In the second instalment of our series on the ups and downs of studying theology, we interview Wendy Lin. Wendy studied at Moore Theological College, graduating in 2002 with a BTh. She is married with three school-aged children and she views her home as her primary ministry. Her husband is in full-time ministry to university students, and together they co-ordinate the marriage & parenting ministries at their church in Adelaide.  She also gives Bible talks and seminars to women’s groups, and is involved in several ministry-wife networks.     

TGCA: Can you tell us about your life before studying theology, and how you ended up at college?  
I worked as an environmental scientist after completing a BSc.  My husband and I were both considering ministry when we met, but the decision to plunge into full time ministry was hard to make, mainly because of the busyness of his job. When our minister suggested taking a ‘gap’ year to study at theological college, we both knew this was the way to make a more informed decision.  We enrolled in the 1-year Bible and Missions Course, but kept our options open for further study by doing Greek.  It became clear over that year that we loved studying God’s word in depth, were excited about serving Him full time, and so both decided to continue with further study.

TGCA: Were there any life experiences before college that you think were particularly beneficial?
In many ways I was young in age and young in the faith when we went to college. I completed two ‘PTC’ courses prior to college, which started to open up the excitement of studying God’s word in more depth.  While we didn’t work in the secular work force for long, we both feel there was benefit in having jobs prior to college, to understand in a small way what the majority of our congregation members do for many years. 

TGCA: What were the high-points and low-points of studying theology?

The main highpoint was studying together. Being able to study in the same areas at the same time meant we grew together significantly in our understanding of God, His word and His world, and it was formative for our first five years of marriage. Aligned with that was that we both invested in friendships in our year group, especially as we lived on campus for the whole four years. The fellowship opportunities through bible study groups and women’s fellowships, and the connection with lecturers and their wives, were also foundational as we thought through what being a ‘ministry’ wife’ might look like for me. 

Overall we loved it and there were very few low-points. It was learning curve to realise my husband didn’t want to sit next to me every day in lectures (why not?!), and we had to negotiate space for both of us to study effectively in a small house.  It did knock my competitive spirit a bit, realising just how much more academically skilled my husband was than me, but that wasn’t a surprise!

TGCA: Do you have any particular lessons from (or regrets about) your years at college?
While I think we’d do it the same way again (considering our circumstances); I probably would have benefitted from more ministry experience prior to college. Having watched friends, and later colleagues, complete a Ministry Apprenticeship prior to college, it meant they ‘hit the ground running’ much more once they completed their theological education.

We threw ourselves into college life: we lived on campus, we spent time with our year group, we especially enjoyed getting to know the single students, and I went to all the events for women that were offered. We wanted to soak it up and learn, and I’m glad we were able to do so together.  

TGCA: Were there any surprises?
Not really – perhaps we didn’t have many set expectations going in!

TGCA: How has studying helped you love and serve Jesus? 
Studying opened up the Bible at a whole new level. I could see it held up to scrutiny, was able to be understood, and yet still mined for further depth and clarity. It was a time that helped me establish daily habits of prayer and Bible reading which have stuck ever since. Studying also gave me the confidence to dive into areas of service that I would have felt otherwise ill-equipped to do. 

TGCA: What factors went into your decision to study where you did?
Moore College was highly regarded and all the people we knew in ministry had studied there and recommended it. We were from Sydney, so it was an obvious choice, especially as we started study uncertain as to where it would lead. 

TGCA: Do you have any advice for people who want to go into ministry but aren't sure whether they need to study theology?
I can’t speak highly enough of the skills and knowledge gained from study.  The intense time of academic learning, combined with living in community with people just as sinful as you are, yet the ability to learn from those who are older and wiser, means you are honed in a way that would otherwise take years. 

For me, who never intended my study to lead to paid employment (and it hasn’t), it has equipped me immeasurably to be able to serve in areas I wouldn’t have thought possible.  It laid the groundwork to be able to write & lead bible studies better, teach the word publicly, and branch out to new areas of ministry (such as writing marriage courses and marriage preparation materials).  I’ve invested time into developing resources for others, such as devotional materials for families, and numerous book reviews for those with less time (found at www.musingsinadelaide.blogspot.com).

Of course, those skills can be learned in other ways and I know many faithful laypeople and minister’s wives who have not studied and are very capable in the same areas.  But for me, it paved the way to find ministry areas where I could serve and contribute. I am so thankful I was able to study. 

TGCA: Are there principles you would suggest for those working out where to study?

I can see the pros and cons of most choices. There is wisdom in studying in your own city where one day you hope to minister, as it maintains and develops connections—and some have the desire to stay near family.  On the other hand, moving for study can provide new experiences and a wider view of the worldwide church. 

There are also practical considerations – the quality of education on offer, the cost of study and living expenses, the type of ministry you want to be trained for and therefore the pathway you may need to follow (eg. for ordination or missionary service). 

Having been in Adelaide 14 years, we’ve seen people leave to study interstate and overseas, and also those who stay and study locally, and for each we have understood and supported their decision. Studying God’s word in depth is a marvellous privilege – if you can, do it!