Gavin Shume and Ian Carmichael: a conversation
IC: Gavin Shume, newly appointed Executive Director of Matthias Media Australia, I have some questions for you, if that’s okay.
Tell me, how did you feel when you clicked the 'send' button on the email containing your application for the Executive Director position?
GS: The short answer would be excited, nervous and a little unsure. But I knew about Matthias Media and had read quite a few Matthias Media books in the past, and The Briefing. The excitement was all about the chance to be part of a publishing company that I had so much respect for and that was driven to publish gospel-centred material. I was keen to be part of that. Nervous and unsure because although I felt I had the experience to do the job and felt theologically aligned, would the people receiving my CV think the same…?
IC: After hearing that you got the job, what were you looking forward to about the role—and what were you a bit nervous about?
GS: I was looking forward to so many things. One of the reasons I applied for the job was
I’d been doing some stuff on my own and I really missed working with a team. So that was definitely part of my excitement. And getting the opportunity to read as much of Mathias Media’s resources as I could get my hands on (I’ve got a long way to go!). And connecting with Matthias Media customers and churches, finding ways that we could share the resources better. They were the things I really looked forward to. And I was just really hoping that we could get more resources out there so that God could use them to advance the gospel for his glory.
I also felt (and still feel) the weight of responsibility in leading Matthias Media’s ministry. I think it has been and still is so important. So my prayer in all this is for wisdom, that I would seek the Lord in my role and that I would rest knowing that he is sovereign and that he will use this ministry in any way that he sees fit. And to trust in that.
IC: Now you spent many years working for Koorong, this is my cheeky question. Will you be attempting to sign up Joel Osteen as a Matthias Media author?
GS: Ha ha, no. Short answer!
IC: Okay. If not Osteen, who—at least in theory—would you like to see as an MM author? Who are the Christian authors you’ve appreciated over the years?
GS: I might answer the second part of that, rather than the first, because I'm still fairly new in terms of who I would like to see as a Matthias Media author. I can tell you a lot of people that I've really enjoyed reading over the years; things that have greatly helped me understand God and the Bible. Tim Keller's books, and listening to Tim Keller sermons, in particular has really helped me particularly see Jesus in the Old Testament. I think he's got a great gift of bringing that out.
JI Packer's Knowing God is one of those books that I had on my shelf for 20 years and always meant to read it. It was only five or six years ago that I finally pulled it off the shelf and read it. It's a book that I keep going back to. I learned so much from that book. Don Carson's book A Call to Spiritual Reformation (I think it's got a different title now) taught me so much about prayer and just reading the prayers that are in Paul's letters, and thinking about what that means for my prayer life. And then just a short list of others: CS Lewis, John Stott, Martin Lloyd-Jones, JC Ryle. Many others.
IC: What about you? What’s your passion? If you were going to write a book for Matthias Media, what would it be about? (We won't necessarily hold you to it!)
GS: I think that's wise, because I could pretty much guarantee that it wouldn't do very well! But I've always been interested and passionate about Romans. I just I find it endlessly fascinating. A long time ago, before I started work at Koorong, I started reading the volumes of Martin Lloyd-Jones' sermons on Romans; they were just amazing and fantastic. And I keep doing that every now and then, pull one off the shelf and read a sermon of his on Romans.
So that's where my passion is. I once heard, when I was at Christchurch Gladesville, Andrew Heard preach a sermon. It was actually the first sermon we heard when we started going to Gladesville. And his job was to give a sermon on Romans in one sermon, the whole book. And he did an amazing job of that. I just think Romans is so grand and beautiful and deep. But I'd love to see a book at a really introductory level. Like, "Romans: just the facts", something that helps people see the structure and the process of Paul's argument in Romans.
IC: Right, so people should look out for that new title sometime in 2021, I guess?
GS: I'm sure someone better than I could write it.
IC: Having been in the role for three months now, you no doubt have a better feel for what the big personal and ministry challenges are ahead. So what would you like us to pray for?
GS: Definitely join me in praying for wisdom and also that I seek to serve God and his purposes and not try and branch out on my own. It’s not Gavin’s purpose; it’s God’s purpose. I think we have some challenging times ahead, so you can pray for our publishing program, that under God we will continue to publish important resources for the advancement of his kingdom and in true Matthias Media fashion, one disciple at a time.
GS: I might flip this interview a bit and ask you some questions, because I think people are just as interested in Ian Carmichael as Gavin Shume. So, what's retirement like?
IC: Well, the only thing I am actually retiring from is from drawing a salary. I’m still doing a fair bit of work for Matthias Media, although I have to say, it’s very nice not being the person with whom the buck stops. And it’s also nice to be able to have just a little more space in my life for family and for church ministry and for some other things.
GS: Some people would probably find it a bit odd that my predecessor in the leadership role is still hanging around the organization. That is a bit weird, isn't it?
IC: Yeah, it probably is a bit weird. And in many ways it’s a testament to you, Gavin, that you’re willing to let me hang around and keep contributing. But I’m very conscious of leaving you the room to lead and make changes that need to be made, and I’m delighted as a close observer that you are already doing that. And I think together we’re finding good ways for me to contribute that don’t interfere with that process of reinvigoration of the ministry that comes with new leadership and fresh ideas. I hope you think so too!
GS: I definitely do. I know you won't like me saying this, but it's been a real blessing to have you. It's so unusual, but good unusual, to be able to lean on all that experience. And you're so open with it. So thank you for that. I actually was reading this morning in 1 John that John wrote this letter so that his joy would be complete, which was a really interesting angle for me. In the many years you have worked at Matthias (we won't say how many), what are the things that have given you the most joy?
IC: It’s hard to pull out one or two, but obviously it will centre on people. Nothing beats hearing that one of our resources has played a part in someone becoming a Christian. Hearing how God is using our resources is just fabulous. But it’s also been a joy to work with so many brothers and sisters in Christ over the years. I think I’ve had over 70 colleagues over the three decades, and I’d count every single one of them as friends, not just work colleagues.
GS: Regardless of whether Matthias Media was involved or not, what would be your prayer for the church in Australia and around the world?
IC: Hmm, rather than start by pointing at the church, let me start with what I’d like for me. I’d like to speak God’s life-changing gospel word to more people with less fear and more prayer, with the aim of making disciples. It’s so easy for me to fill my time with other things or to be cowed into not saying something. And I suspect I’m not alone in that, so my prayer would be that others in the church would also speak God's word more passionately, prayerfully and fearlessly to other people as well, and in so doing make more disciples for Christ. That would be my what I would love to see in our churches. But it starts with me; I pray that for me, not just for the church "out there".
GS: What are some of the things you hope to do in this new phase of your working life, and what would you like us to pray for?
IC: As I said before. I'm keen to keep contributing to Matthias Media's work. So part of that will be trying to be a good support to both you and to Marty Sweeney, our US director, in your leadership going forward.
I've got some writing projects I'd like to work on, contributing more generally to the content production of Mathias Media. They're the things I'm really keen to be doing. So I guess pray that I'll adjust to it. It involves new patterns of work. I haven't ever been a full-time writer, and I'm not going to be a full-time writer, but writing is a different skill to being a CEO or Executive Director, so adjusting to doing that and doing it well hopefully. But also just figuring out how I can best contribute to the work of the gospel and particularly the work of the gospel through Mathias Media. Wisdom in working all that out, over the next few months particularly.