FOCUS ON LEADERS AND LEARNING
Crafting a life for His ends Lawson Murray shares his passion for learning and God’s Word
Patricia Paddey Special to ChristianWeek
he first time Lawson Murray’s eldest child Christie brought home the man she would one day marry, Murray playfully put his daughter’s suitor to a test, asking him if he knew the definition of “supralapsarianism.” Mercifully, the young man had a sense of humour. “Josiah thought it was hilarious,” Christie, 25, now chuckles at the mem- ory. “Fortunately he was staying all night in my dad’s study, so he had access to all his books to find out what it actually meant.” “It was a silly thing,” she says, her voice warm with affection. “But it was also to see what kind of man my [future] husband was.” Yet the anecdote reveals far more about what kind of man Lawson Murray is, for it demonstrates the value he places—not only on his
children and their happiness—but on education, excellence, full- ness of life and learning and understanding the things of God. They are fitting priorities for a man who’s been a pastor and church planter, and who currently leads both Scripture Union Canada as president, and SGM Canada as national director, two dis- tinct Bible agencies that encourage engagement with the Scriptures. “Engagement is connecting with God’s Word so that we encounter Jesus Christ,” explains Murray, “and our lives are pro- gressively transformed as a result.”
If encountering Jesus ignites the fire of transformation, then for Murray, 52, education is a sustaining fuel; from the moment he determined to follow Christ as a first year university student— working toward a four-year bachelor of education degree—he’s been committed to a life of study. “He’s been involved in education his whole life,” says Christie.
“My mom and him met at teacher’s college. He’s a lifelong learner. He loves to learn. And in his ministry as a pastor, he has a strong teaching mode in the way he preaches.” He has a strong teaching mode in general.
“Plant in mud, they’ll bloom and bud. Plant in dry, they’ll whither and die.”
Strong teaching mode
The first time I speak with Murray, it’s by telephone. He is at home, scraping mud off his boots, having just come in from out- doors. It’s pouring rain. In fact, it’s been raining for days. But Murray says he’s been planting his garden. When I express surprise, he shares a memorable rhyme, one of count- less practical lessons he’s learned from years of growing good things in the earth.
“Plant in mud, they’ll bloom and bud. Plant in dry, they’ll whither and die,” he recites, his voice light-hearted, infused with generosity and the South Africa that reared him. I’ve never heard the rhyme before, but it takes root in my mind. I resolve to try planting my own garden in the rain.
Murray began his working life as a high school teacher—
teaching a range of subjects from geography and physical education to religious studies, woodwork and metalwork. But throughout the decade that he taught in South Africa, he says he became increas- ingly aware of God’s call on his life to move into vocational ministry. “My wife, Karen, and I looked all over the world for a suitable seminary,” he recounts. “Eventually, I got information from Tyndale [Seminary, in Toronto], and it just seemed the right place for us.” So in 1991 the couple, together with two young children (a third would be born some years later), came to Canada. And with characteristic enthusiasm, Murray immersed himself in his studies, taking only three years to earn both a master of divinity degree and a master of theological studies. He financed his semi- nary education almost entirely through bursaries and scholar- ships, and when he graduated, he was recognized for outstanding scholastic achievement with a long list of awards. “I loved my time at school here in Canada,” he says. “Every class I took, every assignment I worked on, was totally absorbing. When you find your passion—your sweet spot—that makes all the differ- ence. And that’s what it was for me.”
Please see Murray on page 11
Lawson Murray has been a pastor and church plater, and currently leads both Scripture Union Canada and SGM Canada.
8 • August 2011 •
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