Who is: Roy Crowne?
Roy Crowne started life in the East End of London, but grew up in Hertfordshire after the family moved to Borehamwood.
He describes the town of his youth as "rough" saying: ‘You just had to become streetwise very quickly, and in the light of that, you have to survive – not bullying – but just survive. And to do that you’ve got to be pretty clued up.’
Roy didn't have a church background. His brother went to Sunday school once and didn’t like it, so his parents never sent him along. However, God had a different plan of action for young Roy! Thinking back on those days he says: "It’s kind of an interesting connection that he didn’t go on in the faith, yet I did... that’s where I encountered Christianity, I basically came to faith as a result of one person sharing their faith with me."
During the 1960's he spent his secondary school years as a pupil at Hillside School, Borehamwood (now Yavneh College) - famed for later becoming one of the schools used in the filming of the BBC series ‘Grange Hill’ (1985-1990). However, it must be said that filming at the school took place twenty years after he left and no characters were ever based on him!
Within two weeks of becoming a Christian he’d consumed the entire Bible, reading the whole thing cover to cover – "to find out what had happened to me" he explained. As he read through it he decided that he needed to do something with all this new information that was going into his head so he went to see the school headmaster for a chat! He shared with him an idea that was forming about sharing something of his experience during a school assembly - assemblies were common in those days. However, the headmaster told him that he didn’t like doing school assemblies personally, so he invited the young 16 year old to do one - or even two!
When the day came for Roy to stand up in front of the school at the first school assembly he let them have it - both barrels! And this is how the young evangelist we know today was born...
"I realised going public about your faith changes everything," Roy recalled. "I got involved in ministry, led a youth group, and my whole mission was basically to convert the school. I was passionate about seeing things change."
When Roy left Hillside he chose a course in Engineering and worked in a garage whilst studying day release at college twice weekly. This seat of learning took up 5 years of his life which he really enjoyed - the daily nitty-gritty interactions with people, both staff and general public brought it all to life for him; but his heart was looking in another direction.
His spare time was spent in the church youth group but he also loved playing rugby a was christened with the name 'vicar' by some bright spark in the team. You could often hear his team mates calling out to each other across the pitch to give the ball to the 'vicar' as he had God on his side! However, if he missed a kick or a goal they usually said the Devil had got hold of him first! "Oh the joys of looking back in retrospect", he reminisces!
When Roy reached 21 he asked to see his church elders to ask them what they felt he should do with his future. "They’d obviously heard me preach," joked Roy, "so they told me I should go and do theology." Shortly after this Roy set off to Moorlands College, Dorset to begin his studies.
Like a lot of students pressed together for two years in the confines of the college life at the Christchurch campus Roy started dating another student called Flossie. "I vowed when I went to Moorlands I would give that time to God and I wouldn’t get into any relationship," said Roy. "But we clearly became attracted to each other." After graduating from Moorlands in 1978 Roy set his eyes on church ministry and within a year he and flossie were married.
Youth for Christ ~ YFC
Roy led a church for a year but it wasn't long before Clive Calver and Eric Delve asked him if he’d join Youth for Christ (YFC). He was also asked to become part of Eric’s ‘Down To Earth’ mission team along with another young preacher called J John. These were electrifying days mission and opportunities abounded for the two young evangelists to hone their skills and learn from the best. Roy reflects on those moments with J John:
"J John said, 'I want to be the evangelist to the nation' and I said, 'I want to mobilise hundreds of evangelists to be evangelists to the nation.'"
Roy decided to stay with Youth for Christ when J John moved on to create and when Youth for Christ’s National Director Lowell Sheppard moved on, Roy took his place. He had met many people along the way and realised that other people in ministry were not the competition but people God was using to extend His Kingdom just like He was using him! So he arranged to meet with Mike Pilavachi who had set up Soul Survivor and just talked ministry and things. He did the same with Andy Hawthorne who was making waves in Manchester and the three of them started to meet up regularly simply to talk and to dream together.
It was off the back of those conversations - those dreams, that they agreed that they should do something together one day. Firstly, they worked together on Festival Manchester as the clocks ticked over into the new Millennium and then, as that was such a success, Mike Pilavachi suggested that they should work together to plan another similar event but this time in the city of London. Their partnership of minds, soul's and ministries saw Soul In The City come into being in 2004.
The beginnings of HOPE
The trio of friends still meet regularly for a chat and one day over a drink they felt the emphasis in mission should always be on ‘Words and Action’! They began to ponder the seemingly impossible question: would it be possible to mobilise the whole nation into mission?
The more they talked and the deeper they thought about it they realised that their God was the God of the Impossible! It would need to be a marriage of ministries and all major denominations with the goal of getting churches working together for the good of their local communities and Christians living transparent lifestyles to reveal Jesus to their friends, colleagues and family. The outcome was a planned year of mission in 2008 called simply HOPE'08. Roy reflects:
"So there we were, all running youth ministries, yet giving time to make this thing happen, on a skeleton staff... Hope'08 happened... and it was amazing."
The three friends, Roy, Mike and Andy had hoped that 500 churches would sign up and take part in HOPE'08 – but the year exceeded all expectations: 1,500 churches joined together, with young people taking a lead, sharing their faith at the heart of their communities. Church leaders saw the impact of churches working together and many new cross denominational relationships were formed. The results were hugely encouraging and proved that the movement had made advancements beyond what was originally expected, not only because the aim was 500 locations and 1,500 took part.
Catalyse, Encourage and Support
HOPE'08 sought to catalyse, encourage and support churches across the UK as, through words and actions, they worked together and worked with public bodies such as Government, police and the media in service to the benefit of their communities. HOPE enjoyed extraordinary success in achieving its aims and the country continues to experience the fruits of its vision and astonishing numbers have carried on mission under the HOPE banner in the intervening years.
As 2008 ticked into 2009 the year-long mission came to a close and the HOPE'08 office shut up shop and its documents shredded. Roy also felt that his time at Youth for Christ was also coming to a natural ending. He was given the honour of becoming YFC Vice President and is still involved with the ministry to this day. As he handed the reigns of YFC over to Gavin Calver (pictured left) - the son of the man who asked him to join YFC in the first place, he decided to take a much needed year’s sabbatical.
During this period of time he met many people who encouraged him with stories and testimonies of things that had happened because of HOPE'08. Many suggested that it be resurrected again, but Roy wasn't convinced.
One thing that did convinced him that it was a possibility was a conversation with leadership team member Paul Bayes – who is now the Bishop of Liverpool. "Everywhere I’ve been," he told Roy, "everybody’s saying to me, we’ve seen some amazing things, but this [Hope'08] was truly catalytic, yet it didn’t go far enough… it should live on”.
Roy thought deep and hard about what had been said to him - he was looking for what God wanted him to do next and this really was a dream come true. He told himself:
"This has been your dream since you joined Youth for Christ, to see mission on every church’s agenda."
Roy began talking to people, motivating people, inspiring people with the idea of mission - national mission-mindedness!
So it was that HOPE 2014 came into being which had such an impact on the nation through churches working together with other churches in their neighbourhoods to see kingdom values reflected within the communities. HOPE 2014 was bigger and better than HOPE'08 but all the foundations had been laid in those years of planning and prayer petitioning of God asking Him for favour.
The HOPE 2018 Initiative
The HOPE Together Office is based in Rugby and that is where the new team plan the rollout of HOPE 2018 - another year of Mission. Roy is back out on the road - like he never left; encouraging and inspiring folk across the length and breadth of the UK with the tantalising possibilities of mission on their doorsteps.
2018 will be 10 years on from the first HOPE mission and the focus is once again on Words and Action to make Jesus known. Many of the ministries which were started around Hope'08 are still flourishing – Local Foodbanks, Street Pastors and many more faith-in-action projects have become established expressions of Jesus’ love within local communities.
The final words in this chapter of Roy's ministry must be his:
"The dream is a growing church, showing Jesus’ love and telling the Jesus story at the heart of every village, town and city"; Roy says. "Imagine the church in the UK growing by ten percent over the next two years? This is a possibility - it is not unreachable! There’s a real sense across the UK that it’s time for harvest. Let’s do this together."
Reflections on 40 Years of Ministry
2018 was also marked by the 40th Anniversary of Roy's Christian ministry. For it was in 1978 that he graduated from Moorlands and set foot into the brave new world of vision and calling. Looking back over those 40 years you can see that the gift of the evangelist still burns brightly within him and that God's hand is very much upon him. HOPE 2018 has inspired so many churches across the country to be intentional in their missional efforts within their communities; But ore than that: individual Christians have taken on board Roy's dream of people making a difference where they are, with family and friends, by being intentional about sharing their faith in Jesus and making Him known through words, deeds and actions.
Those forty years have impacted several generations of people in their walk with God and caused them to think again about their impact on their families, colleagues and communities. The recently published 'Talking Jesus' research initialised through Roy and the HOPE Together team,has opened the eyes of the church to see what the general public think of them, and that the future is indeed bright when it comes to an openness to the gospel.
Roy's passion still burns brightly and he aims to continue sharing Jesus across this nation and seeing the fruits thereof. DV.
This article has been adapted by the HOPE Together office from an interview by Clive Price, which first featured in Sorted magazine.
It has been edited for Wessex Filling Station by Director and Local HOPE Practitioner: Brian Edgeley
Last edited after a personal chat with Roy in October 2018.