This is part of a series of articles by Rachel Winn (member of St Mark’s, Picton), helping us to get to know other Church members.

“I grew up on the far South Coast of New South Wales, in a small country town called Pambula, right down the bottom near the border of Victoria. It’s a very beautiful place and always windy. My father used to work a lot. My mum worked a lot too, so I was usually babysat during the day as a young child. My parents separated when I was eleven and I went to live with my father after that but I still got to see my mother. I was a pretty busy kid. I was either at school or playing sports (including representative AFL) and if I wasn’t doing either of those, when I got old enough I would usually be at work with my father, who didn’t let me leave school but made me finish Year 12. He would say, “If you don’t work hard at school you’re going to end up doing hard work like this,” which was a pretty good life lesson. I do remember when I was younger, after an AFL game I’d played, a minister spoke to me and said that I should come along to church on Sunday. I did try to go but I was a little bit late and the door was shut, so I didn’t actually make it to church. But I think that was really the beginning of me wondering if maybe there is a God and wanting to know more about him. I was coming from a household where both of my parents were somewhat religious in their upbringings but didn’t entertain it (Christianity) at all for their children. It kind of came about later in life where life got hard that I thought, there’s got to be something here, and investigated it myself. I attended a heap of different churches across Sydney and it was really difficult. I would show up to a service and have no idea what to do. I had no idea about Jesus, I had no idea how to behave at church.

I went to churches where I would be told where to sit and told there’s certain things you can’t say when they would pray or sing. I didn’t understand the different denominations; I didn’t understand anything. But I felt like there was something that was telling me, “You need to sort this out, you need to go to church, you need to see what it’s about.” I ended up trying All Saints church at Parramatta and I really enjoyed spending time with the men there. I actually didn’t learn much about Jesus there, more like just going to church, praying, singing, having a coffee and a chat afterwards. What I think is so special about PWAC is that Ben gives so much opportunity for people to look into who Jesus really is and how knowing him can be a big part of your life. So I’d been going to church and listening all about Jesus and trying to understand the bible. I thought I had started to get it – I thought I was getting it. But it was really when I was doing the Christianity Explored course with Ben and others that it was broken down for me. The presenter of Christianity Explored was a big guy who played footy, so I could really relate to him. I still remember the moment when I thought to myself, “Now I know Jesus!” and a weight being lifted off my shoulders. I even remember where I was sitting at the time. It was quite a special moment.”

How am I going: “Zoe and I will sit down every night and set aside at least half an hour to listen to the bible. We listen to it and if something comes up we pause it and discuss it. I think the discussion is really important for me because I can listen to the bible and miss things. Whereas the discussion not only gives me Zoe’s point of view but also helps me understand how I feel about what I’ve just heard. We’re currently going through Romans. I really like it. Romans is great because to be able to hear the way Paul explains it is important to someone like me because I didn’t grow up with it (the gospel) and didn’t understand. Sometimes the next night I’ll go over what we listened to the night before so it really sticks in my head. I’ve really struggled with having Jesus in my life all the time. I’ll sometimes think, “Oh, that wasn’t very Christian of me.” It’s one thing to talk about Jesus but it’s another to act in a heavenly manner. But I think it’s important to recognise those moments so that as you move on through life they happen less often. Sometimes I don’t really feel confident enough to talk to people about Jesus because a lot of people nowadays, especially the people I hang around with, already have an opinion about it and they’re ready for a debate. I’d rather just be someone who when asked questions is happy to answer them, rather than trying to confront people. In situations where I’m not around Christian people and I openly say I am a Christian, ninety nine percent of the time I’ll hear, “I could never be a Christian because I’m so bad.” So I’ll reply, “You have no idea how important it is for me to hear you say that because I’m the same! Jesus came here to save people like me and you. People who have done it tough, people who have made mistakes. You’re taking the first step, you’ve recognised that you’ve made mistakes and done bad things.” I still have people that I talk to now who will go away and stew about it (our conversations) but they might come back 2 weeks later and ask me another question.”

How am I growing: “I want to be the best Christian that I can be. I want to meet Jesus and not be ashamed, which is a big thing that weighs on my mind. Also, now with Zoe being pregnant I want to be a really good role model and the best dad I can be. I want to show her (my daughter, and the type of man that she needs to look for. And you know, the opportunity to raise a child in a Christian household is a blessing. (I have two children with a previous partner, Noah and Hayden. They live with their mother full-time. Noah is 14 and Hayden is turning 12 in June.) It’s giving them opportunities that I never had to experience life the way it should be. It’s madness the fact that people raise children without God – why would you do that with your child? That’s probably the best thing I can do for my family and I do hold myself accountable. If you asked me what I was passionate about before I became a Christian it would be different. Now I would say that I want to have a strong family, which is something that Zoe never had; I never had. Through Jesus that can happen.

I’ve also been working really hard on my physical fitness and my mental health. I’ve lost 37 kilos to date, through going to the gym and trying to learn to box.That’s been a really good opportunity to be in spaces with non-Christians and to have those uncomfortable discussions. I don’t think men have previously had to grow up in this kind of environment as now. The social pressures are different for young men now, conforming with what society expects. It’s much easier to conform with what Jesus expects because it’s written! Some of these young guys (at the gym) will twist what the bible says to try to make a point and it’s hard to pull them up on it. But you have to draw the line somewhere, while still maintaining a healthy friendship. I’ve made so many connections with many young guys through that. It’s a positive atmosphere. I wear religious shirts. It’s been a great conversation starter to put it all out there, be completely approachable. I do boxing at the park with a trainer and we do group sessions as well, so again, that’s been another good opportunity. My trainer was raised as a Catholic but is now an atheist, so we have many great discussions. I’ve actually had the opportunity in the middle of a session to say, “Hey guys, we don’t have to talk about it now, you’re all welcome to come to church on Sunday and we can talk about it as much as you like.” I’m taking those little opportunities.”

— Matthew Warnock, member of 5.00pm @ Wilton Anglican Church