I recently sat down with Justin Dudney, our new Life Group pastor here are New Life. I had some questions to ask him about his journey and passion for Life Groups. Many of his answers surprised me and were filled with great depth. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did conducting it.
So give us a brief overview of your life.
Well, I was born in Pennsylvania, USA. However, when I was only 5 years old, my parents answered the call to the mission field and moved to Costa Rica. So from age 5 to 18 I lived in San Jose, Costa Rica as a MK (missionary kid). I basically grew up there. After graduating, I moved back to the US where I studied for a couple of years in both Kansas and Nebraska doing pre-recs for med school. I originally wanted to be a doctor, but while in university, for a short while I started going down dark pathways, and made some bad choices. Thankfully, during this time God intervened and this was a huge turning point in my life. I then headed back to Costa Rica at age 21. I turned back to my relationship with God and over the next few months decided to make a radical change. After signing up for YWAM, I headed for Australia.
How many years did you spend at YWAM, and at which bases?
I did my DTS at Brisbane, Australia in 2002 and then shortly thereafter joined the staff there. It was there that I met my wife, Nicole, and we were married in 2006. After that, we served at the same base for two more years. Then, In 2008, we moved to India to pioneer a base there with a small group of people. We came back to Canada in 2010 to have our first baby, Levi, with full intentions of returning to India. However, when we tried to go back all of our pathways were blocked, our visa’s didn’t work out, and we found out that a family member was sick so we stayed here in Canada.
You started out as an intern here at New Life, correct? Where have you served and in what capacity?
I started out as unintentional intern in 2011 in the areas of Young Adults and Missions. For the first three years I spent here, I did my LDN (a CRC pastoral studies course) and I have been here ever since.
Why do you do what you do? Help us understand the heart behind what motivates you.
Ever since I have been an adult Christian, my passion has been to get to know the Father better, and then to help others do the same. In short, my personal motivation is to have a deeper relationship with Christ, and my external motivation is to introduce and disciple others into that same journey.
What is the greatest joy in the work that you do?
Seeing others take significant steps to further their relationship with God
What is the greatest joy in your personal life?
Without question, my family. I love spending time with them, falling deeper in love with wife, and raising our four amazing children.
What are your greatest struggles, things that make you sad when you see them?
It makes me sad when I see people make choices that I know are going to cost them dearly in the future; decisions that I know will produce bad fruit rather than good fruit.
From your personal experience, if you could suggest one thing to another person when it comes to the pursuit of God, what would it be?
Above all else, remain in the vine. Your relationship with the Trinity (Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) is everything. It is where you will find direction, strength for your tasks, joy, and motivation to help others. Outside of that space, you will have little to offer.
What are your hobbies?
I love playing sports, especially soccer. It is no secret that I am an avid soccer fan. I used to do a lot of surfing, I enjoy fitness, have a fascination with carpentry, and dabble in cooking.
Your job description at New Life is changing this fall. Rather than leading our Young Adults and Mission’s departments, you will now be heading up Young Adults/Life groups. How did this change come about?
We have spent a lot of time in the past couple of years developing a Future Ministry Plan here at New Life. Along with this plan, came a lot of discussion about our priorities and which areas of ministry we, as staff, would like to champion. One of the areas on the potential list of ministries that needed leadership was Life Groups. I began a conversation about this area, and out of that came the shift.
What is your heart for Life Groups?
I have always deeply valued the idea of life groups. It was an intricate part of my time at YWAM, but even before that, it was a constant in my faith formation and my years growing up as a missionary kid. I believe that in order to be a part of a church body, Sunday service is not enough. It is essential that we get into a small fellowship where we are vulnerable, accountable, and can intentionally seek growth in our faith life together with others. It is necessary for church growth as well as our relationship with God. In the church of Acts, they gathered together, fellowshipped together, and prayed together. However, even when numbers grew, they still met together in small groups. In YWAM India, there were eight of us that met together every day before going out, Then, every night we would come back together to pray and share what had happened. I would like to see that same passion for Life Groups released right here in our church – New Life.