In this series "Meet a Pastor," we get to know FECA pastors, their Churches, and what God has been doing in their lives.
In this edition we are hearing from Shem Swadling of Hamilton South Jesus Church.
Hey Shem, tell us a bit about yourself:
My name is Shem Swadling. I am 28, and I grew up in Richmond NSW. I left school in Year 10 to start an apprenticeship as an electrician. I saw the way the guys I worked with lived, and figured there had to be more to life. I grew up at Church and hearing the Bible, so I picked one up and read Ephesians 2. That weekend Jesus called me, and from then I grew a passion for the lost, preaching to my workmates. It was through sharing Jesus with them that I grew to love the Bible and wanted to know more. I got married to my high school sweetheart Grace, and we decided that we wanted to pursue what it would look like to be in ministry together. Once I had finished my apprenticeship, I started distance Bible College part-time, and became a youth pastor in the Blue Mountains. I was in the role for 5 years when my wife and I decided we wanted to learn about Church planting. So we moved to Newcastle where my cousin (Sam Swadling) was planting a Church.
You have recently planted Hamilton South Jesus Church, how did God lead you down this path?
After being part of Gospel Church Newcastle, and being trained in a church planting context, an opportunity came up in a Housing Commission Estate in Hamilton South to take over the running of a ministry. Grace and I were excited to apply because we felt it was a great opportunity to show Jesus’ love to the downtrodden. We got the role, and three months in I realised that what this community needed was not more people giving them food but to hear the Gospel heralded through the context of a local Church in their neighbourhood. So we took steps to spread the name of Jesus throughout the Estate, to build a core team, and we started weekly Sunday services in May this year.
What is it about ministry that is the most exciting and the most difficult?
The most exciting thing about ministry for me is seeing the transformation the Gospel brings in peoples’ lives- including my own. Ultimately my goal in ministry is to be more in love with Jesus when I finish than when I started. My conviction is that if I am staying close to Jesus, then we will see fruit in other people and other areas of the ministry. The hardest part of ministry for me is getting involved in peoples’ lives for a season and then having them pull away. This is particularly common in the area we work. But I have found great encouragement from Jesus’ parable of the sower and His patience with the crowd.
What are some 'wins' and some 'losses' in the past few years?
We have seen a number of people come to faith in the last couple of years, and seen them developing a missional mindset in terms of sharing Jesus with others in the Housing Estate. Over the next couple of years we would love to see this grow as more people in the community are reached with the Gospel. We are passionate about people learning to glorify God through all areas of their lives, and hoping that in the future we will be able to start a Vocational Bible College to train people in various areas of ministry. Eventually we plan to send people out into another Housing Estate nearby to plant another Church.