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7 Questions with Andy Collins
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Jonno White
7 Questions with Andy Collins

Name: Andy Collins

Current title: Pastor

Current organisation: Blackheath Baptist Church

Married to Melissa.we have 4 children: Aiden, Ben, Chloe and Zac. I also have a son, Toby. Saved spectacularly in 1996 while I was a ranger with Armidale NPWS. Called to the mission field in 2000 (never got to Indonesia). Spent 4 years at Morling College and became an accredited Baptist minister in 2004. Was CEO Of Berowra Gatehouse, a community outreach, from 2002-2004. Served at Newtown Mission from 2003-2015, then moved to Blackheath Baps, where I currently serve as pastor.

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1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?

The tension between my desire to engage in actual face-to-face pastoring of the entire flock under my care, whilst being caught up in the demands of church management and decision-making.

2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I was working as a ranger in Armidale NPWS and had an amazing job. I felt that my faith was starting to wane, so decided to spend my lunchtimes in prayer at the local Catholic Cathedral. During these times, I felt a really strong desire to pray, "Lord, I'm only a ranger. I'm not sure how can you use me, but I'm available". That next Sunday, a speaker from Australian Baptist Mission Society was speaking at our church. She mentioned an unreached people group in Buton, Indonesia, and how ABMS was seeking to reach out to them via "ECOTOURISM"! I could do that, I thought. In a very short time, I had left my job and moved to Sydney, where I started a year's study at Morling College. During that year, there was some intense persecution of churches in Ambon, which is close to Buton. The speaker from ABMS who had spoken at my church in Armidale told me that they were no longer able to send me to Indonesia. She shared with me that she had always sensed that her job was only to get me to Sydney, but that God would show me what he wanted me to do once I was down here. I decided to continue study. In a very short time after this, I visited a church in Darlinghurst and felt very strongly that the Lord was calling me to inner city ministry. During this time I visited Newtown Mission. I fell in love with the place immediately, and served as pastor there for nearly 15 years.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

COVID has really wreaked havoc on the structuring of my days. At th emoment, my day starts by attempting to get our 3 older children to school, as my wife leaves for work quite early.

Once they leave, and weather permitting, I will occasionally try to go for a short walk to get some exercise. I also use this time to pray for the church, and will also listen to encouraging sermons. On these days, I will start work at around 10-1030am, and they often coincide with days I have night meetings.

When I get to work, I'll start the week with a prayer meeting. On other days, I start by working through the new emails and Facebook Messenger, as well as working through my "To Do" list. The rest of the time is taken up meeting with people I've spoken to on Sunday, as well as regular weekly or monthly meetings. I rarely take any breaks whilst at work, and will usually only eat while travelling to somebody's house for a visit. I try and get home around 6pm to eat with the family.

2-3 nights a week, I will have an evening meeting, usually arriving home between 9:30-10pm. If I don't have an evening meeting, I'll watch a bit of TV, mainly to spend time with the family. I try and turn in between 10:30-11am.

4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

"Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free" by F.F.Bruce. In 2004, at the end of my first year in full-time ministry, I was under severe stress and got shingles. It got so bad that I had to move in with my in-laws to get away from the stress of inner city living. I couldn't do anything but read. I picked up this book. I was deeply convicted by Paul's constant desire to "know Christ". I could see that I had stopped working out of my relationship WITH God, and was relying on my knowledge OF God. When I told this to my then-senior pastor, he made the comment that I was just admitting what 90% of pastors won't admit. I made a decision there and then to never let that happen again. It is a principle I value deeply to this day.

5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

There is a prophetic edge to pastoral ministry. I have found that what God allows to happen in my life is often for the benefit of the congregation I serve. It makes me more empathetic. As I share how I wrestle with my circumstances and continue to trust in God, I see that the lessons I have learned are often very helpful for others to discover how to persevere as they go through similar struggles. Of late, this has particularly been in the area of spiritual battle.

6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?

I firmly believe in mutual accountability. I make myself accountable to my eldership in particular, especially when it comes to sensitive and important decisions. I never assume God works only through me.

Also, no leadership decisions are made in a vacuum. There's a unity to be upheld even when dealing with a diversity of issues.

Every ministry is important, and we need to be aware of what others are doing.

A big one is dealing with difficult issues immediately and not burying or ignoring anything. I stress to our leaders that they shouldn't take things too personally, especially when they deal with difficult people or complicated issues. They are simply representatives of the church, called into their particular roles by the church. They speak to people on behalf of myself and the eldership, with our full backing.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?

In 2006, when I returned to my church after getting shingles, it seemed the entire church was in shambles. By this time, we'd also lost both our senior pastor and my fellow associate pastor. I was effectively doing the job of 3 people. We had a large meals and welfare outreach ministry to the local community, but the facilities we used to cook, prepare and store food were broken or outdated. The hall we used for our meetings was also dilapidated. I remember vividly hearing the Lord say to me one day, "You don't have because you don't ask".

We made the decision to close down all of our activities and spend an extended time in prayer and worship of our amazing God, Jehovah Jireh. In a short time, it was as if the heavens themselves were opened up. Food was (and continues to be) provided in abundance. The hall was completely fixed, painted and carpetted. We received a new walk in freezer, stove and fridges etc etc. Everything we asked for was provided. What was even more exciting was that the Lord also provided a incredibly gifted pastor, who oversaw this vital ministry for well over a decade. I don't think we'll ever fully know how fruitful this ministry was this side of eternity.