Growing In A Greenhouse
Now that the two-year college ministry residency is coming to a close, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. I can say with honesty that these past two years have been the best years of my life. That is not to say they’ve been the easiest two years, but the best nonetheless. Mere months before the residency started, I got married to my beautiful wife, Charlotte, who is also a co-laborer in the college ministry. That brings up my first reflection, working in the same ministry as my wife.
A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about working the same job as their spouse, but our experience as college ministry residents has been a tremendous blessing. We’ve been given the amazing opportunity to get front row seats to watch each other grow as disciples of Christ and ministry leaders. As awesome as it is to grow and learn alongside each other, it is also very sanctifying. Working closely with any team and especially with someone you live with is a sure-fire way to have your own sin revealed to you. That was definitely true for me. However, it was a blessing because God showed me areas in my life that I need to grow in. He revealed some logs in my own eye, which was painful but helpful.
Going into the residency I was expecting to be an extra set of hands on the college ministry team helping them with whatever they needed. I was perfectly ok with that. However, I quickly found out that the residency was more about my development and the development of the other residents than just being an additional staff member. While the residency is a full-time staff position, I felt more like a teammate or a family member than an employee. Also, the colle ge team is just incredible. They have honestly become my best friends and I’m so blessed to have gotten to work alongside them pushing back darkness and furthering the kingdom of God. The amount of intentional time and resources poured into us residents was really humbling. The best way I can describe my time in the residency and seminary program would be growing in a greenhouse. Just like a greenhouse, I felt like I was placed in an environment that was intentionally crafted to provide the optimal conditions for growth and development.
As for the seminary portion of the residency, for me, it’s the cherry on top. I love school and researching stuff and writing papers, so I’m a little biased. Despite my enjoyment of learning, the seminary program at Mercy Hill is a unique blessing for our whole church. It’s constructed in such a way to promote effective theological education while being in full-time ministry. It’s amazing to see how the conceptual things that we learn in class are being used in practical ministry applications almost simultaneously. I have one key example that highlights this point.
One of the fall semesters we were taking the New Testament 2 course. In that course, we were slowly going through the letters of Paul. While we were learning about Colossians, our professor introduced the letter with some background information about the historical and cultural context of the city of Colossae and the churches Paul was planting in Asia Minor in the 1st century AD. Our professor was explaining that the spiritual opposition and false teaching that was plaguing the church in Colossae was most likely some form of Gnosticism (an ancient heresy that taught incorrect doctrine about the divinity and humanity of Jesus among other things). While that is an interesting fun fact to memorize for the midterm, it was hard for me to see the practical ministry applications for this historical cultural information. However, because I was involved in college ministry as well as theological education, I had an opportunity to use this seemingly unrelated information to relate to someone who was struggling with committing to Jesus.
A friend of mine that I had been sharing the gospel with for years at UNCG was slowly coming around to the idea that the Bible is true and he needed Jesus to save him from his sin. This person needed all of his questions answered and all of his qualms satisfied before he could commit to something as life-changing as trusting in Jesus to be the lord of his life. He came to the conclusion that the way that the Gnostics (of all people) view the Bible and Jesus was the way he wanted to believe. The Gnostic line of thinking is very non-committal and doesn’t teach that faith in Jesus is the only way to be made right in the eyes of God. Using my new knowledge of Gnosticism from class and how the book of Colossians confronts that faulty line of thinking directly, I helped my friend see Jesus and the gospel in a new light. After studying the book of Colossians with my friend, I noticed a drastic change in his heart posture towards the gospel. He finally realized that he needed Jesus to be in control of his life and Jesus was the only thing to mend his broken relationship with God.
This story highlights the fact that the residency didn’t just train and equip me, but it also has affected real people in a meaningful way. There are so many more stories like this one all made possible by the residency and seminary program at Mercy Hill. If you meet a College Ministry Resident please ask them to share a story with you! I feel fully convinced that the residency and seminary at Mercy Hill has prepared me to make kingdom impact in any avenue of life that God places before me.
– Josh Malloy