Sam Hailes talks technology and politics with Krish Kandiah, examining how and why we talk about faith in the modern world.
1. Hi Krish, tell us about yourself.
I work for the Evangelical Alliance, helping churches to think strategically about evangelism.
I organise national projects like Bible Fresh which is a whole year trying to help the church re-engage with the Bible. I also help churches think more holistically about mission in their communities. I’m married and have five children. I have three birth children, one adopted child and a foster daughter.
2. A lot of Christians find it difficult to share their faith with others. Is this a problem?
This is a huge issue for us as a national Church. On the ground there’s loads of exciting stuff going on like Street Pastors and Food Banks. These are all sorts of really brilliant ways of expressing God’s compassion for our world. But we’re struggling to find words to communicate the gospel that aren’t embarrassing or jargon filled.
How do you share the gospel in a non-cheesy way with mates and family members? I think it is a problem at the moment and it is something we’re trying to work together on and think about.
3. What has God been teaching you recently?
I learn a lot as I’m preparing talks and writing books. The book that I’m working on at the moment is about the transition of faith from children to young people. As a national church we’re still hemorrhaging young people and that’s despite the fact that for the last 20 years we’ve invested in youth ministry in a way that we haven’t done before.
One of the things that we’ve got a problem with is we’ve tried to isolate children from the life of the wider church. So we’re working on a concept called “It Takes a Whole Church to Raise a Child.” We’ve all got a responsibility for the children in our church. We’re all spiritual aunties and uncles.
4. Why do you blog?
Christians have a great history of making the most of technology for the gospel. The early church spread the gospel through making use of the Roman road structures that had been build as highways between different cities and countries.
But today, I’m finding a lot of Christians who are really scared of technology. I want to use it for good purposes, use it as a tool that can bless and encourage, use it as a language we can speak so we can effectively translate the gospel into it.
5. Should we use the internet as a tool for online evangelism?
To a lot of people the difference between offline and online doesn’t really make sense. What we do digitally should be a part of our gospel living. I want my digital interaction on Facebook and Twitter to be a reflection of my Christian life and spirituality. How I tweet, what I post on Facebook and what I say on my blog is all a part of my Christian witness.
6. What inspired you to write a Christian book about politics?
I wanted to help Christians see there’s so much opportunity for us to make an impact in politics. I was watching Nick Griffin on Question Time. He was on TV with millions of viewers and he said people from different cultures should go home to their own countries. I’m Asian and I found that completely offensive. He spoke in a really homophobic way, an anti Islamic way and at the end of all that he said “I believe these things as a Christian”. At that point I screamed at the television! I couldn’t believe what he said.
7. What has been the typical reaction to a mingling of faith and politics
I meet so many Christians that say: “I don’t get involved in politics it’s too dirty”. But when Christians run away from politics, we leave a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum so it gets filled with it nutters. If Christians want to see this country transformed for the gospel, we’ve got to get our hands dirty. We’ve got to get involved in politics.
We had the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown contribute to the book. The current Prime Minister David Cameron also contributed, as well as a whole bunch of really helpful Christian thinkers. It’s an easy to read book, and it’s really cheap now as well!
8. Why are you so passionate about reaching students with the gospel?
20s and 30s are the least represented group in our churches. They are half as likely to go to church as any other age group in the country. We’re thinking, ‘what happens?’ I think a lot of our young people are lost in transition. We lose kids in the transition from secondary school to university and then university to the rest of life. University for me was an amazing time spiritually, I grew more as a student than any other time in my life. We thought what can we do to help a university student make that transition well? Fresh [book] was written into that space.
9. As well as writing Fresh, you’ve also provided a book for those who are in their final year at university. Tell us about that.
Transitioning from university to the rest of life is a huge gap for a lot of people. I was a student at Warrick University. A number of those who were in the Christian Union are nowhere near a relationship with God now. Some of them were members of the leadership team, others were passionately involved with evangelism. I’d been encouraging, begging and pleading with UCCF and other student ministries how do we help people get equipped for the rest of their life. Final [book] is meeting an important need.
10. What’s the best Christian book you’ve read?
Mere Christianity by CS Lewis was such a helpful book for me. I’ve given it away more times than any other book. I always recommend How to Read the Bible for All its Worth. A good book for thinking deeply about the Christian faith and how you communicate it to others would be The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. I can’t give you one book because it depends on the person I’m recommending a book to, but that would be my top three.
March 28th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes