First Year Reflections — Tim Houston

Monday, 16th November 2020
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My name is Tim Houston, I am 24 years young and I live in East Belfast. My hobbies are somewhat eclectic and include playing basketball, drumming, learning Romanian and reading. I am delighted to be a new member of the Irish Baptist College class of 2020, the ‘unprecedented year’.  In what has been a year of uncertainty for many I have been extremely grateful for the certainty which God has given my wife and me regarding my theological training. Previously I studied Theology and History at Queen’s University but felt it left me ill-equipped for Christian service, which is where God seemed to be directing me. I worked at a board games café and then at a building society for a couple of years respectively. I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences, but always had a longer-term goal of Christian ministry in mind. 

Working as a part-time intern with my own church, Mountpottinger Baptist, and subsequently with Letterkenny Baptist Church in Donegal, played a crucial and formative role in my life. The pandemic curtailed our time in Letterkenny, but the valuable time spent there increased my passion for serving God and his people in the local church. My wife, Claire, is in her final year of a medical PhD specialising in cystic fibrosis research. You can imagine the battle for desk space in our home! Claire was perhaps the strongest influence on my decision to apply to the College. We had planned for my theological training to start next year, but the uncertainty of so many things this year gave us a strong desire to start sooner. My church have encouraged me tremendously in the decision and throughout the years I have appreciated the preaching opportunities afforded to me there, and their prayerful and practical support.

I recently preached a sermon on 2 Timothy 3:16–17 where Paul commends the Scriptures to Timothy because they thoroughly equip the man of God. People have asked me why I wanted to study more before seeking full-time ministry. The short answer is I want to be more equipped. I do not mean that I think studying more will mean I will have all the answers and there will be no surprises or failures in ministry. It is more like this: no military general sends his soldiers into war without making sure their training is complete, that they are adequately prepared for at least the things they can anticipate in battle and are hopefully better prepared for responding to unexpected challenges too. That’s why we must keep learning.

The Irish Baptist College has impressed me considerably. The College is committed to deepening our zeal for God’s Word, but also enhancing the practical skills needed for Christian service. Our tutors have significant ministry experience which enhances their teaching invaluably and in this way their lectures are both personal and relatable. From day one of induction week, the priority of maintaining our individual, spiritual growth has been affirmed. In a relatively small learning environment students do not feel isolated, but rather are part of a community of brothers and sisters who pray, laugh and study together (not necessarily in that order).

This is a controversial statement and might meet some disagreement from my classmates, but I have particularly enjoyed learning Greek! I am more apprehensive about how I will take to learning Hebrew, but I have decided to stick with both languages for the long haul and have no doubt they will prove useful in sermon preparation. Also, the Biblical Theology module has been enjoyable thus far, with a welcome concern for the primacy of Scripture and upholding its authority. I am thankful to God, my family and my church for longsuffering support as I start my studies at IBC and to the College for its devotion to theological instruction, pastoral care and spiritual formation.  

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