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Sean comes ‘full circle’ in his faith journey

Sean Nolan (centre) says Major David Soper (left) and Mark Soper have been huge influences on his life.

I was led to the Lord by David Soper [Salvation Army Major, now retired]. He was a really big influence in my life. I grew up in a broken home, and he became very close to me and led me to the Lord.

Me and Mark Soper [now Shire Salvos Mission Leader in Sydney] were best friends in high school. The Sopers were like a second family to me. We used to say – me and a group of other boys – that David Soper showed us a form of Christianity that wasn’t mind-numbingly boring!

I remember playing cricket in the street during our high school days, and one day Mark was beating me and I was swearing. Shelley [Major Shelley Soper, now retired] came out and, really nicely, said, “Sean, why are you swearing like that? That’s not how we speak.” It was the first time someone had disciplined me without screaming at me, because my dad, in particular, would do that.

Sean (left) with friends in Long Island, USA, in 2002 when he attended a summer camp. There are also two of the commemorative pins Sean was given.

When I was 21, I went to America and did a Salvos summer camp. I stayed with the Salvos ‘Ground Zero’ coordinators in Long Island for a bit and did that summer camp for three months. That was a really formative time in my life. I’ve always had a real connection to the Salvos.

My salvation was a process. Earlier on, I was back and forward with God, and my ebb and flow could be correlated to the circumstances I was facing in life. My father was difficult, and he would get sick and abusive. At one point, I was off the rails again, working as a bar manager and in a very unhealthy place. It’s not an understatement to say that David Soper saved my life. He stepped in and, spiritually, he led me to the Lord, but in a practical way, he saved my life. He showed me that the ultimate purpose in life was to serve the Kingdom of God, so I left everything else and followed after that.

From there, my life turned around, and I became a church planter for 18 years.

The then NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at the Christian Youth Summit that Sean organised a few years ago at Redfern.

One of the highlights was when I organised all the youth and young adult ministers from all the protestant denominations in Sydney to come together to meet and pray. We began to do that, and it culminated a few years ago with a big prayer summit at The Salvation Army headquarters in Redfern, and [the then Premier] Gladys Berejiklian came to that. We had this amazing day where all youth directors came together, and all denominations were represented.

Around that time, I was starting my doctorate degree, and it sent me on a journey. I really felt like there was something wrong in the Church. The Bible promises power and it promises all these things for our evangelism and our outreach. However, I don’t think you would meet any pastors who would say that this time in history is marked by great power in the Church. So, it’s not a problem on God’s end. It must be at our end.

The book that I wrote, Searching for God in Christianity, which is just being released now, came out of that journey.

Sean has Salvation Army roots. This is a photo of his great, great, great grandparents, officers in The Salvation Army. It was taken in rural Queensland sometime between 1890 and 1910.

I had pastored/church-planted three churches and, during the COVID pandemic, I finished up at the last one and was accepted into the PhD program at Sydney College of Divinity. So, I finished up my pastorate and entered the doctoral program, which gave me more time to write both a dissertation and this new book. We live in Western Sydney, but we are planning on moving to the Sutherland Shire and setting up with our family.

I hadn’t worshipped in the Salvos, but I was led to the Lord by the Salvos, so when we were looking for a church in the Shire, and Mark Soper was there, it was a no-brainer to join Shire Salvos.

There is definitely a sense of ‘coming home’, in the sense of being there [worshipping] with the Sopers, because they are like a second family to me.

As told to Salvos Online writer Lauren Martin


Sean’s book, ‘Searching for God in Christianity’ (below) is available at Koorong and all major online bookstores.


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