In Christian circles, we often talk about the fact that we’re all on mission. In fact, the Great Commission has been the battle cry for many believers passionate about living their purpose in the world: we are called to make disciples of all nations. But not all of us really understand what it means to think and live missionally. It is one thing to say mission is important, but another to know our place in it.
Today on the podcast, Chase Kuhn is joined by a friend who is preparing to move overseas for mission with the Church Missionary Society, often referred to as CMS. But this isn’t, strictly speaking, a change in his life; he’s been thinking about and living on mission for years, even in his own workplace and neighbourhood. Our hope for you as you listen is that you’ll be encouraged to think about how you can live missionally wherever you are.
Links referred to:
- The Centre for Christian Living Annual 2020: A selection of the year’s best essays, articles and podcast transcripts
- The Centre for Global Mission event, “All Nations, All Ages, All In?” (Wednesday 28 April)
- Our next event: “Dealing with sin” with Chris Conyers (Wednesday 19 May)
Runtime: 38:45 min.
Chase Kuhn: In Christian circles, it’s common for us to talk about all of us being on mission. In fact, the Great Commission has been the battle cry for many believers passionate about living their purpose in the world: we’re called to make disciples of all nations.
But not all of us really understand what it means to think and live missionally. It’s one thing to say mission’s important, but another to know our place in it. Today on the podcast, I’m joined by a friend who’s preparing to move overseas for mission with the Church Missionary Society—often referred to as “CMS”. But this isn’t, strictly speaking, a change in his life: he’s been thinking about and living on mission for years—even in his own workplace and neighbourhood. My hope for you as you listen is that you’ll be encouraged about how you can live missionally where you are.
CK: Hello and welcome to the Centre for Christian Living podcast. My name is Chase Kuhn. Today I am not coming to you from Moore College in Sydney; I’m actually coming to you from country New South Wales, where I’m currently on mission with a Moore College student team. And today I’m joined by one of my students, Ryan V. We’re going to leave it just with “V” today, because Ryan is preparing to go on the mission field in the next couple of years, and so, Ryan, welcome!
RV: Thank you! And it’s probably not that hard to figure out: there’s not many last name Vs, but, you know, we’ll still keep it a little bit anonymous.
CK: For those that know you, they know who Ryan V is! [Laughter]
CK: And we’ll give a bit a big wink to them.
RV: That’s right.
CK: That’s right! Thanks! [Laughter] Thanks, Ryan! Ryan, you’ve had a really interesting growing up: you’ve had a multinational growing up. Tell us about where you’re from, where you’ve moved, and what it’s been like, getting around different places.
RV: Yeah, I mean, in some ways, I’m still growing up, so the story hasn’t ended. But I was born in India and lived there for the first five years of my life, and moved between two cities where my grandparents were and my parents’ work kind of took us. So that was the first five years. And I distinctly remember those times—not every moment, but significant things, like playing cricket in the street, being in a building with lots of my cousins and second cousins, and going to their shops and getting Coke from their small shop that was behind the house. That sort of thing.
Then at five, we moved to Kuwait in the Middle East, and that was because dad had started a job in Sony, working in the Middle East. And, you know, he was selling this new product that no one really wanted to sell, called the “PlayStation”. [Laughter] And he was onto a winner. [Laughter] And we loved it—my brother and I—because he would bring us—we got a free PlayStation, ’cause we had to, you know, try out this machine—and I don’t know how many—like, 50 games. And dad would be, like, “Play the games. See if they’re good.” And I was like, “Great! Thanks dad!” [Laughter] Happiest five and eight-year-old in the world!
CK: That’s—those are kids who are proud of their dad’s work!
RV: That’s right! [Laughter]
CK: That’s right.
RV: “Our dad works and sells PlayStations!” So we were there in Kuwait, and I was there five to nine, so another five years. And that was the first time I experienced some kind of racism. So that was an interesting experience—just local Arabs were treated far better than the migrant Indians, even though, I think, even then, the migrants outnumbered them. But just in terms of the way the government and society was structured—
RV: —that was—it’s strange, but we had a strong Indian community, so I didn’t experience it very much. I went to an Indian school, I went to an Indian church, lived in a building with many Indians. And then somewhere around my ten-year-old birthday—in fact, I think I had my birthday on the plane—my parents, around that time, decided to move for the sake of our education. So they had some options between New Zealand, Australia and Canada, and for whatever reason, New Zealand seemed the easiest way in. So we moved to Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand and I went to school there.
And, again, the first year, I experienced a bit of racism. Yeah, it was funny—funny in retrospect, I suppose: I spoke with a strong Indian accent, so I would [in strong Indian accent] come to school and talk like this and people would find that very funny. [Speaking as before] But I didn’t know what to do with that, because that’s just the way I talked. And it’s funny ’cause I was topping maths—I was topping English—in the class—I was topping English—
RV: —and they were making fun of my English, you know.
RV: I was like, “What is going on? I’m able to speak English better than you. I can spell better than you!” But it was just that small town Dunedin—you know, they don’t have lots of Indians at that time. They didn’t know what to do with me and, kind of, scared of the other. But after that year, just didn’t experience that anymore—even in Dunedin—went to a different school and it was a fine, moved up to Auckland, lived there for six years, and Auckland is kind of like a smaller version of Sydney in many ways: same harbour bridge—I mean, better version of your harbour bridge [Laughter]; same north shore—better version of the north shore. So we lived in the north shore of Auckland, and it was a melting pot—like, first time I think I really felt the melting pot-ness of a culture and a country. That was really cool.
High school was the first time I’d been a school for longer than, I think, two years. So I’d been moving house and school—
RV: —and country so much that I just didn’t have very strong roots. And I remember at one point, packing my bags, thinking, “It’s been five years. We must need to move country” and my parents being like, “No, we don’t—we don’t move. That’s not how it works. Like, it’s not based on time; it’s just based on other factors.” And I was like, “Oh, okay. We’re actually staying here. That’s good! I’ll invest more in my high school relationships and get closer with these friends and stuff.” Little did I know that they tricked me, and then we moved again to Australia! So I was like, “Why did I make all these friends? I’ve got to say goodbye again!”
CK: Not cool!
RV: Not cool! [Laughter] Anyway, sorry, mum and dad. They’re really great parents! [Laughter] Yeah, if they’re listening, and even if they’re not, they’re still great parents. [Laughter] I moved to first-year university and—
CK: “Here” being Australia.
RV: —in—yeah, Sydney, Australia, and studied at university, did a Commerce degree and loved it—almost have been here since—there was a little stint after I started working as an accountant that I decided to go overseas and work for six months in North Africa in a little country called Niger, and did accounting work there. So I don’t know if that counts as living in a different country. It felt like it. But six months compared—
CK: Sounds like it.
RV: —Yeah! I mean, because I’d lived in all those other countries for much longer, it doesn’t kind of compare. But it was the first time I’d lived on my own, so it was a significant growing up process: you know, I had to cook for myself every day and that was weird and delicious, and sometimes just ate lots of eggs and [Laughter] then I’ve been back here since then, and yeah, now at Bible college, about to head out. This was my last year and we’re hoping to go overseas pretty soon.
CK: That’s quite an exciting journey! I mean, you’ve been, quite literally, all over the world already. You’ve been in so many different cultures—so many different countries—and I have so many things I’d love to ask you about each of these experiences. I mean, one of the things I just want to draw out now, I want to hear in a moment about how you became a Christian, but before that, we’re going to be talking to you about mission today. And some of the interesting things that you just spoke about were the way that those cultures either embraced you or didn’t know what to do with you, and you had a real experience of different ethnicities—different cultures—quite early on; how did that impact the way that you’ve been thinking about mission—especially the racism that you faced?
RV: Yeah, I think it could be easy for me to feel like—defensive or, you know—Sydney is a place that I have experienced very little racism, because it’s such a melting pot, and so it could make me think, “Oh, I don’t want to go somewhere where I’m going to be an outsider again, ’cause that’s going to be hard.” And now I’m even more messed up: I’m this Australian New Zealand Indian-looking—I don’t know.
CK: You certainly sound different.
RV: Yeah. But I think as I reflect on it, it’s just made me excited, because God’s used this history that I didn’t choose—like, that was something that has happened to me—God’s used those things to make me who I am and to put this on my heart, and so I can go and I can love the other in a way that I wish I would have been loved.
RV: That’s not to say that I’ve never felt that love or anything like that, and there’s been lots of people who’ve looked past the culture stuff. But I think it really helps me feel for the vulnerable. Like, it makes me think about the outsider a bit better, and I hope that would help with wherever I go.
CK: That’s fantastic. How did you become a Christian? Through all these journeys, when did you hear about Jesus and when did you begin following him?
RV: There are two good different questions, because I heard about Jesus from a very young age—grow up with—my uncle is a minister and my grandfather and his father and his father, they’re all ministers. So [I] don’t think Christianity is this Western thing. I mean, it really isn’t; remember where it started. But even that, there’s just great history of Christians in India and that’s a really rich legacy that—I feel a privilege that I got to hear the gospel, because people have continued to pass on the gospel, even in there, where now it’s even harder to be a Christian.
So I’ve heard the gospel all growing up—I heard about Jesus all growing up. But there was just—my own hard-heartedness and rebellion, and I think some of the factors of the state of the church in New Zealand: we were particularly going to an Anglican church most of our time in New Zealand, and yeah, depending on where you go, that’s—can be hit and miss, and more often miss than hit. But my parents were committed to sending us to the church, and the habit of being with God’s people and around God’s word, but I just remember at one point, just how irrelevant it felt to me. You know, the preacher was talking about who to vote for in their local council elections.
RV: They’re kind of saying, “This is the person who have the most kind of Christian values, even though that person isn’t a Christian”. But it was kind of like a “If you don’t vote for this person, you’re probably not a Christian”. I go, “Is that what Christianity’s about?” Like—
CK: Yeah. And that’s what you mean by “hit and miss” in these churches is that some of them are bringing you the message of the good news; others were bringing you who knows what else.
RV: Yeah, just whatever they wanted to talk about that week—whatever social issue or—and sometimes, I can’t remember that—they’d had a Bible reading, but the sermon might not necessarily be connected to that Bible reading, or very loosely, and just felt really irrelevant. And my parents, at forty-something, were the youngest adults there, and there were no other kids. So [it] just felt like “Oh, this is not for anyone”. So I—I kept physically being there, but mentally, I was checked out; spiritually, I was checked out. My brother and I would often play noughts and crosses or Hangman or, you know, be a nice opportunity for a nap on a Sunday morning [Laughter].
But my parents, in their kindness and their Christ-centredness and their desire for us to follow Jesus, when we moved to Sydney, they just kept praying, I guess, and prodding, and there was a great church that was less than a minute away from where we lived, and they started going there. And they just knew that they had a good, vibrant evening service, with people my age. And I was new to the city and, yeah, they just kept prodding and praying. Initially, I was like, “I’m 18, I’m a man now. I’m not going to go to do the thing that you want me to do.” [Laughter] But very patient, very kind, very prayerful. And gently just kept prodding me, and I just went along and saw young people who took the Bible seriously, heard preaching that was not only based on something authoritative other than the person’s own feelings, but this objective other authoritative thing called the Bible, and people who worked really hard at saying, “This is still relevant for you now”. And I heard that, I felt that, I was encouraged by someone at that church to explore the Christian group on campus, so I did that at the same time, and just felt the riches of what I was hearing, and the truth kept ringing out.
And I distinctly remember as we were going through a sermon series on the five solas—you know, the Reformation catchcries of “Scripture alone”, “Bible alone”, all that—it got a climax and the last one—I think it was on “Christ alone”—that we’re saved by Christ alone—and it brought all those things together—like faith alone and grace alone. And I remember just hearing and understanding clearly what grace meant that time, and I just—yeah, the veil lifted—whatever—the scales fell off, the seed that was sown and watered finally just started to produce fruit and I’ve just not looked back since. I’ve just been really thankful that God grabbed me in that moment and my parents just encouraged me to go there and—yeah, for the twin forces of the university Christian group and the witness there, and the church and the witness there, and just the Holy Spirit working through all of that. Yeah, it was really great and it’s been a great journey, following Jesus, and I want to keep doing that.
CK: That’s wonderful. And you’re obviously thinking a lot about mission now; how did mission get on your radar, then? As you became a Christian and you sort of growing as a Christian, what made you begin to get concerned for mission?
RV: Yeah, well, it’s a funny thing, because I think I was saying before, there’s stuff that God has used from before I would call myself a Christian—before I fully understood the gospel of grace and embraced it for myself: God was kind of already exposing me to mission, I think. Like, my grandfather, he was a missionary from the south of India to the north of India. That probably doesn’t feel like a significant thing to most people: you’re thinking, “It’s not crazy to go from Sydney to Queensland—you know, that’s not a huge cross-cultural experience”.
CK: That’s pretty cross-cultural and pretty crazy, actually! [Laughter]
RV: Yeah, yeah. But it—cultures in India are much older and they’re much more stratified, they’re much more differentiated; they’re totally different languages. And, you know, you might think Queenslanders speak a different language. But if you just listen hard enough, you’ll understand what they’re saying. Whereas going from the south of India to the north of India, it’s wildly different languages and different cultures, different histories, different foods—all this kind of stuff.
Anyway, the point being, I think it was a missionary in all sorts of the word, what he was doing: he went to a rural village tribe and I think at the time, it was CMS: dad will be disappointed if I’m butchering the story, because it’s just hard to remember all the details. But I think it was with the equivalent of something like CMS, if not CMS itself—he’d gone to the north of India with the view to tell this village—this small people group—about Jesus, and his ministry was for decades with this group. And, you know, he was committed; my parents grew up with that culture; they went to boarding school and things like that, because my grandparents counted the cost and they thought, “One of the things is going to be that our kids are not going to be able to grow up in our culture—in our language—in our home, sometimes even. But we’re still want to both grow them in their love of Jesus and grow this village that we’re ministering to in their love of Jesus.” So in God’s kindness, all those kids—my dad and his siblings—they’re all really strong Christians. And, yeah, I think that was the fruit, maybe, of the sacrifice of my grandparents, to some degree.
And so, when I was growing up as a kid, hanging out with my grandparents, there was a thing that my grandfather would talk about—just their time during this mission. They weren’t there anymore by the time I was around; they had moved to a city and were ministering in a cathedral there. But he had lots of strong stories and memories, and he’d keep talking about that. And at one point—I don’t know if he did this with every one of his grandkids, but I don’t think he did. But even if he did, I just remember feeling the weight of it when he did it: he’d sit me down and he’d say, “You know what? I’m praying that you’ll be a missionary some day”. Like, eight years old, I’m like, “What do you—what do you mean? [Laughter] I want to be a—I want to be an astronaut!” [Laughter]
CK: Yeah, that’s right! “I’m eight! Don’t squash my dreams!” [Laughter]
RV: Yeah, that’s right!
CK: That’s right! [Laughter]
RV: “I want to invent something awesome!” And he’s telling me I’m going to be a missionary. Anyway, so I still remember that distinctly and I used to think about that a lot, and I just thought, “Why that?” and “What is his”—I think he genuinely was praying that for his grandkids, and I think he was specifically praying that for me. So there’s something of that in my history.
CK: And praise God for grandparents that pray for these things!
RV: Seriously! I know. How bold is that prayer, right? Like, I pray that my kids will be a Christian; he was praying that I’d be a missionary. Like, maybe I should be praying that my kid would be an evangelist or a missionary. You know?
CK: Bigger things, right?
CK: Yeah, wow!
RV: And have great gospel dreams for your children, not just “Be successful in this world” or “Be okay”, you know? Like—
RV: —I think it’s just a great prayer, and I think, to some degree, it’s starting to be answered and that’s because of his prayers, back then, and, yeah. So I think that was there in my upbringing.
So I don’t know how much—I don’t know if there’s someone psychoanalysing me right now and trying to figure out [Laughter] what is my history and what is the Bible. But a similar thing: I used to read the Bible and just every—every time, I felt like it was every page I was reading, I could see God’s heart for the nations. Like, it’s—it’s just all throughout. We just did a series in Exodus that we’re preaching here on mission, and it just—even in the plagues, God is so clear that he’s doing these things—these plagues—not only so that Israel would know his name; they know his name by that point. It’s so that Egypt would know his name and so that all nations would know his name, right? Like I—
RV: —and I just kept seeing that page after page after page. And I’d show people and be like, “This God, it’s not just in New Testament—it’s not a Matthew 28, like, ‘Oh, let’s flip a switch and now we’re going to be for all nations’”; you can see his provision for the foreigner and the exile in the laws in Leviticus and in Exodus. You can see it in the nations being blessed by Solomon, and you can see it in the way the prophets speak about the good news about God’s name going out and all these nations being blessed. And I just—I talked to other people about it and they were just like, “I don’t think it’s that big a focus. Like, I don’t see it.” I’m like, “But look here!”, and they’re like, “Oh yeah!”, and then I’d be like, “But look here!” and they’d be like, “Oh yeah!” It just keeps coming up!
CK: It’s everywhere, that’s right!
RV: I don’t know if I had some sort of weird laser vision for this, and everyone else had blinders, or something about my history was just blowing this up more for me. But I just kept feeling that, and felt the challenge of it, and just went, “If God is so about his name being known among the nations, what’s my part in that?”
CK: As we take a break from our program, I’d like to tell you about a couple of resources to benefit you in your own Christian living. The first is to recommend our 2020 CCL Annual. This is a collection of highlights from last year’s essays, podcasts episodes and events edited together into an ebook format. I encourage you to download the Annual and read the short and edifying articles. The 2020 Annual is now available through our website and ebook distributors .
I’d also like to invite you, if you’ve been enjoying this discussion on mission, to consider joining our partner centre at Moore College—the Centre for Global Mission—for their upcoming event in April, entitled, “All nations, all ages, all in?” The focus of the event is an exploration of how ministry models help or hinder gospel mission in our churches. David Williams, who is the Director for Training and Development with CMS, will be speaking at the event. I encourage you to plan to attend on April 28, and you can find more details and registration information available on the Moore College website at moore.edu.au.
Now let’s get back to our program.
RV: I can’t think that I was very intentional about this, but even in university, lots of my friends were from all around the world. Two of my closest friends that I still hang out tog—today, they were international students. You know, lots of people would roll their eyes when they had a group assignment with international students, and I’d just be like, “Oh, this is a great opportunity to meet people from another culture, and there’s gospel opportunities in this”. I just never had a sense—maybe because I’m a bit of an outsider, I never felt like I just needed to hang out with my in-group—my Christian group. I was just like, “Well, we got to tell—like, there’s so many nations here in Sydney; there’s so many nations here on this university campus”. So that really sparked it off—just reading my Bible for myself.
Some of the culture at my university was just to keep pushing us to think about what it looked like to serve those who are from these other contexts, and what it might look like for us to go and serve all over the world in places that are unlike me. So hearing that from other people made me think, “Oh, I’m not that crazy”. Like, “I’m not the only one who’s seeing this”. And I think, since then, just developing that love has been going through missions conferences—things like ReachOut in Sydney and CMS Summer School—
CK: Yeah. CMS—Church Missionary Society—Summer School. Yep.
RV: Yeah, so that’s an annual thing that our family does now. So all those things have just really stoked that fire and I haven’t lost my zeal for mission, and that was partly why I went to Niger in North Africa—trying to work out that question of “If I can do this for long, what would that look like on the ground?”—go and explore that for myself.
And I kind of explain to lots of people that lots of my life since becoming a Christian has been people kind of slowing me down from getting to go overseas. ’Cause I’m a bit enthusiastic and zealous, and I’m like, “Come on! Let’s go! The people are—need to hear.” But fresh out of Uni, people [were] like, “Oh, maybe just work a bit—get your feet on the ground, see if that’s okay”, and I was like, “All right, I’ll do that, but maybe I’ll sneak across for six months and have a go [Laughter]—see it for myself” And then, after that, being like, “No, I’m pretty sure I want to go and be a missionary”, and you know, we even started applying with an organisation to go back to Niger. And then people slowing me down and go, “Oh, maybe you should do some kind of ministry apprenticeship. You know, you haven’t really got your hands fully into ministry yet. Maybe go try and do that.” I was like, “Great, okay, I’ll do that. That sounds like a good idea. Wise people: you should listen to them.” And then at the end of the ministry apprenticeship, I was like, “Yeah, I’m pretty keen to go. I think I like ministry. And I think I can go overseas.” And they’re like, “Oh, you really should go and study the Bible a bit more—be theologically more rounded. You’re going to be in a place where you’re not going to have the Christian support, so you’ll need to be a bit more of a self-starter theologically.” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, oh yeah, that’s a really good idea, you know.” And as I’m coming to the end of my college, people are like, “Oh, you should really just do some church ministry here—get a bit more experience”. I’m like, “How much experience do I need, man?!”
CK: That’s it. You’ve finally said, “Enough’s enough!” That’s what you’ve said.
RV: Yeah! I’m like, “Send me! I’ll go.” [Laughter] You know? Like, let’s—let’s get me out of here. I’m not saying any of those things are a bad thing. I would love to stay in Sydney. I think Sydney’s my favourite city of all the places I’ve lived. And I know it’s like kind of ironic: lots of people hate on Sydney, because it’s, like, too big and stuff. But I really love Sydney, so—
CK: I love it too.
RV: —I think I’ll be really sad to leave it. But—
CK: But there’s interesting things here: I mean, you’ve been primed so well. I mean, from an international background; moving all over the world; getting tastes of culture; in some ways, being cut free from a sense of home—I mean, you’ve had a lot of homes—learning to adapt in different environments—but also that early seed that was sown in your grandfather saying, “This is what I’m praying for you”—as helpful and/or manipulative as that was [Laughter]
CK: [Laughter] It was great, by the way. I mean, that’s a great thing! But then as you’re reading the Bible, discovering this, God has a heart for all people: they need to know about him. There’s one true God over every land. That’s just wonderful. And now, you’ve been preparing.
I want to ask you a question about this, though: all these people have been saying, “Wait, wait, wait, wait”; I think one of the misconceptions we often have is that mission is only something that happens over there—that is, you know, you have to fly overseas somewhere to do it. How have you learned about mission locally, having to live as a missionary in Sydney, right now? What have you learned about this waiting process and learning that you’re already on mission, in a sense?
RV: Yeah, I think if I can’t do stuff here, I’m not going to be able to do it there. It’s not like I’m going to get on a plane, I’m going to land and be like, “Oh, now I can do evangelism. Now I can get myself out of my comfort zone and talk to people—strangers—friends—neighbours about Jesus.” I think that’s been a really clear—like, lots of what I’m doing here is both kind of practice, but it’s also the real thing, right? Like—
CK: That’s right.
RV: There are people in Sydney—my neighbours, my friends, my colleagues—who are bound for hell, because they don’t know Jesus. And just as much as that person over there in deepest, darkest Africa doesn’t know him, so does my neighbour/friend/colleague. And I’m here now, and I need to be able to do stuff about that. I need to be able to speak the truth of God and his Son Jesus, and that grace that gripped me, I want them to be gripped by that as well.
So I think none of this has been wasted time. I’m not going to think about the last whatever years that I’ve been a Christian as something to regret. It’s just been God growing me, using me, teaching me, humbling me in what it looks like to be on mission with all of my life—including just being involved in church stuff, leading youth ministries—kids ministries—and teaching Scripture, going on these kind of missions that we’re on right now and experiencing a different culture and, you know, rural New South Wales is quite a different culture to Sydney, and me processing what that difference is and trying to figure out how to speak the gospel in a way that is relevant in this place.
But also just the daily stuff of being a Christian around my colleagues and my job as an accountant, and trying to take them out to lunch and take them to the City Bible Forum talks, and going out meeting and chatting about what I think the Bible says, and trying to read my Bible with my housemate and show him how magnificent Jesus is. I just think all of those things are still wins in themselves, but they’re also preparing me to think what does it look like to be missional now is not that different from what I think being a missionary and being missional somewhere overseas is going to look like. So—
CK: One of the things I love you said a minute ago is that “If I can’t get out of my comfort zone now, I won’t be able to do it there”. I mean, it’s a recognition that mission is not always something we do just ’cause it’s natural to us; that—I think it’s not always comfortable and easy, and I want to break down a little bit of this feeling—I mean, you’re training right now to be full-fledged capital “M” Missionary abroad. Yet you’ve recognised that mission is something that happens locally always. But even as a capital “M” Missionary, doesn’t mean that it just comes natural to you and easy for you. It’s still uncomfortable—like, it’s still hard work to strike up a conversation with your colleague—to initiate conversation about God and the deeper things of life and what life’s about and what we have on offer in Christ. So how do you push through that discomfort?
RV: Yeah, I think some of it has to do with what your own walk with Jesus is like. This is not a brag, but something of the way that God gripped me was I’ve always read my Bible. It’s not been a hard thing to read my Bible and hear what God is saying to me through his word. But that’s, again, my history: I’ve always been a reader, and so that wasn’t that hard for me to then apply that to my Bible. But I’ve just always been in God’s word, and I’ve—I’ve just heard his love for me, I’ve heard his love for the nations, I’ve heard his love for those who don’t love him that has pushed me to see people the way he sees them, rather than the way I fear them or see them.
I think that’s really helped. I think as I start my morning on my train into work, I read my Bible and that helps me switch gears to what I’m doing as in my job; it’s not just being an accountant; it’s being a Christian in that workplace. And some days, it just means I work 12 hours in front of my laptop and don’t really talk to anyone. But other days, there are just opportunities that God gives me and I make the most of them.
Someone encouraged me recently in that we often pray that “God, would you give me this opportunity to speak to my friend?” But it seems to me in places like Colossians, it doesn’t talk about praying for an opportunity; it’s praying for making the most of the opportunity.
RV: God’s giving us opportunities left, right and centre.
CK: Will we take them?
RV: Will we take them?
RV: And so, that’s helped me—just flicking that switch and going, “I could either say something really superficial right now, or I could say something serious”. And I’m [a] pretty lighthearted person; I try to crack jokes whenever I talk to people and that sort of thing. But, you know, that can still be an avenue for me to then talk about something meaningful—about serious things. And I think the way I’ve pushed through is just—yeah, God’s word’s been a big part of that.
I really resisted the title “evangelist” for a long time: people were trying to put that on me. They just said, “Oh, you just love talking to people about Jesus and that seems rare”. And I resisted it because I thought, “We’re all supposed to be evangelists. I’m not doing something that we’re all not supposed to be doing.” And, you know, capital/lowercase whatever, there might be a difference there. I’m not saying I’m either. But I just think there is something about us just having this really good news, and I think the more our eyes are fixed on this world, rather than on the new creation and on Jesus as the author and perfector of our faith, the more we imbibe our culture, the easier it is for us not to talk about Jesus.
RV: But the more we hear him, the more we fix our eyes on him, we can’t help but talk about him, you know?
RV: And go to Bible college! That’s the best way. [Laughter] ’Cause then when people ask you what you do, you say, “I learn about Jesus every day”, and they’re like, “What are you talking about?” And then—
CK: “Why would you learn about that?” Yeah.
CK: That’s right.
RV: Or they’re—lots of the time, they’re like, “Oh, let’s not talk about that”. But, you know, at least—
RV: —there’s an opportunity for me to very easily talk about what I believe in. And now, these non-Christian friends that I have as I talk about what I might do in the future and go overseas, they want to say, “That’s a great adventure. That’s so cool!”
RV: I say, “Well, it is those things, but it’s also a sacrifice. Like, it’s not going to be pleasant, I don’t think.” And I think I’m just doing it because they need to hear about Jesus and there’s not other people who are putting their hands up. So it’s those kinds of things where it just becomes more and more a normal part of your life, I think. I don’t have a magic formula or some way to really motivate people to talk about Jesus other than—
CK: Well, I think you’ve done it. I mean, you’ve said you get up in the morning, you listen to the word of God, that helps frame up your whole perspective for your day, and it helps you know what’s most valuable—most important—and it sort of keeps the main thing the main thing for you. And so the more we’re hearing from God, the more we’re willing to speak about that.
But also you have a gospel clarity: you know just how important this message is—just how precious it is. We talked about this at—we had a meeting earlier today, Ryan; I know you know this, ’cause you were there with me, but for those that are listening, I mean, we had a meeting with our team. And I gave the illustration that when I worked in a restaurant, we always wanted people to be what we called “raving fans”, because that was our best form of advertising: if we give somebody an incredible experience, you can almost guarantee they’re going to talk about it. And for us as Christians, we want to be raving fans. The more we are able to see the truth of the gospel and appreciate it and its impact on our lives, which is obviously total—it’s a total impact—the more we’re going to be keen to just say, “I have to tell you about this, because there’s nothing like it”. Just like that steak dinner, you know? “You won’t have a dinner like it.” But I mean, how much better for the gospel. This is everything! So I’ll go tell the world, if I—I’ll shout it from the rooftop, because it’s that good—it’s that precious.
CK: That’s what we want.
RV: It might not be instant, right? Like—
RV: —the guy who shares something about this great ramen place that he has gone to, you might not go to the ramen place the next day, but next time you’re thinking about ramen, you go back and you go, “Ooh—that guy, he shared about this on his Facebook page”, you know? And you go back and you go, “Okay, let’s go there for ramen”. There is something about being the best ambassador for Jesus, because our friends don’t have anyone else who’s going to tell them about Jesus.
RV: And it might not be today—it might not be an instant conversation. There’s some friends that I’ve been praying for and walking alongside with for 12 years, who’ve, you know, up and down, they’ve checked out things and cooled off—checked out things and cooled off. But maybe in a few years’ time, they might just go, “Ryan really said something that time. Maybe I should think about that a bit more—read my Bible or go to church and think about it more”. And, yeah, there’s something really about our position as ambassadors for Christ in this world that is important in that.
CK: It’s great. So the last 20 seconds here, if you want give people just a simple help, you know: you want to think about mission—you want to think about mission where you are right now. How do you begin to do that?
RV: Yeah, I mean, do the next thing, I think, whatever that is for you. If you’re not reading your Bible, start doing that. That’ll help. God will speak to you. I’m thinking particularly about what is happening in the world and being on for what happens in the world often motivates—the people who I think are most missional in their local church are the people who are most mission-minded about what God’s doing in the world. ’Cause I think as they hear that, they’re also motivated to reach out to their neighbours. So, you know, if you’re not praying for someone overseas, ask your minister and pray for someone who’s doing mission somewhere else. Just take whatever that step is to be a little bit more uncomfortable.
If you work in the city, go along to some of the City Bible Forum stuff, and when your friend asks you what you’re doing for lunch, say, “Do you want to come along?” You know? And open your Bible and read that—it’s really hard. It’s really awkward to offer to someone to read the Bible with them. But people want to. They’re curious.
RV: And they might want to do it forever. But it might be just the thing that helps them to meet Jesus for themselves. So—
CK: Maybe stop praying for opportunities and start praying for boldness in the opportunities God’s already giving.
RV: Yeah! Open your eyes. Yep, open the door—
RV: —to those opportunities. Totally.
CK: That’s great. Ryan, thank you so much for sharing with us.
CK: And hope the Lord continues to use you on mission as you go ahead.
RV: Yeah, thanks Chase!
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As always, I’d like to thank Moore College for making the ministry of the Centre for Christian Living possible, and to extend thanks to my assistant, Karen Beilharz, for audio editing and transcribing. Music provided by James West.