Interview with Glyn Barrett of Audacious Church, Manchester
Glyn Barrett was one of our main speakers at Stronger Together 2016. Whilst at the conference we sat down with him for a quick chat about how Audacious Church is addressing social issues in Manchester, avoiding insincere worship, and the main theme of his teaching session at the conference.
Tell us about some of the social issues in Manchester and how Audacious church is rising to meet them?
We recently had the mayor of greater Manchester in our church, and I asked him what the greatest social need is our city, and he said that the greatest social need is on the issue of mental illness, and ensuring and knowing how to combat that. So what’s really interesting is that will be one of the areas that we’re really focussed on in terms of what our future looks like. We’re looking to build four health and wellbeing centres around greater Manchester eventually; we’ll be caring for people from the cradle to the grave, including in areas of mental health.
So at the moment that’s going to be our focus, but currently our major social work is to do with the homeless and prostitutes in the city centre. We have teams who go out six times a week to look after, feed and clothe the homeless. Once a week the leaders and I bring people to the church and we put on a three course banquet for the homeless.We also bring in doctors and nurses, hairdressers etc. to help them.
We also have a safe room that we invite the city’s prostitutes to, and we do their hair and makeup. We offer everyone use of our shower facilities if they want to make use of them. And if they want to escape that life, we’re able to help them in other ways. So that would be the two areas of social connection that we’re majorly involved in at the moment.
Audacious Church is known for its loud and lively, charismatic worship. How do you make sure that people's interaction with God and Christianity is genuine, and that they're not just being drawn to a very specific experience?
We always speak about the need for people to show outwardly what God’s done on the inside. So we often talk in the context of letting our band know, for example, that they are performers and that they’re meant to be performers; they’re performing outwardly everything that God’s done on the inside. So we’re constantly reminding our church to think about what Jesus has done for them. Where were they before he picked them up? Where were they before they discovered that he loved them? Where were they before they knew what it was like to find hope and purpose? And to keep reconnecting people in our church with that moment of encountering Jesus.
So whenever we encourage people to lift their hands, to jump and shout, it’s always in the context of remembering what the Lord has done and ensuring that we never get into a place where we’re just ‘going through the motions.’ We’re constantly evaluating why we do what we do, and we help the church to do so too.
The reality is that there would be people who come in and ‘go with the flow’ for a season, but they wouldn’t be able to be in church for too long before they realise that there’s a ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. The ‘what’ is just the outworking of the ‘why’. So we’re loud, boisterous and enthusiastic, but it’s because Jesus has made a difference in our lives and that’s the principle focus of why we do what we do.
You’ve already touched on this in your last answer, but how do you personally stay faithful to Jesus whilst leading Audacious Church?
The answer for me is really simple: when I was 12 he picked me up. I found him; he found me. We had that ‘God collision’ where I encountered the person of Jesus Christ, I was baptised in the Spirit and fell in love with Jesus. And that’s not changed. So I read the Bible every day and pray, because before I’m a pastor I’m a child of God. My personal walk with God is the most important thing.
When Abraham takes Isaac up the hill to potentially sacrifice him, the Bible says that Isaac carries the wood and Abraham carries the fire. I think that in our lives we are responsible for carrying the fire of God in our lives. Abraham didn’t make his son carry the fire – he had to carry the fire. For me, that’s a personal conviction: if I want the church to be fired up, first of all it has to be me that’s fired up through daily exercise.
For the benefit of those who weren't at the conference this year, what would you say are the key points be to taken away from your teaching session at Stronger Together 2016?
I felt God draw my attention to Genesis 1:1, where it says, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was formless and void and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’. I really felt God show me that he spent five days creating the atmosphere before placing man in the garden to multiply and reproduce. And so I’ll be speaking on the idea of leadership atmosphere -- that when you preach, lead, talk and pray, everything you do is in atmosphere to your life. The atmosphere in the lives of our leadership and church need to be conducive to multiplication and growth.
I’m going to draw a parallel with the New Testament, specifically when Jairus’ daughter was dying and he goes to Jesus and asks him to come to his house. There’s a great parallel between how Jesus… well, we see a clash of atmospheres: there’s an atmosphere of death, and Jesus brought an atmosphere of life. The ‘life-atmosphere’ won the day, and something good came back to life. So it’s all about leadership atmosphere and how our atmosphere either creates an atmosphere of multiplication and reproduction or death and decay.