The One Thing 323: Walking With Unbelieving Family (Part 1)

Dave Jensen (EV Church, Central Coast) and Anna Cox (Reach Australia) are twins born into a ministry family, but they have very different stories. After growing up together hearing the same gospel message, Dave walked away from church in his 20s. Anna describes herself as a rule keeper and Dave as a rule breaker – how did that impact their relationship? This is part one of a two part series exploring how they came to faith and reflecting on why their journeys are so different.

The Storm Tossed Family
 by Russel Moore

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper

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The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.

Lifeway leadership podcast network.

I’m Derek Hanna. Welcome to The One Thing, a podcast designed to give you one solid, practical tip for gospel centered ministry. Every single weekend, one thing’s for sure you things to reach Australia, our vision is to see thousands of healthy, evangelistic multiplying churches right across Australia. And I’m excited about this podcast and the next one we’re doing. We’ve got two coming up as an as ministry families.

Of course, we know that we once we pray for them, we hope that some of the kids in their families that we have as we’re married to grow as disciples, even as we shepherd and those with shepherding the church as well. And so in that vein, today we’ve got two people, got Dave Jensen from me, the Church and Central Gospel got Anna Cox from Reach Australia, living in Sydney as well.

Now they’re here not just because, as I understand it, you’re identical twins, is that right?

Dave No. Yeah, we definitely it’s great. Straight ahead. Common question asks When I tell people I’m a twin, I have a twin brother. They say, Are you identical? And I think that’s no, that’s a no.

I am looking at you on a screen. I’m just finding it hard. Sorry, Dave.

I was just going to say Anna has never received a higher compliment in your life, and she.

Great. She’s a very handsome woman.

The other thing when we’re out and about and we get mistaken for a couple that has happened also we don’t like.

Oh, yes.

Oh, awkward. The kiss came at the footy. Very awkward. Very cool. Now we’ve we’ve got them here not just because they’re twins. They are twins, not identical twins. They grew up in a ministry family. They have two very different stories growing up in the same family at the same time. And so this going to be two episodes where this first one we we look at things through what it looks like to their stories a little bit about them, and then we’ll see the second half, the story in our second episode.

But for now, you press play on another episode of The One Thing Walking with Unbelieving Family.

Now let’s kick this off, Dave. Anna, what do you remember about life going out for both of you and what that was like?

I think we had a pretty happy childhood, actually. We are the youngest of five siblings and I mean, although David was very much the young, always the younger child, you know, that attention seeking personality. So yeah, so that was we had oh, to older, much older siblings. We had a brother two years older than us. We had two loving and kind parents and we also had a grandpa who lived with us till we were 15 when he passed away.

We had a really happy childhood and we yeah, I think always in my childhood memories, particularly before high school. Anyway, David is always there. We were we went to different high schools, but up until primary school, David was always there. So yeah, that’s a big part of what I remember about childhood.

Hmm. Dave Yeah, really terrific upbringing, wonderful family, siblings, great parents all going on. You know, I always wanted a traumatic back story, you know, and when I was a bit older to be a bit more interesting, but I had the most boring, whitebread, middle class loving, kind, which, as it turns out, is not boring at all, is the best thing of all time.

But, yeah, really, really stable, secure and Jesus focused family. So yeah, I mean, you know so I don’t think there is sport and music and all those things but yeah.

Yeah now it is. I’ve gotten to know you guys a little bit over the last few years. There’s, you’re quite different personalities.


But there, there’s that you are and yet there’s something. Abed is the more I get to know each of you I think. Ah, yeah, I could see that. But talk to me a little bit about where you go as close growing up.

I think.

Yeah, not at all. I’m just, I’m doing on purpose to make you laugh and you go.

Well I think yes, I said we went to different high schools, but certainly in primary school and before that all my memories have David in them. We we were close, but I think we always were very different. So we often had different interests and things like that. But I think actually our closest the closest we’ve been is probably the last 15 years.

Would you say that?

Dave Yes, I think that’s right. Certainly since I became a Christian, we’ve got closer. But I was just I just to echo, yeah, that our experience of growing up was always together and there was never any major fallings out or anything like that. So yeah, we weren’t super, super close and sharing deep, meaningful conversations. There was nothing rivalry, there was no anger or or times of hatred.

I remember being defensive. If I would have been mistreated by friends at school or whatever like that. And I remember her feeling defensive as well. I got in a fight once in primary school and a kid I think kicked me or something and she ran over and kicked him in the shins or something and said, Don’t you hate my brother?

Or something like that. So there was that kind of closeness that we had. But yeah, there was a definite, you know, more intense, not intense, a strong word, I think a greater closeness that occurred after I became a Christian, for sure.

I’m just remembering in primary school, Dave and I, we’re like the lynchpins of everyone in primary schools, romantic relationships, because, you know, in primary school, boys and girls don’t actually talk to each other. So, you know, if there was a girl who liked a boy, she would come and tell me and then I would tell David and then David would tell the boys.

So we were like the linchpins for the romantic entanglements at our primary school. So that was yeah, I think that that was one thing.

That white irresponsibility, too.

Yeah, it definitely is. Definitely is. But yeah, I definitely remember getting very defensive and kicking that boy and yeah, that sense of I can say things about my brother, but you certainly can.

Now you’ve, we’ve, you flagged this and if people know Dave story they they might know that he he did become a Christian bit later in life but and how did you how did you come to that Jesus.

Yeah I reckon for me it was a lot more of an organic experience I suppose. And Dave and yeah, I’ve often I’ve been known to use David’s testimony more than mine because it’s a bit more sexy, a bit more Hollywood, but in reality, obviously very thankful to God for how he’s worked in my life. You know, our parents really created a Christian culture in our family.

So Christianity was normalized. It was pretty guy’s Bible, reading, prayer, all that sort of stuff. We had all the siblings who made being a Christian same cool and normal and I always thought being a Christian was always a very normal thing for us in our family. And I think but at the same time, I think our parents definitely made it clear that we needed to own our own faith.

That wasn’t something that we we weren’t Christians because they were Christians, that at some point we needed to make that decision for ourselves. Um, then for me, I think in one moment was going to high school. I went to an Anglican high school, but it, you know, not everyone there was Christian and I think it was that sort of moment was like, okay, hang on.

Not, not everybody is Christian. Why? And what if they’re not Christian? What does it mean for me to be a Christian? So that was a moment of taking it on for myself. And also, even though it was an Anglican school, the theology that I taught at the front was was quite different from what I had at home and at church.

That was sort of like Jesus died on the cross. So you should love people. And I remember thinking, that’s that doesn’t ring true to me. Like, what is it? What’s different about what I believe? So what they’re teaching. So that was another moment of clarity for me about what I believed. And during that time, during high school, I was really fortunate to have Christian friends at high school and at youth group who really encouraged me and my faith, you know, and then, you know, as an adult going to beach mission and having to explain what you believed, again, that was another moment of clarity.

What do I believe and how I explain that to other people? So, yeah, it was a very organic journey. And becoming a Christian, I’ve obviously I think a benefit for me has been inherently I’m a rule follower. So even though I mean, I have obviously had to grapple with my sinfulness and all those things, but choosing a Christian life wasn’t too much of a challenge for me because I, you know, I like rules, I like following the rules.

So but I’m very thankful for how God’s used all those things in my life. And yeah, it brought me into a relationship with him and Dave.

What did you say you were watching Hannah because she lived out of faith as she kind of journey through those teen years and early twenties. What did what did you see in her as she lived at that faith?

Yeah, it’s funny to think of that. You know, I, I haven’t thought of that ever, that question. I think I had I just I think if I looked at in his life when I was a teenager in particular, I would have just thought. And I think I think I thought boring, you know, boring. Not that I thought it was boring, but rather that she was an I was not a rule keeper.

I was a rule breaker. And and I was, you know, Australia when it was boom. And yeah, in many ways she was, yeah. As she said, she was a naturally conservative is the wrong word you know. But you’re naturally rule abiding young woman and also a bit daggy, you know, she loved cricket as we all do in cricket.

I was okay. He’s a good illustration for anyone who loves cricket. And my favorite player was, of course, and I know my favorite player was, of course, Shane Warne. That’s my favorite player. And his favorite player was Steve Wall. So okay.

Clear. Clearly Dave’s wrong here. Can I just say please don’t. But anyway, Dave, go ahead.

I’m I’m very diverse. I like Shane Warne and Steve, just so you know. But Anna had a Steve wore t shirt which she wore too. She was like, you know, 17 So while I’m getting I just want to say that at the same point I did have and it was a security blanket for me, she was always very steady, very wrong.

So I think if Anna had sort of fallen off of the rails and would have really shook me, you know, it would have been a lot because there was a very steady and normal, safe, comfortable and loving kind sort of part of her personality and behavior. And so that was always there. But yeah, I would have looked at it as like, oh, that’s, you know, that’s boring.

Don’t be like that. I think that was probably the overarching emotion growing up as I.

Dave do. Do you remember a point then where you thought looking, think about Christianity, looking at that life and thinking, no, that’s not for me?

No, I don’t remember a moment like that. And for me it was a far more subtle drift. And I in hindsight, you know, I wasn’t a born again believer, but I had moments which I can pinpoint now looking back, which I thought, Oh, that was a kind of sliding doors moment and things with girls. As I got in my teenage years, decisions I made, where I made proactive decisions to disobey what I knew was what God wanted and I knew was seen.

And I sort of I had a in a battle that I chose, you know, may not hey, other moments where I’d make a profession of faith at a youth event, but it just would fall away in a few days here or there. I also had with Anna and some of my other siblings and my parents a good example of a passionate Christian.

You know that people who had a real living, breathing relationship with Jesus and a relationship which transformed their character and behavior. And I didn’t have that. And I want to say I actually want to disagree with that, if I can. She said that as being brought up as a Christian, it sort of suited her because she was a rule keeper.

And I want to say I don’t think that was the case at all. I think being a Christian helped form and shape her character in a way that goes beyond being a legalistic rule keeper, you know, because it wasn’t high and mighty. I’m good you’re not. It had a deep and my parents probably had a deep humility at the center of it, which is, you know, found amongst Christ followers everywhere.

So I certainly found a drift, an identification that, oh, I’m not like that. But I would have been terrified to ever say I’m not a Christian or that I don’t believe in Jesus, because I did believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead. But as you know, Jane says, Well, the devil believes that you’re. So what? And he shudders.

So it wasn’t until I was probably later in life in my mid-twenties that I think I had a couple of heart beat seconds and moments where I admit to myself, Well, I know what a Christian is and I know what I am. I know what I am. And that can’t be. I Yeah, but no, I was never an atheist, never an agnostic, never anything like that.

Just a slow drift away of, of commitment behavior. So on and so forth.

Yeah, I reckon Dave never said he wasn’t a Christian, like he never came out and said I’m not, he never even said to Mum and Dad anything like I’m not going to church any more or I don’t believe that, stop talking to me about that. He always said he was a Christian. I mean, I think it was obvious to all of us that he probably wasn’t, particularly as life went on.

I think we could say in his the way he lived his life, that it was if he that he did believe it, but that it was a real struggle. As he said he believed Jesus died and rose again. But he didn’t have that personal relationship with God that changed his life. And I think yeah, so I think he never said he wasn’t a Christian.


Did you can I ask, did you ever say anything? It was it were there. It’s really hard to talk to family about this stuff, particularly when you see, you know, you know, they’re not a Christian, were they not might not be there in publicly admitting that or saying that. Did you ever say anything and or and how did you approach then?

I don’t think I did say anything. No, I think yeah, I think I think it is really, really hard with siblings. It’s probably hard with anyone, actually. But I think to have that confronting conversation where you say, Hey, you say you’re Christian, but your life’s not matching up with that. I don’t think I ever felt like I had that role in his life to say that, and maybe that’s to my detriment that I didn’t do that.

Maybe I should have stepped up and done that. But I. I just never thought that was my place to talk to him in that way. Yeah. Yeah. At the time, yeah.

I, I, I think if she had done that, it would have been devastating. Devastatingly harmful to our relationship. So I’m delighted she didn’t. Yeah. And, and it meant as the years went on that she was able to have a really big impact and I just would have been very sensitive to that conversation from anyone. But let alone my twin sister.

And that’s a huge facade. Most of that is pride. You know, there’s a pride issue and I would feel judged, you know, for all these things. So yeah, I’m really glad. Now there’s some relationships where you can do that kind of thing, but I’d say 1%, you know, 1% of relationships can survive the long term relationships, but you’re going to be at each other’s funeral one way or the other.

You know, 1% can survive A you’re, you’re fighting it now. I want to say there’s a place for it. There is a place for it. But teenagers, children, I probably think that’s not it.

Yeah. Yeah. Can I ask last question we asked you guys. You have come from almost the same experiences. It’s been established that Dave is clearly much younger than Anna here in this conversation as well. But. But you have had very different journeys. So why do you think that is? And can we start with you?

Yeah, I think it’s really that I think twins are so interesting because with twin relationships, we can really look at nature versus nurture. Now, obviously, it’s a little bit different for Dave and I. As we established, we’re not identical twins, but we still have had that same upbringing, that same Christian culture that was established in our family and things like that.

And so we can look at nature versus nurture. And I think there’s obviously a big part of nurture. And, you know, our parents would be the first to say that there were things they could have done differently and all those things. But so much of it as well was nature and personality. It was, as we said, I’m inherently a rule.

Although I liked what David said about being shaped by being a Christian, and that’s probably right. But I am inherently a rule follower. David is inherently a rule breaker, and that personality difference sort of played out a little bit in adolescence. So I think that’s that’s been a big part of it. Other factors, of course, but yeah, what do you think, Dave?

It’s a great testament to God’s work in the lives of not just corporate gatherings of people, but also individual people, and that in the same way as we look through the Bible, all the way through our New Testament, that God interacts with individuals and as individuals respond to him, a large part of that is shaped by personality nature.

Those who think the way that God has created that personality, but of course we see that with the with the apostles so wonderfully. We see that Peter acts in a very particular way that many of the others don’t, that John and James act in a particular way that others don’t. And Paul and and this other thing is that we’re actually wired in ways by God, but to respond differently to different situations.

And and that’s why that part of the Bible is such a powerful preventing in our lives. So I just think there’s a great sense of we we know what we should do with our kids, with the people we’re trying to evangelize. Our children are not a God tells us what we need to do, and we need to proclaim the gospel faithfully, truthfully engaging in cool people to paint and have faith.

And yet people’s response in many in many respects, is going to be shaped and formed by things that we can’t see and we certainly can’t control. And yet we’re still called to just be faithful in that and and press forward at the same point to know that, hey, because people are individuals, we need to work hard at making sure that we engage with them as individuals in the space of that.

So, yeah.

It’s good. Yeah. Now, listen, Pete, the producer has said you’ve got to do one thing, Derek. How do I do one thing? And this is my one thing for this one before we we in this part of the conversation and we’ll pick it up in just a moment. I think for me, just hearing you guys talk, it does.

My reflection is, is it God does work in with different people, different ways in his own timing. And it actually takes a huge amount of patience and graciousness and trust that God knows what he’s doing in those moments, watching those you love make challenging decisions. But yeah, that’s been really helpful. We’re going to pick this conversation up because the next conversation we’re going to have, we are going to hear Dave about how it is that you become a Christian and what that’s been like for you and Anna on that journey.

But here’s what we can do now. Just we can open up the toolbox. Well, just as we in this episode behave, a couple of things for the toolbox. Two books. One is a book by Russell Moore called Storm Tossed Family. Now, I’ve read this, but Pete has, and he said, it’s excellent. So there’s one. The other one is the Pastor Kid by Barnabas Piper.

Now that I’ve I’ve known, I’ve looked at myself. That is a book that a lot of people I know I’ve read and said is incredibly helpful. So I’d recommend that one the pastor kid as well. Two books Storm Toss Family by Russell Moore and the Pastor Kid by Barnabas Piper. Now, we would love as well to have you join us in prayer.

If you have a WhatsApp, you can join the WhatsApp group. You can say we’re praying for the network. What’s happening across the country, in God’s church, in the church, in the network. We’ll have a link for you in the show notes. So head over there and click that. We would love you to be praying with us about what God is doing.

And finally, the Australian National Congress 2024 tickets are on sale. So if you go to the website, reach Australia dot com today, you you’ll be able to see the link to the event and you can book Earlybird tickets now, so make sure you get in in the next month or so while the Earlybird tickets are available. That’s next May 2024.

So go to reach Australia dot com. You and you’ll see all the information there. If you want to contact us you can always email us at resources at reach Australia dot com Donohue thanks anyway thanks Dave I’m doing can chat soon we music doesn’t go oh no wait a minute I don’t have to do it sir. Well in the bloopers anchorman and disposable Do all that again.