezer Presbyterian and AFES student ministry in Ballarat. 

Jon shares, “I did roughly half a week at each. My primary trainer was Toby McIntosh who was the pastor at the church. I also did some studies doing the Timothy Partnership Certificate as well. In the church setting, I was involved with hosting a small group and leading that with my wife, Michelle. I did some preaching, and then the big responsibility was trying to start a cross-cultural ministry in the church sphere. In the university sphere, I was involved with the evangelism team and regular discipleship at training and camps.”

The AFES university ministry staff team with Jon’s AFES trainer Chris Angel, with Jon and Michelle

From MTS to College to the world

After MTS Jon and his wife Michelle, who also did MTS, were convinced of vocational ministry and looking to a future in global mission. This directed their path to Sydney Missionary Bible College (SMBC), where they are currently studying. Jon and Michelle are doing a Masters of Divinity, and after graduating they hope to head to Central or Southeast Asia to engage with the majority religion there. 

Jon says of his study at SMBC, “Seeing God’s heart for the nations throughout all of scripture, and seeing the nuances of the big story of scripture particularly in the Old Testament has been really helpful. We’ve discovered more motivational incentives to share Him with the lost and knowing how to help other people see God’s heart for the lost and the nations has been another highlight.”

Another benefit of studying at SMBC and being embedded in the community of the college is how being with people of similar convictions has been able to challenge and spur on Jon and Michelle in their thinking. 

MTS was also a gift for Jon and Michelle in thinking about going into global mission. Jon reflects, “We were given the opportunity through discipleship, and through different ministries, to be able to start up or be tasked with testing how well we fit in doing a ministry to other cultures.”

They were able to ask themselves, ‘What were some of the challenges?’ ‘What were some of the things that we needed to think about more?’, all through the safe training environment of MTS.

Jon’s primary church-based trainer Toby Mcintosh and his family, with Jon and Michelle

Jon says, “That helped as we came into college. Having some of those questions on our minds. It also influenced where we studied. Because it gave us a better sense of what we might be preparing for afterwards. I think MTS was a real gift of God in that, in that way.”

To those thinking about ministry, and about whether MTS is a good first step Jon says it’s a wonderful opportunity. The process of working on your convictions, competency and character are extremely significant and were big things for Jon. 

He shares, “I grew in all of those areas in quite significant ways. You do have quite intentional discipleship under a trainer, more so than what you may get at college. For me, it also helped me to answer the question of ‘how I can use my life for the kingdom?’.”  

A huge lesson from MTS that Jon has taken into college is that the work of changing people is God’s work. Jon says, “God changes people, not me. That was a big takeaway. In some discipleship relationships, I felt that I had too much of a focus on what I did or didn’t do, and it helped expose that in me. It helped expose perfectionism in my character and bring it to the surface so that I could begin working on it.”

For Jon and Michelle MTS helped them form their convictions, develop their character as faithful and humble workers for Christ, understand their strengths and weaknesses and consider how they fit into ministry context in the future – and much more.

Pray for Jon and Michelle as they continue their time at SMBC and eventually prepare to move into overseas mission. 

If you’re considering doing MTS and want to know what to do next, contact us