Meet the Pilgrims: Oliver Ip

What are you doing, and how did you end up doing it?

Oliver Ip

Currently I live in Hong Kong and do many things, including spending far too much money on Book Depository and whining about the weather (because hey, I’m British). I’m also part of the pastoral team at a church in Hong Kong where my role has me overseeing and developing how we do discipleship as a church.

How I got here is a meandering tale of confusion, wandering, hope, frustration, and other similar creatures. It has been, more than anything, a journey of learning to trust God over safety and certainty. It has been a journey of going beyond the limits I’d made or been taught about what a life trusting Jesus could look like.

What’s your biggest passion for the church?

I wholeheartedly believe that Jesus offers each individual a personal and direct relationship with Him and my biggest passion for the church is to see us all accept and take hold of that relationship – both as individuals and as a community – and to deepen in our connection with Christ daily.

What would this look like? It would look like us breaking down barriers and limitations that we have placed on what the fulness of life with God can look like. It might look like all of us not being passive receivers of teaching but a people actively engaged with God and what He’s up to in our lives and communities. It looks like not co-dependently banking on others to be intermediaries between us and God; we live like equal partners carrying each other onwards and upwards. It means we don’t wait for others to start making a difference. Rather, we are drawn out by God to bring about restoration to our homes, churches, neighbourhoods, or nations. It looks like sacrificing our idols of comfort and certainty because we are in union with one who’s present, loving, and good even amidst mystery and the unknown.

It looks like us being less concerned with uniformity and more concerned with celebrating and living our the diversity of ages, ethnicities, gifts, passions, skills, and callings that make up the body of the church. Why? Because we focus on the God who brings us all to the same table. In doing so we are able to be fully ourselves, together. To be a church like this would look like more than a Sunday gathering. It would look like meals together. Hospitality and a home for those without. Prayer with and for one another. Companionship through times of great doubt or of great conviction. Persistence through monotony or through change. Challenge and encouragement in our journeys of growth and learning. Relationships built, repaired, damaged, restored. Sickness and health. Celebration and mourning. Mess. Life together.

My biggest passion for the church? To see us all grasp the wonder of relationship with God and, in doing so, live lives to the full and live them together for the good of the world. So perhaps my passion is for us Christians, in a sense, to get a life. The world waits to see it with bated breath.

What excites you about Jesus?

I think what continues to excite me about Jesus, and has ever since I first thought, “Hey, there might actually be something to this Jesus thing,” is that He is good and He is here. God in Jesus proves that even though the journey goes through rough waters (and even unto death), He is unequivocally good. Atop that, what regularly blows my mind is that Jesus is not only unequivocally good but unequivocally present.

The last words of Matthew’s gospel are Jesus’ words to his ne’er do well disciples “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This promise, this commitment to be there through thick or thin to individuals wholly undeserving yet unshakeably loved, this has been more than exciting to me. This has been one of the sole things that’s sustained me during the darkest of times.

Who has most shaped your spirituality/discipleship journey?

As the verbal diarrhoea of my second answer might suggest, ‘community’ seems to factor strongly in how I view the church and the Christian life. The more I’ve thought about how I would answer this question, the more it’s become apparent that my journey has been formed primarily by those I’ve had the privilege of living life alongside at different times over these last few years. These are people, related and not, I have called (and still call) ‘family’ – and a wildly mixed-up family they are!

Some have modelled unbridled curiosity instead of passive receptivity in their faith. Others have shown me that God does not ask that we keep the spiritual and intellectual separate – nay, that he demands we break down such separations. There have been those who have given me comfort and a home (literal and figurative) at times of wandering. Mentors who challenged me to live in joyful, terrifying faith; people who reject lives of zombified fear, comfort, and conformity. I have had friends who have shattered the cultural limitations that I once held to about how deep a friendship can be, and brothers and sisters who have modelled fearless generosity and generous hospitality.

Each a lesson, each a touch of the clay. This life in community and communion, the hand of God holding and shaping.

P.S. If that’s not quite what you’d hoped I’d say then I can also fairly credit a number of well(ish) known people with shaping the current state of my spirituality. If you want to try and triangulate some kind of spiritual/theological position from a number of data points then here: Karl Barth, Eugene Peterson, Francis Spufford, the Northumbria Community’s ‘Celtic Daily Prayer’, Andrew Peterson, Jürgen Moltmann, Pete Rollins, John Mark McMillan, A.W Tozer, and Sir Terry Pratchett. Good luck with that.

 

Oliver lives in Hong Kong where he oversees discipleship at an international church in the heart of the city. He likes whisky, food, life-stories, hospitality, art, humans, pushing the limits of what is socially acceptable in polite company (sorry), science-fiction, fantasy, gin, whisky, God’s nature, life coaching, and whisky.

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