Training for my Life’s Work

.It was 1956 and I was working as a trainee Bank manager in the Australia & New Zealand Bank in Adelaide, South Australia. The prospects looked good with the ANZ as I seemed to gain favour with the Branch Manager who assured me of a secure future in Banking and suggested I start doing a Bankers Institute Course. However a strange unsettledness (which later in life I came to realize as a means of  God’s leading) came over me which I thought was boredom.

I had only been working for two years and wondered why I should be so quickly bored with banking. One night when I was attending a Christ Ambassadors Missionary service at the Franklin St. Church Adelaide, where my father was Pastor, I was watching a 16mm film by a Dr. Oswald J Smith from the Peoples Church in Toronto Canada.He was preaching on the subject of “A Passion for Souls“. I remember him using a phrase which stuck in my mind. “Why should anyone hear the Gospel twice before everyone has heard it once”. 

There and then I felt for the first time a certain stirring in my heart which I now know was a call to serve and do something meaningful with my life. I rededicated my life to God and made a promise (Vow) to the Lord, that I would not allow myself to be distracted in any way until I knew exactly where & what my future destiny (the path of life) would be in service. With that in mind I resigned from the Bank much to the disgust of my Bank Manager who was grooming me for greater things and applied to go to Bible College. I was just seventeen.

In January 1958 as I walked across the tarmac at Adelaide airport to board the Ansett-ANA Convair to Brisbane, I felt overwhelmed with a sense of joy & couldn’t wipe the smile of my face. The fact of leaving the security of family and home and going to Bible School somehow seemed to give me the feeling of  the beginning of life’s adventure. My best friend Ian Scannell was with me, he was the base singer in our male voice quartet and we were going to take our talent to Queensland. Three other young men from our local church also joined the exodus to Bible College, Bob Bootes, Norm Millburn and my older brother Andrew Evans.

In our first year of Bible College our male voice quartet was quite a novelty and opened doors for us. Prior to coming to college we had recorded our one and only vinyl  gospel record in 1955 which to my knowledge was a first in Sacred Gospel recording by an Australian group. We called ourselves “The Marinatha Messengers”.

In those days when we sang in Churches, occasionally we were accompanied by a pianist but usually acapella was the only way to go, particularly in open-air work. I have included a sound track from the one and only vinyl 78rpm record that remains. Although quite scratchy, it will give you an idea of how far the church has advanced in modern Christian music. Digital technology has transformed the way we record and do music which I think is wonderful. Songs like these were very popular in the 1950s.

 In most church services someone would sing a solo, a duet or a choir item. It was in this environment that many young people developed their talent and were used of God to bless others. It wasn’t uncommon to see a quiet emotional response from people in the congregation as they responded to the Holy Spirit and identified with the lyrics. Giving applause was not considered culturally acceptable in church, as the mind set of the musician or artist and congregation was not performance but ministry based.

Of the five South Australians who went to Bible College in 1958, three of us eventually ended up in full time ministry. Bob Bootes  my brother Andrew and myself. Andrew went on to hold the highest office in the land as General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Australia from 1977 -1997 a record. Bob Bootes served in churches in Victoria and Queensland. I went to Papua New Guinea as a missionary then back to my home church in Adelaide  South Australia, concluding my ministry in Queensland.

Although I didn’t feel particularly called to go to Bible College I was excited at the prospect of doing something on my own and hopefully discovering in the process my life’s calling. I remember the Principal of the College saying to me “Freddie its better to be trained and not called than called and not trained”.Upon arriving at 79 Moray St. New Farm I was ushered into the boys dormitory which was located on the bank of the Brisbane river overlooking the Story Bridge.

It was a stark, 16 bed, unsealed ex army hut with a bare unpolished timber floor.
It was in this dormitory, the second bed on the left and opposite my friend Bob Bootes that I had an encounter with God three years later. (See Story below). The atmosphere of dormitory life was like full time camping, only that you had 16 unrelated individuals you had to get along with. Some students described it as prison. We had communal showers and weekly shared responsibility at hosing down the dormitory to keep it free from vermin. (If you click on the picture on the right you’ll get a better view of our dormitory conditions).

Although College life was spartan by today’s standards, our student responsibilities to make it work helped form many wonderful relationships amidst a character building atmosphere. The College Principle was a brilliant British theologian by the name of James Wallace. Pastor Wallace challenged our young minds to think through doctrines that were prevalent in those days and stand up for the truth. We had many a student debate in our dormitory on subjects such as:  Is Healing in the Atonement? Entire Sanctification, Are the Heathen lost? and the new Prosperity Doctrine that came out of America which caused the most heated debate of all in our dorm.

My three years in Bible College was an essential part of my training for ministry. I guess if I were to single out one particular aspect of college life that set me up for future in ministry, it would be summed up in one word “Character”. It was a character building exercise. Living in a dormitory with 15 other men essentially taught me to be tolerant and selfless. You can’t live in a confined space with so many students and not develop the skill of love acceptance and forgiveness. As a result I made some life long friends. Those friendship were enhanced as we toured the country promoting the College and ministering in country churches together. This usually occurred during semester breaks with the College Trek Team.

We visited country churches in Queensland and New South Wales including Sydney. Our male voice quartet was a big “hit” wherever we went and was very popular which was nice!

I designed a Navy Blue Blazer with the College Badge or Logo on the pocket as a uniform for the quartet. This became very popular and was adopted by most students. It became a symbol of CBC pride to ware the Blazer when visiting churches.

 It was a privilege to belong to this class some of whom have now past on to their reward. Of our class of 1958 twelve graduated in 1960 with ten of us going on to serve in  full time ministry. Andrew & I were the only ones that served as full-time missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Two of the students of our class were destined for high office, they were my brother Andrew and Philip Hills.

Upon his return to Australia Andrew and was elected in 1977 to the highest office in the Assemblies of God as General Superintendent. He served for over 20 years as Superintendent – which remains a record to this day. He retired as the Commonwealth leader of the Church in 1997.

Philip Hills served as the Assistant General Superintendent alongside Andrew for a similar period of time. He was elected to Office in 1979 – 1997. He successfully pioneered and pastored in a number of States of Australia including Tasmania and Queensland, before accepting the responsibility of Senior Pastor at the historic Richmond Temple in 1975. Interestingly the Richmond Assembly in Melbourne was his home church as a young person when he left to go to Bible School in 1958. He also was appointed as State Superintendent of the Assemblies of God Churches of Victoria and served in that capacity for over 18 years.

I thank God for the training I received in Bible College. I will always remember the words of wisdom of the Principal of the College, Pastor James Wallace when he said to me:

“Freddie It is better to be Trained and not Called than Called and not Trained”.

The College Diploma I received gave me a sense of achievement but it was the scriptures that gave me confidence to go forward in life. Psalm 37:23. Although each step I took was in faith, there was an inbuilt confidence that God was guiding and He had called me to service. Below is the account of how God called me to Missionary service.