On January 14, just days before moving his family to the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, Ryan Anderson publicly declared his faith in Jesus through baptism at Bay Area. He explained in his testimony video that he couldn’t stand the though of moving to Texas without first being baptized in the church through which he came to faith, crediting his Missional Community for introducing him to Jesus. Below, Ryan shares his story more broadly and highlights how God has been at work in his life since surrendering his life to the Lordship of Jesus five years ago.
What was life like before Jesus?
I grew up in Frisco in a home that didn’t know Jesus, but we would maybe go to church on Easter or Christmas. My parents got divorced at a young age, and at the age of 13 I started rebelling, I started living for my flesh – drinking, doing drugs, doing pretty much everything the Bible tells you not to do.
At the age of 20 I wasn’t getting anything accomplished in Texas and my dad asked me if I would like to come out to Maryland to try to get my life back on track, so I did. I went to school, got back on track, and met my wife at the age of 25. When I met her was really when I got introduced to Jesus because she comes from a Christian background and she really wanted us to go to church. We went to four or five churches before we found Bay Area.
How did you come to know Jesus?
We got invited to a barbecue that the church was doing on a Saturday and there was a guy from my neighborhood I recognized. He invited me to their Missional Community, and it was hard to say no because it was a 20-yard walk.
I think when you’re in an MC you’re held more accountable because we’re getting into the Word, we’re doing studies, so it wasn’t something like church where I could walk in, walk out and be done. I didn’t want to go there and look silly because I didn’t do the study or get into the Word, so I think it held me accountable.
Not only that, it was the first time I really heard mature believers talk about the Word and the Good News. Before I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior it wasn’t that I didn’t love Him enough; it was that I didn’t know how much He loved me, and that’s when I started to understand that, hearing the Holy Spirit speak through other people.
During that time I accepted Jesus as my Savior, then I started to rely on Him more and more. Then I started serving in the church.
Where did you serve at Bay Area?
I’ve been serving in Children’s Ministry for just over three years. I work with 4- and 5-year-olds teaching large group – they all go into separate rooms, then 20 minutes into the gathering they all come to one big room, and that’s when I teach them.
The Bible tells us to be like a child and I believe that because I see these children singing and dancing, putting their hands in the air – and there are people in our church who won’t even do that. Children’s Ministry was another event in my life that led me to put more faith in Him.
Tell us about your heart for serving.
I love children – I’ve got a 2- and a 4-year-old right now and I’ve always loved children, and I think that’s a space that God wants me in. Where I am in my faith I’m comfortable discipling children, and we only have so much time with them so I think that time we do have with them is very valuable. I’ve really embraced it – I have a relationship with these children, I know their names, they know my name – it’s great sharing the Good News with them.
I think you have to have a servant’s heart – the Bible says love the Lord with all your heart and love others as yourself, and you have to serve others. Time is our biggest asset, so I think you need to invest time serving others and serving the church. It’s something I want for my children, and I think them seeing me serve will give them a desire to serve as well.
How has serving in Children’s Ministry impacted you?
I can tell which kids are being discipled for Jesus just by hearing them come up and say a prayer or by them knowing a Bible story. There are kids in there who can recite the Lord’s Prayer – the first time a child recited the Lord’s Prayer I didn’t even have it memorized, so it encouraged me to go and do that. I thought, “Okay, this child knows Scripture and how am I going to teach a child about Scripture if they know more about it than I do?” That was when I had just started serving in Children’s Ministry, and it led to me getting into Scripture more.
How has being in a Missional Community helped you grow spiritually?
Sometimes in our MC we split up with men and women, and it was the first time I heard other men be humble enough to say, this is what I’m going through in my marriage or discipling my children or whatever it was. Before I joined the MC I felt like I was the only one going through those things, but it was very encouraging to know that other believers were going through the same issues and that I had someone I could talk to about it. … It gave me the strength to be able and go out and talk to people who weren’t believers and share the Good News.
What compelled you to be baptized?
I’d been wanting to get baptized for three years and I had been putting it off. I remember sermons where if someone wanted to get baptized pastor Greg or Pat said, “If you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior come up and get baptized.” I’d be this close to getting up and doing it, but I just kept resisting. I kept telling myself “I’m too far along in my walk, if I was going to get baptized I should have done it right at the beginning.”
I know I would have had a lot of regrets in my heart if I would have went to Jesus and not done that, so if it’s something on your heart don’t wait because you don’t know when your time is and how many more opportunities you’re going to have to get baptized.
You’ve been a believer for five years now, and seem to know and value Scripture – why is that?
I try to do Greg’s thing – a chapter a day for the rest of your life. I get into the Word every day, and I’ve got a journal so I’ll highlight passages I really like that I feel like God is speaking to me. My memory stinks so I have to write them down and recite them over and over.
I think that’s a big key when sharing the news with others – you want the Holy Spirit to speak through you; you don’t want your flesh speaking, and one of the best ways to do that is use the living words in the Bible and share Scripture.
I meet with a group of men on Monday mornings at 7 a.m. Most of them have been followers of Jesus a lot longer than I have, so spending time with them in the Word has been really helpful to me.
It’s all about how you use your time: If you’re getting into the Word with others, if you’re praying instead of watching TV or whatever else, I think naturally you are going to retain that information and remember.
How does your faith play out at home with your family?
We always pray every night. We go around in a circle – one of my daughters will usually start. We try to get into the Word. We have a children’s Bible so we’ll read stories in the Bible and I’ll talk to them about what that message means. There’s an app we use for children with stories in the Bible; my 4-year-old will watch a part of it and we’ll talk about the story. There’s stories I will watch and learn something new, like Job – I don’t know the Old Testament as well as I know the New Testament.
I always encourage my 4-year-old to talk to others about Jesus, and I’ve heard her playing with kids and ask them if they know Jesus. We try to take advantage of moments – when we’re in the car, we’ll talk to her a little about the Bible. It takes the mother and father – my wife and I praying together at night is huge, as well as getting into the Word together.
Is there anything else you’d want to share with your church family?
I broke Jesus’ heart over and over, and He loves me unconditionally – there is no better deal, there is no greater gift than the gift of salvation that only Jesus can give.