Nicky Gumbel is vicar of HTB >>, the largest Anglican church in Britain with a regular attendance of around 5,000 people. He is the pioneer of the Alpha course >>, a 15-session introduction to the Christian faith which has been completed by 18 million people in 169 countries. Nicky read law at Cambridge and theology at Oxford. He is married to Pippa and they have three children.
What is the main focus of your ministry and why are you passionate about it?
It is a great privilege to pastor a church of so many amazing people. I am also closely involved in the spread of the Alpha course (which began at HTB) and its associated ministries around the world. I love my job and love all the people I work with. Our vision is to see the evangelisation of the nations and the transformation of society.
What does evangelism mean to you?
I was not brought up as a Christian. My father was a secular Jew and my mother was not a churchgoer. An encounter with Jesus transformed my life and ever since then I have wanted to pass on the good news of Jesus to everyone in a similar position to the one I was in. I know there is a spiritual hunger in every human heart which can only be satisfied by a relationship with God through Jesus.
Tell a story of how you shared your faith in Christ and saw God woo an individual one step closer to himself.
Pippa and I sit in a small group on our church’s local Alpha course three times a year. This is the 66th time we have done Alpha. Every time we see people’s lives being transformed by Jesus Christ. A recent example is Malcolm, who is an actors’ agent. He came from a Jewish background and was very hostile to Christianity when he came on our Alpha course. On the Alpha weekend he had an encounter with Jesus and was filled with the Spirit. His life was changed. He told us afterwards that he had been a cocaine addict and “had a notebook filled with some of the naughtiest people in London.” He was set free from his addiction. When he was baptized, 30 of his friends came to see what had happened to him. He came back to help on the next course and is now leading a group on Alpha.
What is your favourite quote/scripture?
Jesus said, “I came that you may have life – life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)
How can people learn more about you and your ministry?
A number of churches started running Alpha in the early 1990s and wanted to know about the content. To meet this demand, I put it into a book called Questions of Life. Then people asked about the questions most often raised in an Alpha small group, so I wrote a book called Searching Issues. Then people wanted to know how to run an Alpha course, so I wrote a book called Telling Others. Then they wanted to know what kind of follow up we did, so I wrote two books called A Life Worth Living and The Jesus Lifestyle.
ABOUT THE WORLD
What is the biggest issue that the Church in your part of the world faces today and why?
The biggest issue that we face here in the UK is secularization. Church numbers have been falling for several decades. The gospel is as relevant today as it has always been. We must never change the message, but we need new packaging in order to reach this generation. The tide is now starting to turn and recent research suggests that the Church is beginning to grow again. The Anglican diocese in London has grown by 70% since 1980.
What is the biggest issue the Global Church is facing today and why?
Disunity. Jesus prayed that the Church would be one in order that the world would believe. There are great riches in the Global Church and what unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us. Unless we present a united front to the world, the world is not going to believe.
What is your hope for the Global Church in the next ten years?
I think the Church is beginning to see that mission is the priority and with mission comes unity. I hope, pray, and believe that the Holy Spirit is bringing about a new unity. We are beginning to learn from one another and enrich one another rather than attack one another.