In Christian terms, Dave Jensen could be considered a late starter. When the figures tell us that 78 per cent of Christians turn to faith in the years up to age 19, conversion in his late twenties has made him a determined spreader of the good news.
“I have always been drawn, since I became a Christian, to evangelism,” Mr Jensen says. “It is something that has just been in my heart, mainly because I became a Christian as an adult – I think I was 28 when I became a Christian – and so all of my friends were non-Christians.
“It was very clear to me that unless I told them about Jesus, they wouldn't come to know him unless God revealed himself in different ways. So what that meant to me was a great urgency in my life that hasn't left, I suppose, in the last 14 years of being a Christian.”
So, from 2024, Dave Jensen will be employed by Evangelism and New Churches (ENC) with the roving brief to come alongside ministers, laypeople and churches and work with them to evangelise and encourage evangelism.
“ENC has, as its very core, the desire to reach Sydney for Christ and I can't think of a better thing to do with my life [and] help encourage other people to do as well,” he says.
Most people in Australia who aren't Christians don't hate Christianity. They don't hate Christians. They're just almost entirely ignorant of Christianity. They have no idea what Christianity says.
In an interview to be published in the December/January edition of Southern Cross, Mr Jensen outlines a very clear goal: “The message never changes. The outcome never changes. We want to see people won to a living, breathing relationship with Christ, gathered together with his people”.
His Army background, combined with being a product of one of the highest-profile families in Australian Christianity, has given him a blend of reality and optimism.
“Every culture everywhere has always been hostile to Christ,” he says. “Even nominally Christian cultures, if they're not truly believers, then Jesus is very clear [that] they're enemies of God. So in many senses, the challenge for Christians in evangelism is the same that it's always been. We have a culture that is not interested, which will reject not only the message but also often the messenger, the person.
“Being a public Christian can be perceived no longer as just a bit daggy or old fashioned, but now as dangerous. Now, I want to be clear. I don't think that's most of Australian culture. I think it's small and very vocal segments. My experience in both the city and the suburbs with rich, poor, multicultural, monoethnic churches and communities has been that most people in Australia who aren't Christians don't hate Christianity. They don't hate Christians. They're just almost entirely ignorant of Christianity. They have no idea what Christianity says.
“So, that means you've got a great opportunity with both the hostile but also the people who are just ignorant.”
Mr Jensen’s enthusiasm is infectious and while he says he will be preaching as well as consulting (“I love to preach, I'll preach anywhere at the drop of a hat!”), there is no doubt his preaching card will fill up very quickly. Which brings us to the elephant in the room: is he daunted by stepping into the big shoes of Sydney’s most famous itinerant evangelist, John Chapman?
“Well, I don't think I'm good enough to put a pair of those thongs or sandals on,” he says self-effacingly. “I think Chappo was the great gift to not just Sydney, but overseas. You travel and you'll meet people who were converted by him or people whose parents were converted by him... So no, I'm certainly not in any way thinking I'm in his footsteps.”
It would be unfair to put such expectations on our new roving evangelist. Dave Jensen is going to be his own, straight-talking self. But don’t think for a moment that he shares nothing with the great evangelist who was a fixture of Sydney life for 50 years.
“I'm not the preacher Chappo was, I don't have the humour Chapo did. I don't have the personality he had. God gifted him in a really unique and special way. But I am, in the same way, a servant of the same Lord Jesus and I think the great gift of Chappo was that he wasn't about John Chapman. He was about a different JC.
“He was about Jesus Christ, and that is my hope: to point people to Jesus. So I'm very privileged to wave the same flag he does, probably with a lot more frailty and not as effectively, but I'll still wave it just as hard as I can!”
Dave Jensen asks that we
- Pray for the salvation of Sydney and beyond.
- Pray for more and more gospel workers. Not only more men and women sent into pastoral ministry, but evangelism is almost always a team sport. So pray for my ability to help people consider themselves to be workers.
- Pray for wisdom and thinking through how to best excite people for evangelism.
- Please pray for my family. Me, my wife Sammy and my four sons as we move to Sydney, and for my work in a local church at Menai.
- Pray that God would protect us from the devil and his snares. Itinerant evangelism has a swath of unique temptations. So pray God would protect me, and give me wisdom and insight and good people around me to help point me in that direction
Photo credit: Katoomba Christian Convention