With every New Year, new challenges can present themselves, but also new opportunities. These opportunities can come in the form of a new job, a new house or a new community. All of these opportunities have come in 2016 for Ian Altman, the Associate Director for Church Development for the Baptist Association.
Ian was commissioned for this role at the Baptist Assembly in September 2015, replacing Pete Davies. As Ian starts his new role in 2016, Together magazine took some time to get to know Ian and his vision for Church Development.
Ian, congratulations on your new role. Can you elaborate on your new role with the Baptist Association? Tell us about what you do during the week and how you support churches in NSW & ACT?
“My official role or title with our Baptist Association is Associate Director for Church Development. My focus is on the “Healthy Churches” part of our Gen1K vision, which is to see our Association grow to 1000 healthy churches within a generation. This means that a lot of my role is centred around Church Revitalisation and helping churches move to the next level of health wherever a church might be in its lifecycle. Included in this is helping churches discover where they might be in their lifecycle and what the appropriate response might be. We are using the allegory of “the right medicine for the right ailment”. If churches or leaders haven’t seen our new Church Revitalisation resource and lifecycle evaluation tools be sure to visit the Association website for more information.
I am also responsible for overseeing church consultancy, coaching and our network of regional ministers.”
It sounds like a big role to take on, but an exciting one. How did you come to take on the role?
“I can honestly say that it was God’s doing. Carolyn and I were very happy in our current ministry role, we loved the church we were part of and the community in which we were living. I was aware that Pete Davies was concluding in this role. Pete is a good friend and I had journeyed with him through various committees of the Association and as a regional minister. Pete along with some of our leaders encouraged me to apply and I Carolyn & Ian Altman certainly felt a strong call from God to apply for the role, knowing that it would mean leaving a church and a community we loved. As I prayed and reflected I felt that God was calling me to take on a wider influence in our movement, so with the prompting of God and others I allowed my name to be put forward. After a vigorous interview and selection process I was appointed.”
What have you done in terms of ministry before this role?
“Prior to this role I was in pastoral ministry for some 22 years pastoring in Lithgow, Carlton- Kogarah and Windsor. In addition to pastoring local churches I was the Regional Minister for the Western Districts and moonlighted for a while with Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as the Community Events – Australian Coordinator. I have sat on various committees of our Association, chaired the MSD Council and was a part of the inaugural Assembly Council.”
Church development and revitalisation seems to require ongoing visioning, how do you see your role developing over the next few years?
“I think our whole Association is in a developing phase at the moment. There is a growing momentum and it’s exciting to be a part of that. In the short time I have been in the role the Church Revitalisation resource has really generated a lot of connection with churches right across NSW & ACT, I see this continuing for many years to come.
Closely connected to church revitalisation is the growing development of church hubs and to see churches within both city and country regions coming together. What is happening in Western Sydney with Greater West for Christ and in Southern Sydney under Grae McWhirter is exciting. Churches are getting the sense that it is better to work together, we can achieve more and have a great Kingdom impact when this happens.
The areas of Consultancy and Coaching are currently being redeveloped and re-envisaged at the moment. Both these areas will develop over the next few years.”
Ian, how did you become a Christian, and who are some of the people who helped you on your Christian journey?
“I was adopted into a Christian family and grew up knowing about God and Jesus’ love and sacrifice. I always thought I was ‘ok’, a ‘good person’ and because I grew up in a Christian family and went to church and youth group I was a Christian. It wasn’t until I was on a youth camp at the age of 16 where Kel Willis, the speaker, challenged me to commit my life to Jesus. I still remember the camp and Kel’s challenge.
I was standing at the back of the room (that’s where all the cool kids stood) and Kel began to talk about being a real follower of Jesus. Kel began to ask some questions and I started answering them in my head. Kel asked questions like: “have you committed your life to Jesus? Have you asked Jesus into your life? Are you sure that you are going heaven?” I began to answer Kel’s questions with “I think so”, and “I hope so”, and every time I thought of an answer Kel repeated it and said; “If you are saying to yourself ‘I hope so’ or ‘I think so’ that’s not good enough, you can know for sure tonight.” It really got my attention and kind of freaked me out. After that Kel gave a challenge to make a real commitment to Jesus, which I accepted. Weeks later in January of 1985 I was baptised by J B Wilson at Blacktown Baptist Church.”
Tell us about your family; how you met your wife, and maybe share a few significant achievements for your family and as a father.
“I am married to Carolyn and have two children Melina 20, and Bryce 18 and we have been married for 25 years. While I had known about Carolyn for a while we started going out in 1985, I literally knocked her off her feet. We were on a ski weekend with mutual friends and I skied into her and knocked her down! We have been together ever since.
As a father I am immensely proud of my family and their achievements. Carolyn is highly skilled in admin and organisation; she is currently the Executive Assistant for the Director of Ministries for our Association. Melina is finishing a Fine Arts Degree in Photography at the National Art School in Sydney. Melina is already an accomplished artist, and she will continue on to complete her Master’s degree. Bryce is about to commence an I.T. degree at Macquarie University. He is also a black belt in Taekwondo and has held National Taekwondo titles and represented Australia in Scotland. He is currently training at the AIS as part of an elite athlete development squad.
I still remember the day my children were born, being adopted I had never seen anyone who shared any of my features or DNA. To hold my daughter for the first time and to look into the eyes of another person who was actually a part of me was overwhelming. I am not sure that my kids get the same excitement and delight for sharing features as I do, but I am thrilled and inspired by them every day.”
What are some ways that you maintain your faith in everyday life?
“I don’t think you can go past the basics of reading your bible, prayer and reflection on a regular basis. That works out differently for me from time-to-time, sometimes I work through a devotional like Living Waters or Morning & Evening (as I am doing at the moment), and at other times I will work through whole chapters of the Bible. I think that it’s important that we remind ourselves of Jesus’ life and witness regularly and that we make it a practice to read one of the Gospels regularly. Seeing I do a lot of travelling I also listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts. One of my goals is to listen to every one of the sermons by a pastor named Ray Steadman which now available as a podcast from iTunes. I can recommend his series on Romans.”
What are some bible verses and characters that inspire you in your work commitments and family life?
“I love Romans and if I had to choose just one verse as a favourite it would be Romans 8:1 – ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ I also have a list of verses that I carry around with me on my phone or computer that remind me who I am in Christ. I think we need to remind ourselves of who we are in Christ and what we have in Christ regularly; everything springs out of our understanding of our identity in Christ.
When it comes to characters I am drawn towards Peter and his desire to trust and defend Jesus. It was Peter who stepped out of the boat, who was the first to speak up and even draw his sword. I sense that for Peter it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission and I kind of like that.”
What are some of the challenges that you find in your work?
“The biggest challenge that comes with the role is centred around responding to the right needs and requests for help and assistance as well as managing time appropriately. I have quickly learnt that I can’t say ‘yes’ to every request that comes in.
Finding the time to develop new resources for our churches and also find existing resources to share is also proving a challenge at the moment.”
Finally, how can the readers of Together be praying for you in your new role?
“I would value prayer firstly for my family. We have just moved from Lithgow to Eastwood and it’s quite a big change, so prayer that we settle in and make the house home would be greatly appreciated.
We also want to be a witness in our new community and intentionally engage missionally with our new neighbours. If people could pray that we might be a witness for Jesus that would be appreciated. We also need to find a church community that we can be a part of, our desire is to be in the place that God wants us to be. A large part of my role requires me to be in other churches most Sunday’s so finding a community where we can worship and build community might take a while.
For me specifically I would value prayer for wisdom in this new role, that the Spirit would remind me regularly of who I am in Christ and that I would be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in all that I do.”
As each of us face 2016 and all it has to offer, please be upholding the Baptist Association in prayer and support. You can keep up to date with what is happening in the Association on their website www.nswactbaptists.org.au