Introducing Steve Osmond, Solas’s New Speaker

As we look forward to Steve Osmond moving to Scotland as an addition to the Solas speaking team, Gavin Matthews spoke to Steve who was at home in South Africa. 

GJM: Hi Steve! So, are you looking forward to the big move to Scotland?

Steve Osmond: Well, it’s a healthy mix of excitement and trepidation! There’s lots going on at the moment, plenty of admin that we’re trying to get through. But it really looks like God’s hand is at work and things are falling into place. So we are praying and trusting that things keeping plodding forwards and that we will get there without any hiccups.

GJM: So tell us how did this plan of working with Solas in Scotland come about? You were getting on with your life, your job, your ministry in South Africa; but now you are moving everything to Scotland? How did that happen?

Steve Osmond: That’s a question I keep being asked – family, friends and people at our church all want to know how this has come about. It begins because I have had a desire to do evangelism and apologetics ministry, for quite a while now. I do a lot of this kind of work, in a variety of settings already but abut ten years ago God really put on my heart a calling to commit myself full-time to it. Then, in talking to other Christians and through prayer, the Holy Spirit led me to spend ten years getting equipped. It came up a few times, in different contexts and at first I didn’t know what it meant. I sought to follow that leading and see where it went, and the result was working for our church for a while and completing a Master’s degree in science and then a Masters in theology and apologetics in the States. I completed the theology and apologetics degree in April.

Then my wife and I have had Scotland on our heart for quite a while now – and initially with no thoughts about moving there, just to go and visit! Scotland was top of our holiday destination wish-list, we wanted to see some castles, see the land, and meet the people. So we did that in August 2022 and while we were preparing for that holiday I googled to see who was active in evangelism and apologetics in Scotland. I wasn’t looking for a job, I just thought it would be good to chat to some like-minded people. So I discovered the Solas website, and was already aware of some of Andy Bannister’s work so recognised him immediately. I thought that what Solas was doing looked really cool, and then discovered that you were looking for an additional speaker. So then, when I was over, I came into the Solas office and had a really nice conversation. That led to a return visit in February and a more formal interview process including doing some talks at Solas events, and it seems that The Lord wants my family to come to Scotland and join the team! So that’s the story.

So for us it is the result of several things coming together over several years of preparation.  Things growing and burning in our hearts and The Lord definitely moving us towards what He has been preparing us for, for a while.

GJM: And your wife has some family connections in Scotland, I believe…

Steve Osmond: Yes, she has cousins who stay in Lanarkshire with their two children who are very excited that we are going to be joining them in Scotland.

GJM: So when you anticipate moving, what fills you with excitement and what makes you think… that will be a challenge !?

Steve Osmond: I’ve moved many, many times in my life through my younger years and my teenage years – I’ve lived in twenty-eight different homes. I love moving, I love change and so for me this is like a great big adventure. So I am really looking forward to putting down some roots and experiencing a different culture and place – that really excites me. In my science career I have worked a lot in river ecology, but South African rivers are not on the same scale as the rivers in Scotland. So that’s interesting for me. I’m also really excited about working with Solas, and focussing on the ministry of evangelism… getting out into universities and equipping churches too. Those are things that I just love and feel so called to. But of course the thought of going out to universities to share the truth of Jesus is also a terrifying thing because culture isn’t always receptive to that! So there will definitely be challenging conversations and interactions with people. I’ve experienced hostility to the gospel and the people bringing it, on campuses in South Africa and I expect to encounter it in Scotland too. So the thought of sharing the gospel and encountering different challenges and world-views both excites me and is a scary thought!

GJM: How will you set about learning a new culture, working your way in and finding out what the questions in people’s hearts and minds are here?

Steve Osmond:  For me the key is getting to know people, and having good conversations. It can be a long process, but I think the most authentic way to do it is to spend a lot of time rubbing along side-by-side with the people – especially people who don’t have the same views as me, or have a completely different worldview. That is how you learn, through good, honest, open conversation. The last thing I am going to do is to run in, thinking that I know what it is all about! There will be a learning curve when I arrive, because as much as Google is a very useful tool which can tell you about language and customs what really counts will be real conversations!

GJM: And my understanding is that Scotland is a much more ‘secular’ culture than South Africa, will that be an interesting shift for you?

Steve Osmond: Well Johannesburg where we stay is a bit of a melting-pot for all kinds of things including traditional African religions involving ancestor worship, but also a lot of very ‘western-looking’ materialism-atheism that you encounter as well. There is also a very big Muslim population in the city, as well as a lot of Hindus. The whole range of Christian denominations are present too, alongside a lot of nominal Christians who identify culturally as Christian in the census – but not much more in terms of personal faith. So in one sense, being in South Africa gives you a wide experience of encountering different views and beliefs. But, yes as a far more ‘post-Christian’ society, Scotland will be different and we will have to learn how this affects the kinds of deep-level questions that people are asking in this context.

GJM: And are your family looking forward to the move? Are they excited by change like you – or are they anxious?

Steve Osmond: Well, I’m a little more ‘leading the charge’ than Robyn! We do have a really good support base here, living close to our families, which is great, But we do really feel that God is opening the door for us here, so we have confidence that we are walking in obedience. But at the same time it is difficult, so they are ‘happy-sad’, is how I would describe it.

GJM: So in your own personal life this isn’t just the culmination of ten years of preparation, but of a process that goes back to when you became a Christian, because the Bible says we are saved by grace with good works prepared in advance for us to do! So, take us back to the start of that, how did you come to faith in Christ in the first place?

Steve Osmond: Well I was raised in a somewhat Christian home…

GJM: Somewhat??

Steve Osmond: Yeah, so my parents were Christian but we didn’t really go to church much. So growing up I would have called myself a Christian without ever really knowing what the gospel was, I rarely read the Bible and church attendance was sporadic. But when I was seventeen I was invited to a church youth event by a girl I quite fancied, so I agreed to go! At that event a guy preached the gospel really clearly in a way that I understood for the first time. I don’t know if prior to that it hadn’t been presented clearly to me, or if I just hadn’t been listening but that night I got it. He explained both who Jesus is, and the brokenness and sinfulness of the human condition and that just resonated with me. So when they invited people to pray with them, ask God for forgiveness and yield our lives to Christ – the Holy Spirit moved and pulled me toward God. I became a Christian just before my eighteenth birthday.

But my Christian life was a bumpy road for a while. I went to university, where I focussed on my studies – but also being in a rock band and going out partying. But after about four or five years of that, I was still yearning for a deeper satisfaction in life. I chased finding meaning and value and purpose in so many things, because even though I had become a Christian I hadn’t found the depth of relationship in Christ that gives you all of those things. But then, when I was twenty-three I heard a presentation in church on ‘why the Bible is trustworthy’ (and this is where my love of apologetics began!) and I had never heard anything like it before in my life. Somehow the deep searching in my heart, coupled with the rational defence this guy gave opened the doors for me. I realised that Christianity is actually true – not just some article of blind faith that I’d accepted, which was in conflict with reason, evidence and science; but that the two go hand in hand. So I started exploring apologetics and the arguments for the existence of God, reliability of the Bible, that Jesus is who he claimed to be, God-incarnate. That was at the same time I had started my honours degree in the sciences and having more and more opportunities to talk about my faith with other science students. They might say, ‘how can you study science and believe in God?’ and that opened up all kinds of conversations. That gave me a love of evangelism through evidence and reason. It was something I really enjoyed doing and led to some really fruitful conversations and some people coming to church.

I began formal academic study of apologetics through Southern Evangelical Seminary in 2015, which was great – really, really helpful.

GJM: So that’s your ‘historic’ testimony! But if I was to ask you what God is doing in your life now, (apart from leading you to Scotland) what would you say?

Steve Osmond: Well God definitely uses having children to humble you! I have two daughters aged 4 and almost 2. Parenthood… in terms of patience, self-control, gentleness, God has been using it to stretch me over the last couple of years. He’s giving me plenty of opportunities to both stumble and grow in these areas! Apart from that I’m praying that He will continue to grow a love for people in my heart. That can be difficult sometimes when you are trying to interact with people. The world is sometimes a crazy place with a lot of tension and animosity, and it needs the hope of Christ. But we can’t get that message across well, unless we have the love for people that God does. You can’t do that from any other motivation, so what I am praying for (along with wisdom) is for that love as the motivation for reaching people.

GJM: “It’s the love of Christ that compels us” is Paul’s statement about mission!

Steve Osmond: Yes, absolutely!

GJM: You mentioned earlier that you had spent your youth playing in bands! What did you play, and do you still play?

Steve Osmond: Yes, I still play! I began when I was sixteen, I play guitar and bass – mostly bass. When I started I was terrible at guitar so I changed to bass because it only had four strings! I loved playing bass, and now I play a six-string bass. Early on I got involved in heavy-metal bands from the age of seventeen until I was about twenty-two. I still love a bit of heavy music, but I really moved out of that phase as I got more involved in church, began playing there and learned to play in different styles. I love music, and a couple of weeks ago my wife Robyn and I led worship at a youth event, she plays keys and sings really well. So that was a real blessing for us.

GJM: So will the bass, the amp and the keyboard be coming to Scotland?

Steve Osmond: Well we have some family members who are going to come over and visit us  and they will bring some of my guitars when they come!

GJM: You mentioned that your ‘main calling’ is evangelism and apologetics. Give us some examples of the ways that you pursue that where you are at the moment?

Steve Osmond: Yes, well I never really thought of myself as ‘an evangelist’ because the thought of evangelism terrifies me! But when I began to explore the apologetics side of things, I realised that this was a door into sharing the gospel. In fact, evangelism and apologetics go hand-in-hand, you can’t really pull them apart! Then as I learned about how to have good conversations, I started having those good conversations with people about the gospel.

So I have done quite a lot of university missions, with student Christian groups on campuses. That would often involve sharing a defence on an aspect of the Christian faith such as the existence of God, the existence of Jesus in history (which some people question), the reliability of the Bible, or competing worldviews.. and through those issues getting to the gospel. That in turn leads to Q&A at the events and then really good conversations with the people who have come. These events are just like those that Solas does and I’m really looking forward to doing a lot more of them, I love it!

Then, I have done a good amount of “church equipping”. I was a pastor in a church where I was the content and training ministry lead. That meant not just evangelism programmes, but also equipping the church to help them to get thinking. The Bible says, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and Christians have sometimes neglected the “mind” part of that. So I was involved with helping the church to think through issues so we could share and defend the gospel more faithfully. Recently I’ve done a series of talks at my church on questions of science, faith, evolution and Genesis. I loved that because there was apologetics, theology, biblical studies, all in the mix.

I’m also committed to personal evangelism – sharing my faith with friends and family. Some of that doesn’t involve argument and apologetics, but also living a life of transformation to show the power of the gospel to change lives, starting with mine. Living a life of long-term obedience to God is really noticed by people – they really do see that.

GJM: So imagine this scenario. You are sitting in the audience at an evangelistic meeting, and there are loads of non-Christian people present. Then, just before the speaker is due on the platform he turns to you and says, “I feel really unwell, I can’t do this. Steve, mate- you’re on!” So without time to prepare, what’s your go-to message?

Steve Osmond: That’s a cool question! I think I’d probably go into the area of ‘worldview’ because Christianity truly makes sense of the whole of life, whereas other worldviews tend to truncate things. So if you threw me up there on the stage, I’d go for origins (where have you come from?), meaning (what is your purpose?), morality (how do you know what is right and wrong?) and destiny (where will you spend eternity?). I’d very quickly outline the truth that the Christian worldview brings to those things in comparison to other worldview which lack something!

GJM: So as you prepare to move to Scotland. What do you think you will miss most about South Africa?

Steve Osmond: Oh, the usual answer to that question is the weather! But actually it’s the people. South Africa is an open, friendly country where people smile at each other and greet strangers. We’re not sure what Scotland will be like yet – but we know we will miss a lot of people here when we move.

GJM: The Solas family of supporters has got lots of good, faithful, prayerful people who will be reading this. So what can they be praying for you and the family as you get ready for the big move?

Steve Osmond: I think we know the absolute value and necessity of being surrounded by a good family of faith. So we would covet peoples prayers that very early on we would get plugged into a church that we can call home – and make some friends. We are leaving a community and a church community, so will need that in Scotland. We need to be part of ‘the body’ – so that’s a huge one and prayer for that would be great. Then, for us as a family we need to find new rhythms alongside some of the complexities and stresses of the move. We will need to serve and love each other well as a family. Then in terms of the ministry we will need wisdom, that God will grow me in whatever ways He needs to. I know I need wisdom about where to focus my thinking and the messages I will be preparing. There is so much to say, and wisdom is needed to know where to focus in different settings like churches and universities. I want to be well-equipped to represent Christ well.

GJM: And we’ll also be praying that the paperwork all gets sorted quickly and easily too!

Steve Osmond: Another thing would be that we find a home too, in a community and near a school!

GJM: Jesus said “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Well, people in and around Solas have been praying that we would find another evangelist-apologist, praying that we would find someone to work with us. And Steve… God sent you! So we are delighted that God has answered our prayers and the prayers of so many people. And it will be good to change the prayer letter from ‘please pray that we will find’ to ‘thank God that Steve is here’! And we’re delighted that it’s you that God has sent.

Steve Osmond: And I can’t wait to meet a lot of the supporters and the wider Solas family!