How many times would you extend an invitation for someone to hear the gospel before you gave up?
For soon-to-be apprentice James Dezius, it was the persistence of Connan O’Shea that saw him hear the good news of Jesus and put his trust in Him as Lord and Saviour.
Intentional evangelism used by God for salvation
Connan is the Senior Pastor of Lighthouse Church on the Central Coast, a former MTS apprentice and an experienced MTS trainer. Next year, he’ll be training James, but their relationship started not at church – but in the pool playing water polo.
Looking for a way to meet with non-Christians and share Jesus with them, Connan joined a local team. He shares, “I had never played water polo in my life, but I thought I would give it a crack because I was getting too old for soccer. So I went and started playing. I met James. He was a 15-year-old punk and I was his dad’s age.”
Playing in the team was a “slow burn”. Connan spent time developing friendships and listening to the guys. It was 6 years after first joining the team and meeting James that things started to shift. Connan says, “James invited me to his 21st. Which was quite significant considering he was a complete non-believer.”
Over and again Connan invited James to church to attend their evangelistic series, Life. But James said no.
James reflects, “Over the series of about 8 years Connan invited me 7 times to the Life course and I said no 7 times.” James always had things on and didn’t have an interest in prioritising attending the course – but Connan kept asking.
In 2020 after COVID cancelled all his commitments, James said yes to attending Life and started coming along to the course on Zoom. He shares, “For the first time as an adult I was able to come to the Bible and what it presented and consider it to be real.”
While doing the 5-week course James had many questions, so he and Connan met up the only way allowed during restrictions at the time – for exercise.
Connan says, “We went for an ocean swim and sat down and had a coffee after, while he fired more questions.”
For James, Connan’s witness was one of conviction and assurance. James shares, “Connan said ‘I’m 100% sure God is real, I’m 100% sure heaven is real and I’m 100% sure I’m going.’ This was very compelling because I knew Connan and he was a smart man who made good decisions, and I knew he wouldn’t be lying to me.”
Throughout 2020 James and Connan continued to meet up, reading through the Bible together. James also went on to the follow-up course after Life which is called More to Life. He says, “I academically understood Jesus but was still keeping him at a safe distance subconsciously.” Through continued encouragement, prayer, questions answered and time in God’s Word, James committed his life to Christ on December 4 2020.
Change of heart leads to change of life
After becoming a Christian James joined Lighthouse Church and forged a strong friendship with the MTS apprentice at the time, Jeremy Kidd. He also continued his friendship with Connan. Spending so much time with them both opened his eyes to ministry, and he decided he wanted to do an apprenticeship.
James says, “I got to see the ways Jeremy was growing, and how Connan was growing me. I went along to the MTS Recruit conference online with Greg Lee talking, and during that period of time I realised I wanted to do full-time gospel ministry if I could.”
Connan and James talked about ministry and an MTS apprenticeship. Connan read 1 Timothy with James and they discussed how a leader of a church shouldn’t be a new convert, and what it would look like for James to prepare to be ready for an apprenticeship.
Over the next few years under the guidance of Connan and alongside his church family at Lighthouse Church, James worked through a “map of growth” that Connan had designed with him. James says, “I was really just starting to grow my godly character and my knowledge of the Bible, so Connan gave me a map for reading, listening and serving.”
James was able to help serve and lead a few teams, which has provided him good experiences and some challenges, which he says has, “really helped prepare me for ministry.”
Connan has been seeing James grow since first becoming a Christian, and is looking forward to how God continues to shape him as he starts his apprenticeship in 2024. Connan shares, “He has grown a whole heap. He’s now a leader in training in our summer mission time and will be leading a team. So that’s going to have to push him in his convictions and his character and his competencies. And over the last 12 months, it’s all really come together and he’s got married as well.”
The zeal for evangelism that saw James hear the gospel is also a skill and practice Connan has been helping James cultivate. Connan shares, “He’s been keeping on growing his relationships with his family and his brother and thinking about them and heaven and hell. And so his dad eventually came and did a Life series with us. Both of his parents have been to church multiple times.”
In his apprenticeship, James will continue to grow in character, competency and conviction. His ministry will include writing growth group studies, leading other leaders, preaching, continuing current ministry at the Life series, continuing current ministry at Summerfest and more.
The ripple effect of apprentices
James will start his apprenticeship in 2024 with Connan as his trainer. He will do his apprenticeship over three years and start studying at Moore College during this time. His wife Georgie is currently doing an MTS apprenticeship, and they are considering going into mission after future study.
For James, the support others give to MTS is about the present as well as the future. He says, “Through MTS you’re getting to partner with real work that is happening during the time that person is doing MTS. It’s not just supporting work for the future but work that is happening now. And it’s not just one person you’re supporting, when someone is leading others in MTS there is a huge ripple effect on the amount of people you’re touching with your partnership.”
Give to our 2023 MTS Christmas Appeal now and help raise up more people like James!