Jesus Fellowship leader, Tschaka Roussel, talks to Krish Kandiah, the Evangelical Alliance Executive Director of Churches in Mission.
Krish is a regular speaker at university missions, and has wide experience in evangelism and cross cultural mission. He is married to Miriam and has three primary aged children as well as two foster babies.
Krish, what led you to join the Evangelical Alliance (EA) and what do you do there?
I’m part of the EA because I believe that the gospel is good news for the whole of our culture. The UK needs an effective witness to Jesus – and the EA is saying that there is a core gospel that all Christians can agree on. We say, “Let’s unite around the gospel and see what we can do to reach out to our country.”
What is your role with the EA?
My role revolves around churches in mission. How can we help churches think about mission more creatively, more biblically, more holistically – and release churches to do that practically at a ground level? I work on three big projects. One is called BibleFresh, which is about getting to know our story, needing to know God’s word. Then there’s Slipstream, which helps to network and equip young leaders. The third is the Square Mile programme, which helps Christians incorporate mission into all areas of life.
You’ve said that when it comes to spreading the gospel, the church modelling community is central. What’s your thinking behind that?
I do think there’s a place for gifted evangelists and that it’s important that we gossip the gospel at work, and so on – but the primary unit of God’s mission seems to be church or community rather than just individuals.
Let’s unite around the gospel and reach out to our country
Jesus said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another”. There’s something powerful about the corporate witness of people that love each other across class and ethnic lines. In a fractured society like today’s UK, if we can model genuine, loving community – not just a closed circle looking in on each other, but an outward looking circle – I think that’s hugely powerful. When that kind of community is combined with clear and articulate, spoken witness to the gospel, it’s hugely significant.
Recently you went to the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation in Cape Town; tell us about that.
There were 4,200 delegates from 198 different countries. We heard amazing, encouraging stories, particularly from Christians under extreme persecution in places like North Korea, Afghanistan and Turkey.
It’s discouraging that the western world is not listening hard enough to the rest of the world; we feel like we’ve got it pretty well sewn up and the rest of the world needs to just buy our resources. But, overall, I went home encouraged and excited about what God is doing globally. Let’s talk about the need for Christians to be people who understand the culture they are in, one of your key themes.
Let’s talk about the need for Christians to be people who understand the culture they are in, one of your key themes.
I describe it as being a good listener – to listen in two directions at once. We’re trying to listen to what is God saying to us through the scriptures, but we’re also listening hard to what God is saying to us through the surrounding culture. What is there about the culture that we can affirm? Let’s celebrate that. But other bits of our culture are broken; there is sin both at an individual level and a corporate level. How do we remain, as we used to say, “in with the culture, but not of the culture”?
Most Muslims are not suicide bombers just as most Christians are not the Ku Klux Klan
This is where we need to be listening hard to our brothers and sisters who aren’t in our culture. At Lausanne, it was helpful to listen to an African or Asian brother saying, “You know, Krish, that I love you as a brother but I have really got to ask you about this: why do you guys always close your eyes when you pray? – it’s like the rest of us don’t exist! Why are you so worried about people turning up on time, why does that drive you? Why do you always think programmes will fix everything? – you know people are more messy than that.”
We need to have ears open enough to hear them, not be arrogant and think that because we’re in the West – and we’ve got the education – that we need to teach the rest of the world.
The call to discipleship is a powerful way to capture the imagination of young people
How should Christians engage with social media?
Someone sent me a tweet saying the only reason Twitter existed was to rob Christians of enough time to pray. I found that discouraging. It was saying, “Twitter’s a waste of time so why don’t you go and do important things like pray?” Well, number one, the person tweeted me to tell me that – so why weren’t they praying instead of tweeting? Secondly, would they say, “You shouldn’t drive, you should pray?” Or “You shouldn’t read to your children at night time, you should pray?” Somehow, social media has become this great big evil “out there” which Christians need to worry about. I think the opportunities of social media far outweigh the potential downsides.
The head of Mumsnet is a Christian trying to link together mums to bless them, encourage them, help them; the guy that came up with Tearfund’s Superbadger application for Facebook has seen huge impact made as a result of just getting Christians to speak with one voice. And so on.
A lot of Christians are worried about militant secularism or militant Islam. Do you think those are things that they should be concerned about?
It’s interesting that most of the militant atheists are angry old men. We don’t need to be frightened of them, but we do need to help educate our whole Church – and our young people especially – into what Christians believe and why they believe what they believe.
I’m no expert on militant Islam, but my concern is that there is a lot of fear-mongering about Islam. Most Muslims that you or I will meet are not suicide bombers, just as most Christians are not the Ku Klux Klan.
When I was at university, a girl on my corridor was a Mormon. I didn’t see her; I just saw a Mormon. I would make terrible jokes about Mormonism. One night everyone in the corridor had been out for a Friday night and got drunk. She’d come back early and left the door of her room open and was crying out to God. I could hear her as she said “God, I know that you could never forgive me – I have sinned”. That moment God opened by heart and said, “Krish, you’ve been seeing this girl as a Mormon, you need to see her as someone I love; you need to see her as Nicky, the girl who is going through the same kind of challenges and struggles that you are. You need to reach out to her in love, not in judgement“.
Now when I meet someone I don’t want to just put them in a box and say “Muslim”, “Atheist”, “Hindu”, “Catholic”. I want to say, “You are an individual whom God loves and if there is something I can do to serve you, bless you, and encourage you – I’m up for it. There may be things which God wants to teach me through you and I’m open to that, but I do believe the gospel has got something to say to you whoever you are. I want to know you well enough to know which bit of the gospel I need to share with you.”
The church has been in numeric decline and many Christians are nervous. Can you speak into that?
We have a problem with what we call the “missing generation” – which is mainly 20-30s. A lot of them have never had any exposure to church. There’s some hope that this age-range are more open to spiritual things when they have kids, when they begin to think, “What am I going to teach to this child of mine? Where do I get help and support to do that?”
Some of the decline could be a winnowing process in that many of the people who used to come to church did so out of a social habit, rather than conviction. In one sense, this is helping us work out who’s really a believer that we can count on, and we begin to see the rest of the culture as a missionary opportunity.
The call to discipleship is a powerful way to capture the imagination of young people. My kids are part of the St John’s Ambulance brigade. Every week, my two eldest boys go for training to be first aiders. That kind of training is so different to Sunday school, which seems to aim mainly to provide an entertaining environment – “we hope that we’ll keep you by being nice to you”.
We’ve not been challenging enough. We’ve not been asking enough of our disciples
So maybe that’s part of our challenge: that we’ve not been challenging enough. We’ve not been asking enough of our disciples. We’ve treated them like consumers and guess what? They’ve become consumers.
Is there a way we can raise up missionary disciples right from an early age? To form a community, a band of brothers and sisters with a shared vision and mission that they’ll pursue together, into eternity?