Ministry is not a one-size-fits-all path, and this is certainly true in the case of Lionel Windsor, whose ministry training and gifting led him down a different path than most: teaching in theological education.
Growing up in a family of atheists, Lionel’s only connection to Christianity were the Scripture classes at his local primary school. When he was in year 6, the message of Jesus changed his life through his Scripture teacher that year, Mrs Round.
Mrs Round, who also taught at Lionel’s high school, gave him a Christian book written by the British pop singer Cliff Richard. His mum read the book and became a Christian as well! Lionel also found out that his sister had become a Christian through Mrs Round. Soon after his dad began following Jesus too.
Setting his heart on things above
With an interest in computers and maths, Lionel started studying electrical engineering at the University of New South Wales, specialising in solar energy. He says:
“I went to uni as a Christian, not thinking at all that I would be a Christian minister, but I was challenged by MTS apprentices who asked me what my aim in life was.”
These apprentices exhorted Lionel to apply the Apostle Paul’s words in Colossians 3:1–2: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
With these verses firmly embedded in his heart, Lionel considered how he would devote his life to things above. He began finding ways to get involved in ministry while at university, particularly through evangelism and Bible study leading.
A worker and then an apprentice
After graduating, Lionel began work for a solar energy research company. Initially, he told his company that he might leave to do MTS in a few years’ time, but they didn’t believe him!
Nevertheless, within two years and much to the surprise of his colleagues, Lionel finished up with the team. He began training as an MTS apprentice through Campus Bible Study (the ministry of UNSW) and its partner church, UniChurch.
As an introvert, Lionel found MTS an invaluable experience as he learned how to spend good time with people in ministry while also navigating his own need for rest and solitude.
He reflects, “That was really good for me. It helped me to learn about myself and my own tolerances for things and how I could set up for a lifetime of ministry, knowing my limitations. But it also really set me up to learn that ministry is about people. It’s not just about the theory, it’s about bringing God’s word to people.”
Considering training people in theology
MTS gave Lionel a strong foundation with which to head off to Moore Theological College to study as an Anglican candidate (preparing for ordination in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney).
The questions that had come up again and again during his apprenticeship were questions Lionel was able to think deeply about and explore answers from God’s word while in fellowship with others.
After college, Lionel was thrilled to become the assistant minister at St Michael’s Anglican Cathedral in Wollongong, under the leadership of Sandy Grant. During this time, however, various people from college were contacting Lionel to encourage him to consider further study:
“People were encouraging me to consider whether full-time theological education could be an option, a specialty for me being involved in ministry. When I got close to the end of three years [at Wollongong] I was encouraged even more by people, including Sandy, to think about whether the particular gifts I had in ministry could involve training people theologically.”
Plans confirmed by God
Initially, Lionel decided to start a Master of Theology while working half-time in his parish. But then a scholarship became available to relocate to the UK to do a PhD. Along with his wife Bronwyn, Lionel began to seriously consider whether they could make the move. Lionel recalls:
“We had three children at the time: myself, my wife Bronwyn, and our three kids. To think about transplanting ourselves for three years to the other side of the world: it’s very expensive. We prayed about it and said, if this is something that God wants us to do then we’ll ask for the funding and for it all to fall into place. And if that happens, then it looks like with God’s grace, that’s what he wants us to do.”
Lionel began fundraising, an important skill he had learned during MTS and was able to put into practice. With God’s help, they had a faithful group of partners in the gospel who enabled them to raise the required funds!
The family packed their bags and headed to the United Kingdom for Lionel to complete his PhD. Upon their return, Lionel worked in a church ministry role for a couple of years before taking up a position at Moore College as a Lecturer in New Testament.
Who should consider training people in theology?
Teaching in theology can be a wonderful specialty for those considering vocational ministry. It’s a role that generally requires high academic results, some experience in on-the-ground ministry, and the ability to be strong in your understanding and communication of God’s word.
Lionel explains, “You don’t necessarily need the kinds of skills which might be required in a senior minister. It allows you to have a good balance; we get to spend quite a bit of time just reading and writing, putting lectures together, as well as spending time with people. There’s certainly a pastoral role here and it’s quite important.”
Opportunities to pursue research
Through his background in academia, science and research, Lionel has been able to pursue numerous research ventures. His book, “Is God Green?”, published in 2018, was an opportunity to bring together seminars he had presented during MTS at a UNSW mid-year conference.
Recently, Lionel was able to speak at a Youthworks seminar on what Romans has to say about identity. He is eager to continue researching in this area, and to explore the biblical view of identity as compared to our world’s view, which is generally presented in sexual terms.
It is also a privilege for Lionel to work with the Moore College Priscilla and Aquila Centre to consider how men and women can partner together in ministry, based on the models presented in Romans 16 and other parts of the Bible.
Advice for those keen to study theology
For the person (perhaps the one reading this!) who loves Jesus, loves the Bible, and wants to head to theological college as soon as possible, Lionel shares some words of wisdom about training:
“At Moore College, we’re not just learning the Bible, we’re training for ministry. So if you do something like MTS (and are involved in ministry and evangelism beforehand), it will help you to see what ministry is all about. Then you can come to college and find out answers to the questions that come up in ministry, rather than just satisfying your own curiosity.”