Youth Alive UK Interview: Mal Fletcher
Mal Fletcher has imparted new paradigm and "nothing is impossible" thinking into the Youth Alive team over a number of years. In November Mal will again be speaking to Youth Alive leaders at the 'Confluence2004'. Janna Price caught up with Mal to talk about his pioneering spirit.
You can't say Mal Fletcher and not immediately think 'Making God Famous', tell us how this became your anthem?
Originally, it came out of a Bible study I was doing. I discovered that the Old Testament frequently refers to the fact that God calls and empowers people to 'make himself a name'. That phrase can literally be translated to 'gain for himself renown'. It just struck me that, when you put that in modern-speak, it's talking about making God famous. The same holds true in the New Testament, where we're told that we carry Christ's name and that if we ask or do anything to honour his name, God will back us up. God doesn't want to be famous for his sake but for ours. When we forget what God is like, says Romans 1, we trivialize ourselves.*
You were the key pioneer of Youth Alive, Australia and saw the movement grow from 300 to 60,000 in ten years. How can we pioneer that kind of growth?
I don't know that I can answer that one here. But I can tell you one thing: you won't grow if you set up a generational ministry just to bless a church. You will only break through when you build something to change a city! Youth Alive Australia lived under the covering of one denomination, but it was never just about blessing that network (actually, it's blessed many denominations). We were about taking over the youth culture of cities and our nation – from the base of strong local churches working together. Too many church leaders are concerned only with building their house; that's all they talk about. We're called for much more than that. If you seek first to build the kingdom, within the life of your city, God will add the rest to you, including a great church.
Your journey embodies what Youth Alive is wanting to become, but how can we take hold of the spirit and strategy that will get us from where we are to becoming agents of change in our nation?
If we're going to increase the church's reach in mainstream society, we need to realize that influence does not come from how well we celebrate the past, or how well we enjoy the present. Real, lasting influence is derived from how much we engage with the future. The first thing we need to do is take the future seriously – and start 'inventing' the future now! What does God want for the youth culture of the UK and Europe ? If God has his way, what will youth culture look like in ten years from now? What are we going to do to set that in motion? That's strategic thinking: looking at a preferred future and projecting backwards to the present, to establish the steps to take us there.
Glyn Barrett has been pioneering 'Audacious' in the last few years, what difference do you think audacious young people could make in the UK?
Hebrews 10:35 says we should never cast away our confidence, because it has great reward. The word we translate 'confidence' is a very strong term. Actually, the best modern word for it has been coined by the rappers: 'attitoood'! No, not just 'attitude' – it's more aggressive than that. We need Millennial Generation Christians who will see how important their call really is. Nehemiah's enemies tried to distract him with offers of compromise (Nehemiah 6). He responded with this: 'I am doing an important work, why should the work cease while I talk to you?' That's attitoood! If you don't feel important, you will feel impotent.
You speak boldly about social and moral issues of our day. How can the church and how can we as individuals learn to tackle these issues?
The Christian message isn't just a series of clichés or proof texts. It represents an entire worldview, a way of seeing and interpreting the reality around us. O ne of our roles as Christians is to put 'trainer wheels' on the future, to give people courage to push forward with their lives, because we are people of hope and faith. To do that w e need to be able to apply the overall Bible panorama of creation, fall, redemption and restoration, to the big questions of our time. These questions must be answered because they will shape the values and choices of millions of people for years to come. Every Christian needs to be able to frame the world for people through the lens of God's word.
A TV Producer and Presenter why is the media so important in getting the Christian message across, is it a new expression of church?
I believe that the God of the Bible loves to appear where people least expect him to appear, he loves to do things people don't think he will do, and he loves to speak where people listen. When it comes to communicating Christian truth, our biggest enemy is predictability. People think they know exactly what Christians will say and how and where they will say it. When we're seen addressing issues in a constructive and entertaining way, in mainstream media, we're working against the stereotype and helping to open a new door. Mass media can help us to raise the consciousness of a large number of people to the values of our faith. They can help us prepare the 'soil' of peoples' hearts and minds, so that some are at least more open to the Christian message.
You equip leaders with your Strategic Leadership Consultation, networks and books, so what are the current hot issues for leaders in 2004?
I'm not sure I like talking about current 'hot issues', because too many leaders just follow the trends set out in the latest business books. But if you really want me to name just one thing, it would be probably be this: we've got to throw off a management mentality and recapture our pioneer spirit! For 1800 years the Christian church in Europe produced some of the most innovative, transformative pioneers the world has seen. They didn't just build churches – they renewed and redeemed the life of cities and nations. Here in Europe , the church has spent the past 150-200 years playing defense, reacting to change instead of initiating it. The only way to control the future is to invent it today. We need to engage with the cultures of cities, offering something better than the empty positivism and utopianism of humanistic social programs. We need to be prophetic, pointing the way to something better, actually modeling a better way through our churches and ministries.
We are very excited about having you speak at 'Confluence' our youth leaders conference next month. Can you give us a sneak preview of what you're going to be speaking about?
'Confluence' is not going to be a 'blessing' conference: it will be about decision. It's time to do more than look for inspiration in the present; it's time to take on the future, not just of churches, but cities and nations!
*Mal's hit book 'Making God Famous' will be released across the UK in the next few months (published by Authentic Media), along with 'The Pioneer Spirit' from the same series.
© Youth Alive UK 2004
This article originally appeared on www.youth-alive.co.uk in September 2004.