Joel Otten’s Exit Appointment at the beginning of 2019 was to Mandurah Presbyterian Church in Western Australia.
I grew up in the South-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Most of my life was spent in Narre Warren. After school, I was a pool renderer. My main occupation before I entered a ministry apprenticeship and college was concreting. My wife Steph grew up in country Victoria. She lived in Shepparton and its surrounds, and then briefly in Horsham, before moving to Frankston for uni. Steph is a cardiac sonographer (ultrasound on the heart). Steph and I lived in Frankston when we got married.
I became a Christian as a teenager. Growing up in a Christian home, there wasn’t a moment in my life where I doubted God’s existence. However, Jesus wasn’t my Lord and Saviour. My faith was lived vicariously through my parents. In the church I attended, a teenage girl was killed tragically in a car accident. I remember thinking, ‘That could have been me! Am I prepared to meet God?’ It was at that time that I repented of my sin and turned to Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. As regards studying for the ministry, I always felt that God had a call upon my life. I desired to tell others about the salvation found in Jesus Christ alone and equip others to share Him. Its part of the reason why I never was completely satisfied in the jobs I had. However, I didn’t know what type of ministry God was calling me to. I had no idea if I had the gifts or the ability. Rev Bill Medley of Frankston PC asked me if I would do a METRO ministry apprenticeship with him and I thought that was a golden opportunity to test a call to ministry. The rest, as they say, is history.
The most helpful things I have got from my theological education has been a better grasp of God’s unfolding plan of salvation throughout all of Scripture. I think I was too scared to preach the Old Testament at one stage, but through a proper grounding in Biblical studies, many things were clarified. I was also strengthened in my grasp of covenantal, systematic, biblical and reformed theology. I also greatly appreciated Principal Peter Hastie’s commitment to training good preachers. What he taught me about preaching and pastoral ministry was one of the best things about studying at PTC; something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. As regards my ministry experience, preaching in different congregations during the 6 years of apprenticeship and college studies gave me a better understanding of the workings of the Presbyterian Church. It afforded me with the wonderful opportunity to fellowship with God’s people of every different age and background. Some of these experiences and relationships have been a great help to the commencement of ministry in Mandurah.
Steph and I love being in Mandurah. It is a beautiful part of the world! However, there are many people who don’t know the Lord Jesus in this city. There is a great need for gospel preaching, teaching and outreach. There is also a great need for discipleship. Many Christian people have fallen into a ‘church hopping’ mentality because they cannot find good teaching and a solid Christian community. The challenges are great, but our God is greater! As regards approaching my role, I plan to put a lot of time and energy into preaching God’s Word well, praying for His people, crying out to God that He would draw people to Himself in Mandurah and that He would be pleased to use us in reaching the lost for Christ. How all this looks like in practice is what our church is still working through. However, with our eyes fixed on Christ and realizing that He alone builds His church, we move forward with His gospel.