Today’s interview is the second in the “Vocation” series. Meet Brad Hawkes, with New Generation, UK.
What is New Generation about and how did it start?
It’s an international network of young people looking to live out the message of Jesus in their schools, colleges and universities. Generally they set up peer-led groups that pray and do outreach regularly, and the organisation supports them with resources, ideas, prayer, school visits, training etc. It all started with a group of Christians at Oslo university in the mid-90s. They were sick of dividing university life and faith and being invisible “submarine Christians” as they put it, so they started to reach out to their friends both through evangelism, social action, friendships and good deeds. What was only ever intended to be a local thing took off and spread throughout Scandinavia and then to mainland Europe, and today we have groups in over 2000 schools in more than 20 countries, and at least 20000 young people in our database.
The idea of vocational calling is sometimes thought of as something to work out once we get to the workplace, but you guys are integrating it into educational settings for young people – what’s the biggest challenge?
Do you think this generation compartmentalizes their life as much as previous generations might have, with home life, work life, school life, faith life etc.?
I definitely see a shift and that young people are starting to question a lot of the black/white, sacred/secular, Christian/non-Christian categorisation of the past. Lots of them are looking for a new way of living holistically and consistently, and I’m pretty sure things are changing. The challenge is that they’re still part of families, churches and denominations that think within the old paradigm, and often that either forces them to conform and become “churchified”, or it causes them to become disappointed and disillusioned, rejecting church altogether. We’re trying to encourage them to stick it out and plug in at church and in their homes, doing what they can to influence their parents, leaders and pastors from the bottom up, AND we’re encouraging them to still take the message outside of the church walls and pave a new way forward in their schools and colleges.
Do you see a better integration of faith and work for students who participate in New Generation groups, or is the challenge just as great?
New Generation is international – are things different outside of the UK in terms of integration and the concept of living a missional life?
The church in the UK is so broad, so there’s sections of it that are really setting an example, whilst there’s others that still haven’t caught on, so it’s hard to generalise – both here and in other countries. On the whole though, I’d say that our whole generation has the same longing to live authentic, relevant, faith-filled lives, come out of the ditches and merge the solely social and solely evangelistic gospels, finding a middle way that’s more holistic. I see that in most of the countries and cultures I travel to, but there’s definitely a lot of groups within British churches that are further down the track in general than many others. What I’ve found is that Western countries where the evangelical, charismatic wing of the church is more established, the backlash and reactions to its paradigms are also stronger and more developed, whilst many of the nations where the modern evangelical church hasn’t been established for as long, there isn’t the same level of frustration (yet), and because they haven’t seen as much of its weaknesses yet they haven’t started looking for an alternative either.
I’ve probably said enough already! =)