“Is our mission service coming to an end?” I asked after ten years of ministry in Spain. Following many joys and struggles serving university students in the Barcelona area, some bruising experiences had led me to a place of burnout.
God gave me time to heal, but as the sabbatical drew to a close, we had many questions – questions about calling, gifting, sustainability, the emotional toil of ministry, and future direction.
“Would you be interested in becoming our librarian?”
I never would have imagined being asked that – but the Lord was opening a door. The local Bible college (IBSTE) had an urgent need, with the imminent retirement of their librarian. With the gifts God has given me, it has been a perfect fit. Theological education inevitably involves administration, and it is a privilege to be able to dedicate time to that side of the ministry, in order to make theological resources available for our students and train them in study and research skills.
“We’ve been looking for a teacher for our theology of worship course for a long time. Would you be interested?”
I never would have imagined that either – but, again, the Lord was opening a door. I had increasingly been involved in leading and coordinating worship in different contexts over recent years. Now I had four months to write an online course for the Evangelical School of Theology (EET), focusing on a biblical and practical theology of worship. That initial experience has led to further opportunities to teach on the theology of worship, both with the EET and IBSTE.
Burnout is too often a reality in ministry, but so are healing, sanctification and grace.
Four years ago, the door for ministry in Spain could have closed. Looking back to that difficult time, my testimony is that I have never known God’s presence more closely than in those darkest moments. It was his grace that brought me through to fresh pastures on the other side. Without the support of our sending church, UFM and my family, it would not have been possible. The Lord has used it as a refining experience in my life.
I continue to stumble along in weakness but have been allowed to glimpse something more of his power. When the time came to start at IBSTE, I could say, in the words of Psalm 56:13, “For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”
The IBSTE community is now our primary ministry focus. Besides managing the library, I am teaching study methods and the theology of worship, while also studying for an MTh with Union School of Theology. Two years ago, we moved to the town where IBSTE is located and, from September 2022, Clare started teaching English at IBSTE, alongside English teaching and ministry to women.
- for the ministry of the Spanish Bible Institute and Theological Seminary (IBSTE), an interdenominational, theologically conservative seminary founded in 1974. There are currently around 30 full- and part-time students (we would love more!) studying a four-year accredited theological degree. A good number move on to become pastors or serve in other ministries.
- for present and future students and for the Lord to raise up workers for the harvest field – the need in Spain is great.
- that we would persevere in weakness, leaning on his grace, in order to bless those he has given us the privilege of serving.
Jonathan and Clare Skipper work in theological training and women’s ministry in Spain.