Rev Les Isaac, founder of Street Pastors UK, speaks to Tim Farron about his sermon, which appeared to inspire ex-health secretary, Sajid Javid, to quit the government
Sajid Javid the ex-health secretary, has gone on record as saying that it was listening to your sermon that prompted him to resign. How does it make you feel to know that a man, who was sat in the audience, acted in response to your call?
It’s important for all of us, as ministers, men and women who preach publicly, to recognise that our words don’t just carry a good homily or a good sermon, but God’s authority. God’s power, God’s Spirit is at work in and through us. And it makes me think more about the need to hear God’s voice, and to be a channel so that God can speak to men and women, whoever they are, wherever we are. We’ve got to recognise that once we stand up to deliver that word of God, there’s the potential to change people’s lives, people’s attitude, people’s decisions.
For me, it was an encouragement to hear him quote the sermon. I’m praying more and asking God to give me the grace and the humility so that, when I speak, I am open as that vessel of God to speak into people’s life. And it should encourage the Church to pray more, that when their minister is going to preach, God would speak to them more, speak to the congregation, and speak to those seeking answers.
How did the invite to be the main speaker at the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast come about?
Well, actually, it was over three years ago, before the pandemic. I think the invite came about because obviously they had heard about the work of Street Pastors and they felt that, for that moment, that I would be the appropriate preacher. Now, looking in that room, it was filled with many far greater preachers than myself, but God obviously had a plan!
In your sermon, you spoke about integrity and truth and Christians living out their faith in a practical way. So, while it may have been a sermon three years in the making, it felt really appropriate for that moment.
For me, whether you’re in politics, the Church, or you’re a schoolteacher or police officer, society expects that we should be men and women of integrity. What is on the outside has got to be inside too; it’s played out in public or in private. There is an expectation, regardless of people saying: “You’ve got a private life, it doesn’t affect your public life.” It does. And we’ve got to remember that we are called - particularly as church leaders and politicians - to serve the public. That means people are listening to us, it means people are watching us, people will emulate us.
Getting it right in terms of integrity is very important, but it needs to be coupled with humility. As we were looking at the text in Philippians, Jesus had power, he had authority, but he laid it down and he washed feet and he served.
I know that we’re human beings, and all of us have our flaws and our weaknesses. But when we talk about integrity, if we have humility, humility helps us to say: “Sorry, I got it wrong. Please forgive me,” and show remorse. I think those two things go together in politics, in ministry and in any place of authority. We need those two things: integrity and humility.
Is there anything we could pray for as you continue your work?
For me, it would be for God’s grace. I was very ill last year - at the point of death - and God really gave me grace and strength. The doctors were superb at the NHS hospital, and people prayed for me. So just that God will use me to fulfil his will for my life, as I seek to serve in the Church, for the work of street pastors and for the network.
Pray that God will raise up more men and women in their local community and their local church who want to serve in a very visible way. I’ve had messages from right across United Kingdom saying: “I appreciate Street Pastors, I appreciate you guys being that visible presence; I appreciate that you haven’t come to judge me but to listen and help me.” And I want to see more people - at least 8,000 to 10,000 people - saying: “I want to become a Street Pastor” and serve their streets, listening to and caring for people on their streets.
This interview was first broadcast on Tim Farron’s ‘A Mucky Business’ podcast. Download it here