Tim MacBride has been an important part of Morling College since he joined the Bible and Theology faculty in 2008. Now, Tim is Morling’s Head of the department and a lecturer. He sees his role on the Bible & Theology Faculty as being a discipler of people first and a teacher of content second. This doesn't mean the latter is in any way less important - it's still what he spends the majority of time doing - but it mustn't be simply for its own sake. Tim doesn’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that his teaching at Morling has a practical goal: to equip people to know God more deeply, to be transformed more into the likeness of his Son, and to serve his kingdom in the world.
Tim shares a bit of his story with the college, talks about the challenges of being the Head of Bible and Theology and shares some first-hand tips to students, all with his great sense of humour.
Before you joined the faculty of Morling College back in 2008, what were you doing?
I was on the pastoral staff at Narwee Baptist Church, in Sydney’s South, initially as a Student Pastor while completing my studies at Morling. I spent the next 8 years as an Associate Pastor looking after our evening congregation, focusing on young adults, creative ministries, and Bible teaching.
Was it always the plan to become a lecturer?
Interesting story. When I graduated, I was one of the students interviewed on stage by our Vice Principal, Mike Frost. But he refused to tell me what the questions were going to be beforehand, saying he wanted to make it spontaneous. Big mistake, as when I’m put on the spot I say the first thing that pops into my head, which normally isn’t the most appropriate. So when he asked me, “So, Tim, you’ve done OK at college, have you ever thought of lecturing in the future?” my ill-considered response was “Maybe when I’m old and burnt out.” Exactly five years later I was being introduced at graduation as a new part-time faculty member, thinking “Wow—that happened more quickly than I’d anticipated!”
So were you old and burnt out, or was there another reason?
No, I was quite happy doing what I was doing, although I had a sense that God was calling me to the “next thing,” whatever that might be. But in the five years since graduating, I’d discovered that Morling is very much like the Eagle’s Hotel California: you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. (There are many of us for whom this is true!) During that time I completed a research master’s in New Testament part-time, and each year I was asked to do some kind of tutoring for the college, so I’d started to think lecturing was a possibility. And just at the point I was thinking about applying for Senior Pastor roles, Morling asked me if I was interested in filling a part-time role that had come up. Decision time!
I felt like God was giving me a choice as to what I wanted to do next for him: pastor a church, or invest in the training and formation of the next generation of pastors. Although I greatly miss many aspects of pastoral ministry—and would happily go back if that’s what God wanted—I came to the conclusion that the latter was what best suited both my gifts and the denomination’s need. My church graciously shared the next three years of my time with the college, until I eventually went full-time.
Since you started on faculty, what subjects have you taught—and which one is your favourite?
I spent my first 8 years lecturing first year Greek, which in some ways was a dream job for me: spending three hours a week correcting people’s grammar (in both Greek and English), and being thanked for it. What could be more enjoyable? But in recent years I’ve handed over the Torturer-in-Chief mantle to another lecturer so I can teach more New Testament subjects; I particularly enjoy the introductory units, as I get to see first year students making connections about how the big picture of the Bible fits together!
But my favourite subject to teach is Preaching. I love to preach God’s word, and I love to train others to do it to the best of their God-given abilities. It’s also been my area of research—how we can use the rhetoric of the Biblical text to shape the form and function of our sermons. (You can check it out in Catching the Wave: Preaching the NT as Rhetoric, IVP 2016.)
You’ve recently been appointed as the new Head of the Bible and Theology Department. What does that involve, and what challenges does it bring?
The title sounds more impressive than it is. It’s mainly about the day-to-day and semester-to-semester organisation of lecturers, classes, and resources so that the college runs smoothly, and our talented faculty are freed up to do what they do best: teach and write!
The immediate challenge is to help the department through a significant change involving the structuring of the awards and subjects available through our accrediting body, the Australian College of Theology, which will be the focus of this year. But I’m also keen to raise the online profile of Morling’s Bible and Theology lecturers so that the next generation of potential students can better connect with us, and understand who we are and what we’re about. We also move into brand new offices and lecture rooms at the end of this year, so it’s going to be a time of significant change.
You’ve been both a student and a lecturer at Morling. What advice do you have for students studying in the Bible and Theology department?
My main advice would be to make the most of the time. It’s easy to take the college experience for granted in the busyness of each semester, where the focus can become simply learning in order to do the assessments rather than learning for its own sake. This is even harder than when I first studied at Morling, because the cost of living can necessitate taking on significant outside work, narrowing the window of time you have to study. But at no other point in your life are you likely to have the kind of structures around you on a daily basis that enable you to think deeply and critically about matters of faith and practice. Once it’s gone, you’ll miss it and recognise its value. So do the assigned readings each week. Disappear down some of the rabbit holes of curiosity that don’t have a direct bearing on your next essay. And talk with other students about what you’ve been learning—it will be less common post-college to find dialogue partners who’ve had the same kind of theological backgrounding.
Oh, and start your assignments when you get them in week one. It makes it easier for everyone, including you!
Want to know more about what it looks like to study Bible and Theology at Morling College? Come along to our Open Night on the 4th November, 2019 to have all your questions answered and to meet more of Morling’s friendly community members. https://www.morling.edu.au/events/open-night-2/