Here is a transcript of me speaking about Resurrection on BBC Radio London. The audio is also available.
Presenter: So, today is Easter Sunday. Some consider it to be the most important date in the Christian calendar. Adrian Warnock is the author of Raised with Christ. He is one of the leaders at Jubilee Church in Enfield, and joins me to remind us of the significance of Easter. Good morning.
Adrian: Good morning.
Presenter: Great to have you. Jubilee Church, not one I’m familiar with. Tell us a bit about them.
Adrian: Oh sure. We are a church that has been going for about 10 or 15 years now. Eight or nine years ago, we moved into Cineworld in Enfield, and started to grow quite rapidly. We had about 80 people there but we are now well over 1,000 people. It is a multicultural church. We have got more than 50 nationalities in the church and a multicultural leadership team which is really good. We have launched a site at Wood Green as well, at The View, so we are meeting in Wood Green The View this morning and also in Enfield Cineworld.
Presenter: So you have taken over the cinema! Affiliations for that church?
Adrian: We are part of a group called NewFrontiers, which is an evangelical group.
Presenter: Let’s turn our attention to Easter. Just précis for anybody who may not know, and sometimes people don’t, what Easter is about.
Adrian: On the Friday we celebrate the death of Jesus and then on the Sunday we celebrate His resurrection from the dead.
Presenter: Okay. So that is the core of Christianity.
Adrian: Yes it is. And it is the thing that marks Christians out as different. It is very interesting because when people talk about the Church, they tend to talk about the rows and disagreements. You have got the Orthodox, the Catholics, the Pentecostals, etc. Although we do disagree about a lot of stuff, and some of it is important, none of it is as important as the one thing we do agree on and that is the resurrection. I do not think that anybody would call themselves a Christian who did not believe that Jesus rose again and certainly all of those groups I just mentioned would believe that.
Presenter: And why is it important that He ‘rose again’, to use your words?
Adrian: His body came alive. He became the first person, if you like, to conquer death. I think that is the point. To a Christian, that brings us hope. We believe that there is life after death, but it is not just some kind of vague ethereal spirit ‘your spirit lives on’, but actually when Jesus comes back, our bodies will rise again and Christians will get to live with Him forever and meet Him again face-to-face. So that is a glorious hope, and it gives hope to people who have lost loved ones that one day they will meet again.
Presenter: So, anyone listening to this who is not a Christian probably slightly stumbled over your phrase that people will be ‘raised’ and will ‘live again’. Are you physically raised?
Adrian: That’s right.
Presenter: Just so I’m clear, you believe that all those people who were Christians and had a strong faith in God, if Jesus comes back today, that they will be raised from the dead.
Adrian: That’s right, yes.
Presenter: The millions of people who have died previously?
Presenter: On this earth?
Adrian: Yes, that’s right. That is the Christian belief.
Presenter: On this earth?
Adrian: Yes, and that Heaven will be on earth so there will be a kind of merging of Heaven and earth. It is where God will be with us forever.
Presenter: Okay. That’s a difficult one for people to get their heads around.
Adrian: It’s a radical view. I think, in a way, it sounds so strange that it is a wonder, really, that Christianity ever grew to the dominant religion it is. Can you imagine? I liken it to us in England suddenly saying, ‘Well Winston Churchill came back from the dead’. People would think that is crazy. We love Winston Churchill but to say that he came back from the dead is just nuts. And yet the Church was the most rapidly growing movement of people the world has ever seen although it is 2,000 years ago and it has persisted.
Presenter: Why hasn’t this coming back of Christ happened so far?
Adrian: Because He is not ready.
Presenter: For what?
Adrian: For what? Well, the Bible says this: for the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, and it says that He is not willing to return until the maximum number of people have turned to Him. So that is what He is waiting for. He is waiting for the Gospel to go to the ends of the earth, which is obviously what drove the whole missionary movement for hundreds of years, and still does. To bring this message to everyone.
Presenter: But I thought it was about people hearing the message, not necessarily turning in to the message, or believing in the message?
Adrian: For sure, people need to hear the message. As a Christian, I am not responsible for their response to the message. But I think the point is that Jesus does say He is not willing that any should perish. His desire is for all to turn to Him and so that is why the message needs to go out. The view is always that people will respond and I know that can be quite controversial in some countries. It can even lead to arrest or death, and that has been the case for thousands of years. So many people have tried to stamp out the Church actually. And yet it has never worked, over all that time.
Presenter: It is interesting, we have been talking this morning about Lord Carey’s comments about whether Christians feel persecuted. Do you think, as somebody who is a prominent Christian, that you are persecuted in this country?Adrian: It depends what you mean by persecution. I mean, clearly no one is rounding up Christians and arresting them and trying to kill them. That has happened in this country in the past, and does happen elsewhere in the world today. I think the word ‘persecution’ can be quite an emotive word. Some discrimination against Christians? Yes.
Presenter: In what way?
Adrian: I was reading an article just recently. I can’t remember where I read it but it was talking about all the Christians in the city and financial firms, and apparently there is quite a boom in all of that, but one of the things that was interesting that his article was saying was that so many of them felt too ashamed to admit they were a Christian in their work. I sometimes say that ‘coming out’ as a Christian can sometimes today be harder than to ‘come out’ as a homosexual or whatever. Actually we feel so nervous about what people think. I think it is more in that field and more in the concern about discrimination perhaps than true persecution.
Presenter: This Easter story, which as you yourself has said is quite difficult to believe in, seems to be less about what you have told us and more about the Easter eggs and the holidays and things like this. So how do you think that the Church can get this message back into its central position?
Adrian: I think that, at the end of the day, if anyone listening wants to hear that message, it will be preached in pretty much every church up and down the land today, of whatever background and ilk. I think that is the first method. Really, it is the main method. The preaching of the Word has always been the main method that the Church grows, and linked to that, obviously, is people sharing this message with their friends and colleagues. That is one of the reasons why it is a shame that people feel embarrassed to admit they are a Christian to their workmates. That is really how it has worked. Then of course, it is demonstrating the love of God. I think you mentioned something about soup kitchens. We run a food bank. Fifty people a week come to our food bank to take food away, and that is a practical demonstration of the love of God. We do not do that in order that people would become Christians, we do it because we have been changed, because of the desire in our hearts to show the love of God to people. Yes, maybe some of them will become Christians but really the Church has always been about demonstrating the love of God to the world, whatever their faith.
Presenter: Because actually the other thing, one presumes, is that there are so many different faiths in the world today, some people would say that Christianity isn’t the only way and would have difficulty with the idea that unless many or millions are Christians, then there won’t be any return and there won’t be a Heaven on earth.
Adrian: I think if you had a Muslim sitting here who believed in his faith, he would say, ‘I believe in my faith’. I’m a Christian and I believe in my faith. I think what is really important is, in the modern world, people are allowed to disagree. I think this maybe speaks a little bit about some of Carey’s concerns because I think there does seem to be a drive for us not to talk about our faith or not blatantly, and to just pretend that we all agree. Whereas the reality is that I would disagree with the Muslim and he would disagree with me, but we can still be friends. I think that is really important.
Presenter: But when you are dialoguing between Christianity and Islam, both evangelical in their outlook, both wanting people to come to their faith, your dialogue is not about finding out how lovely each of us are, your dialogue is about, ‘I believe what I believe, you believe what you believe, and I am hoping that one of you will jump the fence to my side’.
Adrian: For sure, but you can still be respectful in that. Funnily enough, we are talking about Easter today but at Christmas I was sitting in a nativity at our school. It is not a Christian school, it is a state school, but they actually were doing a nativity which is obviously one of the controversies that comes up. But I actually happened to be sitting next to a friend of mine who is a mother in a Muslim family. I said to her, ‘Are you offended by this?’ She said, ‘Of course not.’ Because for her and for me, we both want our children to learn about each other’s faith and to be respectful and in society. It is a funny thing because I think it is of people of no faith who have more of a problem with that, rather than people of faith. So in a way, I have got more in common with a Muslim than I do with an atheist, for example, because we both have our faiths. Yes, I would like them to change, and they would like me to change, but we can still be friends.
Presenter: This weekend witnessed in Trafalgar Square a big passion play and there were thousands upon thousands of people. That, of course, is an immediate thing. We had the actor who was playing Jesus in the week before, who was lovely. I wonder whether this is something about that that needs to be utilised in more ways around the ways Christians communicate. That is an immediate thing: you watch it, it’s a play, there is social media. I know you’re quite big on that. Are there new ways of doing things that Christians need to look at?
Adrian: I think social media is great. Plays are great. One of the interesting things is that at the moment, the most popular television show in America is actually called The Bible. It is on the History Channel. It does not look like we are getting it over here at the moment, I don’t know quite why. It has broken all records and it is just a dramatisation of the Bible story, and people are scratching their heads. It is quite funny because a few years ago we had The Passion of the Christ and everyone wondered why that did so well and they thought it was just because it was Mel Gibson. But actually, I think there is a real hunger still for people to learn about faith and to use modern ways of doing that is great. But it will always be a bridge to the old-fashioned way of a guy – or a woman in some cases – standing up there with the Bible, explaining this message and I think that that is going to be the most fundamental thing but these other things are bridges to that, if that makes sense.
Presenter: Adrian Warnock, thank you very much for coming in this morning. Lovely to meet you. Adrian Warnock is the author of Raised with Christ. We have been talking about the resurrection throughout the morning. He is one of the leaders at Jubilee Church in Enfield, and joins me to remind us of the significance of Easter. Good morning.