My journey to here
Ps Simon Moetara
Ps Simon Moetara is recognised as a teacher on our FiveFold team. As such he helps to prepare and encourage the church to do God's work as we all grow in unity and maturity as disciples of Christ.
‘How did I end up here?’ Reflections on my ministry journey.
Although I grew up in a church-going family, it wasn’t till I was 19 and starting university that I committed to following Jesus personally. Someone invited me to a pot-luck meal with a small group from a church, and I had no idea what to expect. These Christians seemed nice enough, but some of it seemed a bit weird. However, I couldn’t deny the beauty and Lordship of Jesus, so I began attending Eastside Apostolic Church in 1991 (now called Activate), and I’ve been here ever since. I was baptised here, married here, had each of our 3 children dedicated here, and in 2007 I was ordained as a Minister in the ACTS Churches Movement here.
As I reflect on the journey to this point and consider the hand of God upon my life, a few thoughts come to mind …
As I look back, I see I took the opportunities God presented to me that outworked my passion - no matter how small they were. I loved reading and learning about God’s word, and discovered I also enjoyed sharing this with others. I was nurtured as a new Christian for a while and then took the step to begin leading Bible studies in my flat. In the mid-90s I joined the GO (Gospel Outreach) teams that would head out from ‘Eastside Apo’ to lead gatherings at churches around the country in towns like Murupara and Putaruru. Sometimes there were only 5 or 6 people in attendance but I didn’t care about the size of the crowd, I just wanted to be faithful in using the grace and gifts God had given me. I would think of Jesus’s words in Luke 16:10 (GNB): “Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones.” Another key principle for me at this time came from a verse I learned in the language of the New King James Bible my Nana had given me: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10). I learned to serve God wherever an opportunity arose and let Him pave the way forward.
Being faithful in those small matters led to other opportunities. I accepted an invitation to teach an ICI Christian doctrine course “Cornerstones of Truth” on Sunday afternoons. That first class
had ten people and I loved it. I was then asked by some senior leaders if I’d consider teaching theology and biblical studies for a course created to train and release Māori leaders within the Apostolic movement at the time (the Te Akoranga initiative). Soon after I began teaching Theology at Vision College in 1997, eventually moving from part-time to full-time and was there for over 25 years. I’ve since had opportunities to share in many different environments and have endeavoured to be faithful to God through it all.
Realising gifting and grace.
As I grew closer to God, I learned more about who he had created me to be and how he had wired me.
I remember completing a spiritual gifts questionnaire early in my Christian journey and was quite surprised to find I scored highest in the category of teaching. It was described as “the ability to understand and communicate the Christian faith so as to make truth clear to others.”1 Even though we don’t want to be put in a box or make excuses for not changing or growing, I have found these kinds of tools helpful for learning more about how God has wired me. These exercises helped deepen my relationship with God and encouraged me in stepping out to help others.
The encouragement of leaders.
I remember very early on, sharing with a pastor about some stuff I’d learned about the first chapter of John’s Gospel. I recall him looking at me very seriously, then saying, “You should be in Bible College. You should be teaching theology.” I turned away, shrugging his words off, awkwardly dismissing them. ‘Who, me? Please …’ But I still recollect the weight of his words.
Key leaders along the way continued to see something in me and call it out, encouraging me when I was small in my own eyes. Ps Graham Wilson was a wonderful counsellor who journeyed with me through so much. Ps Phil Underwood was instrumental in encouraging me in my fledgling days as a teacher. My first Principal at Vision College John Baker (who asked me to come and teach theology), and the Heads of School Christine Harding and Brett Bennet, were wonderfully supportive and encouraging colleagues who walked the talk of Christian faith with gentleness and integrity.
The support of God’s family.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I think the principle can also be applied more widely; it has taken a village, a vast community across time to help form who I am as a man and as a leader.
When I first became a Christian, Stu and Jane Phelps were my cell group leaders. Stu was an incredible leader and big brother in those early days (he would later be best man at my wedding). Glen Tupuhi was an elder who helped me during a difficult time in my life and I’ve appreciated his friendship over the years. My wife Rachel has been an amazing support and encourager. There are so many who have celebrated with me in times of joy and sat silent with me in my tears of grief. So many Christian brothers and sisters who have encouraged me, challenged me, prayed for me, championed me. I wouldn’t be here if wasn’t for them.
I always enjoyed reading and learning, but there came a time where I needed to formalise my learning. I engaged in graduate and post-graduate studies in theology which stretched me and helped to fill the gaps in my understanding and knowledge. I also engaged in research and was able to have some work published. It was always a bit scary stepping into something new, but in that place of being stretched, God always met me and was faithful.
So how did I get here?
Ultimately, by the grace of God. David sings of this with delight in Psalm 37,
“The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
(Ps 37:23-24 NLT).
The Message Version says verse 24 like this: “If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; God has a grip on his hand.” This gracious God took hold of me, with all my apprehension and immaturity, and despite my shortcomings, He has worked in me and through me, His Spirit constantly leading me and empowering me. Through the ups and downs, the valleys and the peaks, God loves us and wants to walk with us and guide us through every moment of our lives. I am truly grateful.
I pray you too will recognise the grace and gifts God has placed in you, and that you would recognise the opportunities He is giving you to learn, discover and grow into who He has created you to be. I pray that you would know the encouragement and support of God’s family around you, and that you would take courageous steps with a God who delights in you and in every aspect of your life.