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We caught up with worship leader Tim Hughes about his reasons behind the move from Holy Trinity Brompton in London to head up St Luke's in Birmingham.
Why are you leaving Holy Trinity Brompton to go to Birmingham?
My wife Rachel and I have felt really excited and called for a while to, at some point, lead a church where we could really build a community, see people being discipled, leaders being mobilised and released, and to really try to invest in a city; to see God's kingdom come.
This really exciting opportunity's come up. I'm going to be moving to Birmingham - which is where I grew up, so it's kind of like going home - to oversee a church there called St Luke's. And as part of that, with the Diocese in Birmingham, we bought this amazing warehouse. It's an old historic building that used to provide all the gas that would basically light up Birmingham, all the street lamps.
So we bought this building and the idea is that we're going to start services with a real vision to engage with young people, students, families; to see a congregation that will really resource and bless - and hopefully light up - the city of Birmingham again. That's kind of the vision. It's going to be really exciting to partner with churches in Birmingham, and we hope to take a little team from London as well to partner in all of that.
So is this effectively a church plant from HTB?
We call them more church partnerships because there's an existing community, an existing church there that we're going to be serving alongside. The idea is to take a team to work with what's already happening. I think church plant is probably not the term because it's not like there's nothing happening there; there's some fantastic stuff happening. It's more of a church partnership. So we will be taking some people from HTB.
We've been there ten years and it's been ten of the most amazing years of our lives: incredible church, incredible community, working under Nicky Gumbel, and all that's happened there has been amazing. They've been incredibly releasing, incredibly encouraging and massively blessed and invested into what we're doing and what we're planning to do in Birmingham. They've been amazing.
Are you putting down your guitar and picking up your Bible for this new role?
For me, this feels like very much a natural extension of what I've always been doing. My heart is worship: to see people encounter God; to see people experience and spend time in the presence of God. I think what we've been doing with Worship Central - which is very much going to continue - has been trying to encourage local churches and resource them in the area of worship. But actually, senior church leaders in many ways are the gatekeepers to so much of what happens in local churches in the area of worship.
I kind of think leading a church becomes more of an opportunity for me to raise up worship leaders, to create a community; a culture where we can be centred around the presence of God, where we can take risks, where I can encourage musicians, songwriters and artists to grow in their gifts. And actually I hope that then perhaps becomes a resource for other churches in that area. So it's not for me an 'either or', it's 'both and'. I hope to still be leading worship. Obviously there are going to be new responsibilities of leadership with hosting a church and building that and the team.
I read a really interesting book over the summer, a book called Chasing Francis. It's about an American church leader who gets slightly burnt out and he goes on a retreat to Italy, to Rome, and spends time with some Franciscan monks and learns all about Francis of Assisi. At one point he's talking about this idea of a new kind of pastor emerging. He calls them the 'artist pastor', where actually we'd see the amazing blessing and benefit of art and creativity and the visual to really communicate the gospel, to really reach out to people.
I think often we've had quite an emphasis on reaching people through their thinking and their rationale, which obviously is hugely important, but also I think reaching people through emotions and their hearts - for me, trying to use that alongside obviously the word and speaking truth - excites me and I guess I want to sort of step out into some of that stuff.
Do you see yourself as an 'artist pastor'?
Yes, to a degree. Certainly, I think that's part of who I am. You lead as who you are. I don't want to try and think, 'Well ok, a leader who works at a church does X, Y and Z'. What are my gifts? What are my strengths?
For me, the big thing is leading with a team and a community. I'm not gifted at everything, so I need people who can help supplement that. We've got some great people. One guy is doing a doctorate at the moment in the systematic theology of charismatic worship, so we've got some real thinkers to really help us in how we dig deep into the scriptures and can really think about these huge things that affect us all. And we've got other people who are much more perhaps prophetic. And that excites me; leading a church with a team where we can really press into God and find as many ways as we can to reach out to those who are not involved in the church.
You haven't made much of a song and dance about this new step. Is that because you don't want to trade on your 'celebrity status'?
It was only officially announced on Sunday. The Bishop of Birmingham announced it. Partly we just want to get there, we want to serve, we want to settle in. I want to build a church not on a marketing plan, but on Jesus and on community. So maybe I'm partly aware of that. And also I think we just want to do things in the right way at the right time.
People are beginning to find out about it, and that's great. If people are wanting to move to Birmingham, fantastic, let us know! It's a great city.
Is someone replacing you at HTB and what's on the cards for Worship Central?
There's an amazing team at HTB. They've got some fantastic worship leaders: Ben Cantelon, Tom Smith, Dani Hogger. The worship at HTB will absolutely fly. Probably even more so once I go. And so that's going to be fantastic.
In terms of Worship Central, I'm going to stay overseeing it. I'm going to stay hugely linked in with Alpha and HTB. Funnily enough, as I've been thinking over the last couple of years about church leadership possibilities, I wondered whether my passion for Worship Central would slightly diminish and I would hand it on, but actually I get more and more excited about what God is doing, and I do think that my role is to be investing in local church, but also in worship and resourcing and training others.
That's what we're doing in Worship Central. Just this last week we've seen 100 gatherings happening all over the world where worship teams are coming together to seek God and to pray for the worship of local churches in their area: Jakarta, Mumbai, London, Norwich, Vancouver, Portland…It's happening all over and it's hugely exciting what's happening. I feel hugely committed to carrying on what's going on there.
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